The Rock that Followed Them


“…all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”  1 Cor 10:4

There is a well-known Australian children’s novel called The Nargun and the Stars based on an aboriginal legend. The Nargun is a living creature but it looks like a big rock. It doesn’t move much, but it when it does it is ferocious.

What is Paul going on about here? Discounting the various Jewish fables and Christian legends surrounding both the original wilderness texts and Paul’s words here, what is his meaning? Could the structure of the passage give us a clue?

Here’s my go at it using the Bible Matrix. I think verses 1-6 are a new creation week that failed. Instead of Israel being “ingathered” to the promised land as a witness to the Gentiles (Tabernacles), they are scattered as Babel, and it is the eagles that are gathered instead.

ARK – Sabbath – Genesis
all our fathers were under the (glory)cloud

VEIL – Passover – Exodus
all passed through the sea

BRONZE ALTAR (LAW GIVEN) – Firstfruits – Leviticus
all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea

all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink.

INCENSE ALTAR (LAW RECEIVED) – Trumpets – Deuteronomy
For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them

HIGH PRIEST – Atonement (Covering) – Joshua
and that Rock was Christ (the Anointed).

REST – Tabernacles (Ingathering) – Judges
But with most of them God was not well pleased, for they were SCATTERED in the wilderness.


Firstfruits puts Moses as mediator In The Air between heaven (the cloud) and the abyss (the sea).

Pentecost makes the spiritual food and drink the cup of the jealous inspection in Numbers 5.

At Trumpets, the Lord follows THEM. The only other instance I can find that might be related is Joshua 6:8. The Ark followed them around the walls of Jericho. There is the same idea in the angels going before David, and also David’s five smooths stones (potentially) going before him. Step 5 in this structure is always a witness, and unity, and military. It is the body reunited in resurrection after the tomb, Judah and Israel joined again as one stick. So perhaps Paul combines all these images here.

Atonement is the Anointed One, Christ. Day 6 is Adam. There may be the idea of being hidden in the Rock here also, on the Day of Covering. 

Booths, Day 7, the Day of the Lord, sees the faithless Israelites expelled from the promised Garden. God saw them and could not say they were very good. This last point also usually concerns Covenant succession. Here it is cut off from all but Joshua and Caleb and given to the next generation. As Paul continues, he describes their idolatry. They had drunk from the Rock but failed to examine themselves.

The same process of “threshing” at the Pentecost harvest occurred in the first century. Many saints were turning back to the old Herodian idolatry. Jesus was unseen and the Temple was still standing. But in reality, as Paul knew, the Rock that was split for their life was actually right behind them as they blew the trumpets, witnessed and were martyred. Then the walls came down.

Jesus was invisible, like the rock. But He was with them, as He promised. The water was the New Covenant.

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2 Responses to “The Rock that Followed Them”

  • Travis Matthew Finley Says:

    I had a thought (during a JbJ lecture on Ephesians, I think) that perhaps the Rock reference could be linked to the tabernacle which traveled with (followed) Israel. Since the Tab is a mtn model and mtns are rocks, the metaphor could be sensibly applied that way.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Yes – I saw you mention that on the BH list. I think you (and JBJ) are right. But there is still this movement from altar-bronze-rock to golden-rock to laver in the passage. How about you give that some thought and get back to me?! ; )