These small group studies of Exodus contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Exodus 17 Inductive Bible Study


I. The people grumble for water (1-3)

II. Moses struck the rock and water came out (4-7)

III. Moses holds his arms up and the sons of Israel have victory over Amalek (8-13)

IV. The book of records and God’s declaration that He would wipe out the people of Amalek (14-15)

I. The people grumble for water (1-3)

Discussion Questions

Was their situation serious? How might you respond if you had no water? How should they have responded to this need? Was it reasonable to blame Moses for this? Why or why not? List out the ways God had already showed His provision for them? What should they have learned from God’s previous miracles of provision for them?

What was Moses’ reaction? How did he describe their behavior?

Why do you think the people questioned Moses’ motivation for bringing them out of Egypt?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. See map for journey route.

2. The people once again grumble. This time it describes their discontent as taking the form of “quarreling.” That is a stronger word than grumbling. Grumbling is something like muttering, perhaps even under their breath. Quarreling is much louder and aggressive. Simply put, the people were angry. They were mad. Complaints against Moses were rippling throughout the camp and it was getting to the point where the camp was in danger of turning into a mob. Keep in mind that they were still harvesting the manna every single day yet still lacked faith. See John 12:37. Psalms 106:25, Complaining leads to further disobedience. Eph 4:29 – Do not let any unwholesome word leave your mouths.

3. Their situation was, in fact, serious. They had little or no water and there were likely 2 million people. It was reasonable to be concerned and to try to address the issue. However, this was clearly the wrong way. Their attitudes demonstrated once again a clear lack of faith in God. How had God provided for them? First, all the times in Egypt. Then crossing the Red Sea. Then destroying the Egyptian army. Then sweetening the waters at Mara. Then quail and manna. It had been almost one continuous miracle after another. For whatever reason, the people still lacked faith. This is actually quite typical of those who don’t have a close relationship to God and was typified in the NT as well when many believed in Jesus after His miracles and stopped believing soon after. By nature, people’s memories are short term. We make decisions by what we see here and now, by who is influencing us at the moment and by the company we keep. Knowing that our memories are short term and as humans our faith is weak, what should we do to help combat this? The best thing I can think of is to keep God and His work fresh in our minds by spending time in it daily. Keep our relationship with God close by daily prayer. This will be a reminder to us of all that God has done and will do for us.

4. Deuteronomy 6:16. The people not only grumbled and quarreled. They are described as testing God. See also Exodus 17:7. They weren’t saying that God wasn’t true or God wouldn’t help them. They just wanted to make sure. They had had many signs already, but it seems like they think if God just shows Himself one more time then it will be enough to believe. They were basically proposing a test. If God miraculous supplied the water, then He was true and if He didn’t then He wasn’t. What is the problem with this. It is artificially putting God in a corner and it relies on a false promise. God is equally true whether or not He decides to perform this miracle. These days people often test God too. They say, “God if you are true, do such and such.” If it doesn’t happen, they say, “See, there is no God.” This kind of test tries to force God to do something He has not promised to do. It is based on false assumptions and it is based on unbelief and skepticism rather than true belief.

5. Christians also sometimes test God. “God, if you want me to marry this girl, then let her drop her notebook so I can pick it up.” Is this reasonable. There are several problems with this. Firstly, God never promises to answer this kind prayer. Secondly, if the girl doesn’t drop it the person will probably try another test. Thirdly, if the girl does drop it, the person may try another test just to make double sure. Fourthly, maybe the results of the test are just coincidence as God doesn’t intervene one way or another. Are there any cases in the Bible where believers tested God in some way? Gideon, Abraham’s servant, etc. There are some. As for Gideon, he was talking to God face to face and didn’t have the Bible. Abraham’s servant prayed in faith and God answered. He wasn’t in it for himself. He DID have faith. And it is a narrative, not a teaching passage saying we should do that. God is sovereign over circumstances and will use them to direct our paths, but don’t try to force God to do something to prove Himself to you. He doesn’t have to prove Himself to us.

II. Moses struck the rock and water came out (4-7)

Discussion Questions

Contrast Moses’ response to this situation with the people’s. What is the difference? Was it normal for Moses to turn to God in these situations? When the going gets tough, what do you do? Who do you turn to? Do you tend to complain or do you take it to God in prayer? Is your faith shaken or is it reinforced?

Why do you think God wanted Moses to use the staff for all of these miracles? Was it like a magic wand? Why did Moses do this in front of the people and in front of the elders? Why do you think God wanted Moses to strike the rock? Is there any significance to this? Tell everyone about a time God has shown His personal provision for you.

How did the people test God? Is testing God a good way to find out evidence He is true and build your faith? What are some ways Christians might test God these days?

1. Moses had a completely different response. He didn’t find a person to blame or complain against. He cried out to the Lord. This is an excellent response. It should always be our number one choice when we face a trial, difficulty or temptation. Psalms 34:17, 55:17. God hears us when we cry out to Him. God heard and listened to Moses. Moses realized that the people were nearing an out of control mob state. They were starting to consider stoning him. Then they could appoint a new leader and go back to Egypt, their lovely Promised Land! Luke 18, persistent widow.

2. From Moses we learn that God is the one we should turn to, not anybody around us. We learn that God is the one that can help us. We learn that many times reasoning with people or trying to convince them might be pointless. Pray to God for help. We also learn that being a leader or teaching people might not always be easy. Fair or not, all problems will come back to you. This should remind us that if we ever lead we need to be extra dependent on God. We can learn to expect occasional complaints and grumbling, but should remember to deal with it gracefully. We can also flip the coin and remember to treat our leaders graciously and not give them cause for grief. See Hebrews 13:17.

3. The staff – The staff was like the visible symbol of God’s power. It reminded them of God authority and His miracles. It wasn’t a magic wand.

4. God told Moses to strike the rock in front of everyone. Why? This could be yet one more sign of God’s power. Seeing is believing. If they didn’t see it they would have even more excuses and denials. Seeing it should have convinced them once again that God was real, that He was with them, and that He would continue to take care of them. But generally speaking signs only have a temporary effect. Perhaps another reason God did the miracle like this was to protect Moses from the mob and show again Moses’ authority over the people.

5. God provided for them once again.

III. Moses holds his arms up and the sons of Israel have victory over Amalek (8-13)

Discussion Questions

How would you describe Joshua’s position at this time?

Did Israel have a trained army at this point?

Who was the first nation to attack Israel? Who started it?

Why was Moses stationed at the top of the hill? Why hold the staff? Why stretch out his arms?

How come Israel only won the fight when Moses held his hands up?

What was God’s purpose in this?

Could Moses last the day by himself? Who helped him?

What principle can we learn from this? What do we learn about leadership?


Psalms 83:4-7 – The nations, including Amalek, planned to wipe Israel out.

Numbers 24:20, Deut 25:19 – Other references to wiping out the Amalekites.

Numbers 14:43-45 – Amalekites have victory over sinning Israel.

1 Samuel 15 – Saul and the Amalekites

Esther – Amalekite descendant Haman tries again to destroy Israel.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Joshua was Moses’ right hand man and leader in training. Just as God had prepared Moses for leading the people way ahead of time, God was now preparing Joshua to take over this position when Moses died. Joshua seems to be more of a warrior leader while Moses is more of a administrative and spiritual leader.

2. The people of Amalek started this fight. They were very cruel and known for their brutality. The people of Israel as of yet were posing no harm to them. They were in the wilderness still far from the Promised Land. They had not initiated any wars, but were attacked unprovoked. They were fresh out of Egypt, tired from a journey and loaded down with women, children, and animals. The Amalekites wanted to attack them while they were weak before they became strong. It seems a little like the theory of Japan in attacking the US at Pearl Harbor while the US was still neutral.

3. By stationing himself on a hill, Moses could see the whole battle. Also everyone could see him. This served not only as a pyschological aid, but also a spiritual one. Seeing his arms raised up signified his entreaty to God for help. Seeing them win when his arms were raised up showed them God’s divine intervention on their behalf. It wasn’t a coincidence. When Moses raised his arms to God for help, God helped them. When his arms weren’t raised they fought on their own and naturally lost since they weren’t well trained.

4. Moses grew tired and weary. I did an experiment while preparing and found that after 1-2 minutes my arms were tired. After four minutes my arms were pretty tired. I could have gone longer, but learned the point. Holding your arms up all day is very painful at the least and next to impossible for normal people. The point is Moses needed help. He couldn’t carry this burden by himself. Ecc, two are better than one. Aaron and Hur helped him. Even powerful leaders need support from the people around them. Teams are stronger than individual leaders. This is why God made fellowship in the church. We are to support and help each other, even carrying the burdens and supporting the weaker. Romans 15:1, Galatians 6:2. Again we can look at both sides of the coin. If you are a leader in some area, don’t try to do everything yourself. Enlist help. Ask for volunteers. Delegate. If you are doing ministry, ask people to pray for you. Get encouragement from others. Be willing to accept support in various forms. On the other side, maybe you are not leading, but you can help those who are. We don’t see a whole lot mentioned about Hur. He is mentioned in the Bible only in this chapter (later he might be referred to in some genealogy “son of hur.”). But on this day he was integral to the whole nation of Israel. His only task was to hold up Moses’ arms. Was it easy? Actually I don’t think it was that easy. He would have to rotate using his left and right arm to do it. But his help enabled the whole country to have victory that day.

5. God provided for them once again.

IV. The book of records and God’s declaration that He would wipe out the people of Amalek (14-15)

Discussion Questions

What was Moses to write in a book? Why was this important? What book do you think this refers to? Where might Moses have learned the skills of writing? What does this tell us of God’s sovereign plans?

Why did God want to blot out Amalek? What would you say to someone who says God is cruel because of this? What would you say to someone who says the God in the Old Testament is different than the one portrayed in the new?

What does it mean “The Lord is my Banner.”

Verse by Verse Commentary

1-3 (God? command to destroy the Amelekites) –

This was not a new command. It had been given concerning all of the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 7:2-6 and it was applied specifically to the Amelikites in Deuteronomy 25:17-19. There are several reasons given in the Bible why God told Israel to utterly destroy them. Firstly, they were evil. Their practices were abominable to God. We know both from the Bible and from other historic documents that the Canaanite civilization was perhaps the most wicked and vile ever known in the world (see above). Their sin was a stench in God? nostrils and the very land spewed or vomited them out (Leviticus 18:25). They were descended from Esau and also were exposed to the Israelites and the true teaching from God. Yet they rejected it in favor of a vile, sensuous, and brutal religion. God? just character requires Him to punish evildoers. Generally He is patient (and He did wait hundreds of years to use Israel to wipe out the Canaanites), but His patience doesn? last forever and He decided to judge the Amalekites sooner rather than later. Secondly, according to Deuteronomy 7 and other Scriptures, if any portion of these wicked nations were allowed to remain they would ensnare Israel and lead them away from the true God to worship their false gods and also practice abominations. Israel did not completely wipe out those nations and what God prophesied did happen, not only once but numerous times (1 Kings 14:22-24, Jeremiah 32:35). At various times in their history they not only worshipped false gods, but also had hundreds of false prophets who practiced bloodletting (during the time of Ahab), had male cult prostitutes, and sacrificed their children by fire to Molech.

God doesn? need justification or to “prove” Himself to us when He acts. However, it is clear that He had plenty of reason to give the command to wipe out the Canaanites. Some ask about “innocent” babies. First of all, not one is innocent. Babies are also guilty from the time of their birth. Secondly, the sin of parents does effect and have consequences of others. Thirdly, if indeed babies go to heaven it was a blessing for them. Fourthly, it was necessary to destroy everyone. If any were left they would grow up and almost surely practice the same sinful abominations that their parents practiced.

God also judged other nations and peoples at various times. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (from this example and Abraham? talk with God we know God doesn? generally destroy the righteous with the wicked). Also God judged the entire world, which was “filled with violence”, with the flood. Somehow it is easier to accept when God uses natural forces, yet it is the same using His people or wind or water and God is just as just no matter which method He chooses.

We can learn some principles from this. We CANNOT say it is good for us to kill sinners or practice genocide as some have said before. This is a narrative passage, yet we can glean some principles from it, ones that are supported by other Scripture or by commentary from God or the author. One clear one is that God is just and judges sinners. Another is that we need to be extremely careful not to be influenced by culture or unbelievers around us, and also not to leave any sin or foothold for Satan (Ephesians 4:27) in our lives. If we give a foothold to Satan he will use it and influence our lives negative, trying to turn us from God. Different applications can be made from this principle and could include such things as getting rid of music, dvds, magazines, or books that are influencing us in worldly things. Or we can learn to renew our minds in God? Word regularly, establish fellowship with people who can keep us accountable, or the like.

See 1 Chronicles 4:42-43 – Simeonites attacked 500 more of the remnant of the Amalekites.

Study Exodus 18
Join Our Newsletter

We want to help you study the Bible, obey the Bible, and teach the Bible to others. We have therefore created a library of almost one thousand (and growing) inductive Bible studies, which are available for free. This takes a lot of time and hard work.

Help us continue to create Bible study resources by supporting Study and Obey for as little as $1.


Sharing is caring!