17:5 The Lord said to Moses, “Go over before the people; 1 take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile and go. 17:6 I will be standing 2 before you there on 3 the rock in Horeb, and you will strike 4 the rock, and water will come out of it so that the people may drink.” 5 And Moses did so in plain view 6 of the elders of Israel.
1 tn “Pass over before” indicates that Moses is the leader who goes first, and the people follow him. In other words, לִפְנֵי (lifney) indicates time and not place here (B. Jacob, Exodus, 477-78).
2 tn The construction uses הִנְנִי עֹמֵד (hinni ’omed) to express the futur instans or imminent future of the verb: “I am going to be standing.”
sn The reader has many questions when studying this passage – why water from a rock, why Horeb, why strike the rock when later only speak to it, why recall the Nile miracles, etc. B. Jacob (Exodus, 479-80) says that all these are answered when it is recalled that they were putting God to the test. So water from the rock, the most impossible thing, cleared up the question of his power. Doing it at Horeb was significant because there Moses was called and told he would bring them to this place. Since they had doubted God was in their midst, he would not do this miracle in the camp, but would have Moses lead the elders out to Horeb. If people doubt God is in their midst, then he will choose not to be in their midst. And striking the rock recalled striking the Nile; there it brought death to Egypt, but here it brought life to Israel. There could be little further doubting that God was with them and able to provide for them.
3 tn Or “by” (NIV, NLT).
4 tn The form is a Hiphil perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive; it follows the future nuance of the participle and so is equivalent to an imperfect tense nuance of instruction.
5 tn These two verbs are also perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutive: “and [water] will go out…and [the people] will drink.” But the second verb is clearly the intent or the result of the water gushing from the rock, and so it may be subordinated.
sn The presence of Yahweh at this rock enabled Paul to develop a midrashic lesson, an analogical application: Christ was present with Israel to provide water for them in the wilderness. So this was a Christophany. But Paul takes it a step further to equate the rock with Christ, for just as it was struck to produce water, so Christ would be struck to produce rivers of living water. The provision of bread to eat and water to drink provided for Paul a ready analogy to the provisions of Christ in the gospel (1 Cor 10:4).
6 tn Heb “in the eyes of.”
7 sn The name Massah (מַסָּה, massah) means “Proving”; it is derived from the verb “test, prove, try.” And the name Meribah (מְרִיבָה, mÿrivah) means “Strife”; it is related to the verb “to strive, quarrel, contend.” The choice of these names for the place would serve to remind Israel for all time of this failure with God. God wanted this and all subsequent generations to know how unbelief challenges God. And yet, he gave them water. So in spite of their failure, he remained faithful to his promises. The incident became proverbial, for it is the warning in Ps 95:7-8, which is quoted in Heb 3:15: “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of testing in the wilderness. There your fathers tested me and tried me, and they saw my works for forty years.” The lesson is clear enough: to persist in this kind of unbelief could only result in the loss of divine blessing. Or, to put it another way, if they refused to believe in the power of God, they would wander powerless in the wilderness. They had every reason to believe, but they did not. (Note that this does not mean they are unbelievers, only that they would not take God at his word.)