Water from a Rock

Exodus 17:1-7

Once again, the Children of Israel thirst for water and complain to Moses. They demand water from him, but he turns them away, telling them they are testing God. Again the Israelites accuse Moses of trying to kill them in the desert.


Moses turns to God for help, and He instructs him to take some representatives from the elders of Israel and strike a certain rock in Horeb with the staff he used to part the sea. God will cause water to flow from the rock for the people to drink. Moses does so, and he names the place ‘Masa u’Meriva’, meaning contention and strife.


The Israel Bible explains that the Israelites were not questioning God’s presence with their complaints so much as His involvement in their daily lives. In contrast to the Egyptian worldview, which saw nature as static, God showed the Children of Israel that He created and therefore could control nature, providing water in the desert as needed.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

This story reminds us of the earlier story from our portion about thirsting, but it also strongly parallels the account in Numbers 20. In what ways are these stories similar? Different?


Comments ( 10 )

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

  • In both chapters there is the need for water, the satisfaction of senses, and the murmuring of the people. Now the lecture for Moshe and Aaron came: keep your eyes on HaShem. Do not go with them in reacting and satisfaction of the flrsh. They didn’t and saw upon themselves “dibartem el ha-sela (20:8) G-d ‘s wrath was triggered by their disobedience. Ya’an lo he’e’mantem bi l’hakdisheni. The were not allowed to bring the people into the Land.

  • Diana Brown

    Similarities in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 and Contrasts
    Striving is the product of uncomfortable circumstances. It forces us to think and make a choice. No mortal gets a pass on this.
    We who serve G-d in each of our stations of life must think for ourselves to determine how to walk humbly and justly before Him even if the whole congregation or nation decides to go in a different direction. Servants have individual responsibility to “hear and do” whether anyone else is listening or not.
    Water came forth for the people and their livestock in both situations because the Lord justly rules..
    Contrasts: Moshe glorified G-d in Exodus 17 by obeying His instructions to the last jot and tittle so the people could see the Lord was bringing forth water for them. Moshe had asked the Lord to “show me Your Glory” in Exodus 33:18. G-d chose him to do this before Bnei Israel as long as Time is allowed to exist.
    In Numbers 20, Moses was once again, acting out of his anger and did not seek to glorify G-d. When we are too hungry, angry, lonely or tired, we need to go to G-d before we react when striving comes our way. If we don’t seek the Lord’s direction, we will risk defaulting to the slave mentality of our past experiences.
    Object Lesson: When I read Torah I ask, “Who are the people this is written about?” Context is key. You can’t read and learn God’s Word in selfishness.
    Then I ask myself,” Is there something in this reading that I can apply to glorify God in the world today?”
    Why these two stories build our faith in the Lord is because He was involved with Moses and the congregation of Israel and the mixed multitude that was with them. He was moved with compassion as He sees, acts, and knows our frailties and striving. Even if we are wrong, if we are trying to be right in our striving, HE IS THERE. Exodus 33:19 is a favorite verse of mine.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    1) bitter water make sweet by a tree
    2) water from a rock struck by Moses’ rod witnessed by the elders
    3) water from a rock struck by Moses’ rod witnessed by the congregation.
    Moses was also tested (and failed) at this time.
    God will NOT fail us, but we must trust Him for our needs and realize that he will provide our need in due time. However, this also shows that the people were not learning from the prior experiences. God expects us to learn and to share our knowledge downstream to others. I suspect Moses and the elders felt a special chastisement and we also see that a very large part of the congregation would die in the wilderness.

    • Thank you for that differentiation, Kenneth.

  • Drew

    Last weeks Answers
    Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)
    Torah Teasers Parshat Bo
    12 great Torah Teasers.
    1. Aside from the actual plague of darkness, when else does the land of Egypt become dark?
    During the plague of locusts, the swarm covers the entire sky, darkening the entire land (Exodus 10:15).
    2. In what context is an “east wind” mentioned in this parsha? Where else in the book of Exodus is an east wind mentioned?
    In this parsha, the locusts are swept into the land with an “east wind” (Exodus 10:13). In parshas Beshalach, the Red Sea is split with a powerful “east wind” (Exodus 14:21).
    3. The Red Sea is mentioned in Parshas Beshalach with regard to the splitting of the sea. In what context is it mentioned in this parsha – with regard to the ten plagues?
    Locusts are blown out of Egypt by a west wind in the direction of the Red Sea (Exodus 10:19).
    4. Which name of a plague from Parshas Va’erah is also mentioned in this parsha? (2 answers)
    Moshe warned Pharaoh that the locusts will eat any remaining crops not destroyed by the plague of hail (Exodus 10:5), the seventh plague mentioned in Parshas Va’erah (Exodus 9:18). The Israelites are commanded to place the blood of the Passover sacrifice on their doorposts (Exodus 12:7); blood is the first plague mentioned in Parshas Va’erah (Exodus 7:17).
    5. In this parsha, where is an animal hoof mentioned?
    After the plague of darkness, Pharaoh proposes that the Israelites leave without their sheep and cattle. Moshe refuses, insisting that “not one hoof will remain behind” (Exodus 10:26)
    6. In this parsha, where is a dog mentioned? What other two places in the Torah is a dog mentioned?
    Moshe warns Pharaoh that during plague of the firstborn there will be terrible screams throughout Egypt, yet amongst the Israelites “not even a dog will bark” (Exodus 11:7). In Parshas Mishpatim, the Torah commands that flesh from a torn animal should be thrown to a dog (Exodus 22:30), and in Parshas Ki Teitzei, the Torah prohibits offering any animal that was exchanged for a dog (Deut. 23:19).
    7. In what way is the number 21 associated with the command to eat matzah?
    The last day of Passover is the 21st day of the month of Nissan (Exodus 12:18).
    8. In what context are shoes mentioned in this parsha?
    The Jews in Egypt were instructed to eat the Passover offering with “their shoes on their feet” (Exodus 12:11).
    9. Which law in this parsha involves a bone?
    The Torah states that one may not break any bones of the Passover offering (Exodus 12:46).
    10. In what context are shoulders mentioned?
    When leaving Egypt, the Jews carried matzah on their shoulders (Exodus 12:34).
    11. What two-letter word appears four times in this parsha, and has two different meanings?
    The word “na” is used to mean “please” three times in this parsha (Exodus 10:11, 10:17, 11:2). The phrase “al tochlu mimenu na” – “Do not eat it [the Passover offering] raw” – has the alternate meaning of “raw” or “undercooked” (Exodus 12:9).
    12. What two-letter word appears 27 times in this parsha and has four different meanings in the Torah?
    The word “ki” appears 27 times in the parsha. Throughout the Torah, it is translated in four different ways: if, perhaps, rather and because (Rashi, Genesis 18:15).

    • Diana Brown

      I missed the very first question. I went all the way back to Parashat Bereshit 1:1 in my mind. I thought, “Oh I got this one.” Oy! Thank you for sharing. It was an engaging exercise.

      • Drew

        Your welcome. In ”my” mind if one doesnt get Genesis 1:1 one cannot get the rest of scripture.

        • Diana Brown

          You are correct. I agree. Obeying the Lord and trusting in the Truth of Torah brings joy to life, a lighted path in darkness, and a Hope for total order when Messiah rules and reigns. Everything good thing for humanity and the rest of Creation starts with Genesis 1:1.

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