Up to this point in Israel’s short journey in the wilderness, complaining, murmuring, and fear of perishing from hunger and thirst have been at the forefront. Even after Elohim gave the Israelites their desires they still remained un-repented from harboring all those negative attitudes, and therefore were not really experiencing freedom. We have already noted that the Hebrew people were prisoners to their fleshly desires and fears, to the point that they were even willing to go back to slavery for the sake of their pots of meat, leaks and onions. Can you imagine the conversations that were carried on the airwaves during those days; the gossip, the accusations that were leveled at Moses and Aaron? All that in spite of the fact that Moses told them that it was not him and his brother whom they were judging and condemning, but YHVH Himself. From their point of view Moses lied to them about going to a land of milk and honey. Dying of thirst or starving to death was not what they envisioned. He had already disappointed them before, and here again they were at death’s door. Thus they wanted to stone Moses and Aaron. But YHVH, again by His great mercy, charged Moses to take the rod with which he “stuck the river [Nile] and strike the rock” (Exodus 17:5), thus supplying water in the desert.*
Our wilderness journey is sometimes marked by similar behavior. Often we tend to find scapegoats to blame for our problems or circumstances. Yeshua, the leader and head of His nation/body maintains that "that which we do" (or even think about) regarding "the least of these, His brethren, we do it to Him". Fear and stress about our simplest needs has us behaving at times just like our ancestors, although the Messiah left us with instructions to not worry about food and clothing: "And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious/fear filled mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of Elohim, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31).
The ‘world’ and its kingdoms with the variety of their tantalizing merchandize can become objects of worship, whether overtly or covertly. When they do, it is but a short path to sin, as these creature comforts become a (false) source of contentment, satisfaction, excitement, granting temporary peace, joy and relief. The Word of Elohim points out that Lucifer, “the ruler of this world has made the earth tremble… shook kingdoms… has made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities” (Isaiah 14:16-17 emphasis added). Thus, in spite of the lights and glitter of the world, as long as it is under the dominion of its prince, it is nothing but a dry barren desert. But as for us, although we are in the world, we are not to be of it (ref. John 17:16).
Because the Children of Israel carried on in their rebellion against YHVH’s headship, asking in unbelief: "Is YHVH among us or not?" (Exodus 17:7), He brought on the scene one of their relatives to greet them with the sword: Esau’s firstborn grandson Amalek. It is interesting to note that many years before, when Jacob was returning to the Land, Esau came with 300 men to meet him. At that point he did not harm his brother, because he had sworn that he would not do so until after their father’s death. Now several centuries later, Esau’s progeny felt that they had an opportunity to eliminate the seed of Jacob. The spirit of revenge, hatred and murder was still at work in these cousins, who were about to carry out their progenitor’s oath. Once we understand this episode in the wilderness, it is not hard to know what is happening today in our generation. With our Israelite identity restored to us while still in the wilderness of this world, we could become a target of the same spirit and people group. Did YHVH not declare that He would have war with Amalek from generation to generation? When Israel was in Egypt they were protected by a foreign power, but now they were a (seemingly) rag tag army of people in an unprotected environment, with only a few swords and maybe some farming tools with which to defend themselves. Notice that Amalekites went after the weak and the stragglers.
It is good for us to note what YHVH says about this cousin of ours. Let us examine his name: “Am” of course means “a people”, while the root m.l.k (mem, lamed, kof) forms the verb “malok”, which means “to decapitate or wring the head” (of a fowl, such as in Lev. 1:15 and 5:8), just as Haman the Agagite (of the Amalekite royal house) wanted to do to Mordechai the Jew. This should be a wakeup call in our generation, as it is this very spirit that is making attempts to cut us off from the headship of our Messiah and our Elohim. To decapitate the body of Messiah, in a manner of speaking, is a work of the spirit of Amalek. “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from Elohim” (Colossians 2:18-19 emphasis added. See also Eph. 4:14-16, taking note especially of verse 14: “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine”, and the ‘remedy’ for that condition).
Let us return now to the battle scene that took place in Rephidim, in the Wilderness of Sin. There we see the wielding of the rod of Elohim up on a hill, while simultaneously wielding the sword in the valley. It was Moses, with the help of his brother Aaron the Levite and Hur of Judah, whose responsibility it was to lift up the rod, while Joshua the Ephraimite led an Israelite warring team who were able to subdue their enemies only while the rod on the hill was lifted up. In later generations Israel’s Messiah would be lifted up resulting in a total victory over principalities and powers of darkness. Like Joshua the Ephraimite, leader of the military force, we too can now go out with total confidence and be victorious while Yeshua is being lifted up.
The battle concludes with YHVH’s declaration regarding Amalek, and with a promise that He would utterly “blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (17:14). In other words, “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) who is "under heaven" is destined to be removed and forgotten, and so will the “sons of disobedience” who carry and express his nature in this realm (of utmost importance is Ezekiel 20:38, to which we have made reference at the beginning of this series). The concluding verse of Exodus chapter 17 goes on to expound on this enemy and his tactics; YHVH has a “war with Amalek from generation to generation” because the usurper attempts to lay his “hand on the throne of Yah” (literal translations). Yah chose the nation of Israel to be the head and not the tail, which puts this nation at odds with the "prince of this world".
*In Isaiah 53:4 the Suffering Servant is also being referred to as being “struck by Elohim” (literal translation; the same Hebrew word as the one used here for “striking the rock”). And of course, the reference to Him as the rock occurs several times both in the Tanach and in the New Covenant Writings, as well as to Him being the source of living water.