Rephidim

REPHIDIM (rĕf'ĭ-dĭm, Heb. rephîdhîm, plains). A camping site of the Hebrews in the wilderness before they reached Sinai. There Moses struck a rock to secure water (Exod.17.1-Exod.17.7; Exod.19.2). At this place also occurred the battle with the Amalekites (Exod.17.8-Exod.17.16). The camp of the Hebrews is supposed to have been at the present Wady Feiren. If so, it afforded ample protection against a surprise attack, its gateway into the vale being between rocky cliffs from one of which the water came. Archaeologists have found at this place evidence of a once-fertile valley in which a strong city had been built.


REPHIDIM rĕf’ ə dĭm (רְפִידִ֑ם; LXX ̔Ραφιδίν, meaning refreshments). A stop in the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites.

Numbers 33:13-15 locates Rephidim on the journey from Alush to the wilderness of Sinai. Since the location of Mt. Sinai is uncertain, the location of Rephidim is also uncertain. There are three popular views: the traditional Mt. Sinai or Jebel Musa, Kadeshbarnea, or some place in Midian E of the Gulf of Aqaba. On the basis of the traditional Mt. Sinai near the S end of the peninsula formed by the gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, Rephidim might be the Wadi Feiran or the Wadi Rufaid.


At Rephidim, Amalek fought with Israel (Exod 17:8ff.). Here it was that Israel was victorious as long as Moses’ hands were held up. After Joshua mowed down the enemy, Moses, obedient to God’s command, built an altar and called it, “the Lord is my banner” (KJV Jehovah-nissi).

There is reason to believe that the visit of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, recorded in Exodus 18, also took place at Rephidim. Exodus 19:2 records the nation’s leaving Rephidim. It is never again mentioned in the Bible.

Bibliography

E. Kraeling, Bible Atlas (1956), 107-109.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A station in the Wanderings, between the wilderness of Sin and the wilderness of Sinai (Ex 17:1,8; 19:2; Nu 33:14). The host expected to find water here; to their distress the streams were dry, and water was miraculously provided. Palmer (Desert of the Exodus, 158 ff) states cogent reasons for identifying Rephidim with Wady Feiran. It is the most fertile part of the peninsula, well watered, with a palm grove stretching for miles along the valley. Palmer speaks of passing through the palm grove as a "most delightful" walk; "the tall, graceful trees afforded a delicious shade, fresh water ran at our feet, and, above all, bulbuls flitted from branch to branch uttering their sweet notes." His camp was pitched at "the mouth of Wady `Aleyat, a large open space completely surrounded by steep, shelving mountains of gneiss, the fantastic cleavage of which added greatly to the beauty of the scene. Palms and tamarisks were dotted all around, and on every knoll and mountain slope were ruined houses, churches, and walls, the relics of the ancient monastic city of Paran. Behind our tents rose the majestic mass of Serbal, and beneath the rocky wall opposite ran a purling brook, only a few inches in depth, but still sufficiently cool, clear, and refreshing."

Such a place as this the Amalekites would naturally wish to preserve for themselves against an invading people. For these desert dwellers, indeed, the possession of this watered vale may well have been a matter of life and death.

If this identification is correct, then Jebel Tachuneh, "Mount of the mill," a height that rises on the North of the valley, may have been the hill from which Moses, with Aaron and Hur, viewed the battle.