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Verse 8

8.Then came Amalek. These were the first enemies whom God arrayed against Israel, after having delivered them from Egypt, and having kept them for some time in peace and quietness. It was principally for two reasons that He chose them now to be involved in war, either to punish them for their recent sin, or as a correction of their idleness, lest it should ensnare them into iniquity; for, as among soldiers sedition often arises from a cessation of labor, so also the more God spared this people and indulged them, the more did their forwardness increase. No wonder then that they were awakened by war, when they had taken occasion from their state of tranquillity to wax wanton. But some imagine that the Amalekites were impelled to take arms with this design; first, to avenge (190) the abdication of their ancestor; and secondly, because they were unwilling that the posterity of Jacob should enjoy the inheritance of which Esau, the grandfather of Amalek, the founder of their nation, had been deprived. And, certainly, it is probable that the recollection of the injury which had been inflicted on their ancestor still remained, and that they were instigated by the devil, in order that the promise of God, whereby the right of primogeniture had been transferred from Esau to Jacob, should be frustrated and fail of its effect. This might, indeed, have been their reason for the war; but God had another object, viz., to render the people more obedient to Him, by humbling their pride. Perhaps it was on that account that He withdrew Moses from the leadership, and substituted Joshua, as some token of His indignation; for although the assistance He gave them was sufficiently manifest, and their victory was obtained by His grace and the prayers of Moses, yet would He have them reminded, by the absence of Moses, of their recent transgression, that, being humiliated by their fear, they might submissively ask for pardon, and fly more earnestly to Him for His aid. He orders chosen men to go forth, partly to inspirit the whole people, and encourage them to hope for victory, because He does not deign to employ the whole army to repel their enemies; and partly in consideration of the cowardice of this unwarlike mob, lest they should faint with terror if the enemies should make an incursion into the midst of their camp. For Moses does nothing of himself, but occupies the station appointed him by God on the top of the hill, to contend with the enemy from afar, but he sends down the others to fight hand to hand before him, since it had pleased God thus to order the battle. It is plain that he did not avoid the fight to spare himself, but because God had given him a different employment; and this appears from his wielding the rod of God, like their general and standard-bearer, and promising the successful issue of the battle, of which he had been assured. For that single rod was of more avail than as if they had gone into the field preceded by a thousand banners. I have already observed that this is sometimes called the rod of God, sometimes of Moses, sometimes of Aaron, according to circumstances; because God used it as an instrument to exercise His power through His ministers. So God does not detract from His own honor, when He works effectually by His ministers. It is a prelude to Joshua’s future call, which we shall notice in its place, that. he should be appointed commander of the troops; for he had not yet reached the dignity of next in command to Moses, unless an extraordinary commission had been given him by God.

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