For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough


Exodus 17:1-6

In Exodus chapter sixteen we find the children of Israel murmuring for bread, in response to which God gave them, first,quails, and then the manna.  The quail represents Christ given first to die for our sins; and the manna, of course, represents Him as the spiritual food that nourishes the new spiritual life obtained through faith in Him.

Now in chapter seventeen we find the Israelites murmuring again - this time for water; and again the response of God is to give them what they needed.  That water, and the smitten rock from which it came, are no less types of Christ than are the quails and the manna; but whereas we see in the quails, Christ dying for us; and in the manna, Christ the living Word presented in the written Word as the food necessary to sustain our new life, the water represents Him as the written Word to refresh and cleanse us while journeying through the wilderness of this world on our way home to heaven. 

As in so many other places, however, God would have us see here another symbolic picture of Calvary, and certainly the details are easily discerned.  In that thirsty multitude God bids us see ourselves, doomed to die unless given the water of Life.  We “drank” that Water once to obtain spiritual life, and we must drink it still to sustain that life.

The place where they thirsted was Rephidim, meaning supports: shrinking of hands.  It is a picture of the world, for inasmuch as the hand in Scripture represents our deeds, the description of the hands as “shrinking” reminds us that the best deeds of these “shrinking” dying hands cannot redeem our souls; and all the “supports” of human theology are found to be more worthless than straws as a foundation upon which to rest for eternity.

Moses is commanded, “... take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod.... Behold I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink...” Ex 17:5-6.  It requires little spiritual discernment to see here a foreshadowing of Calvary.  Horeb means a waster, with a dry place, suggested by some as an alternative meaning.  There could be no more vivid picture of Calvary.  It was the place of wasting and dryness, for it was there that the wrath of God against sin “wasted” Christ as our Sinbearer, bringing Him into “dryness” - the dust of death, Ps 22:15.

Any question as to the rock’s being a type of Christ is settled by the Scriptures, “... that Rock was Christ,” 1 Cor 10:4.

Moses, bearing the rod with which the rock was to be smitten, is a figure of the law which must strike the transgressor.

The type of the “elders of Israel” who stood with him at Horeb, was fulfilled when the Jewish leaders stood around the cross, watching in mockery when Christ was “... stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted,” Isa 53:4.

“... and there shall come water out of the rock.”  This too was fulfilled, for we read, “... one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water,” Jn 19:34.  The lesson to be learned from the fact that the blood is mentioned before the water, is that there must be redemption by blood before the water of the Word can cleanse or refresh.

The lesson to be learned from the fact that water alone came forth from the smitten rock is that the Israelites didn’t require the blood of redemption: they had already been redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb (also a type of Christ).  As typical believers, they needed only the “water of the Word,” Eph 5:26, for daily cleansing and refreshment.

In that smitten rock God would have us see Christ at Calvary, “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”; but He would have us never forget the purpose of that smiting, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed,” Isa 53:5.



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough