There’s Water In The Rock — Exodus 17

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.” (Exodus 17:6)

Just as they had done by the bitter waters of Marah, the Children of Israel are again complaining against Moses that they have nothing to drink. But much is different this time at Rephidim. God has now delivered the Hebrews from peril several times and it is with bellies full of freshly gathered Manna that they murmur against Moses. These are not the desperate pleas of those genuinely fearful for their survival; they have repeatedly witnessed firsthand the grace of God in action. The complaints made here are the exaggerated protests of a people clamoring for ease and comfort, disappointed at the sight of any further hardship, moping at the notion that they might be denied for a moment any of life’s necessities.

The Children of Israel knew that God had no intention of letting them die in the wilderness, He had saved them too many times. But as a child might despair of “starving to death” because his lunch is served to him a half an hour past its usual time, the Hebrews again were unwilling to let the Lord do all things in His own perfect timing and sought to interject their own will into His plan.

If much is different in the manner of the complaining at Rephidim, then much more is different in the manner of deliverance. At Marah, the Lord took bitter waters and made them sweet. This time, the Lord will bring life-giving waters from a rock. A hard and solid stone in a dry and barren land will usher forth a river from which the entire congregation will drink deeply.

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4)

We are told in First Corinthians that the Rock in Horeb is Christ. Jesus, the Rock of our Salvation, was that Rock from which the Waters of Life flowed. The Lord Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that He was the Source of Living Water, and that whosoever would drink of that Water would never thirst again (John 4:10-14). He gave the invitation for anyone who thirsts to come unto Him (John 7:37), an invitation that was foreseen by the Prophet Isaiah (Isa. 55:1). The picture we have at the Rock of Horeb is that of Salvation, the providing of the Water that brings life ever-lasting.

God’s instructions to Moses here are very interesting. Take with thee three elders of Israel (v. 5). What Christ has done to save us was not accomplished in secret, out of the sight of witnesses. As three witnesses would accompany our Lord when He was transfigured (Matt. 17:1), so would three accompany Moses. And thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go (v. 5). Though God could accomplish all things without the aid of man, He chooses to accomplish His will by enlisting human agency. Man is given the inestimable privilege of co-operating with God and playing a role in His plan. Surely the Lord did not need Moses’ help to bring water from the rock, but He chose to allow Moses to take part in this act.

Our attention is drawn here again to the rod in Moses’ hand, that simple shepherd’s staff that has been used so miraculously. God brings to Moses’ remembrance the occasion when he struck that mighty river in Egypt, turning life-giving water into blood (Ex. 7:20). Now, that very same staff will strike a rock that will bring forth life-giving water. Who would have guessed that a shepherd’s staff could be used so mightily by God? Yet God can use whatever is in our hand to serve His purposes. Moses did not need to wave a gilded wand, the staff that he already held was sufficient. Neither do any of us need to look for something fancier, something more elegant to bring Him glory. He wants to use those things we already have.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)

The Rock was smitten by God, but He was also stricken by man. At the Crucifixion, the wrath of God was poured out upon the Lord Jesus, but it was man who inflicted the wounds upon His body. Many have argued over who really put Jesus to death: was it the Jews? The Romans? The answer is that it was all of mankind. It was you and it was me. Our sin put Him on the Cross; we are all guilty of striking the Rock. Yet it is by that very striking that the Waters of Life flow.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,


8 thoughts on “There’s Water In The Rock — Exodus 17”

  1. Loren, this was so beautifully put. I just loved that ending, that it was by that very striking that the Living Waters Flow. 🙂 And this has me thinking to, that He wants to use the things we already have. He is so able. God bless you and yours as He pours Living Water into your lives and allows it to flow to others.


  2. Thank you, Loren

    “Man is given the inestimable privilege of co-operating with God and playing a role in His plan.”
    Hmmm… This got me to thinking. He could have done it all without us, but He gave us a ‘mini role’ and suddenly we forgetting we can be nothing more than ‘Supporting Actor / Actress’. Even our own lives are not ours to do as we please! He bought us … He owns us!

    Thanks much for the OT/NT links. 🙂 Can’t recall seeing a connection between the striking of the rock in the desert and the punishment our Lord took unto Himself to give us freedom. Thanks for bringing the Word to life this way. He could have simply opened the rock Himself, but He allowed things to work the way they did for a reason. How open are we to allowing Him to bring His plans to light in His timing?

    As I read the last paragraph, I was reminded of a song by Ray Boltz – Who Nailed Him There. Guilty, as charged. Thankful for His grace and mercy that did not give me what I deserved.

    Blessings and thanks much.

    P.S. Numbers 20:7-13 was the basis for a discussion in our home a few weeks ago. Would love to hear your take on this other water incident.


    1. Wow, what a powerful song! I had not heard that one before, thanks for sharing it 🙂

      The later incident of Moses striking another rock in Kadesh (in Numbers) seems to be similar in some ways, but distinct in a lot of others. by this second time, Moses is really losing his patience with the people and it is rather hard to blame him! At first glance, it might seem that the Lord is maybe being a little unfair by punishing Moses so severely for what appears to be an isolated lapse in an otherwise impeccable leadership career. Whatever implications his error held must have been pretty important to God for Him to deny both Moses and Aaron the privilege of entering the land which they had marched toward for so long. When we look at the passage, we see several areas where Moses’ behavior was out of character.

      First, by Moses’ language and tone, we see that he was angry with the people. “Hear now, ye rebels!”, he begins. Some commentators have pointed out that when Moses said,”Must we“, (he and Aaron), “fetch you water…” (v. 10) that he may have been taking credit for himself and his brother that belonged to God alone. And, of course, the fact that he struck the rock rather than speaking to it as the Lord had instructed.

      All of these are very compelling by themselves, but I believe that this incident makes the most sense when we look at it, as we looked at the first striking of the rock here in Exodus 17, using the inspired interpretation of the Apostle Paul from First Corinthians 10. Considering that the Rock is a picture of Christ, the most serious aspect of Moses’ disobedience seems to lie in his striking the Rock a second time. Since he had already stricken the Rock back in Horeb, this would really have amounted to striking it a second and third time. Even though the rock was different, it still represented Christ, just as the first one had. This is why God said to speak to the Rock, there was no need to strike it again.

      “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.” (Hebrews 9:28)

      To “strike the Rock” again is an affront to the finality and sufficiency of the Cross for Salvation. It was only necessary for our Lord to face the Cross a single time, for He was once offered for the sins of many. The writer to the Hebrews tells us elsewhere that to “Crucify the Son of God afresh” is to “put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6). Once we have put our trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus, it is not necessary to crucify Him again; we need only to speak to Him. His blood covers once and for all and to strike Him a second time is to disparage the efficacy of the Cross. Once we have trusted in Him, we come to Him that our feet may be washed, but our head and hands have been cleansed already (John 13:5-10).

      Thanks so much, Ann, for sharing your thoughts on this! Also, thanks again for the link to the song, awesome 🙂 I have gotten behind on reading your posts, but I wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your look at the sacrifice of Isaac yesterday, some really wonderful observations!

      May God richly bless you,



      1. Thanks much, Loren

        I wonder how often we go off in one direction, simply because He took us that route before, when His plans and intentions are different the second time around?

        I’m with Deb, learning much!

        Thanks for popping by to read Isaac. I’m glad I am not Sara! Can’t imagine standing by and watch my husband go off to sacrifice my child…



      2. Thanks, Ann 🙂

        “I’m glad I am not Sara! Can’t imagine standing by and watch my husband go off to sacrifice my child…”

        Hard to imagine, isn’t it…


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