11 Minute Read


Numbers 19:1–20:29
Luke 1:1-25
Psalm 56:1-13
Proverbs 11:8


Numbers 20:8 (CSB): “Take the staff and assemble the community. You and your brother Aaron are to speak to the rock while they watch, and it will yield its water. You will bring out water for them from the rock and provide drink for the community and their livestock.”


God apparently loves pictures. It seems that He enjoyed creating events in the Old Testament that painted a vivid picture of something that wouldn’t be a reality until the New Testament.

If you really want to dig into this, there’s actually something called “Biblical Typology.” It is based upon the understanding that the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) had one Author (God) and so we expect to see a consistent message throughout. Further, since Jesus came to initiate the New Covenant, we expect to see things in the Old Testament that anticipated the New Testament.

Biblical Typology says that the Old Testament is filled with pictures (types) of New Testament realities. For example, the first Passover (Exodus 12) is a picture (type) of salvation since a death and the shedding of blood was required to be protected from the angel of death just as Jesus death and blood protect us from eternal death (separation from God in Hell). Moses was a picture (type) of Jesus since he led God’s people out of slavery and into a relationship with their God.

On and on we could go about how people and events in the Old Testament provided a powerful picture (type) of a New Testament reality.

Well, this information helps us to understand what we read in Numbers 20. In that chapter, we read that God told Moses to speak to the rock, Moses hits the rock, water comes out of the rock, and God forbids Moses from going into the Promised Land because of this one act.

Why? Was it purely disobedience that got Moses in trouble? Or was there something else?

I think there was something else.

I believe the reason God became so upset at Moses was because God wanted to create a picture that pointed to a New Testament reality … and Moses broke the picture.

Let me unpack it for you…

In Exodus 17, we read that the people of Israel camped at a place called Rephidim, but there wasn’t any water there. The people were thirsty and if they didn’t find water, quickly, they were going to die of dehydration.

So, after the Israelites grumbled (they were very good at grumbling), God spoke to Moses and gave him a remedy for the problem.

Exodus 17:5-6 (CSB): “The LORD answered Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.’ Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.”

God told Moses to take his staff and hit the rock. Water would flow and the people of Israel could satisfy their thirst.

The rock and the water are an Old Testament picture (type) of a New Testament reality.

Fortunately, we don’t need to guess what the New Testament reality is. It is plainly given to us.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (CSB): “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.” (emphasis mine)

Did you see that?! We are plainly told that the rock was Jesus.

Therefore, the water that came from that rock was a picture of the “spiritual drink” that comes from Jesus. The water in Exodus 17 pictures the life-giving nourishment that believers receive from Jesus, our Rock.

Now, notice above that in Exodus 17, God told Moses to hit the rock. What is that a picture of? It seems to point to the fact that the nourishment and enjoyment we get from our relationship with Jesus came at a cost. Jesus was struck! It points to His crucifixion and death. We benefit from His punishment.

Isaiah 53:5 (CSB): “But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.”

Now, let’s look at Numbers 20. We come again to a time when the Israelites were thirsty and there was no water. God told Moses how the problem could be remedied.

But, this time, he was not to hit the rock. He was told to speak to it.

Numbers 20:8 (CSB): “Take the staff and assemble the community. You and your brother Aaron are to speak to the rock while they watch, and it will yield its water. You will bring out water for them from the rock and provide drink for the community and their livestock.”

Moses was told to simply speak to the rock. When he did, the water would flow which would quench the thirst of every single Israelite who drank from that water.

What is this a picture of? Well, Jesus is still the rock and the water is still the life-giving nourishment that followers-of-Jesus gain from their relationship with Him.

But, this second instance was not intended to picture Jesus’ abuse and death on our behalf. This second rock was to picture how a believer, a saved follower-of-Jesus, continues to get the life-giving nourishment from Jesus simply by speaking with him in prayer.

It pictured how we are originally nourished by the cross of Jesus. But, from that point on, we are nourished by relationship with Jesus.

So, God was calling upon Moses to paint an Old Testament picture of a New Testament reality. God told Moses to speak to the rock to satisfy the thirst of the parched Israelites. This would provide a powerful picture of a New Testament reality.

Did Moses speak to the rock this time, as God told him?

Numbers 20:9-11 (CSB): “So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence just as he had commanded him. Moses and Aaron summoned the assembly in front of the rock, and Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you?’ Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff, so that abundant water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.”

Moses hit the rock instead of speaking to it. Not only did he disobey God, he also broke God’s picture!

God cared about the Israelites so He was going to give them water. But, He wanted the way in which they received that water to reveal how Jesus would continue to satisfy the spiritual thirst of those who had trusted in Him, after the work of the cross had already been applied to their hearts.

When Moses hit this second rock the same way he hit the first rock, he was picturing how Christ would have to be mistreated and killed more than once for the spiritual nourishment of believers. That is distorted theology! Christ only had to die once for all!

Romans 6:10 (CSB): “For the death he died, he died to sin once for all time; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”

In Moses’ disobedience, as he struck the rock, he was giving a horribly flawed theology. And that is a serious offence! We aren’t surprised when he read how God responded so decisively to this intentionally broken picture.

Numbers 20:12-13 (CSB) “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust me to demonstrate my holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.’ These are the Waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD, and he demonstrated his holiness to them.”

Since Moses broke God’s picture, thereby conveying a heretical theology, God dished out a serious punishment – Moses and Aaron would die without ever being able to step foot into the Promised Land.

In fact, we are told in the book of Deuteronomy that at God’s command, Moses went up to the top of Mt. Nebo and viewed the Promised Land. But, on that mountaintop, God took his life and he died … for breaking God’s picture.

Deuteronomy 34:1-6 (CSB): “Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which faces Jericho, and the LORD showed him all the land: Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev, and the plain in the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. The LORD then said to him, ‘This is the land I promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “I will give it to your descendants.” I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you will not cross into it.’ So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the LORD’s word. He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab facing Beth-peor, and no one to this day knows where his grave is.”

In the following video that I took while atop Masada (on the western side of the Dead Sea), you can see the mountains in the background (on the eastern side of the Dead Sea). It would have been on that mountain range that Moses viewed the Promised Land and then breathed his last.


If the presence of pictures (types) in the Old Testament is something new to you, I would encourage you to explore it. As you read through the Old Testament, see if you can identify some of the pictures. You may even want to purchase a book or surf the net for “Biblical Typology.” This will only deepen your love for God’s Word, and empress upon you that God is the only explanation for the incredible continuity of the Old and New Testament.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the “Leave a Reply” section below.