Exodus 17

The Waters of Meribah and The War With Amalek
Exodus 17
Rephidim. The account in Exodus passes over the encampments at Dophkah and Alush, and now we come to the tenth encampment, Rephidim. There are two challenges in this chapter that Israel faced, and two provisions from the Lord to meet those challenges. The circumstances of Rephidim have typical significance as well as historical and practical value. We see a progression through chapters 16, 17, and 18. In chapter 16 we have the manna, which speaks of Christ in incarnation; Christ come down to earth as a man (John 6). In chapter 17 we have two things. First, we have the smitten rock which speaks of the cross: Christ smitten in death, and the out-flowing of the Spirit of God as a result (rivers of living water, John 7). Also in chapter 17 we have Moses on the hill acting as intercessor for his people, which is a type of Christ gone to heaven and living for us at God’s right hand. In chapter 18 we have a Millennial scene!

The Waters of Meribah (17:1-7)

And all the assembly of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, according to their journeys, at the command of Jehovah; and they encamped in Rephidim; and there was no water for the people to drink. 2 And the people contended with Moses, and said, Give us water, that we may drink! And Moses said to them, Why do ye dispute with me? Why do ye tempt Jehovah? 3 And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Why is it that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? 4 And Moses cried to Jehovah, saying, What shall I do with this people? Yet a little, and they will stone me! vv.1-4 Thirst and Temptation. Israel again took up their journey and came to Rephidim, which means ‘reclining place’ in Hebrew. However, there was no rest for the people here. They had been hungry in ch.16, and God met their need with the manna and quail. Here they were faced with a lack of water, and they could have trusted the Lord about it. The Lord had satisfied their thirst before (ch.15), and He was able to do it again. But the people contended with Moses, and tempted the Lord by questioning His purpose. How quickly they had forgotten the Lord’s grace in the previous chapter, and were taking the manna for granted. Such is the condition of the human heart. Moses was frustrated with the people, and cried out to the Lord for help. 
5 And Jehovah said to Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel, and thy staff with which thou didst smite the river, take in thy hand, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock on Horeb; and thou shalt strike the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so before the eyes of the elders of Israel. vv.5-6 The Smitten Rock. The instruction from the Lord was for Moses to go ahead of the people to the next encampment, and with the elders of the people, the Lord would meet him in Mount Horeb (several miles away). Moses was to take the staff in his hand, the very staff that Moses had used to smite the river of Egypt in judgment, and he was to “strike the rock”. We know from 1 Cor. 10:4 that this “spiritual rock” which “followed them” from this place all along their journey to Canaan was Christ! The rock being smitten is a picture of the judgment of God which fell upon Christ at Calvary. We can have nothing, neither salvation nor refreshment, that does not spring out of a smitten Christ. The water that flowed from the rock speaks of the Spirit of God that flows as a result of the work of Calvary. Flowing water in scripture is often a type of the Spirit of God. It is the practical grace that flows from the belly of everyone that believes on Jesus; “as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-39), bringing refreshment to this parched world, which knows nothing of honesty, righteousness, kindness, or grace. In Numbers 20 we have a serious failure of Moses. He was so focused on his authority and the people’s rebellion that he took his rod (judgment) rather than Aaron’s rod (grace) and smote the rock again, that time twice! Christ had to be smitten for blessing to flow here in Exodus before Sinai; but there can be no repetition of the smiting. The Rock (Christ) has already been smitten once, on the cross. He does not need to be smitten again in order for refreshment to flow. All we need to do is “speak to the Rock” through the privilege of prayer!
7 And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they had tempted Jehovah, saying, Is Jehovah among us, or not? v.7 Massah and Meribah. Moses called the name of the place Massah which means ‘temptation’, and Meribah which means ‘quarrelling’. We find a little more of the thrust of Israel’s murmuring about their thirst; they “tempted Jehovah, saying, Is Jehovah among us, or not?”. They really brought an accusation against the character of Jehovah, and Moses discerned the seriousness of doubting Him.

The War With Amalek (17:8-16)

8 And Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. v.8 War with Amelek. Israel’s proper warfare would come when they got to Canaan, but there is conflict in the wilderness. This conflict corresponds to what we have in Galatians 5, a conflict between flesh and Spirit – the flesh lusting against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh (Gal. 5:17). Note that the unbelief of the people is what precipitates the conflict, not God’s design (vv.1-7). It is fitting that as soon as we have a type of the Spirit of God (waters from the rock) then we have a type of the flesh (Amalek). Amalek typifies the flesh energized by Satan (1 Peter 2:11).
9 And Moses said to Joshua, Choose us men, and go out, fight with Amalek; to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand. 10 And Joshua did as Moses had said to him, to fight with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And it came to pass when Moses raised his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 And Moses’ hands were heavy; then they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on this side, and one on that side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua broke the power of Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. vv.9-13 War with Amalek. The instrument that would be used to lead the battle below was Joshua, a picture of Christ, risen and glorified. Joshua was the one who would later bring Israel into what corresponds to the heavenly places. It is fitting because the rock had just been smitten (the death of Christ) and now we have a resurrected and glorified Christ. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10). This is the ongoing practical salvation that Christ is working for us from His seat in heaven. Christ’s action in us (Joshua) is dependent on His action for us (Moses). Moses interceded for the people below, and that was the key to their success. We need the continued intercession of Christ for each step of our pathway! Moses was a failing and feeble type, and his hands grew weary. The two who supported Moses’ hands represent different aspects or roles of the work of Christ for us at God’s right hand. Moses is Christ interceding for us, sustained by his roles as:
  1. High Priest (Aaron the priest) – The sympathetic sufferings of Christ as a man on earth fit Him to be our High Priest. Hebrews presents Christ as our High Priest maintaining us in the pathway.
  2. Advocate (Hur means “white” or “purity”) – His atoning sufferings which put away sin are the basis of His advocacy. 1 John presents Christ as our Advocate restoring communion if we sin.
14 And Jehovah said to Moses, Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens. 15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi. 16 And he said, For the hand is on the throne of Jah; Jehovah will have war with Amalek from generation to generation! vv.14-16 Jehovah-nissi. Amalek is beaten off, but Amalek is not destroyed. They would have war with Amalek from generation to generation. We will have the flesh until our journey is over! We see from Balaam’s fourth prophecy, connected with the coming of Christ is the final destruction of the Amalekites (Numbers 24:20), who picture the flesh. At the rapture, we will receive our glorified bodies and the flesh will be gone “forever”! But the great point here is seen in the name Moses gave the altar: “Jehovah-nissi” is built, meaning “the Lord my banner”. The battle is the Lord’s. He will have war with Amalek! He has taken up our cause, and is helping us to win. It is Christ who intercedes, it is Christ who will win the victory (Rom. 8:34).
Reference  Combatants
Solution to the conflict Applies to:
Rom. 7:7-25 The old nature & the new nature  Believe the Gospel and be sealed A quickened soul that is not sealed
Gal. 5:16-25 The flesh & the Spirit  Give the Spirit its proper place  A Christian that is in a bad state
Eph. 6:10-20 A Christian & the Devil  Put on the whole armor of God  A Christian that is in a good state