This episode is described in the Book of Exodus. The Israelites under Moses have come from the Wilderness of Sin. At Rephidim, they can find no water to drink, and angrily demand that Moses give them water. Moses, fearing they will stone him, calls on Jehovah for help and is told to strike a certain "rock in Horeb," in God's name which causes a stream to flow from it, providing ample water for the people. He names the place Massah and Meribah (meaning "testing" and "quarreling"). In the Book of Numbers a similar event is described as taking place near Kadesh.
Afterwards, the Amalekites attack the Israelites encamped at Rephidim, but are defeated. The Israelites are led in the battle by Joshua, while Moses, Aaron and Hur watch from a nearby hill. Moses notices that when his arms are raised the Israelites gained the upper hand, but when they are down the Amalekites prevail. He sits with his hands held up by Aaron and Hur until sunset, securing the Israelite victory. The image of Moses raising his arms in battle against Amalek has been seen by allegorical Christian commenters as a prefiguration of Jesus's arms extended on the cross battling sin.
One proposal places Rephidim in the Wadi Feiran, near its junction with the Wadi esh-Sheikh. When they leave Rephidim, the Israelites advance into the Sinai Wilderness, possibly marching through the passes of the Wadi Solaf and the Wadi esh-Sheikh, which converge at the entrance to the er-Rahah plain (which would then be identified with the "Sinai Wilderness"), which is three kilometers long and about eight hundred metres wide. Wadi Feiran was an oasis, which would explain the battle with the Amalekites in terms of a struggle for control of water sources.
Another proposed location for Rephidim is in northwestern Saudi Arabia near the town of al-Bad, the ancient city of Midian. Some researchers suggest that Mount Sinai was not in the Sinai Peninsula, but in Midian, which is modern-day Saudi Arabia, and subsequently place Rephidim here as well. Jabal Maqla has been the subject of several explorations since the early 1980s. To the northwest of this mountain is a large plain and a massive split rock that reportedly shows signs of water erosion (Rephidim is also where Moses is recorded as striking a rock and water coming from it for the parched Hebrews). In the area, there are also allegedly proto-Hebrew inscriptions, some of which say "died Amalekite."
The name "Rephidim" (Hebrew: רְפִידִם) may mean supports.
- Exodus 17:1–7
- Frank Moore Cross (2009). Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. Harvard University Press. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-674-03008-4.
- Exodus 17:8–16
- Paczkowski, Mieczysław Celestyn (12 November 2014). "Amalek and the Amalekites in the ancient Christian literature". Teologia i Człowiek. 26 (2): 137–160. doi:10.12775/TiCz.2014.021. ISSN 2391-7598. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
Origen certainly sees Jesus crucified in the image of Moses lifting his hands, while he also notes the difference – Jesus is not simply another Moses.
- James K. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai (Oxford University Press, 2005) page 169.
- Exodus 19:1-2; Numbers 33:14-15
- "The Split Rock And Battlefield At Rephidim". Jabal Maqla. 2019-05-22. Retrieved 2019-05-28.
- Walter C. Kaiser, History of Israel, p. 116
- Kotter, Wade R. (2019). "Rephidim". In Freedman, D. N. (ed.). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. William B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-1-4674-6046-0.
Tradition has long identified Wadi Feiran near Jebul Musa as the location of Rephidim, although more recent scholarship prefers the nearby Wadi Refayid because of the similarity in name.