Old Testament Study:
Exodus 17:8-16 (cont.)
Amalek, pt. 2,
by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
8Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9And 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.” 10So 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. 11And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12But 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. 13And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14And 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.” 15And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi: 16For he said, “Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Ex 17:8-16 AV)
“Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim” (17:8). In the light of Genesis 21:25; 26:19, 20; Exodus 2:17; Numbers 20:19; Judges 5:11, where we learn that the possession of water (wells, etc.) was frequently a bone of contention among the ancients, it is evident that the spread of the news that a river of water was now gushing from the rock in Rephidim, caused the Amalekites to attempt to gain possession. To do this meant they must first disposess Israel; hence their attack. The first thing to note here is the identity of Israel’s enemy. It was Amalek. “Amalek” signifies “Warlike,” apt name for that whose lusts ever war against the soul (see 1 Peter 2:11). “Amalek was the grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:12): ‘Who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright, and when he would have inherited the blessing was rejected,’ is thus surely a representative of the ‘old man’” (F.W.G.). Very striking in this connection is the prophetic word of Balaam: “And when he looked for Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations that warred against Israel: but his latter end shall be that he perish forever” (Numbers 24:20). The character of Amalek comes out plainly in the words of Moses concerning him at a later date – “He feared not God” (Deuteronomy 25:17, 18) - such is “the flesh.”
The second thing to be noted is the time when Amalek made his assault upon Israel: “then came Amalek and fought with Israel.” The Holy Spirit has called our attention to the time when this occurred. It was when Moses smote the rock and the waters were given. Then. for the first time, Israel was called upon to do some fighting - contrast 13:17. They had done no fighting in the house of bondage, nor had the Lord called upon them to fight the Egyptians at the Red Sea, but now that that which typified the Holy Spirit had been given, their warfare commenced. Yea, it was that which typified the Holy Spirit that caused the Amalekites to attack Israel! Wonderfully accurate is the type.
It is not until the Christian has been made partaker of the Divine nature (see 2 Peter 1:4) that the inward conflict begins. Previous to the new birth, he was dead in trespass and sins, and therefore quite insensible to the claims of God's holiness. Until the Holy Spirit begins to shed abroad His light upon our wicked hearts, we do not realize the depths and power of the evil within us. Oft times the believer is astounded by the discovery of the tendencies and desires within him, which he never knew before were there. The religious professor knows nothing of the conflict between the two natures nor of the abiding sense of inward corruption which this experience conveys. The unregenerate man is entirely under the dominion of the flesh, he serves its lusts, he does its will. The “flesh” does not fight its subjects; it rules over them. But as soon as we receive the new nature the conflict begins. It is striking to note that it was not Israel who attacked Amalek, but Amalek that attacked Israel. The new nature in the believer delights to feed upon the Word, to commune with God, and be engaged with spiritual things. But the flesh will not let him live in peace. The Devil delights to rob the believer of his joy, and works upon the flesh to accomplish his fiendish designs. The anti-type is in perfect accord. Note how that in Galatians 5:17 it is first said that “The flesh lusteth against the spirit,” and not vice versa.
Next, let us note carefully the record of how Israel engaged Amalek in fight: “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. 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 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 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 one side and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of his sword” (vv. 9-13).
There is considerable difference of opinion among the commentators concerning the typical application of the above scripture. Some regard Moses at the top of the hill with hands uplifted toward heaven as the figure of Christ interceding for us on High. But that cannot be. And this for two reasons: Moses was accompanied by Aaron and Hur; furthermore, his hands grew heavy. It is grossly dishonoring to the perfect Word of God to say that the type is imperfect at this point - far better to confess our ignorance than to cast such reflections upon the Scriptures. Others regard Joshua as the type of Christ in this incident, but that cannot be, because Israel did not gain a complete victory over Amalek. Rather is it evident that the respective actions of Moses and Joshua point out the provisions which God has made for us to combat the flesh.
The first thing to note here is that Israel's sucoess against Amalek was determined by the uplifted hand of Moses: “And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand Amalek prevailed” (v. 11). The significance of Moses' attitude is clearly defined in several scriptures. The uplifted hand was emblematic of prayer, the supplicating of God: “Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto Thee, when I lift up my hands toward Thy holy oracle” (Psalm 28:2); “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).
Second, observe that “Moses’ hands grew heavy.” Here is where the real and beautiful acccuracy of our type is to be seen. How soon we grow weary of supplicating God! “Men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1), said our Lord. But how sadly we fail. How quickly our hearts get “heavy”! And as soon as we lose the spirit of dependency upon God the flesh prevails.
Third, but Moses was not left to himself. Blessed it is to mark this. Aaron and Hur were with him, and “Stayed up his hands, the one on one side and the other on the other side.” Here again we discover the beautiful accuracy of our type. Surely there, is no difficulty in interpreting this detail. Aaron was the head of Israel's priesthood, and so speaks plainly of our great High Priest. “Hur” means “light” - the emblem of Divine holiness, and so points to the Holy Spirit of God. Thus God in His grace has fully provided for us. Supported on either side, both the earthly and the heavenly. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26); this is on the earthly side. “And another angel” (Christ as “the Messenger of the Covenant”) “came and stood at the altar having a golden censer; and there was given unto Him much incense, that He should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne” (Revelation 8:3): this is on the heavenly side - Christ receiving our supplications and offering them to God, as accompanied by the sweet fragrance of His own perfections.
Fourth, the typical picture is completed for us by what is said in 5:13; “And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” The “sword” here points to the Holy Scriptures (see Hebrews 4:12). It is not by prayer alone that we can fight the flesh. The Word, too, is needed. Said the Psalmist, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11). Some may object to what we have just said above about the Christian fighting the flesh. We are not unmindful of Romans 6:11 and 2 Timothy 2:22 and much that has been written thereon. But there are scriptures which present other phases of our responsibility. There is a fight to be fought (see 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7 etc.). And this fight has to do with the flesh. Said the Apostle, “So fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:26; 27).
Another thing which is important to note here is the fact that Amalek was not destroyed or completely vanquished on this occasion. We only read that “Joshua discomfited Amalek.” Here too, the type is in perfect accord with the antitype. There is no way of destroying or eradicating the evil nature within us. Though discomforted it still survives. Why, it may be asked, does God permit the evil nature to remain in us? Many answers may be given, among them these. That we may obtain a deeper and personal realization of the awful havoc which sin has wrought in man. the total depravity of our beings, and thereby appreciate the more the marvellous grace which has saved such Hell-deserving wretches. That we may be humbled before God and made more dependent upon Him. That we may appropriate to ourselves His all-sufficient grace and learn that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, That we may appreciate the more His keeping-power, for left to ourselves, with such a sink of iniquity within, we should surely perish.
A very helpful word and one which we do well to take to heart, is found in Deuteronomy 25:17, 18: “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.” How this should stir us up to watchfulness! It was the “hindmost” - those farthest away from their leader - that were smitten. The flesh cannot smite us while we are walking in close communion with God! And note that it was when Israel were “faint arm weary” that Amalek came down upon them. This too is a warning word. What is the remedy against faintness? This: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail; But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:30, 31).
Very blessed are the closing words of Exodus 17: “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.’ And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-Nissi; For he said, ‘Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation’” (vv. 14-16). God here promised that in the end He would utterly annihilate Amalek. In the confident assurance of faith Moses anticipated God's final victory by erecting an altar and calling it “The Lord, our Banner.” How blessed to know that at the end the Savior shall “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:21).
Pink, A. W. “Gleanings in Exodus”, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. V, No. 1. Jan. 1926.
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