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MERIBAH (mĕr'ĭ-ba, Heb. merîbâh, contention)

A place near and to the NW of Sinai where Moses, at the Lord’s command, struck the rock and water gushed out for the refreshment of the people (Exod.17.1-Exod.17.7). Moses named the place “Massah,” i.e., “tempting,” and “Meribah,” because of the quarreling of the children of Israel and because they tempted the Lord.A place near Kadesh Barnea where the people again thirsted and where the Lord commanded Moses to speak to the rock. Moses exceeded his instructions and, apparently wanting some credit for the miracle, struck the rock, and water came forth (Num.20.1-Num.20.13). For this arrogance, Moses was forbidden to enter the Promised Land.

MERIBAH mĕr’ ĭ ba (מְרִיבָ֑ה, strife). A name applied to two different places where water was brought miraculously from rock to satisfy thirsty Israelites in the wilderness.

The first was before Mt. Horeb at Rephidim when Israel was less than two months out of Egypt (Exod 17:1-7). This place was called both Massah and Meribah as a result of complaint by the people. Massah means (place of) “testing,” “temptation.” The people “strove” against God and His servant Moses by their complaint concerning lack of water and so “tested” God’s patience with them. However, God still gave them water in an amount described as a “river” (Ps 105:41; cf. Deut 9:21).

The second place was at Kadesh-barnea nearly thirty-nine years later (Num 20:2-13). Only the name Meribah was applied to this place (v. 13). It was here that Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock twice, when told by God only to speak to it. In doing so Moses appeared to have had a part in producing the water. For this sin Moses was not permitted to enter Canaan (Num 20:12; 27:14). The name, Meribah, was assigned, however, because of the sin of the people in complaining again for lack of water.

See also

  • Massah and Meribah