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In effect, the people were accusing God of covenant breaking and decided judicially to stone His representative. God therefore "stands before" them (Exodus 17:6) as the accused on the rock, and the rock is then smitten with the rod of judgment--the same rod with which Moses had visited judgment on Egypt (Exodus 17:5).
KJV Defenders Study Bible, by Dr. Henry Morris, Ph.D.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
DEF 10 ISBN 0-529-10444-x
DEF 10-1 ISBN 0-529-10445-8