Day 68: The Waters of Meribah

Numbers 19:1-22 Rituals of purification are discussed here, beginning with the holocaust of a red heifer. (MOOOO) Because it was an atonement rite that took place outside the camp, some Church Fathers saw this as a TYPE of Christ (TYPOLOGY!!), whose redemptive sacrificial Death on the Cross occurred outside the walls of Jerusalem. The ritual for purification of one who had touched a dead body involved a cleansing with water; although hygiene might have been a partial consideration, the spirit behind this law was linked to the need for a profound respect for God’s power over life and death.


Ch 20:1-13 The Exodus account (cf. Ex 17:1-17) faults the people for LOSING FAITH AND DEMANDING A MIRACLE, whereas in Numbers Moses is reproached for having struck the rock twice in anger to draw the water rather than TELLING the rock to bring out water as God had ordered; for this transgression God did not allow Moses or Aaron to enter the Promised Land. The water from the rock prefigures (TYPOLOGY!!) the “living water” of Baptism symbolized by the water and Blood flowing from Christ’s open side on the Cross. (CCC 694, 2119)


Ch 20:14-21 The Edomites were descendants of Esau, who was Jacob/Israel’s twin brother and the one from whom he obtained the birthright (FOR BEANS!!). Their enmity was so great, however, that repeated requests to the king of Edom to allow the Israelites to pass peacefully through the land were denied, forcing a major detour.


Ch 20:22-29 Aaron was “gathered to his people,” a euphemism for death that hints at the afterlife and suggests a bond among the faithful who had died. His position as high priest was ceremoniously transferred to his son Eleazar.


Deuteronomy 21:22 This teaching may explain why the Jewish authorities wanted the Roman centurions to break the legs of Christ on the Cross as well as those crucified with him: so that they might die and be taken down from the crosses before nightfall (cf. Jn 19:31-33). To leave a body hanging overnight would have rendered the entire city unclean, thus making the celebration of Passover illicit.


Psalm 100

In this psalm St. John Paul II identified seven “imperatives [that] called the faithful community to celebrate and worship the God of love and of the covenant.” These imperatives include:

  1. “Extol”

  2. “Serve”

  3. “Come before”

  4. “Acknowledge”

  5. “Enter His Gates”

  6. “Praise Him”

  7. “Bless Him”

These incisive phrases capture both the dispositions and the essential ways of addressing God, especially in liturgical prayer. Appropriately, the psalm ends with a rousing exaltation of God, expressed in thanksgiving and adoration for his benevolence, his steadfast love, and his faithfulness. (Cf. St. John Paul II, General Audience, January 8, 2003)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)


Moses and Water from the Rock

  • The next forty years in the wilderness will become a time of formation for the younger generation before they enter the Promised Land.

  • The hope is that they will learn from their parents’ mistakes and begin to trust God based on his previous words and deeds.

  • Israel’s refusal to trust God is paralleled in an incident later in their wilderness wanderings. In the wilderness of Zin, the people are once again unable to find water.

  • They bitterly repeat their complaint against Moses for bringing them out of Egypt and into the wilderness (Nm 20:3-5).

  • Moses and Aaron intercede before God in the tabernacle, and the Lord responds: Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water; so you shall bring water out of the rock for them. (Nm 20:8; emphasis added)

  • Earlier in Exodus on their way to Sinai, Israel ran out of water; the people had complained, and even prepared to stone Moses.

  • That time, God had instructed Moses to strike the rock with his rod, and when Moses did so, water flowed (Ex 17:1-7).

  • This second time around, however, Moses is to bring the staff that had once struck the rock, but rather than striking the rock, he is simply to speak a word of command and the rock will yield water for the people.

  • Moses gathers the assembly, saying, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” (Nm 20:10).

  • Moses then lifts up his hand and strikes the rock twice with his rod, and abundant water flows out.

  • However, Moses has struck a wrong chord with God, for he is told: Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them. (Nm 20:12)

  • Moses is accused of failing to “believe” God, just as Israel failed to “believe” God during the bad report of the ten spies.

  • As a result, Moses, too, will be barred from entering the Promised Land.

  • Not entering the Promised Land seems a severe punishment for such a faithful leader.

  • But under the pressure of Israel’s complaining, Moses has turned his focus from defending God to vindicating himself and his leadership.

  • This is manifest when Moses speaks to the congregation at the rock.

  • Moses makes no mention that the gift of water comes from Yahweh, instead asking the congregation rhetorically if “we” can bring forth water from the rock—the “we” being Moses and Aaron.

  • Moses is seeking to prove his and Aaron’s worthiness and goodness rather than God’s.

  • Moses is forgetting that while he leads in God’s name, ALL THE GLORY belongs to God.

  • Additionally, Moses does not obey God.

  • Rather than speaking, he strikes the rock twice.

  • Moses was not supposed to strike the rock at all.

  • Moses fails to follow God’s instructions, and God reveals this as a failure of faith, “because you did not believe in me” (Nm 20:12).

  • Now Moses shares the fate of the people and will be unable to enter the good land promised by God.


Christ the Rock

  • The image of water from the rock occurs in the story of the Exodus and the Desert Wanderings and is taken up again after the Temple is destroyed, when the prophet Ezekiel has a vision of an ever-growing stream of water pouring out of the stone of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem (Ez 47).

  • The Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorated Israel’s wilderness wanderings and the Presence of God in the tabernacle, included a rite in which the priests of the Temple brought water from the Pool of Siloam and poured it on the steps of the Temple as a reminder of Exodus’ water from the rock and of Ezekiel’s vision.

  • During this feast, Jesus, having made clear that he is the true temple (Jn 2:13-22), proclaims that “living water” will flow from the heart of those who believe in him (Jn 7:37-39).

  • John will punctuate this when he describes Jesus’ heart gushing forth “blood and water” at the crucifixion (Jn 19:34), a sign that the waters of baptism have been unsealed.

  • Thus John says, “This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree” (1 Jn 5:6-8).

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)



Key Event 27: Moses Strikes the Rock (Numbers 20:1-13)

In response to Israel’s thirst, God directs Moses to strike a rock, and water gushes forth (Ex 17). Later, in a similar situation, God instructs Moses to “tell” the rock to yield its water (Num 20), but Moses instead strikes the rock twice, seemingly because of a lapse of faith (Num 20:12). The water flowing from the rock PREFIGURES (TYPOLOGY!!) the gift of the Holy Spirit, which flows from the crucified and risen Jesus (see Jn 7:37-38, 19:34; 1 Cor 10:4)

Numbers 19:

  • Take that red heifer and burn the entirety of it and then throw three things upon it: cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet stuff

  • The hyssop is important

  • Why?

  • Later on, it is hyssop that Jesus Christ, on the Cross, is offered wine on a sponge stuck on a sprig of HYSSOP

  • This isn’t the first time we have seen Hyssop

  • Where have we seen Hyssop before?

  • At PASSOVER, the people of Israel painted the lintels and doorposts of their homes with THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB with HYSSOP

  • So the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is on the Cross and his blood is pouring out of Him, and that sprig of HYSSOP is reached up to HIM

  • This is a connection between PASSOVER and the CRUCIFIXION

  • Also the ceremony of the red heifer has hyssop

  • We see this and think JESUS

  • The ceremony and the red heifer is ALL ABOUT FORGIVENESS

  • It is all about going from UNCLEAN TO BEING MADE CLEAN

  • It is about being ESTRANGED from the community to BEING BROUGHT BACK INTO THE COMMUNITY

  • Later in Ch 19 it talks about anyone touching the dead being unclean

  • These rules make so much sense and are wise

  • There could be a plague, an illness that you could catch that could kill you

  • So you had to wait a while

  • In the process of waiting, you had to wash yourself to be sanitary

  • But also there was being CEREMONIALLY CLEAN

  • One of the things that is IMPORTANT was that you could walk over a grave and NOT KNOW IT

  • Later on in the GOSPELS, Jesus will say, “You Pharisees are whitewashed tombs. On the outside, you seem clean and pure. But inside you are full of dead men’s bones.”

  • This has a connection to Numbers where there is the instruction about coming into contact with even the top of the grave, walking upon it, and you are now unclean

  • This is a foreshadowing to what Jesus talks about things on the outside may SEEM CLEAN but interiorly THEY ARE NOT CLEAN IN THE HEART

  • In Numbers, remember we keep switching between THE NARRATIVE and RULES/LAWS

  • So Numbers 19: RULES

  • Numbers 20: THE NARRATIVE

  • This story is CRITICAL

  • The people of Israel are at the wilderness of Zin and they have no water

  • They complain to Moses and Aaron

  • God says to Moses, “Speak to this rock in the front of the congregation and I will pour forth water for the entire congregation as well as for their animals.”

  • What does Moses do?

  • He loses his temper

  • Instead of SPEAKING TO THE ROCK and having an incredible MIRACLE in front of everyone, HE STRIKES THE ROCK TWICE IN ANGER

  • IT CHANGES EVERYTHING

  • Because Moses and Aaron do this, God tells them that they will not gain their inheritance from God and they will not enter the Promised Land

  • This seems REALLY UNFAIR (Ok, raise your hand if you think life is fair at this point? Anyone? Ooh I thought I saw a hand back there….no nevermind)

  • Here is Moses and from the beginning he has been pretty faithful

  • Moses has been the one delivering God’s message SO CLEARLY, SO WELL, AND SO FAITHFULLY

  • Moses has been INTERCEDING to God on the Israelites’ behalf

  • Moses has been bringing GOD’S WORDS to the people

  • And it is this lapse THAT IS SO SERIOUS

  • Why So Serious? (hehehehehehhe I’ve been waiting to find the perfect moment to say that)

  • Because we recognize that the actions of a leader DO NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT, but they ARE JUDGED IN A DIFFERENT SENSE

  • This sense is that God told Moses, “You were there to witness to my righteousness. You were there to witness to my mercy and my justice. And you didn’t. You acted in anger in front of everybody. Instead of it being CLEARLY a miracle, now it just looks like you hit a rock and water came forth.”

  • We will see later that St. Paul said “And the Rock in the wilderness was Christ.”

  • Here is Moses in this mysterious way striking this SYMBOL that WAS JESUS

  • Now we see HOW SERIOUS THIS WAS

  • Before the death of Aaron, we have this passage of the Israelites being refused by the Edomites

  • Who were the Edomites? The descendants of Esau!

  • Remember Esau? Jacob’s twin brother?

  • Jacob got the birthright from Esau (FOR BEANS!! Man I hope those were some really delicious beans…..and I hate beans)

  • So the Israelites were like, “Hey we’re family. We’re long lost cousins. Can we go through your land? We are not going to leave the highway.”

  • The Edomites did not believe them

  • They thought if the Israelites came through their land, they would try and conquer Edom so they refused them passage and threatened to destroy the Israelites

  • It just shows the depth to which BROKENNESS has entered this family

  • Deuteronomy 21: Part of us can see these laws can be so challenging

  • At the same time, THESE LAWS ARE SO WISE

  • Keep this in mind

  • When it says that when you go out to war against your enemies and you see a beautiful woman of your enemy, you can take her for your wife

  • What the heck? Why?

  • That’s how life was back then

  • BUT, here is how God’s Word comes into the particular reality of life

  • God says that they will treat her in a PARTICULAR WAY

  • She is NOT PROPERTY

  • She is NOT THEIR CAPTIVE

  • She is NOT THEIR SLAVE

  • First, she will shave her hair and trim her nails, a sign of LEAVING BEHIND HER OLD LIFE AND ENTERING THIS NEW LIFE

  • Then she will remove the clothes of her CAPTIVITY and remain in their house, SO SHE IS NOT A SLAVE

  • If you take this woman into your home and make her your wife, YOU ARE NOW FAMILY

  • SHE IS NOT SECOND CLASS IN YOUR HOME

  • She will MOURN HER FATHER AND HER MOTHER for a FULL MONTH

  • YOU WILL GIVE HER TIME, just like you would give anyone you cared about, TO MOURN

  • If you find her displeasing, (this is bothersome language to be sure) you can divorce her BUT YOU WILL NOT SELL HER FOR MONEY….SHE IS NOT YOUR SLAVE, SHE WAS YOUR WIFE

  • You WILL NOT TREAT HER BRUTALLY

  • You WILL NOT TREAT HER POORLY

  • If you divorce her, you will divorce her as a FULLY EQUAL MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY

  • Do you see what is happening here?

  • We MUST RECOGNIZE that our HEARTS ARE BROKEN

  • WE ARE A MESS

  • Here is the limitation: You are going to want to take a beautiful captive woman as yours

  • BUT IF YOU DO, you actually HAVE TO TAKE HER AS YOUR WIFE

  • NOT AS A SLAVE

  • NOT AS A PROSTITUTE

  • MAKE HER YOUR FULL WIFE

  • The wisdom here is that God’s Word is MEETING OUR BROKENNESS

  • Even if a person has TWO WIVES, and they know they should only marry one, but if they have more than one wife and one is loved and one is unloved (Ok this is going to get a bit confusing) If the one wife who is loved gives birth to the SECOND SON, you cannot say, “Well I love this second son’s mother MORE so I am going to give HIM the inheritance.”

  • NOPE!

  • The LAW is this: The FIRSTBORN son gets the inheritance...THAT’S IT

  • Regardless of how you feel

  • Regardless of what your temptation is going to be to do

  • THIS IS HOW IT IS DONE

  • The last two bits have to do with a rebellious son who could ultimately be stoned to death

  • What is this?

  • When it comes to LAWS, there are some punishments that are ORIENTED TOWARDS REMEDY

  • Here is the punishment, and now you are not going to do that again

  • You have been changed INTERIORLY

  • There are OTHER punishments that are ORIENTED TOWARDS JUSTICE

  • Finally, there are OTHER punishments that are DETERRENTS

  • This is one of those

  • Talking about a STUBBORN and REBELLIOUS SON (Hey, I’ve been there) even though he has been CORRECTED and CHASTENED will STILL not HEED TO HIS PARENTS

  • This Son will be STONED TO DEATH

  • That is, ALL ISRAEL SHALL HEAR OF THIS AND FEAR THE LORD

  • We might say “That’s not wise. That’s not fair. That isn’t going to work”

  • Nevertheless, THAT IS WHY IT EXISTS, as a DETERRENT

  • The last thing is: If a man is committed to sin and deserving of death, you put him to DEATH

  • You hang him on a tree, his body SHALL NOT REMAIN OVERNIGHT ON THE TREE AND YOU MUST BURY HIM

  • This is JUSTICE and MERCY meeting

  • You may not see it this way

  • If someone does something deserving of death and is executed (Capital Punishment) justly, THAT IS JUSTICE

  • But also, you are not going to just leave his body there for animals to tear his body apart and humiliate him and treat him shamefully

  • You are going to BURY HIM BEFORE NIGHTFALL

  • THAT IS MERCY

  • This is God’s Word coming into a BRUTAL AND VIOLENT WORLD and making it SLIGHTLY LESS BRUTAL and SLIGHTLY LESS VIOLENT

  • Whenever we read all these commandments, we recognize that this is God’s Word coming into a BRUTAL and VICIOUS world and saying, “Let’s make it a little less brutal, a little less vicious.”

  • For cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree

  • Wow!

  • Those words point to Jesus

  • In fact, St. Paul comments on Deuteronomy 21 in Galatians 3: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.”

  • And St. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21: “For it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

  • He has done this so that the Blessing of Abraham may come upon us Gentiles in Christ Jesus

  • So that we might receive the promise of Spirit THROUGH FAITH

  • Jesus became CURSED because ACCURSED IS ANYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE

  • Jesus took THE CURSE THAT BELONGS TO US, and PUT IT ON HIMSELF

  • So as to BRING US INTO THE BLESSING

  • These words are going to come to pass IN JESUS SO POWERFULLY, SO FULLY, AND SO BEAUTIFULLY

  • Accursed is anyone who hangs on a tree

  • Here is Jesus who LETS HIMSELF be hung on a tree

  • He lets himself ACCEPT THE CURSE so that YOU AND I COULD RECEIVE THE FREEDOM

  • SO THAT YOU AND I COULD RECEIVE THE BLESSING

  • SUCH A GIFT!

  • Pray for Fr. Mike

  • Pray for each other

  • Keep on moving on, moving forward


Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven, we know that you are good and you are faithful and that your faithfulness does endure for all generations. We ask that you help us to be faithful. Lord God, help us to see your faithfulness, your mercy, your justice, your truth, your goodness in all of your words. We ask you please to allow your Word to shape our eyes, our minds, our vision, and shape our hearts. Help us to love what you love and hate what you hate. Above all, help us to love you and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”