Had Ye Believed Moses
By Arlen L. Chitwood
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 Israel. (Exodus 17:6).
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
“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 . . . .”
Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly . . . . (Numbers 20:7, 8a, 11a).
There are two accounts in Scripture of Moses striking rocks with his rod, with water coming out each time. One occurred near the beginning of his ministry (during the first year), and the other occurred near the end of his ministry (either very near or during the last year, the fortieth year).
Moses had been commanded to strike the first rock, but not so with the second rock almost forty years later. Rather, Moses had been commanded to speak to this rock, and it would give forth water. But Moses, in a rebellious act, after he had gathered the congregation together, struck the rock twice rather than speaking to it.
Nevertheless, even though he had struck the rock (not once, but twice), in direct disobedience to God’s command, water still issued forth; and it issued forth abundantly.
But, though God supplied water from the rock after this fashion, in spite of that which Moses had done, his act of disobedience would carry grave consequences. Moses, because of the gravity of that which he had done, would not be allowed to lead the Israelites into the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, Moses would not even be allowed to enter this land, though he would be allowed to see it from a distance before he died (Numbers 20:8-12; 27:12-14; Deuteronomy 34:1-5).
These two incidents — one occurring near the beginning of Moses’ ministry, and the other occurring near the end of his ministry — point to two parallel incidents occurring in the history of Israel. The first, associated with Moses’ striking the first rock, occurred at the beginning of God’s dealings with the nation; and the second, associated with Moses’ striking the second rock, occurred near the end of God’s dealings with the nation, prior to His setting the nation aside to take out of the Gentiles “a people for His name” (Acts 15:14).
Then, God’s future dealings with Israel in this same respect can be seen in His subsequent dealings with the nation under Joshua, following Moses’ death. But even though this lies beyond the experiences of Moses — the entrance of the Israelites into the land under Joshua, typifying their future entrance under Jesus (Hebrews 4:8) — this was still a major subject within that which Moses had written. And not only was it a major subject dealt with by Moses, but by the Prophets that followed as well.
The entire Old Testament, beginning with Moses, is simply one continuous revelation detailing all the various facets of the person and work of Christ — past, present, and future. And all the various facets of His complete dealings with both Israel and the Church can be seen within this revelation.
It was all set forth in Moses and the Prophets first. And if a person desires to understand that which lies beyond Moses and the Prophets — New Testament revelation — he will have to continually reference the Old. And the converse of that is equally true.
Not only does the Old Testament provide light for and help explain the New, but many things have been opened up in the New (invariably, after some fashion, through Old Testament revelation) that also help explain things in the Old. One Testament has to be studied and understood in the light of the other. Scripture has to be compared with Scripture. One part of Scripture has to be understood in the light of another part or other parts of Scripture. And eternal review after this fashion — under the leadership of the indwelling Holy Spirit — is the price one must pay for an in-depth knowledge of the Word of God.
From Moses to Christ
According to 1 Corinthians 10:4, the first rock that Moses struck, with water flowing out, typified Christ being struck, with water flowing out. The striking of the rock in Exodus 17:6 reflected back on that which had previously occurred in Egypt — the decreed death of the firstborn, and the institution of the Passover. It had to do with the paschal lambs being struck in the place of the firstborn in the family. It had to do with a vicarious striking, a vicarious death.
And both the striking of the rock in the wilderness and the death of the paschal lambs in Egypt pointed to and typified the Paschal Lamb being struck almost 1,500 years later. At Christ’s first coming, the Paschal Lamb was slain by Israel, as the nation had slain the paschal lambs during Moses’ day, or as Moses had subsequently struck the rock.
And water flowing out when the rock was struck, with the people drinking from the smitten rock, would find its parallel in the paschal lambs being eaten following the lambs being slain and the blood being applied — type (Exodus 12:8-11), antitype (cf. John 6:53-56; 1 Corinthians 5:7, 8; Ephesians 6:11-18). There was a literal eating and drinking in the two types (with spiritual implications also [1 Corinthians 10:4]), pointing to a spiritual eating and drinking in the antitype. And the same thing is seen in a corresponding type, pointing to the same antitype — a literal eating of manna in the type, pointing to a spiritual eating in the antitype (Exodus 16:14ff).
And whether the type is drawn from an eating of the paschal lambs, an eating of the manna, or a drinking from the rock, it can only have to do with one thing in the antitype. Rather than a literal eating of the Living Word (an impossibility), there is a spiritual eating and drinking — an assimilation of the written Word, which is itself living.
Then, drinking His blood, as seen in John 6:53-56, can only be a reference to another facet of the same thing. It is the blood of Christ that cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7); and note an allusion to this in John 15:3, connected with Christ’s words.
Christ, speaking to His disciples, stated, “Now you are clean through the Word that I have spoken unto you.” The reference was back to His statement in verse two, and more specifically to the word “prunes.” The words in the Greek text translated “prunes” (v. 2 [kathairo]) and “clean” (v. 3 [katharos]) are cognate words, carrying the same basic meaning — “clean,” or “cleanse.” Verse two has to do with cleansing through cutting off the dross, through pruning; and verse three refers back to this cleansing.
Drinking Christ’s blood would have reference to the Word in the preceding respect. It is the Word that relates the power and capabilities of the only thing that can cleanse from sin — the blood of Christ on the mercy seat in the heavenly sanctuary (1 John 1:7-2:2). Accordingly, the reference, as it would relate to Christians today, could only be to Christ’s high priestly ministry in the sanctuary on behalf of those redeemed through His finished work at Calvary (cf. John 13:5-12).
Thus, whether eating the slain lambs, eating the manna, drinking from the rock, or drinking Christ’s blood in John 6:53-56, only the saved can be in view. An individual in the type had to first avail himself of that made possible through a slain lamb and shed blood before he could assimilate the lamb. And it is the same in the antitype.
Further, unsaved individuals cannot act in the spiritual realm. They are spiritually dead, separated from the Spirit to lead them “into all truth” (John 16:13), and completely incapable of acting in this realm. And this is the reason that the Word of God is “foolishness” to them (1 Corinthians 2:14). Any attempt by the unsaved to understand the Word of God or to act in the spiritual realm, in any capacity, is nothing more than the natural seeking to discern or to act within that which is spiritual, completely apart from the guidance that God has provided for the saved through His Holy Spirit.
It would be impossible for an unsaved person to eat of the slain Lamb, drink from the smitten Rock, or drink the blood of the slain Lamb. All of these actions lay within the spiritual realm — type or antitype. The eating and drinking, as previously stated, can only follow the appropriation of the blood (type or antitype).
These experiences can only refer (1) to saved individuals availing themselves of the written Word (for spiritual nourishment — an eating of the Lamb, an eating of the Manna, and a drinking from the Rock), and (2) to saved individuals availing themselves of the Word in the sense of John 15:3 (which, relative to sin in the life of a believer, can only have to do with Christ’s high priestly ministry and His blood on the mercy seat).
Thus, Moses striking the rock in Exodus chapter seventeen can only be a reference back to the striking, the death, of the paschal lambs in Egypt and the application of the blood of these lambs (Exodus 12:6, 7). But the water flowing out of the rock moves beyond the slaying of the paschal lambs and the application of the blood. It parallels the subsequent eating of these lambs in Exodus 12:8-11.
But what about the rock in Numbers? It was not to be struck. Rather, this rock was to be spoken to. And, even though it was struck, water still issued forth; and it issued forth abundantly.
To what aspect of the person and work of Christ does the striking of this rock speak? It can’t speak of the same thing as the first rock, for this second rock was not to be struck. But even though it doesn’t speak of the same thing, water still issued forth when this rock was struck — something that would reflect back on that seen through the first rock being struck. But still, it’s the second rock being struck, not the first. And, again, this rock was not to be struck.
Studying the striking of these two rocks in the light of that which happened at Calvary some 1,500 years later, the entire matter becomes clear. Moses struck two rocks in the type, showing two different facets of the type; and the Israelites struck one Rock (Christ) in the antitype, wherein both facets of the type can be seen.
Viewing the entire matter together after this fashion — the striking of both rocks by Moses in the wilderness, and the striking of the one Rock by the Israelites at Calvary — there are probably no other parts of Old Testament revelation that better clarify a particular aspect of that which occurred at Calvary. And the converse of that is equally true. These same events surrounding Calvary will, in turn, help explain the various things surrounding Moses striking the two rocks. Only through studying them together — the Old Testament types and the New Testament antitype — can the complete picture be seen in all its clarity and fullness.
1) The Rock in Exodus
The rock in Exodus 17:6 reflected back on that which had occurred in Egypt the night of the Passover. Both the paschal lambs being slain and the rock being struck typify Christ being slain/struck at Calvary. But that which followed — an eating of the paschal lambs, a drinking of the water, or a reference to the drinking of blood in John 6:53-56 — had to do with things beyond the death of the firstborn. They had to do, not with a past deliverance, but with a present deliverance that would be realized in the future.
And, relative to this present deliverance with a future realization, particular attention must be paid to Christ’s present ministry in the sanctuary. In the antitype of Aaron’s high priestly ministry in the earthly sanctuary, Christ is presently exercising a high priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary (following His finished work at Calvary, following the sacrifice of Himself, following Israel slaying the Paschal Lamb).
Within the symbolism of the tabernacle erected at Sinai, one year following the death of the firstborn in Egypt, Christ’s finished work at Calvary and His present work in the sanctuary are clearly depicted through sacrifices and activities occurring on two of Israel’s festivals — the Passover, and the day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:4, 5, 27-32). Though other sacrifices depict different things about the same two works of Christ, the distinction between the two, which must be seen, is clearly shown through activities occurring on these two festivals.
Following the erection of the tabernacle, the paschal lambs were to be slain and eaten in the courtyard of the tabernacle, north of the brazen altar, “before the Lord” (rather than at the Israeli homes, as in Exodus chapter twelve [Leviticus 1:11; Deuteronomy 16:1-7; cf. Job 26:7; Psalm 75:6, 7]). And blood from the slain lambs would be sprinkled on the altar rather than placed on the doorposts and lintels of the doors in the various homes.
But it was only on the Day of Atonement that blood from animal sacrifices (a bullock and a goat, both slain in the same place as the paschal lambs — north of the brazen altar, “before the Lord”) was taken by the high priest into the Holy of Holies. And this blood, unlike the blood of the paschal lambs, was sprinkled on and before the mercy seat (Leviticus 16).
Thus, blood shed on the Passover and placed on the altar and blood shed on the Day of Atonement and sprinkled on and before the mercy seat in the holy of holies speak of two entirely different works of Christ. The first points to His finished work at Calvary, but the second points to His present work as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.
Sacrifices on the Passover had to do with the death of the firstborn; and this is graphically seen in the events depicted in Exodus chapter twelve (later seen associated with the tabernacle; the home was the only place that could serve as a sanctuary while the Israelites were in Egypt, but at Sinai, with the building of the tabernacle, a national sanctuary and place where sacrifices could occur then existed).
And sacrifices on the Day of Atonement had to do with a cleansing from defilement of a people who had already availed themselves of the blood of slain paschal lambs — something graphically seen in events surrounding the high priestly ministry of Aaron in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle.
(A cleansing from defilement, of the nature that only a high priest could provide, was absolutely necessary because the one having availed himself of the blood of a slain lamb continued to reside in a body housing the old sin nature; and because be was subject to sin in this body, a necessary means of cleansing from defilement had to be provided.
And it is exactly the same in the antitype, which is the reason Christ, throughout the present dispensation, is performing a high priestly work in the heavenly sanctuary in the antitype of Aaron’s work in the earthly sanctuary.)
Christ’s blood, shed at Calvary, is presently on the mercy seat in the heavenly sanctuary. And this blood on the mercy seat allows Christ to exercise a high priestly ministry for the ones having previously availed themselves of the provision that this same blood shed at Calvary makes possible, i.e., for the ones having believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. And this present ministry of Christ is with a view to present and future aspects of salvation (salvation of the soul), not the past aspect of salvation (salvation of the spirit).
And it is the same with the water issuing forth from the rock in Exodus 17:6. This had to do with things beyond the events of Exodus chapter twelve, things beyond the death of the firstborn. According to 1 Corinthians 10:4, all of the Israelites drank from this rock — the same ones who had previously appropriated the blood of the paschal lambs slain in Egypt. And a drinking from the rock had to do with present and future aspects of their deliverance as they moved toward the goal of their calling — entrance into the land set before them.
But still, there was a striking of the rock to produce the flow of water; and this could only reflect back on previous events in Egypt surrounding the slaying of the paschal lambs. Israel had been commanded to slay the paschal lambs in Egypt, and Moses had been commanded to strike the rock in the wilderness about a month later.
Now, the question: If God had commanded His people to slay the paschal lambs and strike the rock, why, some fifteen hundred years later, when the Jewish people slew the Paschal Lamb in the antitype, struck the Rock in the antitype, were they so spoken against?
The paschal lamb was given to Israel, and it was given to Israel to be slain, for a purpose. Existing controversy in the world today over who slew Christ is easily settled from Scripture. Christ was the Paschal Lamb, and Israel alone could slay this Lamb. Further, Scripture plainly attributes this act to Israel (Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-15; 7:52).
The Paschal Lamb was to be slain, the Rock was to be struck. God had commanded that this be done in the two types. This is why the paschal lamb was given to Israel! It was given to the Jewish people to be slain! Thus, when Israel slew the Lamb, struck the Rock in the antitype — even though they were slaying a Man (which would be immaterial, for the Old Testament plainly taught that a Man would die in this capacity [cf. Genesis 3:6; 4:8; 22:2; Isaiah 53:1ff]) — again, why were they so spoken against?
Note Peter’s and Stephen’s words to the Jewish people following their slaying the Lamb, following their striking the Rock:
Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death. (Acts 2:23)
Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers. (Acts 7:52)
Israel slew the Lamb, struck the Rock, in accordance with God’s command. Yet, they are spoken against for this act. How can this be? How can Israel be guilty of doing this “by wicked hands”? Or, how can the Israelites be called “murderers” for this act?
And, beyond that, the nation is presently looked upon as being unclean in God’s sight because of this act. How could God look upon the Jewish people in this manner if they did that which He had commanded them to do?
(Note in the account dealing with the Israelites touching a dead body, producing uncleanness — forming a type — Israel is seen as being unclean through contact with the dead body of her Messiah. And, as the Israelite who touched a dead body could be cleansed only on the third day or the seventh day [Numbers 19:11ff], so with Israel.
The Jewish people will be cleansed from their defilement only on the third day [the third one-thousand-year period] dating from events surrounding Calvary, or on the seventh day [the seventh one-thousand-year period] dating from events surrounding the earth’s restoration and man’s beginning.)
Actually, there can be no such thing as following God’s command and being declared guilty after this fashion. There’s far more involved than Israel simply slaying the Paschal Lamb, striking the Rock, in accordance with God’s command. And that is seen in events surrounding Moses striking the second Rock toward the end of his ministry.
2) The Rock in Numbers
The rock brought into view toward the end of Moses’ ministry was not to be struck, as the first rock, seen near the beginning of His ministry. Rather, God clearly commanded Moses to speak to this rock. And through this process — speaking to the rock rather than striking the rock — it would give forth water.
And note the place that the striking of this rock occupies in Scripture. It is set immediately following the type dealing with an Israelite touching a dead body and being unclean.
The account of uncleanness through contact with a dead body is seen in chapter nineteen; and the account of Moses striking the rock near the end of his ministry, in violation of God’s command to “speak to the rock,” is in the next chapter, chapter twenty.
Then, something additional is also seen in this section of Scripture. In chapter twenty-one there is the account of Moses placing a brazen serpent on a pole for all those who had been bitten by serpents (because of sin) to see (vv. 5ff). And Christ, in John 3:14, called attention to this type and associated it with His being lifted up at Calvary. It was look and live in the type, and it is look and live in the antitype.
But the type goes beyond that and really deals more centrally with another issue. Those in the type who were dying because of the snake bites were individuals who had previously appropriated the blood of the paschal lambs, whether in Egypt or during the intervening forty years when the yearly feast was kept (note that events in these chapters occur near the end of this forty-year period). Thus, the type really deals centrally with the saved rather than with the unsaved, though it can be used relative to the unsaved.
Any part of the Word of God always has a primary interpretation; but any part, invariably, also has secondary applications as well. And the account of sin in the camp of Israel in Numbers chapter twenty-one is one of the numerous such instances in Scripture.
The reference to the brazen serpent being placed on a pole and lifted up can only refer to one thing — Christ being placed on the Cross and lifted up. But beyond that matters begin to broaden. There is a preaching of the Cross for the unsaved (1 Corinthians 2:2; 15:3), and there is a preaching of the Cross for the saved (1 Corinthians 1:18; cf. Matthew 16:24ff).
Because of Christ’s finished work at Calvary — dying as the Paschal Lamb, shedding His blood — unsaved man, “dead in trespasses and sins,” can look and live (realize the salvation of his spirit). He can be eternally saved. And because this same blood is presently on the mercy seat in the heavenly sanctuary, with Christ exercising the office of High Priest, saved man — one who has “passed from death unto life,” but is unclean through sin — can look and live (ultimately realize the salvation of his soul). He can be cleansed from defilement encountered during his pilgrim walk, realizing the goal of a calling beyond his presently possessed eternal salvation — that of ultimately occupying a position as co-heir with Christ in the kingdom.
This whole section in the book of Numbers (chapters 19-21) has to do with disobedience, rejection, and death, with life (through obedience) seen to follow.
In chapter nineteen there is uncleanness and death (uncleanness wrought through contact with a dead body), in chapter twenty there is disobedience through striking the second rock, and in chapter twenty-one disobedience is again seen through the people speaking “against God, and against Moses” (v. 5).
But life can follow beyond the disobedience, rejection, and death. Provision has been made through the One having been lifted up. As in the type, so in the antitype — it is look and live.
All of this ties together, dealing with the same matter. One facet is seen in chapter nineteen, another facet is seen in chapter twenty, and another facet is seen in chapter twenty-one. This is a case of three different successive types presenting different facets of the same picture and shedding light on one another.
And that is the way matters exist in biblical interpretation. Scripture has been structured a certain way; and, in order to correctly understand and grasp God’s revelation to man, it has to be viewed and studied after the manner in which God gave it to man. Alternate means for correctly grasping and understanding the Word of God no more exist than do alternate means exist for salvation, other than through faith in Christ.
Thus, Moses striking the rock in Numbers 20:11, in direct disobedience to God’s command, both textually and contextually, has to do with Israel’s crucifixion of her Messiah. But something is in view about the crucifixion that is completely different than that revealed by Moses striking the rock in Exodus 17:6. And this can easily be seen through comparing the type with the antitype.
Striking the Rock Twice
Two different Hebrew words are used for “rock” in Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:8, 11. Both words mean “rock,” but the word used in Numbers, drawing from the root form of the word, carries a thought which the word used in Exodus doesn’t carry. The word used in Numbers carries the thought of “height,” or “elevation,” something not seen at all in the Hebrew word used for “rock” in Exodus.
The rock in Exodus which Moses struck depicts Christ as the lowly One, the suffering Servant, the One Who would be struck and would die. But the rock that Moses struck in Numbers, carrying the thought of “height” or “elevation,” depicts Christ as the exalted One, the One Who would rule and reign.
This whole overall thought was at the heart of John the Baptist’s question in Matthew 11:3, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
(Because both a suffering and a reigning Messiah are seen in the Old Testament, many Jews of John’s day looked for two Messiahs to appear — one from the house of Joseph, who would suffer and die; and another from the house of David, who would rule and reign. John’s question seems to allude to this thought, prevalent in his day.)
Christ’s response though clearly revealed which rock in the Old Testament was in view. It was the one in Numbers, for the signs that He was performing (vv. 4-6) had to do with the exalted One and His kingdom, not with the lowly One and Calvary.
Christ was born King, He offered the kingdom of the heavens to Israel, and it was in a regal capacity that He was rejected, tried by Pilate, and crucified. He presented Himself to Israel as the Rock in Numbers, not as the Rock in Exodus (Matthew 2:2; 4:17; 21:38; 22:2-7).
When Pilate brought Jesus forth to the Jewish people, having found “no fault” in Him, he announced to them, “Behold your King.” And the caption that Pilate placed above His head at the time of the crucifixion read, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37; John 18:33-38; 19:14).
Israel, as Moses in Numbers, not only struck the Rock that had to do with “height,” “elevation,” but Israel, as Moses, also struck this Rock in direct disobedience to God’s command. And, as Moses struck the rock twice in his day, so did Israel strike the Rock 1,500 years later in the same adamant manner. The Jewish people, to insure Jesus’ crucifixion, even went so far as to claim allegiance to a pagan Gentile ruler — “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).
And, as Moses was denied entrance into the land for his act in the type, the same thing is seen relative to Israel in the antitype. Because of Israel’s rejection of the proffered kingdom, their rejection of the nation’s King, and their slaying the One Whom they knew to be “the heir,” the kingdom was taken from Israel (Matthew 21:38-43).
But the Jewish people, though they struck Christ in the antitype of the Rock in Numbers, they, in the process, struck Him in the antitype of the Rock in Exodus as well. They not only slew their King, but they also slew the Paschal Lamb (John 1:29) — an act for which no condemnation could ever be leveled against the nation.
However, the fact remains. Christ presented Himself to Israel as the nation’s Deliverer in relation to regal activities, not in relation to activities surrounding Calvary. And it was in this capacity that Israel struck the Rock. They slew their King, though, in the process, they also slew the Lamb.
The Jewish people, typically, struck the Rock in Exodus at the very beginning of God’s dealings with the nation. They slew the paschal lambs in Egypt. And this would correspond to Moses striking this Rock near the beginning of his ministry.
Then, the Jewish people struck the Rock in Numbers near the end of God’s dealings with the nation, though this also reflected back on that associated with the striking of the first Rock (the death of the paschal lambs). They, in the process, slew the Paschal Lamb as well. And it was the same with Moses. He struck the rock in Numbers near the end of his ministry, an act that also reflected back on that associated with his striking the first Rock.
And “water” issued forth from both Rocks, but Scripture specifically calls attention to water issuing forth abundantly when the Rock in Numbers was struck.
There is a Jewish Savior from Whom water will abundantly flow forth for all who look to the One Who has been lifted up, seen in Numbers 21:8, 9; John 12:32. It was look and live in the type, and it is look and live in the antitype.