The Bible contains several instances when God became furious with Moses, most notably when He banned him from entering the Promised Land after Moses struck a rock instead of speaking aloud as instructed by Him.
But why was God angry with Moses over this seemingly minor offense?
Table of Contents
1. He was frustrated
No figure has had more of an influence over Jewish history than Moses; a figure who faced off against Pharaoh, announced the plagues, led the Israelites through sea and desert travels and endured their repeated disrespectfulness – all while struggling with God but who ultimately saw tremendous results from their spiritual battles. He is remembered fondly today.
Though he achieved much, Joseph was far from being the perfect leader. He became hostile toward Israel due to their behavior towards their slaves; eventually losing his temper and killing an Egyptian who was beating an enslaved Hebrew. Following this event, Joseph was banned from Egypt and lived a quiet shepherd life in Midian for forty years.
Once he was back in Egypt, Moses was assigned the task of freeing God’s people from slavery. Though initially reluctant, Moses eventually accepted his responsibility and set about undertaking it.
Moses initially used the excuse that the people would not listen to him as an excuse for their disobedience and rebellious nature, yet God responded by commanding Moses to strike the rock and talk directly to it.
Moses broke God’s original plan when he struck the rock again. Though we don’t know exactly why God disapproved of this action, it clearly displease Him and ensured he would never enter the Promised Land again – an extremely harsh punishment for such a simple offense! Moses had done much but would never experience its rewards.
2. He was angry
One of the earliest times in Scripture where we see God show His ire was towards Moses and the Israelites. Moses led an exodus from slavery into freedom with God; during their forty years wandering across the desert, he faithfully led them and worshipped him, all while living his entire life to prepare for this purpose.
At Meribah Rock, God presented Moses with an opportunity to show his leadership skills. He instructed him to speak aloud to the rock so they would receive water, but when Moses hit it instead of speaking aloud, it was in direct disobedience to Him and anger at their people’s constant complaining; frustration at their refusal of accepting what had been provided by Him as provisions manna.
God was upset with Moses for many reasons, one being when he hit a rock with anger in anger. God wanted him to understand that they had taken responsibility for leading their people out of Egypt into the Promised Land – it was up to Moses as their leader to ensure this happened successfully.
Moses wasn’t to blame for their people’s complaints; after living their entire lives as slaves and only learning of Him through second-hand information from their fathers. To understand who He was as Lord and Savior – not their pride getting in the way – Moses needed to take charge and not allow people’s complaints make him angry. God made clear His intent through Moses: don’t let them make you mad!
3. He was displeased
After leading Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea to Mount Sinai for receiving their Ten Commandments, Moses is penalized by God for one minor mistake he made when striking a rock instead of speaking directly to it. God punishes this action by disallowing Moses entry to their Promised Land; an action which seems unfair when considering all he accomplished as leader over forty years leading them there.
God was angry with Moses because of his disobedience to Him and failure to acknowledge Him as holy – this happened at Meribah when Moses and Aaron debated His role as an almighty God.
After leaving Egypt, Israel grumbled and complained. They desired the delicious foods from their previous life in Egypt instead of the bland manna provided in the wilderness. Complaining quickly spread like an epidemic throughout its entirety – spreading like an infection throughout all of Israel’s communities.
God was moved by great mercy when He decided to show leniency at this crucial juncture and allow Israel to enter their promised land, yet He had already planned for their destruction as punishment for their rejection of Him in favor of an idol.
The midrash suggests that God was angry with Moses due to his failure to adhere to Ecclesiastes 7:9 (“Do not be quick in anger”). Being an individual of action, Moses made decisions quickly without thinking before acting out his anger in ways which weren’t in accordance with leading God’s people – such as shattering tablets – without consulting first with anyone, including himself. This led him into sinful behavior.
4. He was sad
Moses was frustrated that Israel continued to complain. He tried to explain that their lives were ultimately under God’s control, yet no one seemed interested in hearing what he had to say. Moses felt powerless against their lack of response. He felt angry because nobody was listening.
Frustration and anger drove him to disobey Moses by striking the rock, rather than speaking directly to it as instructed. By striking it instead of speaking, water came pouring from it for all of Canaan to drink – this act being considered one of many reasons he wasn’t allowed into its promised land.
Striking the rock was a serious and public sin that violated God’s absolute sovereignty and suggested He might use His powers for personal gain – something He didn’t wish for so He punished him by barring entry to His promised land.
This serves as a reminder that we should never use power for personal gain; rather, we should put God’s glory first and fulfill His will.
Moses serves as an excellent example of how God can use even an unwilling and antagonistic individual to carry out His plan. We can learn from Moses’ mistakes by being open-minded about following wherever He leads, even if that means getting upset at times; that just shows His love and care for our lives!
5. He was confused
After Moses saved Hebrew boys from Pharaoh’s death order, God assigned him a monumental task: leading his people from the desert into their promised land. It was an enormous challenge for this lowly outcast who had become nothing special. Yet God nurtured and prepared Moses all his life for this task – by rescuing, protecting, providing for, favoring and teaching him leadership skills to help protect a flock against harsh desert conditions; giving access to top education available at that time; all this was meant to prepare him for this monumental responsibility of leading them all into their promise land!
But this lowly outcast had difficulty adhering to God’s will for his life and had five excuses before finally yielding to it.
Moses initially used this excuse as an alibi: that he was an ordinary nobody and therefore, unqualified to perform the task at hand. Though this claim was obviously false, it still shows Moses struggled with believing that God could not accomplish what He had asked of Him.
One reason was that Israel did not believe Moses to be God’s chosen one; they believed Israel to be an irreligious nation that wasn’t eligible for His grace and His ability to transform them into something greater.
At Meribah, Moses made a significant mistake by striking a rock rather than speaking directly with it as instructed. This sealed his fate; God then refused to allow Moses to lead the Hebrews into their promised land. While open theist commentators may believe otherwise, others dispute this interpretation of Scripture as being falsely understood.