Exodus 17

Quarreling And Testing

The journey continues, and Israel moves by stages until they come to Rephidim which seems to be the final stop before arriving at Mount Sinai. The people are faced with a lack of water to drink, but this time the people have a furious reaction, and they quarreled with Moses. They demanded water in a way that was both a denunciation and an accusation. The situation with this mob is tense, and a riot was ready to break out at any moment. Moses cautions the people that quarreling with him is pointless and they were actually testing God. The people were frustrated, dehydrated, and angry so they began to accuse Moses of bringing them out of Egypt in order to kill them, their children, and livestock. The growing rage of the congregation prompts Moses to cry out before the Lord and ask him what he is to do because he believes they are about to take his life. The Lord instructs Moses to pass before the people, take some of the elders as a witness, and carry his staff. The Lord would stand before Moses on the rock at Horeb and there he was to strike the rock which would result in water coming out and people would be able to quench their thirst. Moses did as he was told in the presence of the elders and water came from the rock just as God had said. Moses gave derogatory names the site and called the place quarreling and testing because the people had provoked the Lord, questioning his goodness and his presence. 

Time To Fight

Israel was contending with the wilderness, their fear, their leaders, their faith, and now they would contend against Amalek. The Amalekites went on the offensive and attacked the people from behind. Israel is hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. Now they are forced to defend themselves against an enemy that saw them as a threat and began to attack the elderly and those most defenseless including children. It is here that we are introduced to Joshua, a man that will play a significant role in God's story. Moses authorizes him to choose men that will fight with Amalek. Moses would be on a nearby hill interceding with his staff in hand. Joshua who will prove to be a faithful and capable assistant did as Moses had instructed. Joshua led his men on the offensive, and they went to war with Amalek. Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill, and when Moses held his staff high, Israel would prevail in the battle. However, when Moses' hands lowered, Amalek would prevail. Moses' hands grew weary, and so Aaron and Hur rallied to his aid and brought a stone for Moses to sit on while they steadied his hands until sunset. Joshua and his forces overwhelmed the Amalekites, and they were utterly defeated. The Lord instructs Moses to write these things as a memorial and recite them to Joshua. It is important to note that this is the first mention of writing in the Bible. The divine judgment for Amalek was national eradication. Moses built an altar and called it the Lord is my banner. The altar was a place of worship to honor the Lord for rescuing his people again. There Moses decreed that there would be ongoing hostility between the Lord and Amalek.  

Things To Consider:

  • What are ways that we quarrel with God's leaders?
  • Why do we question God when things are difficult?
  • Why does frustration sometimes lead to hyperbole and overreaction?
  • How do we test the Lord?
  • Why do you think Moses chose Joshua?
  • Why is it important to recognize that God worked through both Moses and Joshua?
  • Why is it helpful to write things down?
  • Why is it important to recite the words of God?
  • How can we practice these things today?