Water And War
Exodus 17

In this chapter, the children of Israel are on the march again and they soon experience an old problem and a new problem. The old problem was no water and the new problem was war.

Paul wrote, "all these things happened unto them for ensamples and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1 Corinthians 10:11.

God had provided water for them before but they had never had to fight and defend themselves.

Exodus 17: 1-7. “And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. 2: Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? 3: And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? 4: And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. 5: And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. 6: Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7: And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?"

It seems that whenever any adversity appears, the Children of Israel accuse Moses of wanting to kill them. Where would they be if it wasn’t for Moses? God was dealing with them through Moses and they are guilty of wanting to stone him. They didn’t seem to understand that God was the One in control here, Moses was just doing God’s will.

Once again, this sin of unbelief by this ungrateful people would be the occasion for God to display His power. He had done so in the case of the manna, and now He would show both His power and His grace to this nation.

In Rephidim there was "no water for the people to drink." Had they forgotten so soon what God had done at Marah? Had they forgotten God's faithfulness and tender care? What about the quails and the manna fresh daily that insured their food supply? Hadn’t Jehovah God met their every need? Instead of faith, “they chode with Moses, and said, "Give us water that we may drink." In their murmuring and unbelief they looked on Moses as the cause of their misery and were almost ready to kill him in their anger.

After all God had done for them, they had the gall to say "Is the Lord among us, or not?" To scold Moses was actually to scold the Lord; and to complain about their lack of this or that was in fact to doubt, if not to deny, the Lord's presence.

In reality, when they scolded Moses, they tempted the Lord (verse 2). Moses was their appointed leader and as such was Jehovah's representative to the people.

God had brought them out of Egypt, parted the waters of the Red Sea, delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, and guided them in their journey with the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day, and He would, in His own time, hear their cry and supply their need.

Satan doesn’t want the Lord's people to trust Him. He wants them to have doubts and fears and to rob them of their peace and joy. He doesn’t want us to have a firm, unwavering faith in the truth that the Lord is among us, that He leads His people like a flock through every stage of 'their wilderness journey.’

“And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me;” and the Lord heard his prayer and in spite of the people's sin, "He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river. For He remembered His holy promise to Abraham His servant." Psalm 105:41-42

God’s grace still prevailed and He more than satisfied the needs of the people.

The rock here speaks of Christ, just as the manna does. Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 10:4, "They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."

The rock had to be smitten before the waters flowed and Christ had to be smitten before God could accomplish our salvation.

Moses was directed to take his rod and, with Jehovah standing before him on the rock in Horeb, strike the rock “and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink."

The rod is a symbol of God's power, and in striking the rock it displays His judicial power. It pictures the stroke of God’s judgment falling on Christ on the cross. The smitten Rock is the crucified Christ. It was the people's sin that led to the smiting of the rock and it is our sin that led to Christ being “wounded for our trangressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” Isaiah 53:5.

If God didn’t spare His own Son when dealing with the question of our sin, how can we expect to escape judgment? What a wonderful answer we find in 1 Peter 2:24. “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree."

Throughout eternity we will never forget that our sins necessitated that death, and that God was glorified by it in every attribute of His character.

The rock had to be smitten before the people could drink and our Rock had to be smitten before we could drink the living water that only Christ could give.

The water itself that flowed from the rock is a type of the Holy Spirit as the power of life. This is brought out by the Lord in the gospel of John. In speaking to the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well near Sychar, the Lord said "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14.)

And, in John 7:39, "This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified." We see here in the book of John that the "living water" is a type of the Holy Spirit and that this "living water" couldn’t be received until Jesus was glorified. In other words, the Rock (Christ) had to be smitten (crucified) before the “water springing up into everlasting life” could be made available to the sinner. There is nothing that can satisfy the needs of man like the assurance of everlasting life and this blessing can only be received through a crucified and risen Christ.

In John 7:37, Jesus told the Jews, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." And that offer is still good to all men today, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17.

In Exodus 17:7, the Lord met the murmuring of His people with grace and gave them water to drink, but the names Massah and Meribah remain as a memorial of their sin.

Verses 8-13, "Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 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. 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. 11. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon: and Aaron and Hur 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. 13. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword."

The conflict with Amalek at Rephidim came immediately after the water flowed out of the rock. The living water is an emblem of the Holy Spirit and with the reception of the Spirit comes conflict. Scripture states that "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Galatians 5:17.

The manna pictures Christ come down from heaven, the smitten Rock, Christ crucified. This is the order of these typical events. Then, what is symbolized by Amalek? Amalek represents the fleshly nature. The flesh is in open antagonism to the people of God and attempts to hinder the progress of God’s people and even to destroy them from the face of the earth as evidenced by the Moslems of today. It is Satan acting through the flesh challenging the Christian. Here it is Amalek challenging the children of Israel in their march to the Promised Land.

Satan very subtly chose the time of attack. It was just after the people had sinned and a time when the enemy might have supposed they were under God’s displeasure.

This is the way Satan likes to work but God protects His people and won’t let an enemy succeed in the destruction of His people.

Where did Israel get weapons to wage a war? God somehow provided them with weapons. Were they allowed implements of war while in Egypt? I hardly think so. They were shepherds and herdsmen in Egypt. Did they wash up on the shore of the Red Sea and were collected as trophies of war? Whatever the case, God provided them the necessary weapons to fight a successful campaign.

Moses put Joshua at the head of the men chosen for the battle. Joshua represents Christ in the energy of the Holy Spirit, leading His redeemed in the conflict with Satan.

MacDonald writes: “Amalek, a descendant of Esau, is a type of the flesh, that is, the evil, corrupt, Adamic nature of man. The Lord will have war with the flesh from genereation to generation and it (the evil of the flesh) will never be eradicated from the believer till death or the Rapture of the church.”

While Joshua led his men in battle down on the plain, Moses, Aaron, and Hur, observed from the top of the hill. The outcome of the battle below depended on the hands of Moses above.

The Jewish historian, Josephus, states that Hur was the husband of Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s sister. Both Hur and Joshua later played important roles in the wilderness journey.

Moses, as seen here, is a figure of Christ in heaven above in His intercession for the believer down below. He leads His people in the power of the Holy Spirit here and intercedes for us in the presence of God above. Romans 8:34-37. "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword" (or, we may add, Amalek). "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us."

The Lord Himself told His disciples that His work would be above and the Spirit's work would be in them here below. He said, "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." John 16:7.

The battle below depended on God, not on the strength of the troops. As long as Moses held up his hands in intercession and in dependance on God, the Israelites had the victory. But, when Moses hands tired, Amalek prevailed. When his hands grew heavy, Aaron and Hur supported them. This again points to the intercession of Christ and it pictures the necessity of our dependence on God and the Holy Spirit. Apart from that, we may be ready for the battle and the cause may be a just one, but our failure will be inevitable.

Aaron, though not yet formally set apart as the high priest, represents the priesthood, and Hur’s name means purity. Together they picture the priestly intercession for His people by Christ in holiness before God. It’s based on all that Christ is and has done for His own.

With Christ interceding for us on high and the the Holy Spirit as our Leader down here, no enemy can stand before the Lord's people.

Verse 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."

Amalek was discomfited with the edge of the sword. Discomfited indicates they were more than defeated, they retreated in complete disarray and a victory like that in not to be forgotten. It was to be recorded as a memorial.

Every display of the Lord's power on behalf of His people has a two-fold effect. When He protects us from the forces of our enemies, that same act assures us He will continue to protect us.

God wanted these victories rehearsed in their ears and written on their hearts, both as the memorial of the past and as the guarantee He would defend them in the future. Psalm 27:3; "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident."

Verses 15-16. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi: 16. for he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."

Moses built an altar to declared to all Israel that it was the Lord who fought for them and the victory was God’s, but he also built the altar to express his thanks and praise to the Lord. How often God gives the believer a victory, be it large or small, and we neglect to “build an altar” of praise and thanksgiving to Him who gives us everything we have.

In verse 16, God’s controversy with Amalek, who represents the flesh, will never cease as long as God has a people on earth and Satan will continue his attempt to overthrow them. We need to remember Satan’s role but our hearts can be confident that the battle is the Lord's and we fight under His command. Regardless of what the foe does to the people of God, the victory is assured.

If you are a believer, you can rest in the words written by David in Psalm 23.


He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me
all the days of my life: