Exodus 17

Water From the Rock

17 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink."

Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?"

3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?"

4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me."

5 The Lord answered Moses, "Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

The Amalekites Defeated
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands."

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven."

15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, "Because hands were lifted up against[c] the throne of the Lord,[d] the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation."


Exodus 17

This is another curious passage in the book of Exodus. Here we see Moses' staff being used as he strikes the rock for water (6) and holds it above his head as a banner to win a battle against the Amalekites (9).

Moses' staff is representative of God's saving presence.

It is the very same staff that was used during the plagues and the parting of the sea. In the first of two stories it is used to show God's power to provide, in the second to show his companionship in conflict.

The scene with Moses on the hill standing with hands outstretched has often been associated with prayer, but his posture and lack of words indicate a different type of intercession. The staff held up like a banner acted as a sign that must be seen by the Israelites during the fight. If Moses lowered the staff, the Israelites stopped winning, presumably doubting God's presence with them (11). But when the staff is held aloft and visible it acted as a sign and reminder that the 'warrior God' (15:3) who defeated Pharaoh's armies remained with them.

When Jesus spoke about leaving his disciples (his death, resurrection & ascension) he said: "...the Advocate (helper), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:26-27)

Today, we also face battles. Perhaps you're in the middle of one now. We no longer require someone to hold their arms up as a sign of God's saving presence, his presence is with us. Pray for his peace today to fill you.

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