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Exodus 17:8-16

8. Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.

8. Venit autem Amelec et pugnavit cum Israel in Raphidim.

9. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in mine hand.

9. Tunc ait Moses ad Josuah, Elige nobis viros, et egrediens pugna contra Amalec: et cras ego stabo in vertice collis, et baculus Dei erit in manu mea.

10. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur, went up to the top of the hill.

10. Et fecit Josuah sicut dixerat ei Moses, pugnando cum Amalec, Moses autem et Aharon et Hur ascenderunt in verticem collis.

11. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

11. Et factum est, quum levaret Moses manum suam, praevaluit Israel, et quum demitteret manum suam, praevaluit Amalec.

12. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hut stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

12. Manus autem Mosis erant graves: itaque tulerunt lapidem et supposuerunt ei, et sedit super ilium, Aharon vero et Hur sustentaverunt manus ejus, alter hinc et alter inde. Mansitque manibus suis firmis usque ad occasum solis.

13. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

13. Et fregit Josuah Amalec et populum ejus in ore gladii.

14. And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua; for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.

14. Tunc dixit Jehova ad Mosen, Scribe illud pro memoriali in libro, et trade auribus Josuah: quoniam delendo delebo memoriam Amalec de sub coelo.

15. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it JEHOVAH-nissi:

15. Et aedificavit Moses altare: vocavitque nomen ejus Jehova miraculum meum, (vel, exaltatio mea.)

16. For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn, that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

16. Et dixit, Certe manus super solium Jehovae: praelium Jehovae cum Amalec a generatione in generationem.

8. Then came Amalek. These were the first enemies whom God arrayed against Israel, after having delivered them from Egypt, and having kept them for some time in peace and quietness. It was principally for two reasons that He chose them now to be involved in war, either to punish them for their recent sin, or as a correction of their idleness, lest it should ensnare them into iniquity; for, as among soldiers sedition often arises from a cessation of labor, so also the more God spared this people and indulged them, the more did their forwardness increase. No wonder then that they were awakened by war, when they had taken occasion from their state of tranquillity to wax wanton. But some imagine that the Amalekites were impelled to take arms with this design; first, to avenge190190     Ut paternae abdicationis ultores essent. — Lat. Pour venger l’opprobe de leur pere, de ce qu’il avait ete desherite — Fr. This, Willet in loco paraphrases: “to revenge their father Esau’s quarrel for the loss of the birthright.” The Jews themselves appear to have recognized the double cause of this war, viz., the jealousy of Amalek, and the sin of Israel, referred to by Calvin. “After they had passed through the sea, they murmured for waters: then came against them Amalek, who hated them for the first birthright and blessing which our father Jacob had taken from Esau; and he came and fought against Israel, because they had violated the words of the law,” etc. — Targum on Song 2:15, quoted by Ainsworth in loco. For a popular account of the origin of Amalek see Illustrated Commentary on 1 Samuel 15. the abdication of their ancestor; and secondly, because they were unwilling that the posterity of Jacob should enjoy the inheritance of which Esau, the grandfather of Amalek, the founder of their nation, had been deprived. And, certainly, it is probable that the recollection of the injury which had been inflicted on their ancestor still remained, and that they were instigated by the devil, in order that the promise of God, whereby the right of primogeniture had been transferred from Esau to Jacob, should be frustrated and fail of its effect. This might, indeed, have been their reason for the war; but God had another object, viz., to render the people more obedient to Him, by humbling their pride. Perhaps it was on that account that He withdrew Moses from the leadership, and substituted Joshua, as some token of His indignation; for although the assistance He gave them was sufficiently manifest, and their victory was obtained by His grace and the prayers of Moses, yet would He have them reminded, by the absence of Moses, of their recent transgression, that, being humiliated by their fear, they might submissively ask for pardon, and fly more earnestly to Him for His aid. He orders chosen men to go forth, partly to inspirit the whole people, and encourage them to hope for victory, because He does not deign to employ the whole army to repel their enemies; and partly in consideration of the cowardice of this unwarlike mob, lest they should faint with terror if the enemies should make an incursion into the midst of their camp. For Moses does nothing of himself, but occupies the station appointed him by God on the top of the hill, to contend with the enemy from afar, but he sends down the others to fight hand to hand before him, since it had pleased God thus to order the battle. It is plain that he did not avoid the fight to spare himself, but because God had given him a different employment; and this appears from his wielding the rod of God, like their general and standard-bearer, and promising the successful issue of the battle, of which he had been assured. For that single rod was of more avail than as if they had gone into the field preceded by a thousand banners. I have already observed that this is sometimes called the rod of God, sometimes of Moses, sometimes of Aaron, according to circumstances; because God used it as an instrument to exercise His power through His ministers. So God does not detract from His own honor, when He works effectually by His ministers. It is a prelude to Joshua’s future call, which we shall notice in its place, that. he should be appointed commander of the troops; for he had not yet reached the dignity of next in command to Moses, unless an extraordinary commission had been given him by God.

10. So Joshua did as. Although Joshua is by no means backward, but diligently executes what he knows to be commanded him by God Himself, and it is probable that the soldiers whom he had taken to accompany him did their duty properly, yet is it expressly stated that they gained the victory by no care, or striving, or courage of their own, but by the prayer of Moses, by whose support their leader as well as the army was sustained. Yet does not Moses here boastfully commend his own zeal in praying, but is rather the public witness. and proclaimer of his weakness, that the glory might be entirely attributed to the gratuitous favor of God. Nor is there any question, that, conscious of the infirmity which he afterwards confesses, he associated with him Aaron and Hur, who might assist him in his task. There191191     “Divers allegories are made of this place: as that Moses’ hands, i.e., the precepts of the law are heavy, but that by Aaron, who signifieth Christ, and Hur, i.e., the Holy Ghost, they are made easy and light. — Ferus. Some, by Moses and Hur, understand the two Testaments, upon the which our prayer must rely. Some again thus allegorize: — Aaron, they say, signifieth montanus, hilly, and Hur, fire, so two things support our prayer, high and heavenly meditation, and fervent charity. — Lyranus,” etc. — Willet in loco. is more acuteness than solidity in the notion which some have, that these two men present a figure of the Old and New Testament, on which the prayers of the saints must rest; and that the stone which they gave to Moses to sit upon was offered him because our faith is only founded upon Christ. I know how plausible such allegories are; but what I have just said is enough for me, that because Moses mistrusted his own weakness, therefore he sought these two assistants. And surely when they stayed his hands they also lifted up their minds, and prayed together to God in common supplications; but Moses speaks chiefly of himself, to show that this charge was entrusted to him by God. For he did not only offer his prayers as a work of charity, but because God had chosen him as intercessor, to conquer the enemies from afar by the stretching forth of the rod, and by his secret earnestness in prayer; and in this respect he was a type of Christ; although the similitude does not hold in all its parts. Doubtless his failure arose from his extreme earnestness, and the extraordinary vehemence of his zeal, and, therefore, praise is mixed up with blame, just as the saints, when they are stirred to make great efforts in prayer, find that not only does their vigor grow cold, but they fail from being almost consumed by their own ardor.

13. And Joshua discomfited Amalek. The copula is here used instead of the illative particle; for Moses here concludes that the Israelites overcame their enemies, because he had continually persevered in prayer. There is, too, an implied antithesis between the firmness of his hands and the weakness of the enemy, that we may know that they were discomfited or conquered, not so much by the sword as by the uplifting of the rod, and by the intercession of the holy man.

14. And the Lord said unto Moses. By this command God made it known that He had performed a work which not only ought to be celebrated by word192192     “Par la bouche de ceux qui vivoyent alors;” by the mouth of those who were alive then. — Fr. of mouth, but which also was deserving of eternal glory with posterity; for therefore did He command it to be written in a book, that its memory might never perish. The dispute of commentators respecting this book seems to me to be superfluous; for God simply wills that the memorial of this circumstance should exist in all ages; and this was effected by the narration of Moses, for he handed down in writing even to the end of the world the praise of this favor, together with the perpetual and immortal doctrine of the Law. Yet God did not only wish the memorable event of this battle to be written down, but also that Joshua should be reminded of it, lest he should faint under the many difficulties which awaited him. For nothing could better support him with invincible firmness than the recollection of this history, from whence he might be assured that the people would ever be victorious under the auspices of God. But although this promise was not immediately fulfilled, yet the Amalekites were a long time afterwards totally destroyed by Saul; but it was a great encouragement to Joshua and the people to know that Amalek, who had first made war upon them, was already condemned by the divine decree, and could not escape the destruction to which he was devoted.

15. And Moses built an altar. The purpose of this was that not he alone, but the whole people should testify, by solemn sacrifice, their gratitude; which the very name of the altar proves. For neither did he wish to erect a statue to God, nor to honor the altar by God’s name, but he shows that this was the object he proposed to himself, that the Israelites, being inflated by their good success, should not boast of their own strength, but glory only in God. I see not why some should translate it “miracle,” for the word נס,193193     It was in S M ’s version that C. found this clause rendered Dominus miraculum meum; and Munster cites Onkelos, the Chaldee paraphrast, as his authority for so translating the word נסי; but the text of that paraphrase, as given in Elias Hutter’s Heptateuch, does not justify this singular rendering. — W nis, is undoubtedly always rendered “banner.” Yet I do not deny that the word is here used metaphorically for “exaltation;” as if Moses had said, that the God who had sustained His people was worthy only to be exalted among them.

16. For he said, Because the Lord.194194     “Truly the hand is upon the throne of Jehovah.” — Lat. Margin, A. V., “Because the hand of Amalek is against the throne of the Lord, therefore,” etc. Heb.,” The hand upon the throne of the Lord.” Holden agrees with Rosenmuller, and, as he says, the most eminent Biblical critics, in preferring the explanation of the margin, A. V. He confirms by repetition the same declaration which he had lately pronounced from the mouth of God, viz., that God would be ever at war with the Amalekites, until He should have utterly destroyed them. Translators do not agree as to the meaning of the expression, “The hand is upon the throne of the Lord.” Some imagine it to be a form of oath, as though God swore by His throne. Others understand by His throne the Church, which is the rest of God, in which he is said to sit. But I have no doubt but that what was said as to destroying and extinguishing the memory of Amalek is confirmed by this reason, viz., that as God is omnipotent He will contend with this wicked nation. Therefore the hand is said to be upon the throne of God, because he does not sit idly in heaven, (as the Epicureans imagine,) but exercises His dominion in the government of the world, as if he had said, that God, who rules in power, and who by His hand and authority controls and moderates, sustains and overthrows all things, as long as He shall reign upon His throne, endued with supreme and formidable might, will never cease to pursue the Amalekites with His just vengeance. And, indeed, it may have been the case, that He inflicted divers punishments upon them, though their last great overthrow was delayed till the days of Saul.


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