February 8, 2016

Exodus 17:8-16

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

The nine featured verses of Exodus 17 records the attack of the Amalekites against Israel, and Joshua’s ultimate defeat of them.  According to Deuteronomy 25:17 and 18 (Good News Bible), Moses reviewed the incident this way:

      Remember what the Amalekites did to you as you were coming from
      Egypt.  They had no fear of God, and so attacked you from the rear
      when you were tired and exhausted, and killed all who were straggling

Due to limited space, I have shortened the Exodus 17 episode.  Here are verse :8 & 9, and 13 through 16:

       Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.  And Moses said
      unto Joshua, “Choose us some men, and go out, fight with Amalek”….
      So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 
      Then the LORD said to Moses…I will utterly blot out the remembrance
      of Amalek from under heaven.  And Moses built an altar, and called its
      name the-Lord-Is-My-Banner [Jehovah-Nissi]; for he said, “Because the
      LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation
      to generation.

The history of Amalek (and his Amalekite descendants) is an interesting Bible study in itself.

•      Amalek was the grandson of Esau, the first-born son of Jacob who, according to Genesis 25:34, “…despised his birthright…” when he “…for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” (Hebrews 12:16).  The birthright of the first-born included the responsibility and privilege of keeping his extended family in Israel together, and representing the family name with honor.  The birthright also gave a double portion of inheritance from the father’s estate.

•      In…despise[ing]…his birthright…,Esau also despised God! His grandson Amalek inherited this disposition of despising God! (See Exodus 20:5).

•      Because this godless tribe attacked the Israelites, God told Moses in our featured Scripture, “I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.

•      Four centuries later, God gave King Saul this task in I Samuel 15:3:  “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them.”  But Saul did not obey, and “…spared [King] Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good….” (I Samuel 15:9).  He also apparently spared some of the Amalekite men and women themselves!

•      Five centuries after that, “…Haman…the Agagite…” (Esther 3:1) – a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites – became prime minister of Persia, and plotted to destroy all the Jews in the empire.  He was thwarted by God! (See the book of Esther).

•      When over four more centuries had passed, Herod the Great became ruler of Palestine.  He tried to kill the young Messiah Jesus after the visit of the Magi (see Matthew 2:1-18).  Some trace his lineage back to the Amalekites also.

I want to emphasize Jehovah-Nissi, the first of nine names of God that incorporate Jehovah into it.  Obviously, God’s miraculous power was involved in winning the battle against the Amalekites!  The part of the story above that I left out of the battle between Amalek and Israel is how God miraculously used Moses.  He, Aaron and Hur went to the top of hill overlooking the fighting – Moses holding “…the rod of God in [his]…hand.” (verse 9).

      And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed;
      and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands
      became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat
      on it.  And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and
      the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going
      down of the sun.  So Joshua defeated Amalek…. (verses 11 and 13).

Moses knew it was not his victory, nor was it Joshua’s or Israel’s!  It was God’s!  Jehovah – the Self-Existent or Eternal One (see last Friday’s bog, Jehovah…) – had raised His powerful banner, using Moses and the staff in his hand, and the Israelites had rallied to that banner and had drawn supernatural fighting strength when it was lifted high!  So when Moses commemorated the event of victory by building an alter unto God, He called it Jehovah-Nissi (1898 Young’s Literal Translation).  Nissi comes from a root word meaning a flag, pole, banner, standard, even one fluttering in the wind so it is readily seen.

When the battles of life seem to be defeating you, think of Moses holding aloft the rod of God!  Remember Jehovah-Nissi who never changes! (See Malachi 3:6).  And He will hold His miraculous and powerful banner over you for victory also!  Jehovah-Nissithe-Lord-Is-My-Banner!

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