Water from the Rock & Sumer

Finger Pointing UpYou would think the people would get the idea not to go against You or Moses, since Moses only did what You told him to do.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man’s name upon his rod. 

1. Map
About 6000 years ago, a civilization possessing a technology so advanced at the time that it seemed alien suddenly sprouted in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, part of the so-called “Fertile Crescent.” The early Greeks were the first to call this area Mesopotamia, which means “land between rivers.” These people (we know them today as Sumerians) called themselves sag-giga, the “black-headed people,” and they called their lands ki-en-gir. The Akkadians, however, referred to these people as Shumer (which may actually refer to the language); the Bible refers to this region as Shinar. The area is today found in southeastern Iraq.

 And thou shalt write Aaron’s name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers (Num 17:1-3).


And it shall come to pass, that the man’s rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you” (Num 17:5).

“And it came to pass…the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” (Num 17:8).

“The people then wandered and settled in Kadesh; in the desert of Zin and again, there was no water.  Here Miriam died and was buried.  And of course, they cursed Moses and God.

And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! 

And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? 

And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place?  It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink “(Num 20:3-5).

2. Ancient Civilization
When comparing the Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Hittite civilizations, the Sumerians have made the most significant contribution to history. While other civilizations had great works like pyramids and advanced mathematics, they all owe their knowledge to their predecessors, which were the Sumerians. The Sumerians made advancements in writing, math, and innovations. Writing is a key contribution because the Sumerians developed the system of cuneiform which used a wedge-shaped stylus to make marks on wet clay. This cuneiform led the way to the tablet house where men came to learn how to write. Scribes copied myths. Epics were written like the Epic of Gilgamesh. The king could have law written down if he wished. All of this was made possible by cuneiform writing.



Here is where Moses errs and it costs him.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 

3. Cylinder Seal
Sumerian cuneiform tablet, listing herders and cows in the goddess Inana’s fields, 21st–20th century B.C., replica.


And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.

And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 

And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 

And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them” (Num 20:7-13).

God did not tell Moses to hit the rock.  In most cases it may not have been a big deal, but because of the mindset of the Israelites, hitting the rock with the rod gave the Israelites the belief that the rod was magical, therefore not glorifying God.

“And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us.

Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.

And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. 

4. Sumerian Clay Cones
Administrative tablet with cylinder seal impression of a male figure, hunting dogs, and boars, Jamdat Nasr, Uruk III style, : 3100-2900 B.C.

And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet. 

And he said, Thou shalt not go through.  And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand” (Num 20:14, 17-20).

So they  went to Mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom.  Moses’ simple action of hitting the rock also cost Aaron because he didn’t intervene.

“Aaron [at the age of 123] shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah. 

 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor: 

5. Curreiform Tablet
The earliest known reference to these people comes from ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablets. The Sumerians are some of the first known people in recorded existence. They formed a flourishing, and remarkably advanced society throughout Mesopotamia, particularly southern Mesopotamia (Iraq). They remain somewhat shrouded in mystery, as their linguistic and ethnic origins are not well known. Sumerian civilization is proven to have flourished from before 3500 B.C. In the temples of E-Anna in Uruk (Erech), pictographic tablets were discovered, indicating man’s first efforts at writing. These tablets were dated from the fourth millennium Uruk period, which dates from 3500-3100 B.C. By the middle of the third millennium, the ancient Sumerians had fine tuned their writing system, and called it “cuneiform”.

And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there” (Num 20:24-26).


To the Israelites of Biblical times Sumer was an ancient, classical civilization, similar to what ancient Rome is to us.

Sumer (Biblical Shinar) refers to that region of Mesopotamia, south of modern Baghdad that enor­mously influenced the Biblical world.

The term Sumerian applies to people who lived there from the mid-fourth millennium b.c. (and possibly much earlier).

Their principle cities were Uruk (Biblical Erech), Agade (Biblical Accad), Ur, Nippur, Kish, Lagash, Isin and Larsa.

Sume­rian civilization and culture came to an end around 1750 B.C. The Sumerians’ racial identity and origin are unknown, but they were not Semites (they did not belong to the racial group that included Israelites, Canaanites, Assyrians, Arameans and Arabs).

The Sumerians created the world’s earli­est writing system, cuneiform, a method also used with another ancient language, Akkadian.

Sumerian cuneiform was in fact the basis for the creation of Akkadian cuneiform. Cuneiform appears on about 250,000 known tablets dating from approxi­mately 3200 B.C. to the first century a.d.

Deciphering Sumerian has proven diffi­cult because this language was linguistically isolated.

7. He goat
He-goat caught in thicket from Sumerian Ur.

Whereas English and German are related (an English speaker might guess that the German apfel means “apple”), there is no language related to Sumerian that helps to elucidate the meanings of its words.

How­ever, bilingual tablets containing both Akkas­dian and Sumerian have enabled scholars to gain a working knowledge of Sumerian.

Sumerians contributed in numerous other significant ways to other ancient Near Eastern cultures.

6. Board Game
Board game played at Ur. c. 2600 B.C.

They invented the wheel, the potter’s wheel and the sexagesimal num­bering system (based on the number 60) and compiled collections of laws.

In architecture they developed the arch, dome and vault. Incredibly, 100-foot-tall (30.5 m) Sumerian ziggurats – pyramidal, multistoried temple towers – still survive.

Their form seems sim­ilar to the structure described in the Tower of Babel narrative of Genesis 11, but a direct connection has not been established.

Sumerian mythology also strongly influ­enced ancient Near Eastern religion, includ­ing worship of the sun, moon, staSrs and several “dying gods,” like Dumuzi (also called Tammuz).

Sumerian literature includes hymns, proverbs, love poems, laments and epic myths, and there are interesting Bibli­cal parallels in these Sumerian texts.

Views: 0

Scroll to Top