Exodus 15:22-27

In our last study, we celebrated with Moses, Miriam, and the Israelites as they sang about what God had just done at the Red Sea Crossing. Now, with happy conversations continuing about that miracle, the Israelites traveled a three day distance further toward their destination.

  1. Complaining (15:23-24)

    [Read Exodus 15:22-24.]

    In this section, we will look at the circumstances that led the Israelites to begin complaining.

    a. They were in a wilderness area (22 a).

    Note that wilderness and desert are not the same. This was an uncultivated and vacant area where nobody lived. So there were no hotels, gas stations, or cell phone coverage. They were alone in a wilderness area.

    When I was first driving for DSB Transport, my GPS told me to turn left when I should have kept driving straight. The resultant journey took me through a wilderness area in the Pennsylvania mountains. The road turned into gravel and then into dirt with scattered rock embedded in the pathway. If I had run out of gas or broken down, there would have been nobody nearby to help.

    The Israelites were in a similar situation. They were a giant caravan traveling without a AAA membership, a GPS tracker, or many supplies. All they knew was that the Lord had miraculously brought them this far and that Moses would lead them to where the Lord directed. The many unknowns caused the people to stop trusting the Lord.

    b. They had limited water (22 b).

    The size of the Israelites group may have been over 2 million people. Remember that they left Egypt with 600,000 fighting men. So, if you add a wife and two children to each soldier, you will easily come up with a large group of people.

    How much water would they require? According to one article, “most people need about four to six cups of water each day” (Harvard). Another article says that “there is no evidence to support that you should drink eight glasses — or 2 liters — of water a day. Research has found that most people get enough water from the foods and beverages they consume daily” (GoodRx).

    But we all know that this area of the country is usually warmer than what we are used to. So the amount of water for people and animals would have been quite large.

    “A person’s water requirements would have been … 20 quarts approximately … per day in … 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, it is thought that the Israelites would have needed up to 11,000,000 gallons of water each day just to drink, wash themselves and clean dishes etc. This would be equivalent of a freight train of tank cars, 1,800 miles long just to bring water” (Petton).

    I am not as sure with my figures, but if each person needed a gallon of water each day, that would amount to 2 million gallons. How could this much water be available for them in this wilderness area?

    c. They found bitter water (23).

    The Israelites were expecting to quench their thirst but were very disappointed because the water was bitter to taste. The place earned the name Marah which means “bitter.”

    During a recent visit to our house in Painesville, I took our dog with us. This meant that I needed to bring a water dish as well to keep him hydrated. But for some reason, no matter how often I would refill it with fresh water, Diego would not drink from the metal bowl. Maybe the taste of the metal was too much for him to handle.

    The Israelites were unable to use the water because it was too bitter for drinking. This being so, the animals were probably just as unwilling to drink.

    d. They complained about Moses (24).

    If the people had humbly asked Moses for help, the words, “What shall we drink?” would not come across as complaining. But there was something in the tone of their voice and the look in their eyes that showed that they were not just asking for help; they were complaining against Moses.

    “This response is amazing in light of their recent deliverance and triumphal songs of worship. They were so privileged; yet hardship quickly induced them to impugn Moses” (Hannah 133).

    APPLIC. Most of us are not like Pollyanna. Instead of finding something to be grateful for, we often find things to complain about. But is this a good thing? Compare the following two verses.

    Numbers 11:1 “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.”

    In this situation, the people were grumblers who were more interested in getting their needs met than praising the Lord for meeting that need.

    Psalm 102:1 – “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the Lord. Hear my prayer, O Lord, And let my cry come to You.”

    In this psalm, the writer was praying to the Lord to meet his need. He had a complain of some kind but he wasn’t grumbling, he was taking it to the Lord and was trusting the Lord to meet that need.

    Which one describes you best?

  2. Receiving (15:25)

    [Read Exodus 15:25a.]

    In this section, we will see the Israelites receiving from the Lord what they needed.

    a. Moses prayed to the Lord.

    “The ingratitude of the people of his charge did not prevail to extinguish in the breast of Moses the spirit of fervent intercession in their behalf” (Bush 196-97).

    There were times when Moses was angry with the people, but this time he prayed for them. Knowing that their attitude was wrong but the need was real, he cried out to the Lord for help.

    This reminds me of Samuel’s response when he confronted the leadership of Israel about asking for a king. After telling them what they did wrong and what repercussions they would face, Samuel said, “far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).

    May God grant us to be like Moses, Samuel, and Daniel and pray for sinful people. Perhaps the Lord will answer our prayers by changing the wicked heart as well as meeting the specific need.

    b. The Lord provided a solution.

    This time, the Lord did not have Moses raise his staff. Instead, he told Moses to cut down a tree and cast it into the water. The result was that the water was no longer bitter but had a sweet taste.

    How did this happen? There are two opinions.

    View 1: God did a miracle. “The wood that Moses tossed into the water did not have a magical affect on the water; it was simply a symbolic act in anticipation of God’s working a miracle (like Moses lifting his staff over the sea, 14:16)” (Hannah 133).

    View 2: The tree had medicinal characteristics that counteracted the bitterness. “Unless we admit that it possessed some native efficacy this way, it is not easy to see why a particular kind of tree was pointed out to Moses” (Bush 197).

    “In recent years, the water-clarifying ability of Moringa powder was found to be due to a positively-charged protein called the Moringa Oleifera Cationic Protein (MOCP). When you crush the seeds and add them to water, this protein will kill some of the microbial organisms and cause them to clump together and settle to the bottom of the container” (Swales).

    Although I could not find an article to back this up, I have also heard that moringa can make water taste sweet. My wife used to buy moringa powder to make nutritional drinks. So, you can ask her for more details after the service.

    c. The people had water to drink.

    The end result was that the bitterness was removed and the people could use the water for themselves and their animals. God had provided just what they needed in response to the prayer of Moses.

    APPLIC. It is interesting that the Israelites received God’s blessings despite their bad attitude about their water supply. It is a good reminder, especially after we have failed God in some way, that the Lord is full of grace and mercy. He knows who we are and how we are of such little value to Him, and yet He still continues to love us despite ourselves.

    Be sure to thank Him for that today.

  3. Understanding (15:26)

    [Read Exodus 15:25b-26.]

    In this section, we will see the Israelites understanding what the Lord required of them for future blessing.

    a. They were being tested (25).

    At this point in their journey, the Lord made it clear that the Israelites could enjoy his blessing them so long as they followed this agreement. It would be a test of their faithfulness to Him as they traveled toward the Promised Land.

    It says here that the Lord made a statute and an ordinance for them. This is similar to what Joshua did for the next generation of the Israelites (Josh. 24:25). With these words, the Lord was showing them his regulations for them receiving his blessings.

    What was required of them?

    b. They were to listen and obey (26a).

    “The Lord gave the people a simple principle: obedience brings blessing, and disobedience brings judgment” (Hannah 133).

    They were to listen to the Lord and obey His commands. Notice that he adds the word diligently to listen. It was not to be a grudging obedience but one that showed their desire to please Him. When is the last time that you wanted to hear what God says and then to do what pleases Him? This is what the Lord wanted for His people. He still wants it for us today.

    c. They would be protected (26b)

    The end result of their obedience is spelled out very specifically. Along with the other blessings (protection from the last plagues, deliverance from Pharaoh’s army, drinkable water, and more to come), the Lord promised to keep them from contracting the diseases which He plagued the Egyptians with.

    To help them remember this, the Lord introduced Himself as Jehovah-Rapha or Yahweh-Rapha. This name means, “Jehovah thy healer” (Bush 199). If you tie this declaration to what just happens, it makes more sense. The water was bitter but the Lord made it sweet. He was able to “heal” the water. In a similar way, the Lord could heal them of any potential diseases. If they would diligently listen and obey, they would know Him as the Lord who heals.

    Does this remind you of someone in the New Testament?

    “Jesus Christ showed that He was the Great Physician who heals the sick. In Galilee, Jesus went from town to town, “healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). In Judea “large crowds followed him, and he healed them there” (Matthew 19:2). In fact, “wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed” (Mark 6:56). Not only did Jesus heal people physically, He also healed them spiritually by forgiving their sins (Luke 5:20). Every day, in every way, Jesus proved Himself to be Jehovah-Rapha in the flesh” (Got Questions).

    APPLIC. Unlike the Israelites, we are not promised to be free from the diseases prevalent in the world today. But we are promised that God can heal our sinful hearts. When we put our faith in Jesus, who died for us and rose again, the Lord will heal us of our sins, forgive us, and make us a new creation. Have you experienced this healing of God in your life? He is willing to change you from a sinner to a saint if you will turn to Him today. Turn from your sins and place your faith in Jesus today.

  4. Enjoying (15:27)

    [Read Exodus 15:27.]

    In this section, we will see the Israelites enjoying the Lord’s blessing on their lives.

    a. They followed their leader.

    It is interesting how (after God provided water) the Israelites resumed following Moses. They had complained against him just a little while earlier, but now they were willing to follow him.

    b. They found a good place to camp.

    As they traveled, they came to a place called Elim. At this place there were 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees. I see this as God’s continued reminder to them that He would provide for their needs.

    The wells may have seemed puny to so many people, but they must have been sufficient for them since they are mentioned here in the text. The date palm trees would have been appreciated as well as they provide “every year about three or four hundred pounds weight of dates. This fruit … is of a sweet and agreeable taste” (Bush 200).

    APPLIC. Sadly, there is no mention of thankfulness during these events. We would hope to hear of joyful shouts of praise to the Lord. But we read nothing of the kind. Perhaps this generation was still uncertain of their need to listen to and obey the Lord. And without this commitment to Him, they were fair-weather friends with the gracious God who had delivered them time and time again.

    Don’t be this kind of person.

    Psalm 100:4-5 – “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”


As we have studied through this short portion from Exodus 15, we have noted four important truths. Can you remember them?

1. We should stop complaining and instead pray to God.
2. We should recognize what the Lord has done for us and be thankful.
3. We can have our sinful hearts healed by the Lord.

After reading through this message and reading the Scriptural account, you should have some kind of response. Are you a complainer who needs to pray? Are you an unthankful person who needs to open your eyes to see what God is doing for you? Are you a sinful person who needs your soul healed by the Lord? Whatever the case may be, will you turn your heart to the Lord and respond to Him as He desires?


“How much water should you drink?” as viewed at https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-water-should-you-drink on 5/21/22.

“How Much Water Should I Really Be Drinking Per Day?” as viewed at https://www.goodrx.com/well-being/diet-nutrition/how-much-water-should-i-drink-daily on 5/21/22.

Larry Petton, “The Daily Needs Of Israel In The Wilderness” as viewed at https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/84125/the-daily-needs-of-israel-in-the-wilderness-by-dr-larry-petton on 5/21/22.

John D. Hannah, “Exodus” in Bible Knoweldge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1989, 133-34.

George Bush, Notes on Exodus, Minneapolis: James & Klock, reprint 1976, 1994-200.

Jennifer Swales, “Researchers study inexpensive process to clean water in developing nations” as viewed at https://www.psu.edu/news/research/story/researchers-study-inexpensive-process-clean-water-developing-nations on 5/21/22.

“What does it mean that God is Jehovah-Rapha?”, as viewed at https://www.gotquestions.org/Jehovah-Rapha.html on 5/21/22.