212 – Numbers 20 – That Spiritual Rock

The last verse in Numbers chapter twenty that we considered was twelve. I’d like to take another peek at it. This time I’d like to consider verses twelve and thirteen together because they are a sort of summary of the “water from the rock” event. Here they are in the Lexham English Bible.

Numbers 20:12-13

      12 But Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not trusted in me, to regard me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land that I have given to them.” 

13       Those were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with Yahweh, and he showed himself holy among them. 


The ancient Biblical audience would have done well to recognize that YHWH God does not waste words. He also says exactly what He means to say and expects perfect obedience to His perfect instructions. This is something that was true for the Biblical audience and remains true for us today. Remember the previous few verses? God said, “Moses, speak to the rock”. What did Moses do? He struck the rock two times! 

The fact that Moses modified YHWH’s instructions cost Moses entry into the promiseland. God was clear about the issue, “…Because you have not trusted me, to regard me as holy in the sight of the Israelites…”. 

A peek into the Hebrew might help us gain perspective. The Hebrew word Holy (קָדַשׁ – qadash) has an interesting list of glosses (range of possible meanings). I’ve borrowed from a few different Hebrew lexicons. Probably the most familiar to us is to be pure or clean

It can, and oftentimes also means to be set apart, consecrated, to be removed from common use. I’ve mentioned before, which has often been met with cross-eyed blinks, that the word Holy has a strong sense of meaning in the word unique. I don’t know why people tend to not connect the dots on Holy meaning unique when the Bible is full of references declaring that there is none like YHWH, He truly is unique!

God wanted the whole nation to understand His holiness. Moses speaking to the rock for water was how God chose to demonstrate His holiness to the nation, and Moses robbed God in the matter!

It’s a lengthy passage, but I think this New Testament passage is crucial for our understanding.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4

1     For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all went through the sea, 

2       and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 

3       and all ate the same spiritual food

4       and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ


We don’t have to connect the dots between the Old and New Testaments in this case because Paul did it for us. Can you see that the Israelites were concerned with their physical needs, but God had a different focus in mind. He was concerned with their spiritual nourishment

Moses, your rescue does not come from you striking Jesus! The Father poured out His wrath on Jesus because of our sins. You could say that the Father struck Jesus. Moses (and we) are to only speak to Him. Let me throw one more New Testament verse at you for your consideration.

In John chapter 5 Jesus was speaking to the Jews and said the following:

John 5:45-47

           45       Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father! The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have put your hope! 

           46       For if you had believed Moses, you would believe me, for that one wrote about me

           47       But if you do not believe that one’s writings, how will you believe my words?” 


How often, when we read what Moses penned, are we aware that he’s writing about Jesus? Do we ponder what we are reading? Do we look for Jesus? I know we could end up straying way out into left field if we aren’t careful when we study. We could “spiritualize” everything we read and see Jesus even where He isn’t. However, if we are careful Bible students and compare scripture with scripture (specifically Old to New) I think we can see what God intends for us to see.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes my sense of awe and wonder when reading God’s word is dulled by my sense of familiarity. Before we reached Numbers twenty I was already aware of the apostle Paul’s enlightenment that Jesus was the spiritual rock in the Old Testament account. But what I’ve missed over and over again was YHWH’s intention to reveal His Holiness using this particular event. Yes, it’s super cool that Jesus is pictured in the rock, but let’s not miss the important message that YHWH (all three persons of YHWH) desired to reveal His Holiness!

Have you ever “quarreled” with YHWH (vs. 13) as Israel did? Do you trust YHWH? Do you have times, like Moses, where you fail to trust in His word? If so, you and I are in good company. But we would do well to remember there’s always a cost associated with not trusting Him. 

God is so, so good! He is truly worthy of all praise, worship, and adoration – and more! 


All Scripture Quotations from Harris, W. Hall, III et al., eds. The Lexham English Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012. Print.


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