Exodus/Shemot 17:15 tells us Moshe built an altar and named it "יהוה נִסִּי" often translated as "The L-rd (is) my banner" or "The L-rd (is) my miracle" and maybe it could be also translated as "The L-rd (is) my refuge." But the text continues: וַיֹּאמֶר, כִּי-יָד עַל-כֵּס יָהּ, מִלְחָמָה לַיהוָה, בַּעֲמָלֵק--מִדֹּר, דֹּר

So first of all what does Adonai Nissi יהוה נִסִּי mean? (I'm not asking for a translation, but a way to understand the meaning behind this namegiving, to what does it refer).

Secondly I would like to know how this added explanation is connected with this namegiving.

  • Have you looked in any of the major commentaries? Did you see Rashi there?
    – ezra
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 18:11

3 Answers 3


According to R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his commentary on these verses, the point of this altar was to represent a counterpoint to Amalek, and the launch of an eternal defensive war against what Amalek represents. Where Amalek tries to destroy, Moshe builds. An altar is an inherently peaceful structure, devoted to God's service, and divorced from even a hint of weapons of war, as we see in Exodus 20:22:

וְאִם־מִזְבַּ֤ח אֲבָנִים֙ תַּֽעֲשֶׂה־לִּ֔י לֹֽא־תִבְנֶ֥ה אֶתְהֶ֖ן גָּזִ֑ית כִּ֧י חַרְבְּךָ֛ הֵנַ֥פְתָּ עָלֶ֖יהָ וַתְּחַֽלְלֶֽהָ׃

And if you make for Me an altar of stones, do not build it of hewn stones; for by wielding your tool upon them you have profaned them.

נס doesn't mean "miracle" so much as "banner." It's the sign that tells the fighters where to go. So, while the Israelites will fight Amalek every time Amalek attacks, it will not be offensive war for its own sake, but war to defend God's ways on Earth, as directed by God: "God is my standard!"

In the next verse, two words are incomplete: כס is short for כסא, or throne, and יה is an abbreviated form of God's name. According to R'Hirsch, these contractions represent the dimunition of the rule of God over the world represented by Amalek. Amalek asserts that humans should reject Godly morality in favor of the pursuit of might and power. So, as long as some humans follow this Amalekite philosophy, they are rejecting God's rule, and the power of His throne (יד על כס) is incomplete. As long as that's true, the struggle against Amalek will continue, kept up by those who March under "God's standard."


You could simply explain it the way Onkelus does:

וּבְנָא משֶׁה מַדְבְּחָא וּפְלַח עֲלוֹהִי קֳדָם יְיָ דַעֲבַד לֵהּ נִסִין

And Moshe built an altar and prayed on it to Hashem who had made a miracle for him.

The next verse is either the details of his prayer or an added oath that there shall be an eternal enmity towards Amaleq.


I think "nissi" ("nes") has to be understood in connection with "nissah"/"massah" - (to) test in the beforegoing episode.

v.2 Why do you test the Lord?

v.7 He named the place Massah (...) because of their testing the Lord

v.8 Amalek came

Any proof (trying to prove) of the existence of God provokes the proof of the contrary.

God doesn't need to be proved

He is "my miracle"

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