Note that I am not asking why Moses was punished, but rather why GOD still allowed water to flow from the rock even though Moses disobeyed

In Exodus 17, God commands Moses:

5 'Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in 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 Isreal (Exodus 17:5b-6 NKJV).

In this instance, Moses did all The LORD asked of him and all was well, but in Numbers 20 things are different. In Numbers 20, the LORD commands Moses:

Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals (Numbers 20:8 NKJV).

The text continues to say in verses 9-11:

9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. (Numbers 20:9-11 NKJV).

Since Moses directly disobeyed The LORD and did not speak to the rock, but struck it, why did GOD still bless his actions and allow water to "come out abundantly" from the rock? I have tried to do research on this, but the only commentaries I can find speak on Moses' punishment for his infraction on the LORD's commandment.

4 Answers 4


According to a GotQuestions article Why was Moses not allowed to enter the Promised Land, God's two-time provision of water through the water-giving rock to the Israelites are meant for a typology for the living water flowing from Jesus (1 Cor 10:4):

  • In the first (Exodus 17:6) the rock was struck, becoming a symbol of Christ crucified once (Heb 7:27).
  • In the second (Numbers 20) the rock was spoken to, becoming a symbol of praying to Christ.

But in Numbers 20 Moses disobeyed and took away the focus from God and that was why God punished him. Since God intended the typology to be recorded for our benefit, God possibly still let the water flow from the rock to preserve the typology.


Your question is a good one. As I approach an answer, I'm guessing that the reason why there aren't mega amounts of answers offered here is that this, indeed, is a difficult portion of scripture. Difficulty 1: Why is the Lord so nice to his Hebrews who complain so much? Difficulty 2: Why is the Lord so harsh with Moses when he shares the Lord's attitude toward his people?

The context: In the opening verses of Num. 20, the people complain about the lack of food (as they did repeatedly). The issue doesn't seem to be as much the complaining, but the who and how of the complaining. They weren't complaining to God who would actually be able to help them, but instead were threatening Moses and Aaron.

The Lord's Response to their complaint: In verse 8 we see the very clear words and commands the Lord gives:

  • "Speak to the rock" (”וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל־הַסֶּלַע“ (Num. 20:8 HMT-W4))
  • "And you will have/make it produce water for their benefit so that you can water the congregation and their livestock" (”וְהוֹצֵאתָ לָהֶם מַיִם מִן־הַסֶּלַע וְהִשְׁקִיתָ אֶת־הָעֵדָה וְאֶת־בְּעִירָם“ (Num. 20:8 HMT-W4))

Moses' Action: Instead of following the Lord's directives, Moses, governed by his anger, changes the Lord's plan/path and goes his own way:

  • Instead of speaking to the rock, he preaches to and against the people (”וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם“ (Num. 20:10 HMT-W4))
  • Instead of speaking on behalf of the Lord, he spoke on his own.

The Lord's response to Moses & Aaron: The Lord condemns Aaron & Moses in two ways:

  • The attitude in their hearts: "You [both] did not trust me." (”לֹא־הֶאֱמַנְתֶּם“ (Num. 20:12 HMT-W4)). Moses and Aaron did not trust the Lord enough to trust that what the Lord commanded and planned was good or good enough.

  • The lack of proper action and preaching: "You did not trust enough in me to honor me in the eyes of the sons of Israel" (”לֹא־הֶאֱמַנְתֶּם בִּי לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל“ (Num. 20:12 HMT-W4)). Their command and duty was to share a message of God's holiness. And in this context here it was the gracious and compassionate side of God's holiness.

Conclusion: The Lord allowed "much water to come out" (”וַיֵּצְאוּ מַיִם רַבִּים“ (Num. 20:11 HMT-W4)) despite Moses, not because of him. The Lord wanted to teach his people that he was a compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness (Ex. 34). He wanted to train them to depend on and complain to him, not to threaten his servants sent to share his word with them. Moses and Aaron changed what was supposed to be a message of care and kindness into condemnation. The Lord dealt with Moses and Aaron more quickly and severely because, as James says in the NT, "“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1 NIV11-GKE)" The Lord allowed the water to flow because he was intent to not let the poor preaching these two men did get in the way of his own preaching to his Hebrews and their own survival.


In my view, we have what is called God’s perfect will and permissive will. Secondly, when a man of God has a gift or is commissioned, that gift may bring out the intended result even if it is not the perfect will of God. When Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it, water still came out and the people’s thirst was quenched even though the means was not justified. When Paul said lay hands suddenly on no man, he knew that people will abuse the gift on people who are under the curse of God. It is always best to check with the word first for God’s perfect will. There may be consequences when one fails to follow the perfect will of God.

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    – agarza
    May 19 at 2:45

There seems to be a lot of over-thinking here, possibly because of the perceived need to utilize hermeneutics for the answer, given where this conversation is at.

But the simple answer is that the people were thirsty, and God had pledged to provide for them. He wasn't about to deny them water just because Moses got mad and screwed up. God is absolutely faithful despite our (and Moses) lack of always doing things his way.

God is Jehovah-Jireh even in the wilderness, and even when a rock is whacked rather than addressed .

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