(Masʹsah) [Testing; Trial].
One of the names for the place near Rephidim where the Israelites received a miraculous supply of water. As instructed by Jehovah, Moses and some of the older men of Israel went to the rock in Horeb. There Moses struck the rock. The water that then began to issue forth flowed as a river there in the wilderness. Moses subsequently named the place Massah (meaning “Testing; Trial”) because the Israelites had put Jehovah to the test by their faithless murmuring, and on account of their quarreling, he called it Meribah (meaning “Quarreling”).—Ex 17:1-7; Ps 105:41.
Shortly before his death Moses warned Israel not to put Jehovah to the test as they had done at Massah. (De 6:16; see also De 9:22.) Then, in blessing Israel, he again took note of this event, indicating that it had resulted in testing Levi. (De 33:8) In this case Levi may mean the heads of the tribe, that is, Moses and Aaron.
Later, the psalmist admonished the Israelites not to harden their hearts like the generation that wandered in the wilderness. His reference to Meribah and Massah evidently alludes to Israel’s murmuring for water at Rephidim, the incident being representative of their faithless course throughout the entire 40-year period. (Ps 95:8-11) This appears to be the thought conveyed by the quotation of the psalmist’s words (from the Greek Septuagint) found at Hebrews chapter 3: “Do not harden your hearts as on the occasion of causing bitter anger [Meribah], as in the day of making the test [Massah] in the wilderness, in which your forefathers made a test of me with a trial, and yet they had seen my works for forty years [literally, “and they saw my works forty years”].” (Heb 3:8, 9) Both Psalm 95:8 and Hebrews 3:8 may also include Israel’s later murmuring for water at the Meribah in the Kadesh area.—Nu 20:1-13.