And that Rock was Christ.--As Christ was "God manifest in the flesh" in the New Dispensation, so God manifest in the Rock (the source of sustaining life) was the Christ of the Old Dispensation. The Jews had become familiar with the thought of God as a Rock. (See 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 91:12; Isaiah 32:2.) Though the Jews may have recognised the Rock poetically as God, they knew not that it was, as a manifestation of God's presence, typical of the manifestation which was yet to be given in the Incarnation. Such seems to be the force of the statement and of the word "But" which emphatically introduces it. But though they thought it only a Rock, or applied the word poetically to Jehovah, that Rock was Christ.
for they drank, of that spiritual rock that followed them; by which the apostle means not Christ himself, for he went before them as the angel of God's presence, but the rock that typified him; not that the rock itself removed out of its place, and went after them, but the waters out of the rock ran like rivers, and followed them in the wilderness wherever they went, for the space of eight and thirty years, or thereabout, and then were stopped, to make trial of their faith once more; this was at Kadesh when the rock was struck again, and gave forth its waters, which, as the continual raining of the manna, was a constant miracle wrought for them. And this sense of the apostle is entirely agreeable to the sentiments of the Jews, who say, that the Israelites had the well of water all the forty years (k). The Jerusalem Targum (l) says of the
"well given at Mattanah, that it again became unto them violent overflowing brooks, and again ascended to the tops of the mountains, and descended with them into the ancient valleys.''
And to the same purpose the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel (m),
"that it again ascended with them to the highest mountains, and from the highest mountains it descended with them to the hills, and encompassed the whole camp of Israel, and gave drink to everyone at the gate of his own dwelling place; and from the high mountains it descended with them into the deep valleys.''
Yea, they speak of the rock in much the same language the apostle does, and seem to understand it of the rock itself, as if that really went along with the Israelites in the wilderness. Thus one of their writers (n) on those words, "must we fetch you water out of this rock?" makes this remark:
"for they knew it not, , "for that rock went", and remained among the rocks.''
And in another place it is said (o),
"that the rock became in the form of a beehive; (elsewhere (p) it is said to be round as a sieve;) and rolled along, , "and came with them", in their journeys; and when the standard bearers encamped, and the tabernacle stood still, the rock came, and remained in the court of the tent of the congregation; and the princes came and stood upon the top of it, and said, ascend, O well, and it ascended.''
Now, though in this account there is a mixture of fable, yet there appears something of the old true tradition received in the Jewish church, which the apostle has here respect to.
And the rock was Christ: that is, it signified Christ, it was a type of him. So the Jews (q) say, that the Shekinah is called , "the holy rock"; and Philo the Jew says (r) of this rock, that the broken rock is , "the wisdom of God". Christ may be compared to the rock for his outward meanness in his parentage and education, in his ministry and audience, in his life and death; and for his height also, being made higher than the kings of the earth, than the angels in heaven, and than the heavens themselves; and for shelter and safety from the wrath of God, and from the rage of men; and for firmness, solidity, and strength, which are seen in his upholding all things by his power, in bearing the sins of his people, and the punishment due unto them, in the support of his church, and bearing up his people under all afflictions and temptations, and in preserving them from a total and final falling away: and a rock he appears to be, as he is the foundation of his church and every believer, against which hell and earth can never prevail; and to it he may be likened for duration, his love being immovable, his righteousness everlasting, his salvation eternal, and he, as the foundation of his church, abiding for ever.
(k) Jarchi in Numbers 20.2.((l) In Numbers 21.20. (m) In ib. (n) Jarchi in Numbers 20.10. (o) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 177. 2.((p) Gloss. in T. Bab. Pesach. fol. 54. 1.((q) Zohar in Num. fol. 87. 4. & Imre Binah in ib. (r) Lib. Allegor. l. 3. p. 1103.