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Exodus 17:1. Rephidim. The plain before Horeb, where the Israelites encamped before they removed to the plain opposite Sinai.
Exodus 17:6. Thou shalt smite the rock. Horeb was the place where God spake to Moses from the burning bush, chap. 3.; and now he fulfilled his word, that the Israelites should worship in that mountain. It was the eastern summit of mount Sinai. The waters came out so abundantly as to form a rivulet, which followed the Israelites on the lower ground of their camp for some way, till lost in the sandy desert. Without this resource the nation must have perished. “The waters gushed out, and ran in dry places like a river.” Psalms 78:16; Psalms 105:41.
Exodus 17:7. Massah; that is, tempting. Meribah; that is, chiding.
Exodus 17:12. Hur, is said by Josephus to have been the husband of Miriam. He was a man of the tribe of Judah.
Exodus 17:14. Write this in a book; which was called The Wars of the Lord. We have now, by the labours of our antiquaries, proofs that sixteen letters of the alphabet did exist before the dispersion of the tribes at Babel. Cadmus brought these letters into Europe from Phœnicia. Odin brought them into Scandinavia (now Sweden.) All the oriental languages emanated from the Persic, as has been shown in the notes on Genesis 11:0. The order and power of these letters in all those alphabets being nearly the same, carry demonstration and force beyond all the fancies and conjectures of curious and learned men, that writing by the letters of the alphabet is anterior to all the records of history.
Exodus 17:15. JEHOVAH-nissi; the Lord is my banner. The patriarchs generally built an altar, as a monument of gratitude for signal mercies.
Men’s natural disposition, and the strength of their religion, are made manifest by affliction. Israel, when assailed with hunger, murmured against Moses; and the Lord, pitying their distress, gave them bread from heaven. Now they are assailed with thirst, and they murmur again, being a carnal people. Miracles had saved them from the Egyptians, but not from their sins. He who has by grace a command over his own spirit, is greater than he that taketh a city.
The carnal mind we see is distinguished by cruelty and cunning. They murmured against Moses, and were about to stone him, as though he had brought them out of Egypt, and divided the sea. The enmity was in truth against the Lord; and instead of asking his counsel and aid in the time of drought, they rebelled against him: the unregenerate world are still of the same spirit. They would serve God, in their way, provided their passions might all be flattered, and provided crosses and afflictions might never come. But at present they are always starting objections to religious habits, and religious people. The fact is they are at enmity with God, and hate the light; and without regeneration they can no more be saved, than carnal Israel could enter the promised land.
The Lord is very gracious, merciful, and longsuffering; he gave bread from heaven, and water from the rock to a murmuring and gainsaying people. “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.” But from Israel’s murmuring let us learn patience and resignation; for though a poor man may for a moment suffer hunger and want, God will soon hear his prayers, will crown his efforts with success, and give him bread.
In the rock of Horeb, as well as in the manna, we have a striking figure of Christ, who was smitten on Calvary, and whose waters of grace give life and salvation to the believing soul. See this miracle, this abundant stream giving life to a dying people, and taking a wide circuit through the desert land. See a whole nation, eager for life, crowd with their vessels to quench their thirst with the gift of heaven. They all drank of that rock, which on account of the course of its stream is said to have followed them in the wilderness; and without which they had utterly perished. And had not Christ our true rock been smitten for our sins; had he not opened to us rivers of life and salvation in the grace of his Holy Spirit, which follows us in our pilgrimage; we had all remained in darkness, and perished in our sins. Let us never murmur or tempt the Lord, for he who laid down his life for our redemption, will never suffer us to languish for want of seasonable supplies. He will be unto us as a place of broad rivers, and the wilderness shall be as the garden of the Lord. Israel, delivered from hunger and thirst, were next assailed with the sword. This, on the part of Amalek, was the most wanton cruelty of war. It was one of the grossest breaches of the covenant of Noah. It was a war against heaven, for the enemy could not be ignorant of the wonders God had wrought for his people. Hence the Lord determined to visit the iniquities of the fathers on the children, and ultimately to blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven; and he awfully performed his word by Saul, and also by David.
In Moses and Joshua we have high examples of public spirit and national duty, in the time of war and danger. The one prayed, the other fought: so Israel was saved by devotion and by arms. Israel had been led by the hand, now they must be tried to walk alone, and defend themselves. Learn then, oh my soul, to stay thyself on Christ the rock, with uplifted hands in prayer, till the sun of life shall go down; then the name of Amalek, yea, of all the enemies of the church, shall forever be blotted out.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 17". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27