Moses strikes the rock and Horeb, and water springs forth. This could be miraculous, or as has been normative for God with Israel, He could have revealed the location of a hidden spring that was covered by a rock. There is a split rock in Horeb today, and many people want to claim that it is Moses’s rock. There is simply no way to know. Whatever spring Moses had available to him is no longer available. While Split Rock is a great visual, we should be careful not to present it as evidence in favor of this biblical story. I think we are probably better off using the archeological evidence showing a significant Semitic presence in Egypt and their exodus prior to the first intermediate period—when Egypt was plummeted into social and economic ruin (dates uncertain on the historical timeline) and the reliability and authenticity of the biblical testimony.
The question I hear most often about Moses’s rock is, “What does it mean?” I would also caution us against looking for overtly spiritual meaning by making the rock or the spring a metaphor. Moses is simply recording what happened. The people were giving him a hard time. He asked God for help. God helps. The people tested Yahweh, and Yahweh proved Himself to them.
I am of the opinion that we do not have the right to test God. Yet, I have done so in my life. He is gracious. He proves Himself over and over again even though He has no obligation to do so. He is faithful and gratuitous. He is also patient, which we see in this text. I do believe that, if someone is inventing this story, that person would not make Israel’s leader—Moses—look so incompetent. Moses and the people could have looked for a spring or tried to dig a well, much more God-honoring pursuits. Instead, the people whine and Moses prays in frustration. The story is likely recorded accurately because people don’t often write to make themselves look bad. God teaches Moses which rock to strike to reveal the spring. I believe He is just as patient and faithful to His people today.