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

Hermeneutical Bridge


The questions above evolve around God’s role and actions in the story. God seems to be the glue that holds the story together as well as the wanderers, too. Who else could be the “theological ‘center of gravity’” in this pericope? Certainly not the grumblers. Their thirst, their grumbling and their desperation form some of the major concerns. The water, the rock and God’s instructions are also close to major. The staff and the dialogue are closer to minor concerns, as are the elders, I think. Now, the open-ended question might be getting the first of many answers by what God does, regarding water from the rock. Is Horeb a major or minor concern in this narrative? What about the new name(s) for the place?


1 Then departed all the congregation of the sons of Israel from the wilderness of Sin pulling up stakes according to what the Lord had said to encamp in Rephidim but without their having any water to drink. 2 So found fault the people with Moses, saying, “Why did you not give us water to drink?” And Moses said, “What kind of complaint to me do you make, for it is a testing of God (that you do thusly). 3 But, they thirsted. Then the people because of the lack of water said to Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to kill us here along with our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 And cried out Moses unto the Lord, “What am I to do with this people, while shortly they are about to stone me?” 5 And said the Lord to Moses, “Pass on before me the people and take with you the elders of Israel and the staff with which you struck the Nile take in your hand and proceed. 6 And behold I shall be standing before you there on the rock and you shall strike the rock and water will come out from it water and the people may drink. Moses did this in the presence of the elders of Israel. 7 And he proclaimed the name of the place to be Despair and Contention on account of the striving of the sons of Israel because of their testing God. And they asked, “Is Jehovah among us or not?”


A timely consideration, what with the draught throughout some much of the country here. However, very few of us in America have ever really thirsted, and the boil water advisories don’t count. Nor do I know anyone who ever fears to be led out or left out to die of thirst, neither us, nor our children nor our livestock. Yet, we do have needs that God can and will, even miraculously, meet and supply the substance to enable us to cope with them and survive them. Maybe the nearest we contemporary modernists come to identifying with the thirsty wilderness wanderers is in their having to ask, “Is God among us or not?” Possibly the movie, “Solarbabies” hints at a miraculous water supply’s being availed to some children being punished by an evil Protectorate’s keeping water from them. In the movie, Jason interprets his destiny as providing an unlimited supply of water for the orphans. The Solarbabies defeat the reign of the evil Protectorate and save the oppressed people of the planet. Can we theologians read God into that story on the big screen?

| Return to gospel listings | Return to epistle listings |
| Return to Old Testament listings | Return to Psalm listings |
| User response form |