Rephidim in the Sinai Wilderness

Site of the battle against the Amalekites with Moses, Aaron & Hur
Site of the water from the rock


The oasis of Feran

Following God's miraculous deliverance of His people out of Egypt, and the crossing of the Red Sea, their journey took them through a large portion of Sinai. One of the places where they camped for a period, before reaching Mt. Sinai, was Rephidim. (For a relative time frame, read Exodus 19:1-2). While the site was large enough to host the multitudes, it lacked water which provoked much complaining and some murderous thoughts directed towards Moses.

Exodus 17:1-7 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?" 3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?" 4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." 5 The Lord answered Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

This miracle of water coming from a rock was not the only one that took place at Rephidim. An indigenous people in the area, the Amalekites, obviously feared this large multitude that had entered their territory. It appears that the Amalekites controlled or inhabited a large portion of Sinai, including areas as far north as the south of what would become Israel (i.e. Numbers 14:41-43). While it's likely that these Amalekites were nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples - something quite necessary in this region - they banded together and attacked the Israelites without provocation at Rephidim. A passage in Deuteronomy, celebrating their subsequent defeat, tells how they surreptitiously began the battle by attacking any stragglers.

Deuteronomy 25:17-19 Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. 18 When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. 19 When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (NIV)

This led to a full scale battle once the Israelites had come to rest at Rephidim - one that needed the intervention of God for them to win!

Exodus 17:8-16 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." 10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up - one on one side, one on the other - so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. 14 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." 15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord. The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation." (NIV)

Many palms line the valley

The oasis of Feran (Wadi Feran, alt. Wadi Feiran) has been identified with these Old Testament events since at least the 4th century A.D. There are ruins of a number of ancient churches at this site, some dating back to the 4th century. It was known to be a stopping place for pilgrims and monks, especially those continuing on toward Mount Sinai and St. Catherine's Monastery. Feran is the largest oasis in all of Sinai, featuring many palms stretching over a 2 1/2 mile area (4 km). The wadi is bounded by sheer cliffs - certainly a captive area for a battle.

Author, Brent, at ruins in Wadi Feran

Rugged mountains line both sides of the Wadi



One of the mountains at the end of the valley would provide a vantage point for the entire valley

Bedouin family selling jewelry at Wadi Feran