Reams of text have been written about the one seeming error in Moses’ life – the one act for which he was prohibited from entering the Land of Israel. This was an incident recorded in Numbers 20, when, shortly after the death of Miriam, Moses (and Aaron) struck a rock to bring forth water from it, rather than speak to it, as God had instructed. For this one time, when Moses and Aaron failed to “sanctify Me [God] in the eyes of the Children of Israel–therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I gave them” (Numbers 20:12).

It is fascinating to note that Numbers 20 is not the first time that Moses was sent by God to draw water from a rock. Not long after the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea and began receiving the heavenly manna for food, the people turned to Moses and demanded water, to which he responded: “Why fight with me? Why don’t you ask God?” (Exodus 17:2-3). Scripture reports that the people then thirsted there for water and murmured against Moses…. When Moses asked God what he should do, God instructed him to pass through the people, gather the elders and, with his staff, go to the rock at Horeb and strike it (Exodus 17:6).

The two passages seem similar, but there are actually numerous differences. One major distinction is that the Israelites in Numbers 20 are the generation after the Israelites in Exodus 17. The generation that came out of Egypt was very different than the generation that was about to enter the Promised Land. Moses should have seen that the latter generation did not need the show of Divine strength that their elders required. The new generation needed to be inspired by a show of the very completeness of God’s control of the world, and Moses and Aaron failed to teach them that important value.

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