Thirsty again1 The Israelites left Sin Desert. They stopped to camp whenever the LORD told them to. They camped at Rephidim, but there wasn’t any water in the area. 2 The people complained to Moses. They said, “Come on, we’re thirsty. Give us some water.” Moses said, “Why are you complaining to me? And why are you testing the limits of the LORD?”
3 But the people wouldn’t stop griping because they were thirsty. They said, “Why did you bring us this far from Egypt? To kill us and our kids and our livestock? Did you bring us here to die of thirst?” 4 Moses prayed to the LORD, “What am I supposed to do with these people? They’re on the verge of stoning me.”
Water from the rock5 The LORD told Moses, “Take some of the elder leaders of the people on a walk. Take them ahead of everyone else. And carry your walking stick, too. The one you used on the Nile River. 6 Walk to Mount Sinai. I’ll be standing by a rock there. Hit the rock with your walking stick. When you do, water will burst out and the people can drink it. Moses did what the LORD said, as the leaders watched.
7 Moses named the site Pushy Complainers. That’s because the people tested the limits of the LORD and complained by asking, “Did the LORD come with us, or not?”
Battle of the Amalekites8 A group of Amalekites attacked the people of Israel while the Israelites camped at Rephidim. 9 Moses told Joshua, “Pick some men and go fight the Amalekites tomorrow. I’ll stand on top of the nearby hill, and I’ll hold the walking stick that God has used to help us before.”
10 Joshua did what Moses said. Joshua and his men fought the Amalekites, while Moses stood on top of the hill, along with Aaron and Hur. 11 When Moses held up his hands, Israel outfought the Amalekites. But when he dropped his hands, Amalekites started to win. 12 When Moses got too tired to hold up his hands, the others brought him a stone to sit on. While he sat there, Aaron and Hur, helped him hold up his hands—Aaron on one side and Hur on the other. They kept his hands raised high all day, until sunset. 13 Joshua led Israel to a battlefield victory over the Amalekites.
14 The LORD told Moses, “There’s something I want you to put in writing so people will remember it. And I want you to read it back to Joshua. Here it is: I’m going to erase the very memory of Amalek. One day, no one in the world will remember it anymore.” 15 Moses built a stone altar and he gave it a name: I Fly the LORD’s Flag. 16 Moses explained, “Amalek has declared war on the LORD. So the LORD will fight the Amalekites from one generation to another, for as long as it takes.
Location of Rephidim is unknown. But it seems to have been close to Mount Sinai, because Moses walked from Rephidim to Sinai to get water from a rock there.
Literally, “Horeb,” another name for Mount Sinai. This was “God’s Mountain” (Exodus 3:1), where God would give Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-13).
One survival trick in the Sinai deserts is to look for moisture in the cracks of the rocks. Springs sometimes lie under soft limestone rocks in the region. A hard tap on the rock can crack it open and reveal the water below. Sometimes, water sits inside a hollow cavity in the rock, making the rock a bit like a stone canteen.
The two Hebrew names were Massah, meaning “test,” as in getting pushy with God, and Meribah, meaning “complain,” “argue,” or “fight.”
Amalekites were nomads and raiders, as portrayed in stories of the Bible—archenemies of the Jewish people. They would later raid and pillage Israelite towns in the time of Israel’s heroic judges, such as Gideon and Samson (Judges 3:13, 6:3, 33). Centuries later, Haman, a descendant of Amalekite king Agag (Esther 3:1), tried to launch a holocaust of the Jews throughout the Persian Empire. Queen Esther managed to convince the king to stop him. The king executed him.
This is the Bible’s first mention of Joshua. Moses picks him to create and command the Israelite militia. Joshua will succeed Moses in another 40 years, and lead the Israelites on their invasion of Canaan, now known as Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Hur was an associate of Aaron (Exodus 24:14) and possibly the grandfather of Bezalel (Exodus 31:2), the man in charge of building Israel’s most sacred object: the gold-plated chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Ten Commandments.
The Hebrew term is Adonai-nissi, and it’s more commonly translated “The LORD is my banner.”
The quote from Moses is vexing. Scholars take their best educated guess at interpreting what he’s saying. The Bible’s last mention of the Amalekite people as a nation reports that an Israelite militia destroyed the last remnant of their survivors (1 Chronicles 4:42-43).
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