I have said it before and I will say it again: when we look through the eyes of Jewish scholars, the scriptures make so much sense.
Take the account of Miriam’s death, for instance. In Numbers 20 Miriam dies, the people complain (again), and Moses is banned from entering the Promised Land.
Moses, the guy God used to deliver His people. Moses, the guy who performed miracles by the hand of God. Moses, the guy who talked with God face to face. Moses, the guy who wrote the first five books of the bible. Moses, the guy who could not enter the Promised Land because he hit a rock? Really?
First of all, it wasn’t an ordinary rock. In the Hebrew, it is not ‘a’ rock, but ‘the’ rock. What rock?
The sages noticed that in Numbers 20, as soon as Miriam died, the people started complaining about being thirsty. Why now? After all, they were wondering around for 38 years with nary a mention. Why all of a sudden did they complain about water? Did it have something to do with Miriam?
In Exodus 15 Miriam is called a prophet. But what did she prophesy? If you look at it, she really didn’t say anything prophetic in her song. It seems to be a reiteration of Moses’ song. So why did God call her a prophet?
The sages say, and the word seems to verify, that Miriam knew Moses would be the deliverer before he was born. Notice how she watched over him in Exodus 2:4. She watched to see what would happen to him. And he was saved from the river.
So when she celebrated at the Red Sea, it was more than a celebration of salvation, but also a personal celebration of seeing God’s word come to pass!
Miriam is associated with water. She is mentioned once before the Red Sea miracle as the older sister of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 2:4-7). Both instances – at Moses’ birth and the Red Sea – involve water. Then immediately following her death in Numbers 20:1, we hear there was no water for the people.
The water that flowed for the people of Israel in the wilderness is known as Miriam’s Well. It is so named because her kindness merited the water to flow. When she died, it stopped flowing.
The sages tell us it is the same rock Moses struck in Exodus 17:6. They say it followed the Israelites throughout their wanderings. Now, before you go thinking this is just the rabbis’ wild imagination, Paul confirms it in 1 Corinthians 10:3.
As incredible as it sounds that a rock flowing with water would follow the Israelites for 39 years, is it any less credible than manna appearing every morning for them to eat?
Yet this still does not explain why Moses could not enter the Promised Land. Or does it?
Remember, this comes at the end of their wanderings. The first generation died off. Why? Because they did not believe God when He said He was giving them the Promised Land. Instead, they believed the evil report of the ten spies.
Throughout the second generation’s wanderings, the Lord was teaching His people to trust Him. By commanding Moses to ‘speak’ to the rock, it would eliminate the need for external physical proofs. It was not like the previous generation that needed the physical sign. Instead, words of life would bring life-giving water. The people would understand that God is holy, set apart. He was doing a new thing, with a renewed people.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that they were in the very same place (Kadesh) where the spies delivered their evil report. It was in this very place that, had the people trusted God, they would have entered the Promised Land. This is the same place where He told Moses, ‘Because you did not trust in me’ you will not enter the Promised Land.
Looking back at Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, his point is clear: run the race to win the promise. Paul says that he treats his body hard, making it his slave so that after leading others to faith, he is not disqualified as the forefathers were. Even Moses, the guy who talked with God face-to-face, could not enter the Promised Land, because he did not display trust in God when it was needed most – to teach the new generation.
So what is the rock? The rock is faith. The rock is trust. The rock is belief. God is who He said He is, and He will do what He said He would do, in His way, in His time.