Meribah - Events


The Biblical text mentions two very similar episodes that both occur at a place named Meribah. The episode recounted by the Book of Exodus features the Israelites quarreling with Moses about the lack of water, and Moses rebuking the Israelites for testing Yahweh; the text states that it was on this account that the place gained the name Massah, meaning testing, and the name Meribah, meaning quarreling. The narrative in the Book of Exodus states that, on account of their thirst, the Israelites grumbled against Moses, so Moses, in fear for his life, appeals to Yahweh; the narrative continues with Yahweh telling Moses to walk ahead of the others, and strike the rock at Horeb with his rod, and when Moses does this, it causes the rock to expel water.

The episode recounted by the Book of Numbers features the Israelites quarreling with Moses and Aaron about the lack of water and food crops; the text states that Moses and Aaron responded by consulting Yahweh at the Tabernacle door, while prostrating themselves, and that Yahweh told them to take the rod, and speak to a particular rock while the people are gathered together in view of it. The narrative continues with Moses following the instructions to take Aaron's staff and to gather the Israelites, but instead of speaking to the rock, which Yahweh had stated would result in water flowing from it, Moses speaks to the crowd and strikes the rock, doing so twice, resulting in a strong flow of water.

Some textual scholars regard the two accounts as different versions of the same events at Meribah, with the version in the Book of Exodus being from the JE source, and the version in the Book of Numbers being from the Priestly Source; the latter account, like the Priestly Source in general, is considered to be an attempt to supplant the JE version of the narrative, which doesn't treat Aaron as being as important as the Aaronid writer of the Priestly Source would have liked.

According to these textual scholars, the JE account in Exodus of the events at Massah and Meribah is spliced together from two earlier source texts, namely the Jahwist and Elohist texts. Textual scholars regard the Jahwist text and Elohist text as both having an account of the naming of Massah, and both having an account of provision of water, but with the accounts being spliced together in a non-straightforward manner; where the combined text reports events at Massah and Meribah, textual scholars believe that the mention of a quarrel, the testing of Yahweh, and the naming of Massah, are all part of the Jahwist text, while the extraction of water from a stone, and the naming of Meribah, are part of the Elohist text. The Elohist account of water being provided at Meribah (מריבה) is seen by Biblical scholars as a parallel of the Jahwist's account of the provision of water at Marah (מרה); in the Marah narrative is mention of Yahweh testing the Israelites, which textual scholars attribute to the Elohist account, and regard as the parallel of the Jahwist's account of the naming of Massah after the testing of Yahweh by the Israelites.

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