In 1 Cor. 10:4, it is written,

4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. NASB, 1995

Δʹ καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν ἔπιον πόμα· ἔπινον γὰρ ἐκ πνευματικῆς ἀκολουθούσης πέτρας, ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός. NA28

There is no doubt the “spiritual drink” to which the apostle refers is the water that was made to gush from the rock in Exo. 17:6 and Num. 20:11. That water was evidently real water suited to satiate their thirst. So, why is it called “spiritual” here? Could this be referring to the drink itself as being supernatural or the manner in which it was bestowed?

  • 4
    Why is it called a spiritual rock?
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 22:01

3 Answers 3


I think that this verse needs to be considered along with the preceding ones (v.1-3), which are also relevant.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

Paul is emphasizing the typology of the Old Testament - things that foreshadowed what was to come with Christ. Basil the Great (330-379 AD) explained:

But the faith in Moses and in the cloud is, as it were, in a shadow and type. The nature of the divine is very frequently represented by the rough and shadowy outlines of the types; but because divine things are prefigured by small and human things, it is obvious that we must not therefore conclude the divine nature to be small. The type is an exhibition of things expected, and gives an imitative anticipation of the future. So Adam was a type of Him that was to come [Romans 5:14]. Typically [i.e. as a "type"], rock was Christ; and the water a type of the living power of the word; as He says, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink [John 7:37].

On the Holy Spirit, XIV.31

John Chrysostom (347-407 AD) also sees in the water that emerged from the rock that was Christ a type of the blood of Christ:

And wherefore saith he these things? To point out that as they were nothing profited by the enjoyment of so great a gift, so neither these by obtaining Baptism and partaking of spiritual Mysteries, except they go on and show forth a life worthy of this grace. Wherefore also he introduces the types both of Baptism and of the Mysteries [i.e. the Eucharist].

But what is, “They were baptized into Moses?” Like as we, on our belief in Christ and His resurrection, are baptized, as being destined in our own persons to partake in the same mysteries; for, “we are baptized,” saith he, “for the dead,” i.e., for our own bodies; even so they putting confidence in Moses, i.e., having seen him cross first, ventured also themselves into the waters. But because he wishes to bring the Type near the Truth; he speaks it not thus, but uses the terms of the Truth even concerning the Type.

Further: this was a symbol of the Font, and that which follows, of the Holy Table. For as thou eatest the Lord’s Body, so they the manna: and as thou drinkest the Blood, so they water from a rock. For though they were things of sense which were produced, yet were they spiritually exhibited, not according to the order of nature, but according to the gracious intention of the gift, and together with the body nourished also the soul, leading it unto faith. On this account, you see, touching the food he made no remark, for it was entirely different, not in mode only but in nature also; (for it was manna;) but respecting the drink, since the manner only of the supply was extraordinary and required proof, therefore having said that “they drank the same spiritual drink,” he added, “for they drank of a spiritual Rock that followed them,” and he subjoined, “and the Rock was Christ.” For it was not the nature of the rock which sent forth the water, (such is his meaning,) else would it as well have gushed out before this time: but another sort of Rock, a spiritual One, performed the whole, even Christ who was every where with them and wrought all the wonders. For on this account he said, “that followed them”

Homily XXIII on 1 Corinthians

Church Fathers Ambrose of Milan (340-397 AD) (On the Holy Spirit I.2) and John Cassian (360-435 AD) (Conferences I.XIV.8) both provide similar interpretations.


In studying scripture, we must understand that the "natural" speaks to the "supernatural." Why? The Godhead created them both. The Bible says that the "whole earth is full of His glory." It all has a spiritual message from Him. God and Jesus use the things of the earth to illustrate spiritual truth. Jesus used the sower and the seed to illustrate that the Seed is the Word of God and He is the Sower. He used "weeds" to illustrate the seed of the devil (sin) that chokes the good seed of the Word. Jesus explained this parable of the good seed and the weeds in Matthew 13:36-42. The "good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who shows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels." So Jesus uses the things of the earth to teach spiritual truth, just as God used the "things of the earth" in the Older Testament to illustrate spiritual truths that would come true in His Son Jesus. God, Jesus (Word of God) and the Holy Spirit don't change. They were in the beginning before anything was created. Genesis 1:1-3. In Genesis 1:1:3, we have God, the Word (Jesus before the Word became flesh) and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is, was and will ever be the Word of God -- the voice of God.

Throughout the Older Testament, God was painting a picture of His Son Jesus Christ. Why? Jesus is the Word of God -- all Truth, so all truth points to Him. The water from the rock in the Older Testament and the manna sent from heaven were spiritual because God sent them. In the New Testament, Jesus is the fulfillment of this water and bread. He is the Bread of Heaven and the Water of Heaven as the Anointed Word of God -- the Word anointed by the Holy Spirit -- the Living Word which is the written Word brought to life -- spiritual life in Christ. This is why Jesus spoke in the spiritual using the natural things of the earth to illustrate the same. Understanding this opens our spiritual eyes to the truths about Jesus hidden in the Older Testament scriptures. When Jesus quoted an Older Testament scripture in the New, He was showing that He was fulfilling that particular scripture. In Matthew 13, when His disciples asked why He spoke in parables, He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom has been given to you, but not to them." 13:11 Then He quoted the prophecy of Isaiah, "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand etc." Matthew 13:11-16 Jesus was showing them that He is the fulfillment of these particular scriptures in Isaiah.


The spiritual drink provides the idea that there are "sacraments" in view: baptism and the bread & cup, or the Lord's Table. Paul indicates that the Israelites coming from Egypt were "baptized" (1 Cor 10:2) and subsequently ate the heavenly manna (bread) and spiritual drink (cup). Please note that manna is spiritual food according to Psalm 78:25, which is paired with spiritual drink in 1 Cor 10:4. However, these Israelites did not enter the Promised Land notwithstanding that they had been "sacramentalized" believers (that is, they had partaken of both baptism and the bread & cup). Paul is therefore drawing an analogy to the Hebrew Bible that sacraments (Baptism and the Lord's Table) in, of, and by themselves do not save; it is therefore wise that believers not assume or take their faith for granted (1 Cor 10:12). Even Peter insists that believers who believe that they are believers "be all the more diligent to make certain" of their salvation (2 Pet 1:10-11). Self-deception is the moral hazard as the following verse demonstrates.

Matthew 7:22-23 (NASB)
22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [a]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

An illustration will help to develop this idea: When the Israelites first left Egypt they in fact believed on the Lord (Ex 14:31). The Hebrew verb here for believing is the same verb used of Abraham, who was justified by faith. So the Israelites who escaped Egypt had believed by faith, were subsequently baptized into Moses in the cloud and sea (meaning that both Spirit and water had comprised the elements of the "baptism"), and even received the manna (bread) and spiritual drink (cup) from the Lord through the rock... but when that same faith was tested, their hearts were hardened by their own unbelief (Heb 3:19). That is, they had fallen away from faith (Heb 4:11) and were therefore denied entrance into the Promised Land.

In summary, the Christian New Testament portrays the believer on Jesus as one escaping the power of sin and death (like the Israelites who escaped Egypt through Moses). However, subsequent to the point of faith when they had believed (Ex 14:31), testing ensued in the wilderness (of life). If the faith takes root (compare to Matthew 13:1-23) that believer is saved and enters the Promised Land where more giants await. However, if that faith takes no root, the seed of faith perishes and the "believer" does not enter the Promised Land notwithstanding that such a person had been "sacramentalized" by people ordained by God.

Finally, and this point is very important, when the second-generation Israelites entered the Promised Land some forty years later, they partook of the sign ("sacrament") of circumcision at Gilgal according to Joshua 5:5-6. In other words, they were circumcised after crossing into the Promised Land, and not before. Thus faith and "sacraments" are complementary. Remember: the Israelites who did not enter the promised land were circumcised; were baptized into Moses; and partook of the manna (bread) and spiritual drink (cup) -- i.e., they were fully "sacramentalized" but were denied entrance into the Promised Land. Finally the word "Gilgal" in Hebrew (rolling away) means that circumcision at Gilgal had pointed to baptism, since according to Joshua 5:7-9 circumcision "rolls away" the reproach of Egypt (= imagery of sin and slavery). In other words, the stones from the Jordan River (site of baptism of John the Baptist who made apparent reference to the same stones in Luke 3:8) had remained at the side of the Jordan River while others were rolled to Gilgal as a commemoration of the circumcision of the second-generation Israelites, whose shame from Egypt "was rolled away" ("Gilgal") because of passage through the Jordan River -- the memorial stones make the correlation and provide the monument for future generations to ponder (Joshua 4:7). Thus circumcision as an adult (at Gilgal) or at birth (after eight days according to the Law of Moses) had pointed to the idea of water baptism later developed in the Christian New Testament.

In summary, the spiritual drink mentioned by Paul to the Corinthians was part of the larger imagery of the shadow of "sacraments" found in the Hebrew Bible, and their bearing on faith and salvation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.