Lectionary Year A
September 29, 2002
Exodus 17:1-7

Step II: Disposition


Another miracle story is prompted by the nomadsí complaints and accusation and the peoplesí speculation that they are to die of thirst when they would rather live in Egyptian slavery. Moses takes their contentious questions right personally and suspects the people are prepared to stone him, or, at least thatís what he tells God. God replies rather matter of factly telling Moses what to do, where to go, whom to take with him and what instrument he will need. God promises divine presence. Moses obeys Godís instructions and water appears. Moses names the place recalling the peoplesí contentiousness and their testing God. Then, Moses asks whether God is with them there. Simple and straight forward sentences describe the environment and quote the dialogue among Moses, the people and God. The eldersí presence and perceptions are also mentioned almost prominently.


*Did the quarrelling people really think Moses could/would give them water to drink?
*Does this story really follow closely the similar one in the preceding chapter?
*Has any reputable research team produced a clearly readable Pentateuch where repetitious phrases get eliminated?
* Was Moses trying to manipulate God into supplying water in the desert when he claimed the people were preparing to stone him? Were they really?
* How prominent are the elders?
*Why the staff with which he struck the Nile?
* The paramount question for me of this entire narrative is the concluding one that doesnít fit. Is it rhetorical? Do the answers come throughout the rest of the book of Exodus, the remainder of the Pentateuch, the balance of the Canon?

After the first verse sets the stage for this event, the peoplesí quarrel is described. They appeal to Moses for much needed water. To that appeal Moses asks why they are so contentious and why they are testing God? Are they so doing? Do they accept his accusation that they are so doing? The authors respond to Mosesí accusations with a report explaining why the people complain and a quote declaring the peoplesí suspicion that they would die of thirst there in that wilderness. Thereupon, Moses cries to God for assistance for how to handle such a recalcitrant people. God gives Moses rather detailed instructions. Moses obeys. God provides. Moses renames the place, descriptively, the authors say. The elders are mentioned early in Godís part of the dialogue and again near the end of the chronicle. Then the open- ended question ends the account.

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