A Bible poll (Number 20)

Okay, another poster and I got into a debate about the meaning of this bible passage. It’s Numbers 20.

God is punishing Moses and Aaron. What do you think God is punishing them for?

One interpretation is that God was mad because he commanded Moses to speak to the rock. But when Moses went out, he struck the rock with his staff instead. Moses disobeyed God’s command.

The other interpretation is that God was mad because when the crowd was complaining about God, Moses and Aaron walked away and went to their tent rather than speak up in God’s defense.

I was taught something in between #1 & #2.

I vaguely recall it being preached to me that Moses and Aaron went to theatrics to take some of the credit of God’s works.

or something.

I can’t blame him. I would’ve said, “Ala Peanut butter and Jelly sammiches!” Then hit the rock like the Fonz.


For anybody who cares, it’s Chapter 20 of the Book of Numbers. The title gives the reference but not very clearly.

I have never heard it as the Lord being mad at Moses and Aaron, but at the People. That plural “you” isn’t just two, it’s the whole People, who said “ooooh why did the Lord take us out of Egypt? We were much better there! It’s much better to live on your knees than die standing!” (Verses 3-5)

Or, in Spanish from Spain, con Franco vivíamos mejor (we lived better under Franco).

God is always mad. Open any OT story in thebricktestament.com. Always has a scowl. It’s mainly because he’s an egotistical asshole. (First three commandments about himself) Good thing the bible is not only fictitious, but stolen. Not one original story in the “blessed” tome.

Mostly because the “P” source really disliked Moses. There is a nearly identical story in Exodus 17 from the “E” source. Both take place in places called Meribah, although they are supposed to be many miles and many years apart from each other. And in general whenever P and E tell the same story, Moses comes out a lot worse in P. So this is just a another example of P trying to diss Moses.

I’m not sure you can ever come to a satisfactory answer about why God was so upset about it. The text doesn’t make it clear at all. Pride or Disobedience (He didn’t do it quite right) are the sins generally attributed to it. But the text doesn’t make it at all clear.

I always thought it was because of Moses’ and Aaron’s lack of faith. Both the striking of the rock and the not standing up for God were signs of their lack of faith.

Pretty much, yes. That’s why i voted “You’re both wrong. God was mad for some other reason”; God was mad because he’s God, and that appears to be his normal state of being.

Oops. There’s a typo in the title. It should be Numbers 20 not Number 20. If a mod could fix that.

I’m just not seeing how the staff vs speaking thing was an issue. First, God did specifically tell Moses to take the staff when he was getting water. Moses probably just figured hitting the rock with the staff was part of the show. And more importantly, if God really thought it was important for Moses to produce water by merely speaking and Moses disobeyed and hit the rock instead then there wouldn’t have been any water. The water was coming from God not Moses so it was only going to show up if Moses was acting in a God-approved manner. The fact that water came out of the rock when Moses hit it, proves God was okay with that method.

Second, notice that when it came time for God to express his disapproval, he spoke to both Moses and Aaron and said they had both done wrong and would both be punished. But Aaron had done nothing wrong about the water - God told him to help gather the crowd together and Aaron did what he was told. If God was angry about disobedience or showing off, he would have singled out Moses. The thing the passage says Moses and Aaron did jointly was walk away without speaking when the crowd was complaining about God.

For some reason, I always thought that Moses’s error was that he hit the rock twice when once would have sufficed. I.e, that trying it twice showed a lack of faith.

No, a lack of faith would have been Moses hitting the rock first and then, after he made sure the water was coming out, making the public announcement.

I’d say Moses and Aaron were taking credit for the water coming for the rock.


God’s shorts were all bunched up. Happened to Him a lot.

I linked to the first two goyisher commentaries on it in the original thread.
As for those who responded that the Bible is fiction - sure it is, we’re talking character motivation here.

Every time I read almost any Bible passage about Moses after the Exodus, I’m reminded of Christian apologists whom I ask a very reasonable question: “Why can’t you throw a mountain into the sea, like Jesus promised?” Or why they can’t do any miracle, no matter how tiny?

After mumbling something about not tempting the Lord, which doesn’t make sense even to them when it was Jesus who made that unsolicited offer, they say something like, “If God obviously answered prayers, there would be no need for faith.”

That makes no sense to me either, but the point is that they are ignoring about two thirds of the Pentateuch, which shows the Israelites time and time again seeing God perform all these miracles, but a few hours later, if they are hungry or thirsty or see an enemy in the distance, they say “Who is this Moses character, and where is his God, and why did we ever leave Egypt?”

So I vote “I think the entire Bible is fiction.”

I’ll admit your point of view seems to be the predominant one. Which surprised me. I had always thought the interpretation of this passage was clear and had never considered there was another possible interpretation much less one that was widely held.

God is angry at Israel for their repeated lack of faith in the OT.

Thats the interpretation I grew up with - Moses didn’t give credit for the miracle to God.

If I was God, I’d prolly be much crankier about the fact that Moses and Aaron didn’t stick up for Me when their bros were all dissin, rather than the big magic song and dance they did about the water. I mean, Yahweh loves theatrics! The whole OT is full of ‘em for cryin’ out loud!

I haven’t read the OT since I was a kid, but reading the passage you quoted, it sounds like Moses just made the water come out, but without crediting God for doing it. In other words, God was asking for a cite, which–as I’ve learned from lurking on here–people can only do in their angry outdoor voice. Might explain why the Almighty seems bent out of shape. :stuck_out_tongue:

EDIT: I see Reloy3 beat me to it by a wide margin, and without the snark. My bad!

EDIT 2: and StGermain, whom he was quoting. God I fail at the interwebs tonight!