Moses and the Rock

Numbers 20:1-13

Miriam dies and is buried in the Wilderness of Zin. There, the people run out of water and begin to complain. Not only have Moses and Aaron not led them to a fertile land as promised, but there isn’t even any water to drink! They bemoan the fact that they did not die in Korach’s rebellion, because at least that way they would not be suffering now.


Moses and Aaron fall on their faces and God tells them to take the staff and gather the people of Israel and speak to a certain rock which He will show them. Water will come from the rock and Moses and Aaron are to give that water to the people to drink, along with their animals.


As commanded, Moses and Aaron take the staff and gather the people, as instructed. Moses scolds the people, asking, “Shall we bring forth water from this rock?” He strikes the rock twice and water flows forth. The people are pleased, and slake their thirst, but God condemns Moses and Aaron for neglecting to sanctify His name in the eyes of the nation. He tells them they will not enter the Promised Land as a result of their actions.


The passage is a troubling one and Jewish thinkers have struggled with it for centuries. What did Moses and Aaron do wrong to warrant such a punishment? The Israel Bible brings down one opinion, stating that by hitting the rock, Moses gave the people the misimpression that he, not God, was causing the water to flow. Thus, Moses missed an opportunity to glorify God in the eyes of the nation. From this we can learn that it is not enough to recognize the hand of God in our own lives, we must also make sure others recognize His presence.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think God chose to punish Moses and Aaron by barring them from the Holy Land? Does the punishment suit the “crime”?

Comments ( 12 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • John baker

    they were supposed to water the animals first as a sign of faith

  • Damian

    Denial of the personage of the Messiah will only lead to confusion. He came to show it is simple Faith in Him rather than year after year working through the Law to gain salvation.

    I know what you have been told but I say:

    So the Lord intended Moses strike the rock in the desert only once in the scene from Exodus 17, thus picturing Jesus sacrificed once to bring us salvation. Later in Numbers 20, the Lord instructed Moses to only speak to the rock to preserve the picture created in Exodus 17. When Moses chose to strike the rock a second time instead, he disrupted the picture created in Exodus 17. Had God allowed Moses' mistake to go unchallenged, we would likely be confused by the distorted picture, concluding it was necessary for Christ (i.e., the rock) to be sacrificed (i.e., struck) repeatedly for our salvation.

    Therefore, God sorely rebuked Moses to assure our proper understanding of the picture of the rock barring him from entering the Promised Land. In the process, the Lord formed a new picture to support a proper understanding of salvation. By barring Moses from the Promised Land, the Lord illustrated that we cannot enter into salvation (i.e., the Promised Land) by works of Law (i.e., by Moses) but only by the work of Jesus (i.e., by Joshua, which is the name Yeshua or Jesus).

  • Leaders have to set the example. In stead of doing so Moshe lost his temper and stroke the Rock.twice the first time water trickled the second time abundant water came forth.
    then there is the guilt of Aharon. Who took the Stick out of the Miskan other than the owner of the Stick that once blossemed and gave fruit.: a miracle stick . With a miracle stick you can perform miracles. BUT they had to honor the Living One and not something dead (stick) or lifeless (rock) The stick should only serve as a sign : once HaShem gave life out of a dry stick and so out of a lifeless rock HaShem will give water. This also answered why Moshe had to get THE stick "from before HaShem". For the people it was kind of miracle doing with a magic stick. Moshe should have talked to the rock.and it would have opened up in the Name of HaShem. In this way having opening up the way in which HaShem will like contact with His people in future times: by prayer. Also referring to Gan Eden where The Holy One Spoke and it came into being. I also had to think of Zach 4:6.!

  • I think that it is also important to consider that this sin was comitted not by ordinary people but by their leaders. Leaders receive a stronger jugdement.

  • Alexander

    G-d had already told Moses that he was a jealous G-d and although his punishment may be deemed to have been harsh he obviously didn’t think so by grabbing the peoples attention to the cost of poor Aaron and Moses, Shalom.

  • Jesse

    I’ve noticed in my reading that even before this, God had said that the entire previous generation apart from Joshua and Caleb would enter into the Land. If this is the case, then God foresaw that Moses and Aaron would disqualify themselves from this blessing. Aaron had already made several mistakes (Golden Calf, speaking evil of Moses) and this was another mistake. For Moses, the way he presented the blessing of water made it sound as though he was the God of Israel instead of giving the credit to where it was due. And for a man who was that close to God, and who neglected to give praise to the king, it was quite a serious deal.

    • Diana Brown

      I agree with your assessment that the Lord God said, “Grumblers will not enter the Promised Land.” Moses and Aaron had moments of doubt which is the flesh crying out to the heart. The mind that is surrendered to the Word of God will subdue the flesh and surrender to obeying the God who made it.
      Moses looked at the grief and anger of the people who were bemoaning their fate. He also was grieved. In that, he sinned. You see the Lord God promised the Promised Land to children who would believe Him and take Him at His Word as they grew up into adults. It is impossible to be a Joshua or Caleb without faith in God. Faith in anything else will cause you to fall short of reaching your promise.

      • Tsivya Fox

        I appreciate this wording: “It is impossible to be a Joshua or Caleb without faith in God. Faith in anything else will cause you to fall short of reaching your promise.” Powerful food for thought.

    • I agree with you, the way Moses presented the blessing did make it sound like he was their savior with no glory to HaShem

    • I agree with your last part, Moshe posed as though he were Elohim and also by not doing it Yahweh's way, he failed to represent Yahweh as holy before the people. And surely it was a serious deal for a man who was that close to Yahweh. This brings in Gabriele's point (at the bottom) that leaders receive a stronger judgment.

      • John baker

        they were supposed to water the animals first as a sign of faith

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