Old Testament Study:
Exodus 17:1-7 — The Smitten Rock, pt. 1,
by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
1And 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. 2Wherefore 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?”
3And 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?”
4And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, “What shall I do unto this people? They be almost ready to stone me.”
5And 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. 6Behold, 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. 7And 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?” (Ex. 17:1-7, AV)
“And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the Wilderness of Sin” (v. 1). Mark that this chapter opens with the word “And,” connecting it with the one preceding. So, too, chapter 16 begins with “And,” linking it on to the closing verses of 15. “And” is a little word, but we often miss that which is of much importance and value through failing to weigh it carefully. There is nothing trivial in God’s Word, and each word and syllable has its own meaning and worth. At the close of Exodus 15 (v. 23) Israel came to Marah, and they could not drink of the waters there because they were bitter. At once we find the people murmuring against Moses, saying. “What shall we drink?” (v. 24). Sad, sad was this, after all that the Lord had done for them. Moses cried unto God, and in long-suffering grace He at once came to the relief of the people. The Lord showed him a tree, which when cast into the bitter waters, at once sweetened them. After this experience they reached Elim, where were twelve wells of water. There Exodus 15 closes.
Exodus 16 opens with “And.” Why? To connect with what has just preceded. But for what purpose? To show us the inexcusableness and to emphasize the enormity of the conduct of Israel immediate following; as well as to magnify the marvelous patience and infinite mercy of Him who bore so graciously with them. Israel had now entered the wilderness, the Wilderness of Sin, and it furnished no food for them. How, then, do they meet this test of faith? After their recent experience at Marah, one would suppose they promptly and confidently turned unto their Divine Benefactor and looked to Him for their daily bread. But instead of doing this we read, once more, “The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron” (16:3), and not only so, they “spake against God; they said, ‘Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?’” (|Psalm 78:19). Yet, notwithstanding their petulency and unbelief, the Lord again came to their relief and rained down bread from Heaven. The remainder of the chapter is occupied with details concerning the manna.
Now, once more, the chapter before us for our present study, begins with “And.” The opening verse presents to us a scene very similar to that which is found at the beginning of the previous chapter. The Israelites are once again face to face with a trial of faith. Their dependency upon God is tested. This time it is not lack of food, but absence of water. How this illustrates the fact that the path of faith is a path of trial. Those who are led by God must expect to encounter that which is displeasing to the flesh, and also a constant and real testing of faith itself. God’s design is to wean us from everything down here, to bring us to the place where we have no reliance upon material and human resources, to cast us completely upon Himself. O how slow, how painfully slow we are to learn this lesson! How miserably and how repeatedly we fail! How long-suffering the Lord is with us. It is this which the introductory “And” is designed to point. Here in Exodus 17 it is but a tragic repetition of what it signifies at the beginning of chapter 16.
“And there was no water for the people to drink.” What of that? This presented no difficulty to Him who could part the sea asunder and then make its waves return and overwhelm their enemies. It was no harder for Jehovah to provide water than it was for Him to supply them with food. Was not He their Shepherd? If so, shall they want? Moreover, had not the Lord Himself led Israel to Rephidim? Yes, for we are here expressly told, “The children of Israel journeyed according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephedim.” He knew there was no water there, and yet He directed them to this very place! Well for us to remember this. Ofttimes when we reach some particularly hard place, when the streams of creature-comfort are dried up, we blame ourselves, our friends, our brethren, or the Devil perhaps. But the first thing to realize, in every circumstance and situation where faith is tested, is that the Lord Himself has brought us there! If this be apprehended, it will not be so difficult for us to trust Him to sustain us while we remain there.
“Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water that we may drink’” (v. 2). The word “chide” signifies that the people expostulated with Moses in an angry manner for bringing them hither, reproaching and condemning him as the cause of their trouble. When they said to him, “Give us water that we may drink,” it was either that they petulantly demanded he should give what God only could provide, signifying that he was under obligations to do so, seeing that he was the one who had brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness; or, because they had seen him work so many wonders, they concluded it was in his power to miraculously obtain water for them, and hence, insisted that he now do this.
“And Moses said unto them, ‘Why chide ye with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?’” (v. 2). Moses at once reminded the Israelites that in criticizing him they arraigned the Lord. The word “tempt” in this verse seems to signify try or test. They tried His patience, by once more chiding His servant. They called into question both His goodness and faithfulness. Moses was their appointed leader, God’s representative to the people; and therefore to murmur against him was to murmer against the Lord Himself.
“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?’” (v. 3). As their thirst increased they grew more impatient and enraged, and threw out their invectives against Moses. “Had Israel been transported from Egypt to Canaan they would not have made such sad exhibitions of what the human heart is, and, as a consequence, they would not have proved such admirable ensamples or types for us: but their forty years’ wandering in the desert furnish us with a volume of warning, admonition, and instruction, fruitful beyond conception. From it we learn, amongst many other things, the unvarying tendency of the heart to distrust God. Anything, in short, for it but God. It would rather lean upon a cobweb of human resources than upon the arm of an omnipotent, all-wise, and infinitely gracious God; and the smallest cloud is more than sufficient to hide from its view the light of His blessed countenance. Well, therefore, may it be termed ‘an evil heart of unbelief.’ which will ever show itself ready to ‘depart from the living God’” (C.H.M.).
“And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do unto this people? They be almost ready to stone me’” (v. 14). It is beautiful to see that Moses made no reply to the cruel reproaches which were cast upon him. Like that Blessed One whom he in so many respects typified, “When He was reviled. He reviled not again; when He suffered. He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). This is what we see Moses doing here. Instead of returning an angry and bitter rejoinder to those who falsely accused him, he sought the Lord. Blessed example for us. This was ever his refuge in times of trouble (cf. 15:25 etc.). The fact that we are told Moses “cried unto the Lord” indicates the earnestness and vehemence of his prayer. “What shall I do?” expressed a consciousness of his own inability to cope with the situation, and also showed his confidence that the Lord would come to his and their relief. How often should we be spared much sorrowful regret later, if, instead of replying on the spur of the moment to those who malign us, we first sought the Lord and asked, “What shall I do?”
“And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with thee of the ciders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shall 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” (v. 5, 6). This brings before us one of the many Old Testament types of the Lord Jesus, one for which we have New Testament authority for regarding it as such. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 we read, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: And that Rock was Christ.”
The “Rock” is one of the titles of Jehovah, found frequently on the pages of the O.T. In his “song,” Moses laments that Israel forsook God and “lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (Deuteronomy 32:15). In his song, we also hear the sweet singer of Israel saying, “The Lord is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer” (2 Samuel 22:2). The Psalmist bids us make a “joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation” (95:1). While the prophet Isaiah tells us “And a Man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a Great Rock in a weary land” (32:2). In the N.T. we get that memorable and precious word, “Upon this Rock” (pointing to Himself, not referring to Peter’s confession) “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18).
The first thing that impresses one when we see a rock is its strength and stability, a characteristic noted in Scripture in the question of Bildad to Job, “Shall the rock be removed out of his place?” (Job. 18:4). This is a most comforting thought to the believer. The Rock upon which he is built cannot be shaken: the floods may come, and the winds may beat upon it, but it will “stand” (Matthew 7:25). Another prominent characteristic of rocks is their durability. They outlast the storms of time. Waters will not wash them away, nor winds remove them, from their foundations. Many a vessel has been dashed to pieces on a rock, but the rock stands unchanged; and it is a deeply solemn thought that those who are not built upon The Rock, will be shattered by it — “And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken,” said Christ, pointing to Himself, “but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:24).
A third feature that may be mentioned about a rock is its elevation. It towers high above man and is a landmark throughout that part of the country where it is situated. Some rocks are so high and so steep that they cannot be scaled. Each of these characteristics find their application to and realization in the Lord Jesus. He is the strong and powerful One — “The mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). He is the durable One — “the Same yesterday and today and forever.” He is the elevated One, exalted to the Throne of Heaven, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
To contact us:
To contact us: