Was Moses reprimanded in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20:10-13 for not speaking (therefore showing a lack of faith in the Lord’s abilities to turn Moses' weaknesses into strength (which was why the Lord put Aaron there to help him)), or was it for not following the Lord's instructions with exactness (striking instead of speaking of water from the rock at Meribah), or was it for taking credit for the act?

Exodus 17:2-6 (NASB) 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and [c]they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill [d]us and [e]our children and [f]our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” 5 Then the LORD said to Moses,

“Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”

And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Numbers 20:10-13 (NASB) and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron,

“Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

13 Those were the waters of [a]Meribah, [b]because the sons of Israel contended with the LORD, and He proved Himself holy among them.

Note: I would like to know the answer in order to better serve the Lord. My fears include not correctly opening my mouth to speak (faith factor), not correctly following the exact promptings he whispers to me (like to visit people (obedience factor)), and not giving credit to God for the miracles in my life (recognition to God).


Not entirely sure that there is just one, or even two answers to this conundrum. I have pondered this on many occasions and done some research as well. Some of the answers I have come across are:

Anger. Moses got angry and his anger lead him to not follow his instructions properly so I suppose you could say anger resulting in disobedience...?

Pride. He says in Number 20:10:

Blockquote '...must we bring water out of this rock ...' (NIV)

Tradition! Doing it the way it had been done previously. He had struck the rock on a previous occasion.

It could be a mixture of things.

I am quite interested in the 'punishment' meted out to him as usually in the Bible the punishment bears some relation to the crime. His punishment was, as you know, not being allowed to enter the Promised Land.

You know sometimes as Christians we can get so carried away with our mission that there can be some slippage, and before we know it we have made the 'mission' our god, so a form of idolatry I suppose. That seems a very harsh thing to say about such a humble and obedient and patient man as Moses obviously was, but it is an interesting thought. Maybe the Promised Land had become something of an idol for him and he needed to refocus a bit? I don't know.

(I did have several reasons for mentioning the idolatry issue but I have not got the relevant notebook with me at the moment and it is also quite complicated to explain in the short amount of time I have at the moment!)

I would not worry too much about some mistakes that you may make. You will make mistakes - we all do. I think God is primarily interested in your heart and motivation. If you heart is for Him and your motivation to serve and be obedient, He is perfectly capable of using even your mistakes. God Bless



Numbers 20:12 gives two reasons: 1) Moses did not believe God and 2) failed to sanctify God. Moses knew striking the rock before had brought forth water and did not believe speaking alone would bring the same results. His attitude and statement "must we" indicate the failure to sanctify God. A parallel would be being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27) which is a physical action, and a baptized believer confessing their sins unto God (1 John 1:6-10). The baptized believer does not need to be re-baptized.


What we must remember is that this is the 2nd time Moses is addressing the "Rock".

God's commandment to Moses was explicit,(Ex. 17:5-6)

And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

This was done in the 2nd month of their journey from Egypt; the 2nd time after their 40 year journey in the wilderness, just before Aaron's death (Num. 17:24). God's commandment to Moses was just as explicit as in Exodus,

Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

In both instances Moses was commanded to bring his rod(staff) which the Lord had given him to do miracles with. But in the 2nd instance, he was only commanded to speak to the "Rock", and in his anger with the chiding of the people, he struck the "Rock", not only once, but twice(vs 11).

It is the mercy of God that He honored Moses's action, and water gushed forth, but he didn't sanctify the Lord before Israel, and his judgment was instant, And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel,(vs 12)

therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

One explanation for this is Moses is a "type" of the Law, which although perfect, cannot in and of itself bring one into the "rest of God"(the Land of Promise). John 1:17 says,

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Galatians 2:16 says,

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Though Moses was "faithful in all His house", he was kept out of the Promised Land through 1 sin; yet those who enter by grace through faith in Christ enter into "the rest" promised in Heb. 3:5-6,

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end

A greater explanation follows the judgment of Moses, and that is Christ was struck once for sin, not twice(or 3 times).

First of all, we must establish the "Rock" is Christ(1 Cor. 10:4):

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Heb. 9:28 says,

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

The 1st time the "Rock" was struck, in Ex. 17:6, Christ was "struck", the godly for the ungodly; the 2nd time Christ was revealed, and Moses was to "speak to the Rock" with the authority he had(the rod) in Christ, and the "Rock" would bring forth the needed water. However, Moses was 'vexed' in his spirit and says to the people,

Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

In 'speaking' to Christ, he would have honored God, and the water would have gushed out, in being angry with their hard-heartedness, Moses "strikes Christ again"(and again), re-enforcing the fact that the Law is inadequate to minister grace, and that somehow Christ's once for all time sacrifice is insufficient payment for sin.

In summary, the Ex. 17:5/Num. 20:17 is a type of Christ; 1st incidence as the Suffering Servant, in the 2nd, the Glorified Lord. Moses honored God in the 1st, but because of being vexed by the people didn't honor God in the 2nd; whereas God honored His Word in both incidents, yet didn't allow Moses to enter the Promised Land in the 2nd.

  • Are you sure that there are two different scenes and Deut 20 is not a re-telling of Ex. 17? Jan 20 '18 at 23:57
  • @JamesShewey Aaron dies at the end of this chapter, clearly not the case when Moses's arms will held up by Aaron and Hur. Remember, the children of Israel had wandered around the desert for 40 years.....in what was a 2 week passage of time(if they obeyed). The "WILDERNESS of SIN" is an allegory(ya think???) of what delays God's Promise. The 1st time(the rock is struck), Christ was struck for sin-fulfilling the law. The 2nd time the "rock" was to be spoken to- "grace" of the Risen Christ who would die no more. But the "Law" (representative of Moses) cannot enter into God's rest.
    – Tau
    Jan 21 '18 at 6:46

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