Questions From Readers
▪ What was Moses’ error that cost him the privilege of entering the Promised Land? Was it that he hit the rock instead of just speaking to it or that he failed to glorify Jehovah God?
It seems that Moses’ error was more than just that he hit the rock instead of speaking to it, as God had directed.
Near the end of 40 years of wandering, the Israelites camped at Kadesh-barnea in the wilderness of Zin (or, Paran). They had camped there decades earlier, likely because three springs in the area produce a verdant oasis, such as seen in the accompanying photograph. On this occasion, though, water was scarce, which may have meant that the people could not find much food. So they quarreled with Moses, Jehovah’s representative, saying: “Why have you conducted us up out of Egypt to bring us into this evil place? It is no place of seed and figs and vines and pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”—Numbers 20:5.
Then God told Moses and Aaron: “Take the rod and call the assembly together, . . . and you must speak to the crag before their eyes that it may indeed give its water; and you must bring out water for them from the crag and give the assembly and their beasts of burden drink.” (Numbers 20:8) What happened next?
“Moses and Aaron called the congregation together before the crag, and he proceeded to say to them: ‘Hear, now, you rebels! Is it from this crag that we shall bring out water for you?’ With that Moses lifted his hand up and struck the crag with his rod twice; and much water began to come out.”—Numbers 20:10, 11.
Some have noted that God directed Moses and Aaron to “speak to the crag,” but they “struck the crag.” Did this difference so displease Jehovah that he told Moses and Aaron that He would not permit them to lead Israel into the Promised Land?
It does not seem so. The fact is that just months after the Exodus, the people had first complained over lack of water. This was near Mount Sinai (Horeb), at a place that came to be called Meribah (in the area seen below). Note what God told Moses on that occasion: “I am standing before you there on the rock in Horeb. And you must strike on the rock, and water must come out of it, and the people must drink it.” (Exodus 17:2-7; 33:6) So when, at Kadesh, Moses was told to speak to the rock, he might have been inclined to do what he had earlier done at God’s direction, even if God meant that speaking to the rock would be sufficient.
It seems that something more led to God’s judgment of Moses and Aaron. What might that have been? Moses said to the quarrelsome people: “Is it from this crag that we shall bring out water for you?” Psalm 106:33 gives us insight into this, for it shows that Moses acted out of a bitter spirit and that he ‘spoke rashly with his lips.’ With angry words, he called attention to himself and Aaron rather than to the One who really could miraculously provide water. Thus, just before Moses died at the border of the Promised Land, God referred to the incident at Kadesh-barnea and indicated that Moses’ error was that he failed to ‘sanctify God before the eyes of the people.’—Numbers 27:12-14.
We can take a lesson from this. While it certainly is important to restrain ourselves from angry acts, it is equally vital to control our spirit, particularly when others fall short. If we let ourselves become overly disturbed, we might begin to view God’s servants on a human basis, rather than recognizing that they still are God’s “sheep.” True, they are imperfect and may do irritating things, but they are “his people and the sheep of his pasturage.” (Psalm 100:3) God let his Son die for such ones, so should we not strive to be patient with them, focusing less on how we feel or are affected and more on their standing with God?
[Pictures on page 31]
Springtime at oasis around one of the springs in the area of Kadesh-barnea
Photos, pages 10, 31: Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.