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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.”

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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