Exodus 17:1 through 18:27

Daybreak for Students

Exodus 17:1 through 18:27

Exodus 17
Exodus 18
But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. — Exodus 17:12

Do you want to find out how strong you are? Take a book off the bookshelf. You can choose a light one; even a pamphlet will do. Now, hold that book out at arm’s length. How long can you keep it there before your arm starts to feel heavy? How long before the ache in your fingers extends all the way up to your shoulder? How long before you give a desperate sigh and let the book fall to your side? The truth is, none of us can maintain that pose for long, no matter what our strength or endurance level. Yet, consider this: how would you have fared if someone held up your hands for you? 

Oh, the value of support! In our text for today, the Amalekites attacked the Children of Israel. God intervened, giving the Israelite army the ability to overcome. When Moses held his hands up, Israel prevailed. When, through weariness, he allowed his hands to come down, the enemy prevailed. At last, Aaron and Hur stood by Moses’ side and held up his arms to ensure victory against Amalek.

How much we depend on each other for spiritual victories! In this case, it took them all — Joshua, the army, Moses, Aaron, and Hur — to win that battle. We should never allow ourselves to be isolated from other Christians. That is a trap of Satan! Even if we are not able to be in physical proximity with other believers, we need to keep in contact. We gain strength from their help and endurance from their encouragement. 

Life is designed not for isolation, but for cooperation. This is especially true in a Christian’s life. It is important not to try to go it alone.


These two chapters contain the account of Moses striking the rock for water, the conflict with Amalek, and the visit of Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro (also called Reuel).

Exodus 17:1-7 states that the Children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin to Rephidim (which means “places of rest”). This was probably a wadi — a valley or streambed that had water only when it rained. Because they found no water there, the people were angry enough at Moses to suggest stoning him. God told Moses to strike a rock in Horeb, and He would cause water to come out of it. Moses did so, and the water came forth in a sufficient amount to meet the needs of the large host of people and their cattle. Moses called the name of the place Massah, which means “to test or to prove,” and Meribah, which means “contention.” According to 1 Corinthians 10:4, the smitten rock was a type of Jesus Christ — the “spiritual Rock” from whom living waters flow. Christ had to be smitten before His grace could flow forth for all mankind.

While the Children of Israel were at the rock, they were attacked by Amalek (Exodus 17:8-16). The Amalekites were a fierce group of Bedouin tribes, descendants of Esau who roamed in the desert south of Canaan. The spoils they obtained when they raided settlements made up part of their livelihood. Because of the Amalekites unprovoked assault on Israel, Amalek became an object of God’s wrath.

This portion of Scripture contains the first mention of Joshua, who later led the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua’s name means “the Lord saves.” The Greek form of his name is Iesous, from which we get the English “Jesus.”

Hur stood with Aaron to hold up Moses’ hands. Hur is considered by Jewish tradition to be Miriam’s husband, and is referenced in Exodus 24:14 as being a helper to Aaron. Hur’s grandson was probably Bezaleel, whom God chose to build the Tabernacle and its furnishings (Exodus 31:2). 

Some scholars suggest that the events of Exodus 18 transpired after the Children of Israel had arrived at Sinai. Verses 1-12 relate the visit of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, who brought Moses’ wife and two sons with him. The Bible does not state exactly when Zipporah had gone back to be with her parents. It may have been after Moses first started toward Egypt, or possibly after Moses’ responsibilities in Egypt became more intense. 

Jethro was a Midianite, and thus of the family of Abraham by Keturah. While it is not known how much he understood about the true God, he was a religious man (a priest) and had a receptive heart when he heard the report of God’s miracles for the Children of Israel. His response was to praise God and to make an offering. The leaders of the Israelites joined him in a feast and time of fellowship. 

When Jethro observed the interaction between Moses and the people, he gave Moses wise counsel (Exodus 18:13-23). He suggested a leadership structure that would relieve Moses and also hasten the process of settling disputes between the people. Jethro was careful to deliver his suggestion respectfully and indicated that Moses should be certain this was God’s will. Moses heeded his advice and implemented the process (verses 24-27).


(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III.   The migration of Israel to Sinai
     E.   Rephidim (17:1 — 18:27)
           1.   The water from the rock (17:1-7)
                 a.   The cry of the people (17:1-3)
                 b.   The cry of Moses (17:4)
                 c.   The provision (17:5-7)
           2.   The fight with Amalek (17:8-16)
           3.   The visit of Jethro (18:1-12)
           4.   The appointment of judges (18:13-27)


  1. What did God say He would do to Amalek?

  2. Why was Moses’ response to Jethro’s advice significant?

  3. What are some things you can do to help your leaders as Aaron and Hur did?


The mutual support and encouragement between those who are part of God’s family is a theme woven throughout Scripture. Are you fulfilling your role as a supporter and encourager of others in the family of God?