Conflict At Rephidim
The Christian life is one of battles as well as blessings. The LORD has shown Himself as deliverer, healer, and shepherd for His people. The LORD has fought for Israel in the past but now the LORD chooses to fight through them. He will do battle against a people who want to annihilate Israel, who are yet related as descendants of Jacob and Esau.
I. The External Strife at Rephidim, verse 8.
I. The External Strife at Rephidim, verse 8.
8 Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.
The word ‘Amalek’ refers to the Amalekites, just as ‘Israel’ refers to Israelites.
They lived in the north central area of the Sinai Peninsula, the area around Kadesh, the Northern Negev. (Map)
Amalek is one of the grandsons of Esau; Amalekites are distant cousins of the Israelites. They are much like their grandfather, Esau.
that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
Hebrews 12:16-17 points out that Esau was godless, choosing to live for the world and the flesh, despising spiritual things. Apparently, the Amalekites continued in despising the descendants of Jacob (Israel), and like many of Edom’s descendants sought to annihilate the sons of Israel.
The Amalekites appear after the water was given. How did they come? Before Israel entered the land, Moses reminded them of their recent history in ...
“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. “Therefore it shall come about when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.
Amalekites probably felt Israel was a threat to them, moving into their area of influence even though Israel was far further south than the area the Amalekites lived in. Their attack on Israel was unprovoked and striking at the weakest of the Israelites. This attack was regarded by Israel and the LORD as particularly heinous because of this.
II. The Way to Victory, verses 9-13.
9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”
In this verse we have the first biblical mention of Joshua.
His name is Hoshea (salvation), Moses called him Joshua (YHWH is salvation); the Hebrew form of the NT name Jesus.
Moses tells Joshua to choose men for Israel, go out and fight the Amalekites. Here is a former Egyptian slave who chooses capable men, also former slaves, to fight against an unknown quantity in the Amalekites. Joshua displays an aptitude for military leadership, which will come into use in the very near future as Israel prepares to enter the land. Success here brought him closer to Moses as his close aid, where Joshua served well, yet was willing to do dangerous work while believing in the promises the LORD had made. We too must prove ourselves faithful servants before we can be promoted to leadership positions.
Joshua has one day to rally his men and prepare for the battle—which he did.
While Joshua does his part, Moses has a role that he himself must do. We see here two men with important roles: the commander in the valley and the intercessor on the hill.
Here is an example of the interplay between human responsibility and divine sovereignty at play.
Staff of God identifies that it is the Lord who gives the victory in this battle.
10 Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
Joshua did as Moses told him; he did not question the task appointed to him, but went out immediately to complete it. (obedience)
This is a picture of the divinely appointed and obedient use of the external (Joshua fought against Amalek) accompanied by internal, invisible motions of the heart and spirit of a man (Moses, accompanied by Aaron and Hur).
This man, Hur, is an important person; we are not sure who he is biblically, though Josephus says he was the husband of Miriam. He is not Hur, the father of Bezalel, the principal artisan for the tabernacle.
11 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.
This is a general statement that ties Joshua and Israel success in prevailing against Amalek with Moses lifting the staff of God up in his hand. Though Joshua is engaged in the battle, leading the men of Israel, the battle is the LORD’s.
Though ‘hand’ in the singular is used, the context points to Moses holding the staff of God above his head with both hands.
Moses’s actions indicate he was engaging in intercession prayer.
Note that there is no promise of miraculous help even mentioned, but the LORD’s help was available through prayer.
12 But 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 one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.
Israel’s strength lay in a continual appeal to the LORD’s power and a continual remembrance of what the LORD had already done for them.
Moses is in his eighties, and though he remained strong throughout his service to the LORD, even a strong man would go weary holding a staff above his head all day.
The assistance of Aaron and Hur was crucial; they supported Moses, making it possible for him to continue in intercession for Israel and keeping his hands and the staff of God steady until the sun set. In the same way, spiritual work requires spiritual power and support from like-minded servants of God.
True intercession is a demanding activity. The Thessalonian believers, and by application, we today are to be a people who...
pray without ceasing;
See the example of Epaphras, as described by Paul in...
Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.
Colossians 4:12 (NIV: “wrestling in prayer for you”).
God is looking for those who will share in the battle and the victory because they continue steadfast in prayer…
rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him.
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
Whereas Moses became weary, our Lord Jesus ever lives in heaven to make intercession for us as we fight the battles of life…His strength never fails!
The Holy Spirit within us also intercedes for us and guides us in our praying. Paul reminds us...
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
The battle apparently lasted the whole day, with preparation the day before.
13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Joshua overwhelmed Amalek. The Hebrew word translated ‘overwhelmed’ has the idea of ‘weakened through injury and death.’ Joshua and the Israelite warriors did some real damage.
This battle was more important than it may appear. It has a typical significance in relation to all the future history of Israel. Amalek could not be conquered by sword alone, but victory could only be gained by the power of God, coming down from on high, obtained through prayer and those means of grace with which Israel had been entrusted. Israel gained victory over their enemies as they trusted and obeyed the LORD.
III. The Memorial of the LORD’s Victory, verses 14-16.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
This is the first of five times Moses wrote down something at the LORD’s command. There have been those who said Moses couldn’t have written since the alphabet had not been invented yet. Archaeologists have discovered evidence that by Moses’s day, mankind had been writing for over 1,500 years!
The last part of verse 14 emphasizes that this event was important: the attack of Amalek was unwarranted, and the LORD will not let the matter drop! It is written down and recited to Joshua; it is the LORD’s judgment against Amalek.
15 Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner;
· “The Lord is My Banner” is the altar, not a name of the Lord. The altar (probably with an accompanying sacrifice, though not specifically in the biblical record) commemorates God’s victory, the one who would provide victory for Israel against her enemies.
16 and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”
This verse is difficult in Hebrew. “The LORD has sworn” in NASB is probably better translated “Because a hand is against the throne of the LORD, the LORD will have war…” This fits the context better with verse 14.
This is a “war of YHWH”: The war was the LORD’s; the victory was the LORD’s.
The Amalekites set themselves up against the LORD’s people and the LORD’s purposes through them; they had challenged His sovereignty.
You cannot attack the throne of God and get away with it!