1-2 – Israel is being led by the Lord visibly in the form of a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day (Ex. 14:21-22). So, it was not Moses who led them to this waterless place, but the Lord and yet quarreled with him. Moses thought he was going to be stoned (v. 4). They only could see what they lacked not what they had.
3-4 Moses turned to God in prayer, instead of following his example, they looked to Moses. Moses continually turned to God in prayer when he faced impossible situations (15:25 32:30–32; Num. 11:2 11 12:13 14:13 19).
5-6 In response to his prayer God gave instructions to Moses, which would further strengthen his position as God’s appointed and anointed leader. God defended Moses while demonstrating His ability to provide miraculously for His people.
V 7 Massah and Meribah is Hebrew mean, “testing” and “quarreling,” and Moses named it for the response of Israel to the Lord. One of the songs of Israel calls God’s people to remember so that we will not harden our hearts today to the Lord’s leading in our lives (Ps. 95:7–8).
V 8 The Amalekites were the offspring of Amalek, the grandson of Esau, who lived as nomads in the Sinai Peninsula. Their attack on Israel marked them for annihilation over time (Ex. 17:14-16; Num. 24:20; Deut. 25:19). Saul failed to destroy them as God ordered (1 Sam. 15:2–3, 9). David later fought and defeated the Amalekites (1 Sam. 30:1–20). In Hezekiah’s day, the Amalekites were finally removed by Hezekiah (c. 716–687 b.c.). The final descendants of Agag (Est. 3:1), the Amalekite king in Saul’s day, were destroyed in Persia at the time of Esther and Mordecai (c. 473 b.c.; Est. 2:5 8–10).
V 9-10 Joshua was the servant of Moses (24:13 33:11; Josh. 1:1) and is first mentioned here. He was being prepared to lead Israel in war against the nations who the Lord was going to displace (Gen 15:14-15) God called Israel to remove them so that they might be a holy people to the Lord but if they would not obey God would do to Israel what he did to them Num. 33:56). Israel at this point was not a seasoned army they were newly released slaves God would fight for them. Hur is known for this event and for Moses assigning to lead Israel with Aaron in his absence when he went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 commandments (24:14).
11-13 The staff of Moses was not a magic wand but the rod of God, an vessel used by God to demonstrate His power. It only functioned at the leading and direction of God. Moses’ outstretched arms was likely an appeal to God to intercede on Israel’s behalf. It was more than a psychological lift for the warriors as they looked to Moses, it was an acknowledgment of Moses’ and Israel’s dependence on God for their victory over the Amalekites. It further confirmed Moses as their anointed leader and intercessor to God on their behalf.
V 14-16 Write this as a memorial and recite it. God wanted Israel to remember the victory. The Amalekites wished to destroy Israel and in so doing they brought such judgment on themselves proclaimed for Israel (Ps. 83:4–7). The title on the altar יְהוָ֥ה נִסִּֽי Adanoi-Nissi, was an indication that Moses was declaring that the Lord himself to be the Leader and Victor for his people. The ongoing problem with Amalek was not simply one nation hostile toward another, it was a war between God and Amalek. Some people believe that the God of the New Covenant and the Old Covenant are different since Yeshua calls us to love our enemies. But the New Covenant describes the day when God will come in judgment upon His enemies and will go to war against them. The important thing to remember is that the Lord is the one who fights. There is however a prevision in Scripture for a taking up arms under certain circumstances.