Exodus 17:1-7 Bible Study (Part 1)

Exodus 17:1-7 Bible Study (Part 1)

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From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord 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 the Lord?” 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 the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord 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 the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

I.  Reader’s Context

You must define for yourself the issues that shape you and how you encounter the text. This form of bible study presumes that you bring something to the table with you each time you approach the sacred text. I want to refer you to the Worksheet for Bible Study section before you read through the Bible Study.

II. Encountering the Biblical Text

  • Immediately one is struck by the lack of confidence and animosity that the children of Israel have for Moses. It becomes clear that their trust in Moses as their leader is somewhat superficial.  There is a sense that a sense that the lack of history between Moses and the Israelites precipitates a need for him to establish some spiritual and communal authority with this group.
  • Furthermore, in their time of struggle and need the Israelites take their grievances to Moses and not God. There seems to be a sense of disconnect between God and the people of Israel, mainly because there is no real concept of them praying to God in this time of desperation. As a matter of fact in the text the Israelites make their grievance with Moses but Moses responds by saying, “Why do you test the Lord?”
  • Additionally, it is important to note that the staff was an important entity in the narrative of the Israelite experience. The staff is a factor when Moses and the Israelites are crossing the Red Sea, when they are in Rephradim, and again in Sinai (Numbers 20:1-10). With the continuous reference to the staff and its presence in manipulating water; it begs the question of the symbolism of the staff.
  • Also, note that God told Moses to take with him a body of elders with him to Horeb. This raises the question of who constituted the body of elders as well as the significance of bringing these people with him. One must wonder what their function was at Horeb; were they simply there to witness the miracle that God was going to perform, or was their some utilitarian function behind their presence.

What other points do you see in the text on your first read that you would want to pull out for other people?

III. Close Reading of Biblical Text

  • In Exodus 17:1 there is language variation in the text
  • New Revised Standard Version uses the word “congregation”
  • New International Version uses the word “community”.

This is relevant to the text because it speaks to the way in which this body of people frame themselves.

  • What do you think is important about this distinction for the Israelites?
  • How is this relevant to how this texts speaks to our contemporary context?