Chapter 17:8-16 (ESV) - Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and 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, and 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 on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner, saying, “A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
Question to consider: Why do you think the nation of Amalek decided to fight against Israel?
In yesterday’s passage, Israel had camped at Rephidim, and it was mentioned that there “was no water for the people to drink.” Obviously the people who lived in Rephidim had a water source, but Israel was not given access to it. A crowd of millions of people camped around a city could have been viewed as a threat to the inhabitants of that city even though Israel had its own source for food and water. Perhaps Amalek sent spies who witnessed the gathering of manna, the abundance of quail or the water coming from the rock. A third thing to consider is that the man, Amalek, was the son of Eliphaz who was the son of Esau. So the nation of Amalek may have viewed the descendants of Jacob as enemies.
The Targum stated that the tribe of Dan straggled behind the rest of the Israelites and was not embraced by the glory cloud, for some among them engaged in “strange worship.” Thus, Amalek had attacked and killed them and began the war with Israel. The rest of the people were under the cloud which I’m sure provided Moses the time needed to come up with a plan.
Moses’ response was to instruct Joshua to choose a handful of warriors to battle Amalek while he would go up on the mountain with his staff to pray. This is the first mention of Joshua and Hur, and one day Joshua would be the one to take over for Moses. No introduction is given about Joshua and Hur because this is an account written by Moses for people who already knew who these men were.
Moses didn’t say how many men were sent into the battle because the victory came from the LORD. We should remember that Moses was in his eighties standing on a mountain trying to hold the staff above his head while he prayed for Joshua and his men. When he became too tired to maintain this posture, Aaron and Hur interceded and gave him a stone on which to sit and held his arms up for him.
The Hebrew name, Joshua, in Greek is Jesus. As Moses stretched out his hands across the staff, the image below must have looked like a cross on Calvary. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to point out that this scene depicted Jesus defeating Amalek under an image of the cross. The assistance of Aaron and Hur is a reminder to us that we should be there to support those who minister to us in Christ.
The LORD had Moses record this as a memorial for Joshua that it was God who delivered them from Amalek. This would be a good reminder when they faced the battles ahead of them. The altar would also serve as a warning to the surrounding nations that they would meet the same fate as Amalek should they decide to come up against the people of YHWH.
Dear Lord, thank You for protecting us and leading us as we serve the nations as Your people. Instead of a sword, You have given us the good news that Jesus has defeated sin and death on the cross. Give us the courage to reach people with this good news in the midst of a world filled with strife and uncertainty. Amen.