I have some notes on Exodus 17 and 18 to share today.

The Desert of Sin

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink (emphasis added).

Exodus 17:1 (NIV)

The Desert of Sin also referred to as the Wilderness of Sin, is a geographical region in the southwestern part of the Sinai Peninsula. The desert is dry and sandy. The term “sin” is not related to the English word “sin.” Therefore, there’s no relationship to sin, as we might think, even though the Israelites sinned abundantly against the Lord while wandering in the Desert of Sin.

Hands Up

As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.

Exodus 17:11 (NIV)

After the Amalekites attacked the Israelites, Joshua met them in battle while Moses, Aaron, and Hur looked on from the top of a hill. While on this hill, Moses lifted his hands to the Lord in prayer. Exodus 17:11 shows us how the position of Moses’ hands reflected who was winning. Exodus 17:12 reveals something interesting.

When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.

Exodus 17:12 (NIV)

It’s unlikely that Joshua or the Israelites were paying attention to the position of Moses’ hands. That’s to say, they were encouraged when his hands were raised and discouraged when they were not. Instead, what we see is an illustration of the value of intercessory prayer and the importance of supporting each other in prayer. 

Moses couldn’t keep his hands raised without help from Aaron and Hur. While God’s power never wanes and isn’t dependent upon us, our faith can weaken, and we can be distracted. Look at the Apostle Peter; what happened when the Lord called him to walk out on the water?

“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (emphasis added)

Matthew 14:29-30 (NIV)

Peter was walking on water until he took his eyes off Jesus. While Peter isn’t an example of intercessory prayer, he is an example of what it looks like when we take our eyes and minds off the Lord. As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us, “Pray without ceasing” (KJV). 

Does this mean that when we pray, if we stop praying, God will stop doing what he’s going to do? No, it doesn’t. However, these incidents in Exodus and Matthew reveal something more profound. God answers prayers in real time, and our faith functions in real time. Often, we think we must pray and wait for God to move. Yet, these two incidents show us that’s not the case. Indeed, in Daniel 10:12, we also see that the Lord responded as soon as David prayed. 

Moses and Zipporah

After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her.

Exodus 18:2 (NIV)

In this verse, we see that Moses’ wife and children were not with him in Egypt. However, Exodus 4 tells us something different.

So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.

Exodus 4:20 (NIV)

The last we heard about Zipporah before we found out Moses sent her away in Exodus 18:2 is the incident with the flint knife in Exodus 4:24-25. After that incident, we are told about Moses’ reunion with Aaron.

The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him. Then Moses told Aaron everything the Lord had sent him to say, and also about all the signs he had commanded him to perform.

Exodus 4:27-28 (NIV)

Jewish tradition states that Aaron persuaded Moses to send his family back to Midian. While the Bible doesn’t corroborate this directly, we can logically deduce that Moses sent his family back after the incident in Exodus 4:24-25 and before he arrived in Egypt. Whether or not Aaron had a hand in it, we don’t know. 

Those are my notes for today. Thanks for stopping by.