James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.Exodus 17:1-18:27
EVENTS AT REPHIDIM
WATER OUT OF THE ROCK (Exodus 17:1-7)
What is the next stopping place (Exodus 17:1)? What do you suppose is meant by “the commandment of the Lord” in this verse?
Rephidim is a wide-spreading plain at the northern base of the cluster of mountains named Horeb. What made it unfit for an encampment? How does this show that God sometimes guides His people into trouble? Are distress and difficulty an indication that believers are not in the will of God?
How did the people express impatience and lack of faith (v. 2-3)? How does Moses act in comparison (Exodus 17:4)? What does God command him to do (v. 5-6)? Were the elders to go with him as witnesses? Did the Lord stand on the rock in the pillar of cloud? How must the people have felt when the water came rushing down the valley towards them? Which prevailed, gratitude or shame? What names were given this place, and why (Exodus 17:7)? Bush remarks that the people may not have uttered the very words here ascribed to them, but that such was the language of their conduct, and he applies the circumstance to Matthew 12:37, saying that Christ will judge men by the actions which have the force of words.
AMALEK CONQUERED AND CURSED (Exodus 17:8-16)
The Amalekites were a nomadic people living in the north of this peninsula, and to the south of the Philistine country (Genesis 14:7), who came out of their way to attack Israel, approaching them in the rear where they were the more defenseless. (Compare Deuteronomy 25:18.) As the Amalekites were descendants of Esau, hereditary hate may have prompted this attack. Then also the thought of loot is to be considered, for they probably knew the wealth Israel brought out of Egypt. But their strongest hostility was aroused by the fact that Israel was to take possession of Canaan, into which their territory penetrated (Jdg 5:14; Jdg 12:15). At all events, it is with them that Gentile antagonism to God’s peculiar nation is seen to begin as soon as the latter’s political independence is established. Their action therefore was a virtual defiance of Him who had so lately destroyed the Egyptians, a fact which explains His resentment as shown in the sequel.
Who now comes into the forefront, and what is he directed of Moses to do (Exodus 17:9)? The name Joshua means “savior,” the Greek of which is “Jesus.”
What new personage is before us in Exodus 17:10? For a little of his genealogy see 1 Chronicles 2:9-20. What was the significance of the transaction in Exodus 17:11? Do you suppose Moses held the rod of God in his hand? And if he did, was it not merely as an indication and accompaniment of prayer? Where in the incident do we find an emblem of the value of united and common prayer? What lesson is taught by the combination of the rod in the hand of Moses and the sword in the hand of Joshua? Which, however, assumes the more importance, Moses’ prayer or Joshua’s sword?
How does God emphasize the significance of this battle (Exodus 17:14)? We have not met with the word “write” before, but where with the word “book” (Genesis 5:1)? There is the definite article before “book” in the original indicating that a book, and doubtless this particular book, was well known. Can you imagine a reason for this matter being rehearsed to Joshua? For the subsequent fate of Amalek read Deuteronomy 25:19; 1 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 1:1; 2 Samuel 8:12.
How is this victory commemorated on the spot (Exodus 17:15)? Have we met with any other altar since we ended the history of Jacob? Does not this then mark a new epoch on the affairs of Israel? “Jehovah-nissi” means “Jehovah my banner” (Compare Psalm 20:5-7), and expresses thanks to God for the past and confidence in Him for the future. Perhaps it was suggested by the lifting up the rod of God as a banner or standard in this action.
The last verse of the chapter is obscure.
A VISIT FROM JETHRO (Exodus 18)
It is felt that the visit here recorded, with the events growing out of it, took place at a later time, and after Israel had arrived at Sinai, but is related here either not to interfere with the main narrative, or for some other unexplained cause.
It is a story of mutual affection and esteem, but one is not more impressed by it than by the importance God attaches to such chapters in our lives by causing it to be recorded for our learning and example.
Note that Jethro was one of those outside of Israel by whom the tradition of the true God was retained, and who gave glory to Him for His mighty works.
The incident (v. 13-26) needs little comment, but there are a few things worth noticing. One is the practical wisdom in it (v. 18); another, the qualification for the choice of these sub-rulers, ability, godly fear, truthfulness, incorruptness (Exodus 18:21); a third, the circumstance that this advice is given in submission to God (Exodus 18:23); and a fourth, that the selection was by the people and appointment by Moses (Deuteronomy 1:9; Deuteronomy 1:13); a fifth, that God did not disdain to permit Moses to be taught through another man, and he one not of the commonwealth of Israel. It is remarkable, as another says, that the rudiments of the Jewish polity were thus suggested by a stranger and a Midianite. There is food for reflection here in the ways of God in teaching His own people wisdom.