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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 17

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-16

Exodus 27. Water from the Rock (Exodus 17 :1 P (Rephidim), Exodus 17:1 b – Exodus 17:2 a (“ strove,” “ strive” ) E, Exodus 17:3 and Exodus 17:2 b (“ tempt” ) J, Exodus 17:4 E, Exodus 17:5 a (“ people” ) J, Exodus 17:5 bd (“ and go” ) E, Exodus 17:5 c, Exodus 17:6 a J, Exodus 17:6 b E, Exodus 17:7 a (“ Massah” ) J, Exodus 17:7 b (“ Israel” ) E, Exodus 17:7 c J).— After an extract from P’ s itinerary ( Exodus 17:1 a), a second water story is given from JE. The blooming oasis near Kadesh, with its spring and its trees, was a lasting reminder of the goodness of God. The two variants relate to Massah (J) and Meribah (E) respectively, while a Meribah story is also given in Numbers 20:2-13 (J and P), and a trace of E’ s Massah story has been found in Exodus 15:25 b, Yahweh “ proving” Israel there, while here Israel “ tempts” (same Heb.) Yahweh. Both uses of the word are found in D, and the ancient Blessing of Moses names both places ( Deuteronomy 33:3). The analysis rests on various clues, and can only be conjectural. In J, Moses passes on alone before the people, but the account of the descent of Yahweh ( cf. Exodus 19:20-24, Genesis 28:13 ff.) has been displaced by E’ s narrative of Moses’ s striking the rock with his rod ( Exodus 4:2 *) in the presence of some “ of the elders of Israel” ( cf. Exodus 18:12 E).

Exodus 17:2 b, Exodus 17:7 b. tempt: better “ put to the proof.”

Exodus 17:6 . the rock in Horeb: the phrase is peculiar; perhaps the name has been misread.

Exodus 17:8-16 E. The Fight with Amalek.— This incident is latest in order of time in Ex. Moses is old and feeble, and does not head the host himself, though he settles the details of time and command. Joshua is the well-known commander of the host (contrast Exodus 33:11, Exodus 24:13); and “ Israel” has gained a unity over against “ Amalek” (both sing.). The people are beginning to move northwards after their prolonged stay at Kadesh. But Amalek, a nomad Bedawin tribe ( cf. the Azâ zimeh Arabs in that region now), roaming over the southern Negeb, was bent on blocking the way to Cana an. Out of many encounters ( cf. Numbers 14:40-45) this was a pronounced success after a desperate struggle. Moses surveys the battlefield from high ground above, and holds up the symbol of power and victory, the rod, in his hand ( Joshua 8:18 *). So long as thus visibly he trusts God and prompts man, his side wins. When his strength flags his cause fails. So Aaron and Hur, his two aged companions, set a stone under him as seat and take turns in holding up the hand that holds the rod. In Exodus 17:15 the old form of memorial of the event is described, an altar (probably based on the “ stone,” Exodus 17:12) for sacrifice, in honour of the victory and its symbolic means, as the title “ Yahweh my staff” shows. A snatch of song has survived in a corrupt text. It ran probably, “ Hand on the staff of Yahweh, war for Yahweh with Amalek [on and on].” Perhaps the last words and all Exodus 17:14 , which gives a variant “ memorial in a book,” are glosses based on Deuteronomy 25:17 ff., where the action of Amalek in cutting off Israel’ s tired stragglers does not fit anything here. The long feud was ended only by Saul (1 Samuel 15) and David (1 Samuel 30). With the rod we may compare the king’ s sceptre, the field-marshal’ s baton, the chamberlain’ s staff or wand, the mayor’ s mace, and the ecclesiastical crozier, pastoral staff, and verge (or “ poker” ). They all mean more than in themselves they are, and have, or may have, something sacramental about them.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 17". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/exodus-17.html. 1919.
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