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Water from the Rock


From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the L ord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the L ord?” 3But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4So Moses cried out to the L ord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5The L ord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the L ord, saying, “Is the L ord among us or not?”

Amalek Attacks Israel and Is Defeated

8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. 13And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword.

14 Then the L ord said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” 15And Moses built an altar and called it, The L ord is my banner. 16He said, “A hand upon the banner of the L ord! The L ord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

1. And all the congregation. Scarcely was the sedition of the people about the want of food set at rest when they again rebel on the subject of drink. They ought, at least, to have learnt from the manna, that as often as necessity pressed upon them, they should have humbly implored in prayer and supplication God’s help, in certain hope of relief. But such was their character, that they were hurried by despair into secret murmurings and impetuous cries. We have almost a precisely similar account in Numbers 20.186186     A brief but able reply to the arguments of those who allege these similar passages against the authenticity of the Pentateuch, will be found in Hengstenberg, (Ryland’s Translation,) vol. 2, p. 310, etc. For the error of those who think it one and the same, is easily refuted by the circumstances of the time and place; and in Numbers 33, it is very clearly shown how great a distance there was between the one station and the other. Neither does the tradition of some of the Rabbins appear probable, that this thirst did not arise from natural appetite, because the manna was not only meat, but also served for drink. For there is no reason why we should be compelled to imagine this; and we gather from the text, that the commencement of their murmurings arose from the fact that the water now began for the first time to fail them. But it was God’s will in two ways, and at two different times, to try the minds of the Israelites, that they might more plainly show their natural intractability. If they had required bread and water at the same time, they would have been more excusable; but after they had experienced that a sweet and wholesome kind of food was bountifully given them from heaven, because that country produced no corn, it was an act of intolerable perversity immediately to murmur against God when they had no supply of drink. Moreover, a double accusation is here brought against them, for insulting God by quarrelling and chiding with Him, and also for tempting Him. Both arose from unbelief, the cause of which was ingratitude; for it was too vile of them so soon to bury in willful forgetfulness what God had so recently given them. He had brought them supplies when they were suffering from hunger; why do they not fly to Him when they are oppressed by thirst? It is plain, then, that the former favor was ill bestowed upon them, since it so directly vanished in their insensibility. Hence, too, appears their unbelief, because they neither expect nor ask anything of God; and with this, too, pride is conjoined, because they dare to proceed to chiding. Indeed this almost always happens, that those who neither depend on His providence nor rest; on His promises, provoke God to contend with them, and rush impetuously against Him; because the brutal violence of our passions hurries us on to madness, unless we are persuaded that God will in due time be our helper, and are, submissive to His will. In the beginning of the chapter Moses briefly indicates that the Israelites journeyed according to the commandment, or, as the Hebrew expresses it, “the mouth”187187     על-פי. Literally, ”upon the mouth.” Noldius cites, however, various texts, in which it is equivalent to no more than according to, though in this instance, and in many others, he would render it “according to the command.” — Concord. Partic. Hebr. W of God, as if he would praise their obedience. Whence we gather that, at the first outset, they were sufficiently disposed to their duty, until a temptation occurred, which interrupted them in the right way. By which example we are warned that, whenever we undertake anything at God’s bidding, we should carefully beware that nothing should hinder our perseverance; and that none are fitted to act rightly but those who are well prepared to endure the assaults of temptation.

2. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses. Here now displays itself both their impiety against God, since neglecting and despising Him they make war against Moses, and also their malice and unkindness, because, forgetful of so many benefits, they wantonly insult Moses. They know that fountains and rivers cannot be created by mortal man; wherefore, then, do they quarrel with him, and not call directly upon God, in whose hand are the waters as well as all other elements? Certainly, if there had been a spark of faith in them, they would have had recourse to prayer. Rightly, then, does Moses expostulate, that in chiding with him, they tempt God Himself. What madness is there in their accusing Moses of cruelty in bringing them with him out of Egypt, that he might kill them, and their children, and cattle in the wilderness? But Moses chiefly reproves them on this ground, because God Himself is affected by this rebellious chiding. But the actual form of their tempting God is stated at the end, viz., because they had doubted “whether the Lord was among them or not?” Hence it follows, that the root of the whole evil was their unbelief; because they neither ascribed due honor to God’s power nor believed Him to be true to his promises.: For He had taken charge of them, and had promised that He would never fail them; why then, now, when circumstances demand it, do they not assure themselves that He will assist them, except because they wickedly detract both from His power and His truth?

4. And Moses cried. This cry seems not to have been conformed to the true model of prayer, but to have been mixed with confused complaint, to which Moses was impelled by the deep perturbation of his mind: for excessive earnestness sometimes carries away the godly, so that they rather fret in their prayer than duly and moderately express their requests. For there is something in these words which sounds angry and obstreperous, “What shall I do unto this people?” as if Moses, struck with indignation, complained that he was weighed down with a heavy burden, which he would willingly shake off if he could obtain permission and deliverance from God. Interpreters variously expound what follows. Some thus render it, that “Unless God immediately came to his help, or should He dissemble for ever so short a time, Moses must be stoned.” Some, “It is but little that they will rush upon me to stone me.” Some, too, read it in the past tense, but to this the particle עוד,188188     Shortly. — W. gnod, which relates to the future, is an objection. I am most pleased with this sense; that if God delay His assistance but for a short time, the people’s rage could not be restrained from stoning Moses.

5. And the Lord said unto Moses. He commands him to go out into the midst, as if He would expose him to the danger of immediate death; but because Moses is persuaded that it is in His power to calm the passion of men, however fierce, as well as the waves and storms of the sea, he neither trembles nor retreats. But, thus did God magnify His power, so as to brand them with ignominy whilst He withheld the people from their previous attitude. In fact, Moses passes before them all, but he only takes the elders with him, before whom to bring the water from the rock, that they may be eye-witnesses of the miracle. This middle course, whilst it does not permit the glory of God’s bounty to be obscured, still shows the multitude that they are unworthy of being admitted to behold His power. To remind him that his rod would not be inefficient, He recalls to his memory what he had already experienced; yet does he not recount all the miracles; but only adduces what we saw at first, that, by its touch, the waters of the Nile were turned into blood. The declaration of God, that he will stand upon the rock, tends to remove all hesitation, lest Moses should be anxious or doubtful as to the event; for otherwise the smiting of the rock would be vain and illusory. Moses, therefore, is encouraged to be confident; since God, whom he follows in the obedience of faith, will put forth His power by his hand, so that he should undertake nothing vainly or ineffectually. Meanwhile, although He employs the operation of His servant, still He claims to Himself the honor of the work.

7. And he called the name of the place. The verb here might be taken indefinitely, as if it were said, that this name was given to the place; but it is more probable that Moses, at God’s command, so called the place, in order that the Israelites might be more ready to acknowledge their crime, when thus it was marked with double infamy. Although it was not only His intention to impress this feeling upon their minds, but also to hand down the memory of it to posterity. The same reproof is afterward repeated at Cades, as we shall see; because the former notice had been buried in oblivion by these foolish people. The very name of the place189189     Massah, i.e., temptation. was as much as to say that the earth itself cried out, that the people, in their perverse nature, were rebellious, and given to unbelief. Now, temptation is the mother of contentions; for as soon as anything occurs contrary to the wishes of one who distrusts God, he has recourse to murmuring and dispute. When Moses relates that the Israelites “tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not?” he does not mean that they openly spoke rims; but that this was the tendency of their cries, when on account of the want of water they rose against Moses, and complained that they were deceived by him, as though God had no power to help them. But though God branded the people for their malignity and perversity, with a lasting mark of ignominy, yet did He afford them an extraordinary proof of His goodness, not only in bestowing on them the drink by which their bodies might be refreshed, but by honoring their souls also with spiritual drink, as Paul testifies, (1 Corinthians 10:4,) “that rock was Christ,” and therefore he compares the water which flowed from it to the cup of the holy supper. So do we see how God’s immeasurable bounty surpasses all the wickedness of man, and how, by turning their vices to salvation, He brings light out of darkness; so far is He from giving them the reward of their deservings, when He confers upon them what is profitable. But we must remember the warning which is here interposed, that it availed many of them nothing to drink of that spiritual drink, because they profaned by their crimes that excellent gift.

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