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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 17

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 3


The people murmured.’

Exodus 17:3

The points to be made in this sermon are— I. The longing of the people for rest and refreshment of a physical kind.—They had few thoughts above the satisfaction of their bodily cravings. Weary of the desert, they looked forward keenly to reach Rephidim (‘Rests’). The Wady Feirân is ‘the paradise of the peninsula.’ Among its fruit-groves and by its wells and running stream they hoped to repay themselves for all their fatigues. Rephidim thus became a figure of carnal delight.

II. Note, in the next place, that the people were disappointed.—There was no rest at Rephidim. The stream was dry, the Amalekites guarded the wells, and would not allow them to approach the gardens. Such is the fate of all who think to satisfy themselves through their senses.

III. Note their disappointment, their impatient murmuring as though everybody and everything but themselves were to blame, then their cruel injustice to Moses to whom they owed so much.

IV. God’s method of supplying their want through the instrumentality of the stricken Rock, in which is to be found so remarkable a type of Him from Whose wounded side flows the Water of Life.

—Rev. Canon Dawson.


(1) ‘From the smitten rock the water flowed to refresh the weary host. Only thus could the thirst of the world be met. The Rock of Ages was smitten, and from His riven side there flowed out blood and water. Not blood alone, but water also. Let us not fail to drink of Him, and the water which He will give will become in us a spring of water rising up always to eternity. Perhaps in a minor sense each of us will have to be smitten before we can yield water for thirsty souls.’

(2) ‘A person full of selfish fears is always unjust and merciless. The people threatened to stone Moses because they thought he was leading them into difficulties and danger. How sad Moses must have been! Not afraid, but very sorry. So, many centuries afterwards, they crucified Jesus Christ because they were afraid ( John 11:48), and because Jesus did not give them the worldly satisfaction which they sought.’

(3) ‘What do you long for most? Now note that God has provided places of rest and refreshment for everybody in life. He does not grudge us our recreations and comforts. But remember our satisfaction is not to be found in these. If anyone thinks that it is so, he is bound to be disappointed.’

Verse 10


‘Joshua fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the bill.’

Exodus 17:10

Here is a historic parable of the deepest significance. It shows us—

I. God’s dependence on His people as co-workers with Himself. In the mystery of His condescension, He has bound Himself to us as workers together with Him. There is the other side, that He makes His people willing in the day of His power; and we cannot harmonise the two. But this side is also true. God willed victory over Amalek, but it could not come without the co-operation of Joshua, the General, and Moses, the Intercessor. Had either of these failed, God’s best for Israel would not have been reached. Ah! He wants to do so many glorious things for us ( Psalms 81:13), but cannot, just because we fail to work with Him, specially in intercession. It is our co-working, and most of all our labouring in prayer, that gives Him that opportunity to bless for which He waits.

II. Of the two co-workers with God, the intercessor is chief.—Joshua waits on Moses, the plain on the hill-top, the contender with men on the mediator before God. The battle below is swiftly responsive to the praying above. The prayer-work of Moses decides the brain-work and hand-work of Joshua. Prayer is work—the mightiest of all work, and the most fruitful expenditure possible of human energy; for what takes place on the hill decides the struggle on the plain. In prayer, then, we are not only nearest to God, but likest to Him in His mightiness.


(1) ‘Remember that Amalek always attacks from the rear ( Deuteronomy 25:17-18). We must not only keep the front door locked and bolted, but we should brick up the back door. Too many who would not think of acts of outward inconsistency, keep the back door open for evil thoughts and desires to steal in. Ah! it is necessary, not only that the Lord should go before us, but that He should be our rearward.’

(2) ‘None of us is able to do without the help of others, and all of us are bound not only to do our own bit of work as well as we can, but to strengthen and help others to do theirs. This incident of the holding up of the prophet’s hands has become very famous as the type of all encouragement and help given by one to another in the religious life. No man can stand alone and reveal God to other men so well as if he can do it feeling himself backed by the support of those around him.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Exodus 17". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/exodus-17.html. 1876.
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