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Moses striking the Rock

Question: What’s your response to the two different commandments given to Moses to get water from the rock? (Ex 17:5-6 and Num 20:8). In the first instance, Moses was told to take the rod and the elders and strike the rock. In the second, Moses was told to take the rod and Aaron and speak to the rock. Were these two incidences analogous to Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection? Was Moses punished because either he did not follow God’s command exactly or he messed up the analogy or both? Thanks! I have not read all the articles on your website, but the ones I have read, I have enjoyed and appreciated.


Response: I believe that you have it right. I also understand the rock to be a type of Christ the true Rock (cf. 1Cor.10:4), and the water to be a type of the water of the Word through which we are saved and spiritually refreshed (Is.55:1; Jn.3:5; 3:8 [Greek]; Jn.4:10; 4:13-14; 7:37-39; 1Cor.10:4; Eph.5:26; Heb.10:22; 1Jn.5:8; Rev.7:17; 21:6; 22:1; 22:17; cf. Ex 17:5-6; Num. 20:8; Ps.42:1-2; 63:1; 84:5-7; Is.41:17; 44:3;Jer.2:13). The first striking of the rock took place early in the Exodus and is a picture of Him who was stricken for us (cf. Is.53:4), but the second striking of the rock took place at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, where the rock was clearly meant to be a symbol of the victory that is based upon our Lord’s sacrifice, a Second Advent reference, just as the entrance into the land is typical of the restoration of Israel after the Second Advent (i.e., so we have two rocks representing two advents; cf. the colt and the foal in Matt.21:1-5, also bearing the same two-advent symbolism).


By striking the rock instead of speaking to it as he was instructed – and striking it twice at that – Moses sent the wrong message entirely, suggesting, symbolically, that the first striking had been insufficient, and that (again, symbolically) Christ’s sacrifice once and for all had not been enough – something more was needed (and a double effort at that!). Given that exactly this issue has been a tremendous problem for Israel throughout her later history, Moses’ action, while it may seem minor to us, has major implications. The book of Hebrews was written largely to address this issue of the continuation of Jewish believers in sacrifices through which they were essentially also continuing to “strike the Rock”, thus denying by implication that Christ’s work on the cross was sufficient for salvation. In the same second context you ask about,Numbers 20:12 makes this issue clear.

For the basis of God’s rebuke of Moses and Aaron is that they did not believe/trust Him enough (analogous to and typical of future Jews failing to appreciate Christ’s sacrifice) so as “to sanctify” Him or “consider Him holy” (analogous to and typical of future Jewish leaders failing to honor Christ’s sacrifice). Seen in this light, Moses’ lapse and God’s treatment of it should have been a powerful and unmistakable message to future generations of Israel: if even the greatest spiritual leader of Israel would be held to account for failing to appreciate God’s gracious Gift once given, how much more would this not be true for those not of Moses’ stature? The price Moses (and Aaron) paid for this disobedience to the Lord’s command was severe: neither of them was allowed to enter the land (a penalty which looks forward to that future day when those of Israel who do not repent will likewise not be allowed to enter the land upon the Messiah’s return: Ezek.20:30-38; see the link: “The Millennial Regathering and Purging of Israel“):

“And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel”
Deuteronomy 32:50-51

Even in this failure, Moses stands as an example for all future generations. In Moses’ case, there were mitigating circumstances, to be sure, but even this lapse and the consequences it engendered have served to fulfil the purposes of God. And there is also the fact that Moses’ work is not yet done. Along with Elijah, the other prominent man of God whose body was spared corruption, Moses will be revived in the early days of the Tribulation to fulfil an important ministry of turning Israel back from this very hardness of heart, and turning many back from the same tendency he symbolized on this occasion of failing to treat God as holy by failing to appreciate, accept and respect the Messiah’s sacrifice (Rev.11).