Exodus 17

The Word Made Fresh

1The Israelites set out across the Sin wilderness, camping from place to place at the LORD’s command. They came to Rephidim but had run out of water to drink. 2They demanded that Moses give them water, and Moses replied, “Why are you complaining to me? Don’t you realize that you’re really testing the LORD?”

3But the people were thirsty and blamed Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Did you plan for us all to die of thirst?”

4Moses called out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They’re ready to stone me!”

5The LORD said, “Gather some of the elders and go on ahead of the people. Take the staff with which you struck the Nile. I’ll be standing there on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock with your staff and you’ll get water for the people to drink.” Moses struck the rock in full view of the elders. 7He named that place Massah (“test”) and Meribah (“complaint”) because the people complained and tested the LORD’s patience when they said, “Is the LORD here for us or not?”

8While they were at Rephidim, they were attacked by the Amalekites. 9Moses told Joshua to handpick some men to go fight them. He said, “Tomorrow I will stand over there on that hill, holding the staff of God.”

10Joshua followed Moses’ orders and fought the Amalekites. Aaron and Hur went with Moses to the overlooking hill 11and as long a Moses raised the staff up the Israelites had the advantage, but when he lowered his hands the Amalekites prevailed. 12But Moses grew tired holding the staff aloft, so they found a stone he could sit on, and Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him and held up his hands. They did this until sundown, 13and Joshua and his men were victorious.

14Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down an account of this on paper, and make sure Joshua hears it, that I will completely wipe out under heaven even the memory of Amalek.”

15Moses put up a marker and called it “The LORD is my leader,” 16saying, “This marker is a reminder that the LORD defeated Amalek today and will for all time to come.”


1-7: The Israelites travel across Sinai to a place called Rephidim which must be near Mt. Horeb. The people again complain about the lack of water. Moses once again turns their complaint against God, and God once again outlines a solution which, once again, involves Moses’ staff. He tells Moses to strike the rock at Mt. Horeb where he will be standing, although there is no indication of an actual appearance of the Almighty when Moses arrives there. As a matter of fact, there is no confirmation that water actually comes out of the rock. Hmm.

8-13: We meet Joshua, destined to become Moses’ successor, and Israel faces its first foe since leaving Egypt, the Amalekites. We met the Amalekites way back in Genesis 14:7 when King Chedorlaomer, the guy who carried off Abraham’s nephew Lot, conquered the Amalekites and the Amorites. The Amalekites and the Israelites will have a long history of conflict, beginning with this battle which Joshua won. Moses actually commands the troops from the top of a nearby hill, and by some prearranged signal, when he raises his hands the Iraelites use a strategy that is successful; but when he lowers his hands they fall back. He grows tired, so Aaron and Hur hold his hands up for him and the Israelites win the day.

14-16: The LORD tells Moses that the day will come when the Amalekites are utterly defeated. We will read about it in I Chronicles 4:43.


There were no enemies for the Israelites while they crossed the Sinai desert, but as they draw near the Promised Land, they will confront several enemies they will have to defeat. On the way to our receiving God’s promise to us of the life to come, we will surely also confront a number of enemies, most of them within ourselves.