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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Like a Rolling Stone

Rephidim’s rock, so it is written,
followed Israel like a lost kitten -
the rock, as would behove
did pursue out of love
for by Moses it had been smitten.

This one is a little complicated to explain but here goes:

In Exodus 17: 1 – 7 the Israelites are somewhere near Rephidim which is near Mt. Horeb.  They’re thirsty, they complain, God tells Moses to strike the rock there with his staff, and they have water. And Moses names the place, “Meribah.”

Later, after receiving the torah, they leave that place and head to Kadesh (Numbers 20:1–14) where again they are thirsty and complain that they need water. Moses strikes the rock again (a no-no this time) and they have water. And again Moses names the place “Meribah”

This might be an example of one traditional story being told in two different ways, but the Jewish rabbis had a legend that since the rock is named “Meribah” in both places, that it was the same rock and that the rock actually followed the people of Israel from Rephidim to Kadesh.

“And so the well, which was with Israel in the desert, looked like a rock with the size of a sieve, surging and gurgling upward, as from the mouth of this flask, rising with them up on to the mountains and going down with them into the valleys.

“Wherever the Israelites would encamp, it made camp opposite to them, opposite to the Tent of Meeting.”
 Tosefta  Sukkah 3:11

The Apostle Paul apparently knew of this legendary tradition. He draws from the story of the “rolling stone” in his letter to the church at Corinth: “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10: 4 NRSV)

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