Arrival at Sinai (Ex 19:1-19:2)

“On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.   They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness.   Israel camped there in front of the mountain.”

In about 3 months or 90 days they arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai.  There they camped facing the mountain.  This is the holy mountain where all the good stuff happens.

The battle with Amalek (Ex 17:8-17:16)

“Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.   Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some men for us, and go out, fight with Amalek.  Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’  So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed.  Whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary.  So they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it.  Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side and other on the other side.  So his hands were steady until the sun set.  Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword.”

The Amalekites were a desert tribe that controlled some of the wilderness.  Amalek was the grandson of Esau, according to Genesis, chapter 36, the son of Esau’s son Eliphaz with his concubine, Timna, thus one of the bad folks. Whether it was him or not, clearly the allusion to a grandson of Esau as opposed to great-grandson of Jacob is clearly indicated.   Moses called Joshua to lead a select team of warriors to fight Amalek.  This is the first mention of Joshua.  Moses stands on the top of a hill with the staff of God in his hand.  Aaron and Hur went with Moses to the top of the hill.  This mysterious Hur was somehow related to Miriam or died in some battle according to some rabbinical sources.  However, Exodus has only one other mention of him and that is on a mountain with Aaron in chapter 24.  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.  Moses got tired so he sat on a stone while Aaron and Hur helped him hold up his hands.  Finally Joshua defeated Amalek.

“Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua.  I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar and called it, Yahweh is my banner.  He said, ‘A hand upon the banner of Yahweh.  Yahweh will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’”

To commemorate
this event, Yahweh told Moses to write it in a book as a reminder of Joshua’s battle.  This is the first mention of a book to be written by Moses.  Yahweh wanted to blot out the memory of Amalek.  They really did not like this guy.  Moses built an altar here called Yahweh is my banner.  There probably will be more wars with these guys.

Water from the rock (Ex 17:1-17:7)

“From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as Yahweh commanded.  They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.  The people quarreled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’  Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you test Yahweh?’  But the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?  So Moses cried out to Yahweh, ‘What shall I do with this people?  They are almost ready to stone me.’  Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you.  Take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb.  Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’  Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.   He called the place Massah and Meribah, because of the Israelites quarreled and tested Yahweh, ‘Is Yahweh among us or not?’”

They went to Rephidim, a little further southwest, but there was no water there.  Once again they complained. This certainly was a complaining group, and Moses asked them why they were quarreling with him and testing Yahweh.  They complained some more when they said that they would be better off if they stayed in Egypt.  So Moses asked Yahweh, ‘What shall I do with these people?’  Then Yahweh told him to take his staff and go to a rock at Horeb and strike the rock, and water will come out of it. So he decided to call this place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites tested Yahweh here.  The place seems to have two names.  This worked because water was beneath the limestone in the Sinai area.  It is difficult to tell who is doing the complaining and how widespread it is.  With 600,000 men, it would be easy to find some people who would be complaining all the time.