The Yahweh-Nissi Altar - "A Banner because of the Truth"
Exodus 17v8-16; Numbers 24v20;Deuteronomy 25v17-19;
Those who belong to Christ are in a fight to the death against sin - and the
events recorded in Exodus 17 of the defeat of Amalek are an allegory of the
greater victory to be won by the Lord and His people.
The Bible is full of "representative things", and their repetition throughout the Scriptures is calculated to cement into our minds the lessons which God intends us to learn. The mind which is attuned to His word soon becomes accustomed to this form of presentation, and learns to revel in the multi-faceted forms in which it is made. As children learn by such word-pictures, so the children of God learn in a similar way. This is our destiny, and the end is eternal life.
The events of Exodus 17 constitute an allegory, which as a theme is reinforced in terms which impress our minds with the importance of the subject. This importance has been forgotten by those who should know better, to their own confusion and detriment.
Amalek represents sin. "Yahweh said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Yahweh-nissi: For he said, Because Yahweh hath sworn that Yahweh will have war with Amalek from generation to generation"-Exodus 17v14-16.
Compare the following:
"God...condemned sin in the flesh". "That...he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil". "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God". "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth".
Romans 8v3, Hebrews 2v14, 2nd Corinthians 10v4, Colossians 3v5.
The Hebrew word translated as 'nissi' in Exodus 17v15 (and 'banner' in Psalm 60v4)) is 'nec' (pron. 'nace'). It is translated as 'pole' in Numbers 21v8, which held the "fiery serpent..of brass" - upon which, if the children of Israel looked with faith, they were healed. The "brass" is representative of "sinful flesh", which needs to be purified in the fire of affliction - link to 2nd Timothy 2. Jesus Christ identified His sacrifice for sin with this serpent in John 3v14,15, stating that He must in like manner be "lifted up". This would act as an "ensign" or a "banner" or "standard" (all = 'nec') to those who believe in the truth of the Sacrifice of Christ - link to 'sacrifice' and see quotations below, 2nd last paragraph. Sadly, much later, "the children of Israel did burn incense to...the brasen serpent", and "Hezekiah...called it Nehushtan (mg. 'a piece of brass')" and "brake (it) in pieces", for "he trusted in Yahweh God of Israel" - 2nd Kings 18v1-6. There is a parallel with the apostate neo-paganism of today - link to 'departure' - p. 2.
'Yahweh' is the Memorial Name of God, given to remind His people of His purpose with the redeemed and with the earth. It means literally 'He who will be', see Exodus 3v14,15 and cp Numbers 14v21. Combined with 'nec' it reveals the way in which salvation will be accomplished. To read of why God's Name was sometimes translated in the A.V. in the corrupted form of 'Jehovah' (as in v15) link here - 'The Errors of "Jehovah's Witnesses' - item 15. For further explanation concerning the manifestation of God link to 'God' - page 2.
The events of Exodus 17 are themselves a continuation and a re-affirmation of the principle set forth in Genesis 3v15 - the promise of perpetual warfare between truth and sin - link to 'promises'-p.1.
There would henceforth be "enmity between thee (i.e. the serpent, representative of sin) and the woman (representative of truth) and between thy seed and her seed". "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God...they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit" - Romans 8v6,5. It is a warfare in which we must engage, as did the faithful Israelites in Exodus 17, and as have all faithful believers down through the ages of time - see comments in 'seven-ecclesias' (intro) & 'apocalypse'.
The final victory belongs to the woman's "seed" Jesus Christ, who though "bruise(d)" in the "heel" in His sacrificial death, would "bruise" the serpent's "head" in His victorious resurrection. We are able to share in His victory, but only if we align ourselves with the principles of truth - Galatians 3v6-29. There can be no neutrality in this life-and-death struggle with sin - "he that is not with me is against me" - Matthew 12v30 - link to 'neutrals and enemies' & 2nd Timothy 2.
Among luke-warm believers there is always the temptation to regard "sinful flesh" as something better than what it is - link to 'sacrifice' and 'committees'. Taking up again the unfolding theme of the Amalekites as revealed in Scripture, we can see clearly that this is what Saul, the first king of Israel, did. Contrast the Scripture which says "in my flesh dwelleth no good thing" - Romans 7v18. Samuel (in harmony with God's command "I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven" - see above) commanded Saul - "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not". But "Saul and the people", thinking that there is something good in "sinful flesh", "spared Agag (i.e. the Amalekite king) and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs...and would not utterly destroy them" - 1st Samuel 15v3, 9.
The judgment of God was swift against this compromise with the world, the "seed" of the "serpent".
He reminded Saul of His command to "utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed" - 1st Samuel 15v18. God rejected Saul as king over His people, stating "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of Yahweh, he hath also rejected thee from being king" - 1st Samuel 15v23.
Saul's defence was that he "feared the people", but fear has never been any excuse for disobedience to God - cp Judges 7v3, Matthew 26v24-30; Revelation 21v7,8. Hear the words of Isaiah 35v3,4 -
"Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you". And also Psalm 27v13,14 - "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living. Wait on Yahweh: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on Yahweh". And also 1st John 4v18 - "there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear".
Sin is always trying to take advantage of our weakest moments. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" - Hebrews 3v12,13. Amalek (representative of sin) used this tactic, and God reminded them of this in Deuteronomy 25v17,18 - "Remember what Amalek did unto thee...how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou was faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be...that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it".
Saul "took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive", but Samuel "hewed Agag in pieces before Yahweh in Gilgal". This place is of great significance. The word translated "Gilgal" signifies 'a wheel'. It was where God had "rolled away the reproach of Egypt", when Israel was circumcised, and kept the Passover - Joshua 5v1-12. Sadly it was also the place where Balaam the false prophet convinced Balak the king of Moab to corrupt Israel with whoredom by the daughters of Moab - Micah 6v5, Numbers 25v1-3; 31v15-17.
Yahweh testified in Numbers 25v11 - "Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel". We also have the opportunity to share in this "everlasting priesthood", cp Revelation 5v8-10. Let us choose to be the spiritual "seed" of Phinehas, and not the spiritual "seed" of Balaam - cp 2nd Peter 2v1-3, 12-22.
Israel was commanded to always "remember" ("thou shalt not forget") this iniquity. It is significant that on a later occasion "an angel of Yahweh came up from Gilgal to Bochim" and a general repentance of the nation took place. The word translated "Bochim" signifies 'weepers'. And so tribulation and the remembrance of Israel's sin resulted in the following expression of remorse - "And it came to pass, when the angel of Yahweh spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto Yahweh". See Judges 2v1-5.
There have been many 'weepers' in the history of the Truth. They have wept because of their own recognition of personal sin, and the sad state of natural and spiritual Israel. The greatest 'weeper' of all was the Lord Jesus Christ, who, though sinless personally, "wept" on the occasion of the death of Lazarus prior to raising him from the dead - see John 11 & link to 'signs' - the 7th - 'the resurrection of Lazarus'. He "wept" also when contemplating Jerusalem and the desolations to come in Luke 19v41-44 - link to 'Bible' - p.2. Psalm 84 provides us with the beautiful picture of those "passing through the valley of weeping" RV (here is a related word in the Hebrew to "Bochim" i.e. "Baca"). But eventually those who "long for the courts of Yahweh" will inherit them.
There is a prophetic dimension to the allegory of Amalek. The Russian dictator at the time of the return of Christ who will lead an unholy confederation of Catholic European nations against Israel is termed "Gog" in Ezekiel - cp "Agag", the king of the Amalekites. In one of his parables, Balaam stated - "Amalek was the first of the nations (i.e. to fight against Israel) ; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever...and the "king (i.e. of Israel) shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted" - Numbers 24v20, 5-7. The Russian dictator will invade the holy land, "yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him" - Daniel 11v45. For more information on these latter-day prophecies, link to 'prophecy'.
"And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Yahweh-nissi (i.e. 'Yahweh my banner)" - Exodus 17v15. "Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah (i.e. pause and consider)" - Psalm 60v4. "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious...And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" - Isaiah 11v10,12. "Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people" - Isaiah 49v22. The Hebrew word 'nec' (translated as "banner", "ensign", and "standard") appears in all of the above quotations, showing the continuity of this glorious theme. This is meant to impress our minds with its supreme importance. And the time for its fulfilment is almost upon us.
This will be the final fulfilment of the allegory, when Yahweh (the Memorial Name of God, signifying 'He who will be') will be revealed in glory in the redeemed, saved by grace through the sacrifice for sin made by Jesus Christ. He "obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9v12RV) and triumphed over the enemy "in himself" (Colossians 2v15mg) "having slain the enmity in himself" (Ephesians 2v16 mg). The power of sin has been dealt a fatal blow (as prophesied in Genesis 3v15) and the long war with Amalek is drawing to an end. Where we will stand in that day will depend upon the decisions which we make now - see Revelation 22v10-12.