September 1- 5, 1992, 1992
August 7, 1996
War with Amalek

Balaam's Prophecy


Exodus 17

Vs. 1-7, the people murmur again over water.

The people move from murmuring at Marah (ch. 15) to murmuring in the wilderness of Sin, ch. 16. Now they murmuring at Rephidim, ch. 17. They make progress from one station to the next, but do they?

The problem is not their location or circumstances; rather, the problem is the heart of the people. Their hearts say that the answers to their difficult circumstances of life is to murmur, and no change of location will change the problem. It will take a new people with a new heart to solve this problem. This is why there must be a new creature created in the likeness of Christ.

The question that must be faced is, "How far have we advanced?" Have we advanced past murmuring and complaining, or are we still at the first station in our life of redeemed freedom. Marah, the bitter trials of life, will be at every stop: They cannot be avoided. The thing which must change is how we confront those problems: complaining and murmuring or faith and trust in the Divine providence of God. As Parker says here, "We carry the locality with us."

Many people try to move from Marah, hoping to find sweetness somewhere else. Arriving in the next place, the wilderness of Sin, things are no better, so they try again. The next place they arrive is at Rephidim, and again the life of ease, free from trials, escapes them.

The question is asked by Parker, "Why did they not find themselves water? Why did they not supply their own necessity?" The answer is that man feels he can survive on his own until something beyond his control arises. "Strange that men who cannot support the body without help have in some infatuated cases supposed that they could nurture the soul without assistance."

If the Divine providence has led us there, the Divine providence will supply our every need there. Does not God care for His own more than the Egyptian slave masters cared for their slaves? [this is far easier to say than to practice when in that desert place.]

This murmuring Moses called 'tempting God,' i.e., unbelieving doubt in the gracious presence of the Lord to help them (ver. 7). In this the people manifested not only their ingratitude to Jehovah, who had hitherto interposed so gloriously and miraculously in every time of distress or need, but their distrust in the guidance of Jehovah and the divine mission of Moses, and such impatience of unbelief as threatened to break out into open rebellion against Moses. [Keil]

V.1 sounds like a repeat of 13:22--the Lord led them to where they had no water; then 6:3--the Lord led them to where they had no bread. In both cases, the Lord supplied their needs: 17:1, And all the congregation.. journeyed.. according to the commandment of the Lord...: and there was no water for the people to drink. So they respond in good fallen fashion: they murmur against Moses and the Lord.


1) They were following the command of the Lord when they came here; the Lord led them to this place of thirst. The purpose of Him leading them to this place was the same as previously in 15:25, and there he proved them.

This is the third time within a very short time that the people are led by the Lord to a place where there was no supply of their needs. This was no small matter, for here is probably around 3 million people with all of the livestock required to be individually self-sufficient. This is a slave generation, and the Lord is weaning them from their slavery a step at a time. This generation never learned to be free men under the Lord, but the next generation did. The attitude of the new generation is evident in Joshua 1:12ff, and is totally opposite of the attitude of this generation which Moses had to work with.

The Lord is separating the people from their slave mentality by leading them into places of hardship. Slavery depended upon their human masters to supply their security in every area. Godly freedom looks to God to supply all their needs.

I think it is interesting that the daily supply of manna for this generation that grew up in Egypt did not impress them with the ability of the Lord. Even though they ate the manna every day, they still did not believe the Lord could provide the victory over the Canaanites. On the other hand, the children saw the manna and the other supernatural provision of the Lord, and were confident that the Lord could deliver the land into their hands.

In other words, their slave mentality prevented their hearts from being changed; they just could not comprehend what the Lord was doing. They were so accustomed for their slave masters supplying their every need that they expected the Lord to now do the same. Did they equate the Lord as not much more than their former Egyptian masters? When we compare 16:3 and 17:3, it is evident that the Egyptians had fed them well because they hold Moses and the Lord to the standard of their former Egyptian captivity.

V. 2, sounds like a union making their demands.

I believe that it is obvious as we follow the Israelites in the wilderness: The Lord has a tremendous amount of hardship and difficulties ahead for 20th century Western Christianity. He will have to lead us into hardship in order to wean us from our dependance upon the state, man-made organizations and institutions. There will be a great amount of people who will not be able to make the transition from statism and slavery to freedom under God; therefore, our hope lies in our children.

A) Under this first point, Hardships are a way of life, especially for a Child of God, 1 Pet 1:7; 4:12; Pro 17:3; Isa 48:10; Zec 13:9; Mal 3:3; Rom 5:3ff.; Jas 1:3ff.; 2 Pe 1:4 (trials make us partakers of His devine nature); Rom 2:7 (v. 29, trials of our faith "circumcise" our hearts, that is, cut off those things displeasing to the Lord);

The Apostle Peter's book makes a great deal of trials, opening his books with with encouraging words for those who are facing dificultites in their faith, 1 Pet 1:

First, his books are writen to the strangers: those whoes home is above, the redeemed.

Second, he writes to the elect, those who were and are chosen by God--which I do not understand, and only becomes more confusing as Peter proceeds.

Third, God chose individuals and gave/gives them His Spirit to make them obedient to the faith of Christ.

Foruth, we have been given a lively hope, not a dead hope, and that hope verified by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Fifth, the hope is that we are joint heirs with Christ.

Sixth, v. 5, God's people are kept in amidst the trials of their faith, vv. 6ff., by power of God. See Jude 1:24.

And thus we have a question: Why does He keep some by His power and others He does not? Why does His keeping power appear to forsake some professed Christians yet keeps others in the midst of the most serrious of trials of their faith? I HAVE NO ANSWER, other than what we are told in Eph 3:9ff.

I Pet 1:6 follows vv. 1-5, the lively hope in the resurrection of Christ
2) Exo 17:4, this verse is a little surprising to me. I would expect the people to murmur and chide with Moses; they are total slaves which have all their lives had every thing supplied by their masters, but Moses!! Moses goes to the Lord, and the verse does not sound like he is going in confidence of the Lord's provision.

The verse says, And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do...? Moses had had the Lord's supernatural hand upon him for over a year now, and he sounds like he still in unable to grasp the situation. But it probably is Php 4:6.

Even the most mature in the Lord have at times dificulty trusting Him.

I am not degrading Moses at all. The Lord sent this man alone to bring out a tremendous amount of people, 3 million or so. The Lord knew that the task would be too big for one man, so He permitted Moses to take Aaron his brother with him. Now, about a year latter, he has 3 million people with him. (I know how I would probably feel: "I have them here Lord: Now what?") The Lord had just provided both food and water for the people, yet Moses cried unto the Lord. The sound of the verse is that Moses cried out to the Lord in desperation. (I sure would.) We would think, though, that by now Moses would simply go to the Lord and ask the Lord how He wanted this new development handled, assuming that the Lord already had it planed out (after all, the Lord distinctly led them this way). But Moses sounds like a desperate man.

Again we are confronted with the fact that the Lord uses people to do His work. Moses was a man just like us who had been totally striped of all self-confidence. God uses people; many times in spite of themselves. I know that is my case.

3) The Lord lovingly gives instructions to His faithful servant, Moses. He takes the elders of the people and obeys the Lord in their sight. The Lord performs His wondrous work before them, and they would take the report back to the people.

A) this desperate situation seems to be for the elder's benefit. The Lord continues to confirm His servant Moses in the eyes of the people. This would show that Moses was greater than the already established leaders of the people.

The elders were to be eye-witnesses of the miracle, that they might bear their testimony to it before the unbelieving people. [Keil]

B) the Lord uses speaks to Moses as He would a beloved child. It sounds like the Lord said something like this, "Now Moses, be calm: Here is what you do..."

All through these passages, I am reminded that the Lord remembers that we are but dust, and works with us with this continually in His memory.

4) v. 6, I will stand before thee... Moses smote the Lord for the sins of the people, 1 Cor 10:4, That Rock was Christ. Moses got in trouble the next time by smiting the rock instead of speaking to it. The Rock is only smitten once for sin, not twice.

5) The Lord did not provide the water until Moses struck it with his staff. The people were to again acknowledge him as the possessor of God's supernatural and miraculous powers.

I find it interesting that those who claim to have supernatural powers do not strike the "flinty rock" to bring froth water: their supposed supernatural powers are only deceptive.

6) V. 7, the name of the location reflects the people's unbelief and tempting of the Lord. Notice what is defined as unbelief: the Lord led them to this "sorry" location where there was no water, and the people say, Is the Lord among us, or not? The circumstances were difficult here, so the people question whether or not the Lord actually led them to this location.

Therefore, when His people doubt the Lord's leading by His divine providence even though they are in a "sorry" location, they are tempting God. God leads His children for their own good. To doubt the Lord's leading in that location is to doubt the Lord's goodness. Either Rom 8:28, 29 is true or it is not. The thing is, if we doubt that it is, then we tempt the Lord.

The Lord led these people to these difficult locations with a purpose: to break their slavery and to make them a holy people unto Himself. When they rebelled, or spoke against Him in these locations, they tempted Him. Their hard hearts just could not see the Lord's leading because of their slavery. Their hardness finally calumniated in refusing to go into the land when it came time to enter. We know that Moses could not bring them in, but Joshua had to. Joshua is a type of Jesus in the OT, and it is Jesus Who must work in the heart of His people to enable them to see God's hand in everything.

It is also interesting that Moses in not the type of Christ, nor is Abraham. Moses communed directly with the Lord face to face. Joshua did not have that privilege, for he had to go through the priest. But Joshua is the type of Christ. In every point, Jesus was made like unto us. How many can obtain to the stature of Moses? It is foolish to even think about such a thing. But, how many of us can obtain to the stature of Joshua? He is within reach of everyone. He was a faithful servant, first of the man Moses, then of the Lord.

We also can be faithful servants of the Lord, but we must learn to be faithful servants to the proper men. One cannot exercise proper authority until the learn to properly be under authority (Mt 8:9, Lk 7:8)

Ex 17:8-16, War with Amalek.

Then came Amalek.. The people had been miraculously delivered from Egyptian bondage; Egypt had been destroyed; three times the people had murmured against the Lord and against His servant Moses; then came Amalek.. We find records of this attack in Num 24:20, Deut 25:17-19 & 1 Sam 15. In this attack, we are shown that our God is sufficient for every situation which arises; He indeed is a very present help in trouble.

Amalek was a grandson of Esau: the man who chose the flesh over the spirit, Gen. 36:12, He 12:16. Although the standard interpretation of this passage is that Amalek is a type of the flesh, let me introduce another thought with Amalek.

It is important to note that the Lord gave His people the Divine command to carry on a continual war against Amalek, Ex 17:14-16. Thus, when they are not engaged in the war against Amalek, they are in open rebellion against God.

Amalek, who is he?

Then came Amalek, and fought.. has been primarily applied as a warning of the continual warfare experienced by every child of God against flesh (cf. 1 Jn 2:16). Moreover, it is used as a warning of especially severe attacks by the enemy after a great victory or deliverance by the Lord. Many new Christians are surprised by the sudden, furious and determined attack of the enemy against them, resulting in their discouragement and yielding to the enemy. (Some teach that if one becomes a Christian, he will be freed from the continual battle, making him virtually defenseless.)

The truth of the matter

But the above understanding of Amalek is only an application of the continuing war with Amalek. Amalek, we are told by the inspired prophecy of Balaam, was the first nation (i.e., civil government) to, without provocation, deliberately and expressly move against God's people to destroy them because they were God's people.

In Amalek the heathen world commenced that conflict with the people of God, which, while it aims at their destruction, can only be terminated by the complete annihilation of the ungodly powers of the world. (Keil, Vol II, p 78.)

Balaam makes it clear that Amalek represents for all ages the move of ungodly civil governments and nations against the people of God, Num 24:20.

It (Amalek's attack, ed.) was a wicked deed, for Israel had in no way provoked the onset, and the Amalekites were, as descendants of Esau, closely related to them. But there is yet deeper meaning attaching both tot his contest and to its issue. For, first, we mark the record of God's solemn determination "utterly to put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven," and His proclamation of "war of Jehovah with Amalek from generation to generation" (xvii. 16). Secondly, we have in connection with this the prophetic utterance of Balaam to this effect: "Amalek the firstfruits of the heathen" (the beginning of the Gentile power and hostility), "but his latter end even to destruction;" ... "he feared not God." The contest of Amalek therefore must have been intended, not so much against Israel simply as a nation, as against Israel in their character as the people of God. It was the first attack of the kingdoms of this world upon the kingdom of God, and as such it is typical of all that have followed. (Edersheim, Vol II.101, 2.)

Edersheim's continued comment is worth repeating:

If the attack of Amalek represented the hostility of the world to the kingdom of God, the visit of Jethro, which followed Israel's victory, equally sympolised the opposite tendency. ... Thus Jethro may be regarded as a kind of firstfruits unto God from among the Gentiles, and his homage as an anticipating fulfillment of the promise; 1 (1 Isa. ii.3-) "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths."
A very marked advantage was immediately derived from the presence of Jethro. Just as after the conversion of the Gentiles to Christianity, the accumulated learning and research of heathenism were to be employed in the service of the Gospel, so here the experiences of Jethro served in the outward arrangement of the people of God. (Ibid, 104)

Balaam's prophecy

Balaam's prophecies and order they were given were dirrected by the Lord, v. 16: First, he prophecies of the coming King who shall smite the enemies of His covenant-people, Num 24:17; second, he prophecies that the covenant-people shall do valiantly through their King, v. 18; third, he prophecies that this King shall have dominion over all nations and tongues and shall destroy the remains of His enemies, and finally, Balaam prophecies against Amalek himself, v. 20--Amalek shall perish for ever because he struck Israel from the rear against the stragglers, tired, faint and feeble, Deut 25:18.

Israel's first offensive act after settling in Canaan was to go against Amalek. After Saul's victory over the Philistines, the Lord, through Samuel, told Saul to destroy Amalek, 1 Sam 15:2. The Lord delivered Amalek into Israel's hands, but Saul spared Amalek's king, Agag, and the best of the spoil. When Samuel confronted Saul over his disobedience, Saul blamed the people. However, Samuel identifies Saul's pride as the tool that spared Agag and the spoil, and the result of that pride would be the removal of the kingdom of Israel from Saul. Samuel then killed Agag.

As a result of Saul's refusal to claim the victory over Amalek, Samuel makes his now-famous statement: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry, 15:23. When vv. 17 and 23 are compared, we see that witchcraft is practiced anytime a person chooses his own way over the way of the Lord as revealed by His Word. In Saul's case, the God's Word was clearly spoken by Moses that the Lord would have continual war with Amalek from generation to generation; Saul refused to carry that war to its victorious conclusion when he had both the command and opportunity to do so. (We should note that it was an Amalekite who went to David and, in hope of a reward, claimed to have killed Saul. His reward was that he lost his life based upon his claim; he was snared by the lying words of his own mouth.)

Amalek's move against Israel is the first time we have a record of the Lord telling Moses to record something: Moses is specifically told that the purpose of recording the war with Amlek was for rehearsal in the ears of Joshua; thus, the Lord warns and prepares His people for the continual conflict with Amalek, Ex 17:14-16.

Amalek! He appears throughout history in any expressed effort to destroy the covenant-people; he is the spirit behind pagan civil governments' efforts to destroy Christianity from their lands (John identifies him as that spirit of antichrist, 1 Jn 4). There is a terrible warfare going on, and Amalek picks off the stragglers, tired, faint, weak, weary, feeble and uninformed of God's people. Though warned of the continual conflict with Amalek by the Lord, the vast majority of God's people (because of their leaders' inability to bark, i.e., sound the alarm against wicked "public policy," Isa 56:10) do not even know they are in a bloody life and death conflict with spiritual wickedness in high places, Ep 6:12.

Through Moses, God command His people to be actively engaged against the ungodly Amalekites of all ages. When they refuse, they are included with Saul who refused to claim the victory over Amalek: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

The battle rages

We see several things from Moses sending Joshua into the fray:

First, Joshua is the OT spelling of Jesus, Acts 7:45; Heb 4:8; therefore, we are shown Jesus fighting the battle against Amalek, Ps 2. Joshua, "Jehovah is help:" Evidently, Moses changed Oshea's name for this event which means that we are not to fight the good fight in our own strength, Num 13:8. Furthermore, not Moses but Joshua is the Old Testement type of Jesus. We can all identify with Joshua, but who can identify with the greatest of men, Moses? Joshua was exalted after being a faithful servant of Moses: We also can be faithful servants of the Lord, but we must learn to be faithful servants to proper men. One cannot exercise proper authority until he learns to be properly under authority, Mt 8:9, Lk 7:8.

Second, unlike the destruction of Egypt in the Red Sea, this battle required Israel itself get involved to destroy Amalek. Furthermore, success was only granted as Israel fought under the banner of the Lord.

Third, Moses commanded Joshua into the battle; therefore, the battle is waged at and by the command of Moses. The victory is available over Amalek, but the victory will be according to the words of Moses. Joshua could not fight without Moses behind him. In other words, Joshua cannot be cut off from Moses if there is going to be victory over Amalek. As long as 20th century warfare against Amalek remains separated from the words of Moses, victory is impossible. God's victory is through the application of the law of Moses. (Did not Christ come in obedience to the law of Moses? Are we not to do all things according to the command-word as given through Moses? See Jos 1:5-9; Mt 28:19, 20; 1 Cor 1:18.)

Fourth, Moses goes up on the top of the hill to pray while Joshua fights the battle; therefore, prayer was necessary. As long as Moses lifted up his hands there was victory, but prayer could not be separated from active engagement against the enemy according to the command of Moses.

Scripture records far more times when action is required apart from prayer, e.g., Ex 14:15, Jos 7:10, than it records times when prayer is required apart from action, tellign us that God is a God of action--we must put action to our prayers. How many times have we heard (and used) the lame, ungodly excuse, "I'll pray for you" when it comes time to confront Amalek? If "Christians" do not get up off their face (as the Lord told Joshua) and get involved, Amalek will win, and God will judge their rebellion just as sure as He did Saul's.

1 Timothy 2:2 tells us to pray for those in authority, but prayer without active engagement against Amalek (ungodly civil governments intent on destroying Christianity, Bible based law), is rebellion against the command of God. (We would define "engagement" as something like salt's effect on a wound or against corruption.)

Geneva identifies this hill from where Moses prayed, Horeb, or Sinai: The obvious implication is that both prayer and action must be based upon the law as given from the Mount of God, Sinai.

Prayer! It must neither be ignored nor underestimated. If one cannot enter into the actual battle, one can pray. Without prayer, the victory will be lost. Joseph Parker's comment concerning Moses on the mount and Joshua fighting the battle is worth repeating:

Mock the suppliants if you will; but they are men who are engaged in the upper regions of the battle. They (elderly men who cannot fight, ed) are not cowards who have fled from the fight, they are heroes who are standing at its front and have undertaken the responsibility of its success. Young men, go forth to the war. I am ashamed of the young man who stays at home and states himself with debasing luxury, when there are great wars to be fought, great positions to be taken, mighty fortresses of evil to be overthrown. Awake! awake! put on thy strength, oh redeemed life, and carry the Lord's banner away to the front and set it up in sign of victory. (Parker, Preaching through the Bible, II.140.)

Fifth, the help of others is also needed. There was a bloody battle to be fought, for which Joshua needed an army; there were petitions to be presented to God, for which Moses needed Aaron and Hur. A person cannot wage the warfare against Amalek alone.

Sixth, Joshua did not totally destroy Amalek (nor did Saul), so Moses is commanded to write down a record of Amalek's wickedness and the resulting war. The record was to be rehearsed in the ears of Joshua, not necessarily in the ears of the people. The leaders of God's people are the ones who must be made aware of the details of what took place because they must lead and train God's people in Godly warfare against Amalek, i.e., antichristian powers in high places.

Seventh, Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi.. The name means, "The Lord by Banner." Banner speaks of united orderly warfare; it speaks of following a Captain into war as Israel followed Joshua (recorded in the book of Joshua), The Lord is a man of war.. Ex 15:3. The Lord overthrew Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and He provides Joshua victory over Amalek.

Eighth, though the decedents of Amalek are no longer around, his spirit of unprovoked hatred toward God and the Godly is still very much alive. Therefore, the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. The marginal reading for Exo 17:61 is,

For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. {Because...: or, Because the hand of Amalek is against the throne of the LORD, therefore, etc} {the LORD hath...: Heb. the hand upon the throne of the LORD} (Online Bible)

Ps 2 discribes the war Amlek, the ungodly state, declaired against the King of kings: Amlek's hand is against the throne of the LORD, for it cannot tolorate another sovereign in its realm. Clearly, the Christian life for God is a life of continual warfare; warfare with Egypt and Amalek.

And so it ever is: Amalek opposes the advance of Israel; Israel must fight, but the victory is God's; Israel holds the rod of almighty power in the hand of faith; but that rod must ever be uplifted toward heaven in present application for the blessing secured by covenant-promise. (Edersheim.)

The Lord gave His people His Divine command to carry on a continual war against Amalek until Amalek is annihilated by God's power. Accordingly, those who follow Saul's example by refusing to claim and work for the Godly victory over Amalek, when they fail to engage Amalek in warfare according to the words of Moses, they are in open rebellion against God: virtual witchcraft!

The reason antichrist leaders of 20th century nations have so much power is because the covenant-people have followed Saul's example: They are more interested in "spoiling" Amalek than in claiming his territory for God: the best of Agag has been spared under the guise of "serving God."

Balaam's prophecies still stand:

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.

Through hard work and extremely dificult Christian warfare fought in terms of God's Word, the people of God shall do valiantly through their King, 1 Tim 1:18ff., &c. The King shall have dominion and Amalek will perish for ever. What a wonderful prospect for the future!


Prayer! It must neither be ignored nor underestimated. If one cannot enter into the actual battle, one can pray. Without prayer, the victory will be lost.