In this detailed commentary, we will explore the three reasons why Moses struck the rock and why God punished him for doing it.
Moses is a notable person in the patriarchy from the old testament, God used him to bring out the people of Israel from the land of slavery, the land of Egypt. There are so many miracles that God has performed through Moses most especially using his staff.
God had promised Moses and the people that they will make it to the promised land. Something happened which stopped Moses from getting into the promised land. The people of Israel became tired and thirsty, they asked for water. Moses went to God for water and God ordered him to strike the rock – he did and water came out.
“I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink. So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.”
Years later the same thing happened, the people became thirsty and requested water. Moses did the usual by going to God but this time, God told him a different thing to do.
“Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
Moses did not ‘speak’ to the rock but struck it instead – this is the reason why he didn’t make it to the promised land.
Many people must have been wondering and asking questions like, “Why did Moses choose to strike the rock the second time instead of speaking to it”, “Why can’t God pardon him for that action because he was a notable servant.” It is right to ask all these questions. There had been different answers provided by different people – most answers don’t even go with the scriptures that one could easily reject. When answering a question like this, it has to be based on the scripture.
3 Likely Reasons Why Moses Struck the Rock
Before going into giving answers to the question of why God had to punish him, we must look into the reason why he struck the rock. Before anyone can make a move or do something, he or she must have decided in the heart or thought of it in the heart. We will take everything from why he struck the rock and why God punished him from a completely different view using the scriptures.
One thing peculiar to Moses is his anger. Many times in the Bible has his anger featured.
“When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.”
There are lots of things the Bible says about anger and it is always advising to keep it in check. Anger can destroy things that we have built.
The difference between pride and anger is that when you show a sign of arrogance, God hates you for it and if it continues, gradually you do things that will destroy you but when you get angry, it affects your thought, your sense of reasoning, and it leaves you with a quick judgmental decision – it does not always end well because it affects you, your works, and the people around too. Moses was not able to control his anger.
One can say Moses anger can be justified – it was due to the complaints and the disobedience of the people he was leading. God expects everyone to learn how to control their anger not because it’s completely a sin but because of what it will cause. Anger is one of the reasons why Moses struck the rock twice.
Psalm 37:8 says “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”
This is exactly one reason why Moses gets angry all the time. Not only did the people of Israel like to complain but they also disobey God and have a rebellious heart. This part of the people’s behavior can create frustration and then anger. The people of Israel are always complaining even after seeing an evident miracle. They still refused to believe that God could help them get through whatever stage they find themselves in.
At first, it was at the bank of the red sea, they complained and told Moses that dying in Egypt would have been better. You must be wondering why they are making such a suggestion but it’s their way. God has said things about them and when Jesus came, he still mentioned it to them about seeing miracles and yet not believing.
“ We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”
Elijah got frustrated because of this too in his time – Elijah was a very powerful servant of God but had to run when they seek after his life.
1 Kings 19:10
“He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Being frustrated at this, Elijah had the option of running away – Moses could not, he still sees them as God’s people and his responsibility. All went down to his anger and he acted.
We can’t take the fact out that Moses struck the rock because of disobedience. Well, the disobedience might have come from the anger or frustration but he disobeyed. Disobedience is a spirit, and spirit that is totally in opposition to the spirit of God – which equally means that God detests disobedience.
Disobedience did not start in the time of Moses, it has been in existence long before the creation – Satan, became proud and he went against God – the reason why he became the devil. One reason why a haughty spirit is listed to be part of what God hates is that it breeds disobedience.
To show how much God hates disobedience, we will go through the scriptures and bring out cases of disobedience and the punishments for each.
The disobedience of Jonah.
While people consider it a great privilege to work for God, Jonah got a simple order from God.
“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
Despite this information Jonah got from God – what did he do instead? He fled to Tarshish. His punishment was quick, he was thrown into the sea and then swallowed by the fish. The assignment God gave to Jonah involves the salvation of people. When it comes to God trying to save people, anyone who He tries to use must not disobey because there will be an immediate punishment for it.
Eli and his sons.
One can say that Eli shouldn’t face the punishment that was to come in his sons but he was the father. His son had done terrible things in the sight of God. Eli rebuked his sons for doing the wrong thing but that didn’t make them stop doing things that God hated. Since there is no one to take over from Eli when he became old, the priesthood couldn’t continue with his family.
1 Samuel 2:31-32
“The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age.”
The first king of Israel, he started well and obedient until he got to a point where he was ordered to fight a battle and destroy everything in that land. King Saul did not do as God says but instead, he kept their King and the best of their livestock.
The word of the Lord came to Samuel when Saul had disobeyed God, God told Samuel that he regrets making Saul the king and then God rejected him. Samuel went on to meet Saul. Saul claimed the livestock was for sacrifice to God. Samuel replied to him in scripture…
1 Samuel 15:22
“But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Obeying God has a spiritual impact on the body and not just the body but also the heart. It is what builds our faith in God. It pleases God to see that we have faith in him by obediently following all he says.
Adam and Eve.
This is the first case of disobedience in the Bible and the reason why all human beings are born into sin.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people because all sinned.”
The kind of interpretation people give as to what it means to eat the fruit God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat is not what it is. We have seen different photos, drawings, and some illustrations where two people are together holding an apple, sometimes a pear – all these are to show that at least a fruit was eaten but not that an apple or pear was eaten.
Adam and Eve eating from that tree are deeper than what it looks like in the Bible. The true meaning of will ushers us into the real meaning of what Moses did, what God asked him to do, why it resulted in punishment. Adam and Eve disobeyed – the point is not about the fruit they ate – the point is that they disobeyed God. Not that the fruit possesses some kind of magical power that can make someone brilliant or look radiant but disobedience was involved.
In his book, THE GOD WHO IS THERE, D.A. Carson wrote…
“Doubtless here is where we need to think a little more about this tree. What was the fruit? There is no biblical text that says it was an apple as if God hates apples but is rather partial to pineapples and pears. It is not necessary to suppose that the fruit is magical, such that by ingesting it—whatever it is—a switch suddenly goes on in the brain, the chemistry changes, and now you suddenly start pronouncing good and evil. That is not quite the point. Regardless of what this fruit is, it is an inevitable test.”
Adam and Eve failed the test. They were punished not only because they ate the fruit but because they disobeyed God. In the same manner, Moses striking the rock has spiritual meaning.
Why God Punished Moses
At first, in Exodus 17:6, God told Moses to strike the rock. At each point, God always tells Moses to gather the elders and people to see – this is not coincidental, God is trying to use this to pass a message to the people. The bible described who the rock is in scripture.
1 Corinthians 10:3-4
“They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” The rock was Jesus. People needed to be saved from thirst, what came out of that rock is more than water, it was spiritual water.
Striking the rock at the first stage has to do with the first stage of salvation, it starts with the death of Jesus Christ for all mankind, going on to shed his blood for the atonement of sin. The blood that flows through him is the blood that cleanses from all unrighteousness.
So God was trying to make it clear to Moses and the elders what the rock symbolizes. The water coming from the rock symbolizes two things which are; his blood and the living water.
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
The picture was not clear to Moses at the first time. As we are growing in Christianity, spiritual maturity is needed. There are some levels we should have attained that should be greater than the way we started.
This second time, God told him to speak to the rock. It has become part of Moses to use his staff to perform miracles. When he confronted Pharaoh, he used his staff. When parting the sea, he used his staff. God wants to show him a new method, he wants him to increase the level of his faith. He asked him just to talk and that’s all.
The first Jesus died once and for all, there is no point nailing him again. All we are to do now is to speak to him. That is faith. That is what God requires and Moses did not give that.
“But the LORD reprimanded Moses and Aaron. He said, “Because you did not have enough faith to acknowledge my holy power before the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land that I promised to give them.”
Moses did not show an act of a leader who believes in God. We can say his trust in God is limited. There are things that God will ask him to do and yet will question him. He chooses to follow his way instead of following God – showing a sign of unbelief can be punished especially when you are working for God.
Angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, he told him he would have a child. Zacharias did not believe and he was punished for that.
“But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
Moses was punished for this also, his lack of faith prevented him from going into the promised land.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.
What does the rock that Moses struck represent? ›
Biblical commentators understood the refreshing, nurturing water that poured from the rock to symbolize the gift of God's salvation. The rock was likened to Christ and the water that flowed from it to the blood from his wounds.What happened when Moses came down from the mountain with the 10 Commandments? ›
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.When Moses threw his staff on the ground what happened? ›
Moses threw his staff; it turned into a serpent and quelled their magic. Lower left: Once again Moses came before Pharaoh and demanded his people. Pharaoh exhorted him, "I shall not give [them]." Moses struck water with his staff; the water instantly turned into blood and the fish and the creatures [in it] perished.Who was the rock that followed the Israelites? ›
According to 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Christ was the Rock that followed the children of Israel in their 40 years journey in the wilderness. They shared the same baptism, ate the same food and drank the same water, but they never knew Christ as the Rock. They became idolaters.What does a rock symbolize in the Bible? ›
As stated in our earlier series, a rock is a symbol of stability, permanence, strength, dependability, and steadfastness. A rock stresses the unchanging nature of God, in contrast to the fickle and unstable nature of Israel. A rock stresses the faithfulness of God, unlike unstable Israel.Why did Moses break the stone? ›
According to the above three Midrashim, Moses' motive in breaking the tablets was in defense of Israel, to provide an extenuation for their sin, to throw his lot in with theirs.Why was God mad at Moses in the Ten Commandments? ›
Moses' blame game seems patently unfair. If you remember, back in Numbers, Chapter 20, God barred him from the Promised Land because Moses struck a rock to make it release water, rather than speaking to it as the Lord ordered.How many times did Moses go up the mountain to get the 10 Commandments? ›
According to the biblical story, Moses departed to the mountain and stayed there for 40 days and nights in order to receive the Ten Commandments and he did so twice because he broke the first set of the tablets of stone after returning from the mountain for the first time.
The Bible says Moses made two sojourns here to receive the tablets, spending 40 days on the mountain each time, but we would be up and down in 4 1/2 hours.What does the rod and staff mean? ›
The symbol represents the concern and compassion that a shepherd has for his sheep. The rod conveys the concept of authority, power, discipline and defense of the sheep. The staff represents all that is long suffering and kind. A staff is a long, slender stick, often with a crook or hook on one end.
What does a rod symbolize in the Bible? ›
In the culture of the Israelites, the rod (Hebrew: מַטֶּה maṭṭeh) was a natural symbol of authority, as the tool used by the shepherd to correct and guide his flock (Psalm 23:4).
The symbol of the staff may be seen as the world tree, as an axis connecting God and man. This is the driving force of individuation, which integrates human unconsciousness and consciousness while discovering and accepting the genuine Self.What was Moses supposed to do with the rock? ›
When the Israelites were desperate from thirst during their desert wanderings, the Lord instructed Moses: "Behold, I will stand before thee there on the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink" (Exodus 17:6).What God gave his people from a rock? ›
Hit the rock with your stick, and water will come out of it. Then the people can drink. ' So Moses did this, while the leaders of the Israelites watched him. 7 Moses called that place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled there.What is the name of the rock in Jerusalem? ›
Dome of the Rock, Arabic Qubbat al-Ṣakhrah, shrine in Jerusalem built by the Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān in the late 7th century ce.What is the lesson about God is the rock? ›
In this story, Jesus was teaching us that our lives need to be built on a strong and solid foundation and that He is that rock. If we build our lives on Jesus, that means that everything we do will be based on Him. He will be our strength.What does Jesus mean by rock? ›
The church fathers generally understood the “rock” to refer either to the apostles collectively, or to the specific content of Peter's confession. In either case, they understood that Matthew 16:18 ultimately centered on Christ – the One to whom the apostles testified, and the One to whom Peter's confession pointed.Who is a rock but our God? ›
And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.Why did Moses throw wood in the water? ›
In the text, when the Israelites reach Marah they complain about the undrinkability, so Moses complains to Yahweh, and Yahweh responds by showing Moses a certain piece of wood, which Moses then throws into the water, making it sweet and fit to drink.Where is the scripture about Moses breaking the tablets? ›
As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the groups dancing, Moses' anger blazed. He threw down the tablets he was holding and broke them at the foot of the mountain (Exod 32:15, 19).
Where does God tell Moses to place the two stone tablets? ›
 And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.  And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.When did God become angry with Moses? ›
The first instance appears in Exodus 4, when God commissions Moses to confront Pharaoh, but Moses objects five times. God's response, even in his anger at Moses, is restrained and measured. Then the anger of the Lord burned (lit.What did Moses complain to God about? ›
Moses takes his complaining straight to the Lord, “Hey, God, why have you treated me, your great servant, so badly? I didn't give birth to them! I can't carry them; they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you, O Lord, are going to treat me, put me to death at once.”What excuse did Moses make to God? ›
Again, God had already told Moses what to say and had also promised Moses that people would listen to him (see 3:14-18). Still, Moses made excuses and the Lord responded to Moses' excuse: “Who placed a mouth on humans? Who makes a person mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?How many commandments did God give Moses? ›
The Ten Commandments are a list of religious precepts that, according to passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy, were divinely revealed to Moses by Yahweh and engraved on two stone tablets. They are also called the Decalogue.What is the deeper meaning of Exodus? ›
Exodos means leave, and the book of Exodus tells how the nation of Israel left Egypt. It chronicles the story of their deliverance from four hundred years of bondage and how God sent Moses as an instrument of deliverance.How long did Moses talk to God? ›
Moses obeyed. The Lord used His finger to write His law and commandments on stone tablets. For 40 days, the Lord taught Moses many things. While Moses was on Mount Sinai, the people of Israel got tired of waiting for him.How long did it take Moses to cross the Red Sea? ›
1). Long-standing Jewish (and Christian) tradition holds that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea seven days after the Passover (more on the reason for this further down).Where in the Bible did Moses fast for 40 days? ›
After Moses killed the Egyptian, he fled to Midian, where he spent 40 years in the desert tending flocks (Acts 7:30). Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18).What did God say to Moses? ›
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you. '" God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, `The LORD, the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has sent me to you.
What does the staff in Moses hand represent? ›
The use of a staff as a weapon makes Moses' staff a concrete image of YHWH's power in his battle against Pharaoh. Its function as a symbol of royalty presented a concrete challenge to Pharaoh's authority, as seen when Aaron's staff swallowed the staffs of the magicians (Exod 7.8-13).Why is it called the Rod of God? ›
In addition, projectiles would not require explosive warheads, and—in the simplest designs—would consist entirely of solid metal rods, giving rise to the common nickname "rods from God".What does the snake on the staff mean in the Bible? ›
In the Old Testament the copper serpent held high on a pole was meant to lift the people's eyes and heart to heaven, to God who alone controls life and death.What does it mean to walk through the valley of the shadow of death? ›
This key verse of the 23rd Psalm transcends religion, and its wisdom is available to all of us. I walk through the valley of the shadow of death gives us permission to use our awareness of the shadow of death to immerse ourselves in the illuminating light of life.What are the 3 things in the Ark of the Covenant and what do they represent? ›
The contents of the ark are seen by theologians such as the Church Fathers and Thomas Aquinas as personified by Jesus Christ: the manna as the Holy Eucharist; Aaron's rod as Jesus' eternal priestly authority; and the tablets of the Law, as the Lawgiver himself.
The Rod of Asclepius is an ancient Greek symbol associated with medicine, consisting of a serpent coiled around a rod. In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing.What does Moses mean spiritually? ›
According to the Torah, the name "Moses" comes from the Hebrew verb, meaning "to pull out/draw out" [of water], and the infant Moses was given this name by Pharaoh's daughter after she rescued him from the Nile (Exodus 2:10) Since the rise of Egyptology and decipherment of hieroglyphs, it was postulated that the name ...What is the staff of Moses supernatural? ›
The Staff of Moses is an extremely powerful weapon, originally used by the prophet Moses. Though an angelic weapon, it apparently can be "sawed off", as Balthazar did to make more of it to be used.What are the symbols of spirituality? ›
- The Hamsa, the healing hand. ...
- The Ankh, key of life. ...
- The Cross, an enduring symbol of infinite love, sacrifice, victory, and redemption. ...
- The Eye of Horus, the great protector. ...
- Om, harmony with the universe. ...
- The Lotus, flower of awakening.
In Exodus 17:6, God stood before the 70 elders upon the rock, so when Moses struck the rock they could see God's presence. But in Numbers 20, God's presence had appeared only to Moses and Aaron (Numbers 20:6), so that when Moses asked, “shall we bring water?” there was no visible evidence for God's involvement.
What did God allow Moses to do before he died? ›
Moses would have known, from God's answer the first time he asked, that doing so would be fatal. This time, God would cooperate, granting Moses his wish, allowing Moses to see His face, knowing that Moses had to obey His command to die.Why did God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock? ›
Here, when God hides Moses in the cleft of the rock, He points forward to that “final day” of judgment that we were worrying about at the beginning. Moses is about to stand before God Himself in all His splendor, and as the Lord has made clear, no man can truly stand before this sight and survive.What Scripture says Jesus is the rock? ›
Jesus said in the gospel of John, chapter 7, verse 37, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” Jesus Christ is the Rock!Who was the spiritual rock that followed? ›
According to 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Christ was the Rock that followed the children of Israel in their 40 years journey in the wilderness. They shared the same baptism, ate the same food and drank the same water, but they never knew Christ as the Rock. They became idolaters.What is the meaning of Smiting the rock? ›
The smitten rock appears most often as (1) a type of Christ, who when struck (crucified) produces waters of grace or as (2) the stony heart of the believer that when struck by God or Christ produces waters of grace.Where in the Bible does it say Moses hit the rock? ›
Moses strikes a rock on two separate occasions, once soon after the Israelites leave Egypt (Exodus 17:1–7), and again just before they enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:2–13).Who is the rock in the Bible? ›
The name “Peter” was a nickname given to Simon by Jesus, all the way back in John 1:42 when Peter first met Jesus. Coming from the Greek word petros (or the Aramaic word “Cephas”), the name Peter means “Rock” or “Stone.” To use an English equivalent, Peter means “Rocky.”What is the significance of the Jordan River in the Bible? ›
The Jordan River has since biblical times been imbued with powerful symbolic meanings: it is a boundary and a crossing point, a metaphor for spiritual rebirth and salvation, and a source of holy water.