excerpt from the book :


Why Moses 

was not allowed to enter the promised land


Essays and considerations


currently not available, soon in improved translation


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Why Moses

was not allowed to enter the promised land





Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egyptian captivity and through the desert for forty years to guide them to the land east of the Jordan, which God had once promised to the fathers and their descendants. 

But at the end of the way he was not destined to go over there himself.

He was one hundred and twenty years old when he climbed Mount Nebo, the highest elevation west of the Jordan, from which, far beyond the Jordan Valley, one looks to the region that extends east of the river. From there, God showed Moses the land. He reminded him of his promise and then said to Moses:

I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there5 Moses 34,4


Why was it destined to Moses to see the promised land after forty years of wandering in the wilderness but not to enter it?

The reason is less familiar, but is articulated in the preceding texts, in the descriptions at the end of the wandering: The people were dissatisfied because they suffered from a lack of water. 

There were allegations against Moses, whereupon he and his brother Aharon visited the tabernacle to ask for God's help. God told Moses to take a staff and to gather the congregation. In front of their eyes he should speak to a rock to let water flow:

Take the staff; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink. 4 Moses 20, 8


Moses initially did as he was told. He stepped before the people and said: Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?

Then, instead of speaking to the rock, as instructed, Moses, it is said, hit it twice with his staff. There was a lot of water coming out and the community could drink and their cattle.

Then it is said:

But the Eternal said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as the saint before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them“


The water had flowed out of the rock in front of the eyes of the congregation, in such a quantity that all, and also the cattle, could drink enough. But in what, after all, consisted Moses’ failure not to have treated God as the saint before the eyes of the children of Israel?


One might think it could be seen in the announcement with which he stepped in front of the crowd: Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock? He refers to himself and Aharon, without mentioning God.


But this interpretation would not really consider content and background of the encounter between God and Moses; it would be an assumption that disregards the essential and articulated difference between the instruction of God and the behaviour of Moses: Moses was supposed to speak to the rock - instead he had hit it twice with his staff.


It was not the first time the people had complained about a lack of water and Moses, at God's command, had let flow water from a rock. It had already happened once before, at the beginning of the wandering. At that time, God had specifically instructed Moses to hit the rock with his staff. 2 Moses 17, 5


Now he instructs him to take the staff along, but then to speak to the rock, to let the water flow. It should, so it seems, be made clear to all eyes that now not the staff, but the word opens the rock.

But Moses again grabs the staff and hits the rock.

The commentator Rashi emphasizes: Because God had not commanded to strike the rock, but 'you shall speak to the rock ....' if Moses and Aharon had not failed here , they would have entered the land. 

Raschi Commentare, Die fünf Bücher Moses, 20, 12


This is the reason given as to why Moses was only allowed to see the Promised Land, but not to enter it.

He had not, as commanded, spoken to the rock to let water flow, but used the staff as a tool. He did not let the Word become presence.


What was it about the staff?





The staff of Aharon



For the second time the people complained about a lack of water. At the first complaint, at the beginning of the journey through the wilderness, when God had commanded Moses to strike the rock with the staff for water to flow out of it, he had specified the staff: ... take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile.  2 Moses 17, 5


This points to an earlier use of the staff. It was supposed to be the staff that was used to hit the Nile, so that it turned into blood. This was the first of the ten Egyptian plagues that came about because Pharaoh did not want to let the Hebrews go. 

Here, again, a reference is made to a previous use of the staff: you shall take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent... 2 Buch 7:15


It was the staff of Aharon. Before the imposition of the ten Egyptian plagues, Moses and Aharon had come before the Pharaoh to demand the release of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity. 

At that time Aharon, by God's direction, had thrown the staff down in front of the Pharaoh and his entourage, so that if the Pharaoh asked for a miracle, the staff would turn into a serpent as a reminder to let the children of Israel go:

When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Work a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’ 2 Moses 7, 9

The Pharaoh had then instructed his sages and wizards to turn their staffs into serpents too, and, surprisingly, they succeeded. But, it is said, the staff of Aharon devoured their staffs.


A snake as a staff or erected on a staff is a recurrent image. 

Later, Moses receives the instruction to make a copper serpent and raise it up on a staff. Those who look at them are healed by the bites of fiery snakes who had come upon the Israelites for their nagging

4 Moses 21, 4-9. 

Outside the Bible, there is a similar image in the symbol of the Aesculapian staff.


The staff of Aharon had been turned into a serpent and again into a staff. With it Aharon had struck the Nile, so that it turned into blood, and after the departure of the Hebrews and the beginning of the wandering in the desert, Moses was told to hit the rock with it.


But towards the end of the wandering, in the fourth book of Moses, after the people had again complained of thirst, Moses should take the staff along but not use it in front of everyone. Instead, he should talk to the rock in order to let water flow.


What has changed in the time between the first water shortage and the second?

 In the meantime almost forty years had passed. The Israelites had received the Tablets of the Law, the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. 

Thus, according to Jewish understanding, man was for the first time addressed as an individual, in his own relationship to heaven, in directive and answer and with his own judgment. 

The Exodus from Egypt, the liberation from a collectivist understanding of man, was now also spiritually accomplished for the Hebrews. In Christianity, the feast of this event of individuation, Shavuoth, which is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, became the feast of Pentecost. Pentecost means fifty. 

It was the feast of Shavuoth, to which the disciples had gathered, as recorded in the story of the apostles, when the Holy Ghost came down upon each of them, and each received their own spirit.


By receiving the instructions on Sinai, the individual emerges from the captivity of the collective, the bondservice, in which he is perceived as a mere function of the community. 

Thereby he is also freed from being determined by utilitarianism. He is no longer determined by a function, he has his own beginning. Thus, he is also able to see the world as his counterpart and not as something, that exists only as utility Bacon

The Word is given to him.

Therefore, the first of the The ten Commandments says: I AM your God who led you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of servitude. Do not have another deity before my face.. 2 Moses 20.2, 

Following the German Buber / Rosenzweig translation, the tetragram appears as the basicword of the person: ICH bin dein Gott, der ich dich führte aus dem Land Ägypten, aus dem Haus der Dienstbarkeit. Nicht sei dir andere Gottheit mir ins AnICH bin dein Gott, der ich dich führte aus dem Land Ägypten, aus dem Haus der Dienstbarkeit. Nicht sei dir andere Gottheit mir ins Angesicht.gesicht.


The emphasis on uniqueness is that of identity. 

Pharaoh's wizards also had staffs, they too were able to transform them into serpents and do something with them. 

Up to this point, Moses was only gradually superior to them because Aharon's staff devoured those of the Egyptian priests. But it was done by using a tool -  a utilitaristic act.

A mentality, from which man had stepped out of at Mount Sinai.

Until then it was only God who had worked through the Word in the Bible. 

So, in the third verse of Genesis, where it is written: Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.  

Through the Word Thou created the heavens, says the psalm.


After the Sinai-event, heaven is supposed to work in the word of man.

The recourse to the staff of Aharon represented a disregard of this fact.

Moses had not allowed the Myth to become present.  

Therefore, it says: Because you did not believe me and did not want to testify to me as the saint before the eyes of the Israelites …

Only Moses and Aharon had been entrusted with the staff of Aharon had been entrusted. In a certain sense, this exclusive position was still similar to that of the pharaoh in Egypt. The instruction to speak to the rock, to let the water flow, meant an emancipation of the individual: Speech is given to everyone.

By talking to the rock, it becomes clear that every person now has their own dialogical relationship with heaven - and with nature.

His speech to the people -  Hear now, ye rebels; shall we bring you forth water out of this rock? -  could be seen as a motive of Moses to be confirmed again in the old authority. And so to beat the rock with the staff instead of speaking to it.


Having reached the Promised Land under the guidance of Joshua, the Israelites did not form a collective but found a federative polity, the Twelve tribes, an association of associations whose communication and interaction were not determined by a centralized state but by a common spirit.


Martin Buber refers to the anarchistic, federal idea of this polity. This era, called the Time of the Judges, ended when the elders in Israel declared that they wanted to have a king as well: now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have. 1 Sam 8


King David, the successor of the hapless Saul, the first king of Israel, later carried out the first census. It took place against the will of God, who did not want the children of Israel to be counted and to be comprehended as a counted quantity. Here we can find a first characterization of scientific thinking


The German author Heinrich Böll took up the idea in his short story about an employee of the city who has to count the daily passers-by of a bridge. 

He does, however, not count a woman who comes by every day and whom he secretly loves.

Heinrich Böll, Die ungezählte Geliebte



Thou shall speak to the rock


Because Moses did not as he had been told, namely to speak to the rock, the stone was not addressed by the beating with the staff.

By being treated with an instrument the rock remained just a purpose. Instead of being addressed with a Thou, the rock remained an It, a functional thing. Martin Buber


Nature remains unredeemed where it was supposed to become an encounterpart.

Martin Buber emphasizes this deciding situation in the disposition of man. 

The decision between the I-It-relationship, in which things are seen as utility, and the I-Thou-relationship, in which things become an opposite to be encountered and in which they are spoken to.


This is expressed in a remark of Baal Shem Tov about the sacred sparks, which Martin Buber recounts: The sacred sparks, which have fallen when God built and destroyed worlds, it shall be raised and upwardly purified by man from rock to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking creature, 

to purify the sacred spark that is enclosed by the world of shell. 

It is known that every spark that lives in a rock or plant or other creature has a complete figure with the full number of limbs and sinews, and if he lives in the rock or plant he is in the dungeon, cannot stretch hands and feet and cannot speak, but his head lies on his knees. And who, with the good power of his spirit, can raise the holy spark from rock to plant, from animal to speaking creature, leads him to freedom. And no solution of prisoners is greater than this. How to save a king's son from captivity and bring him to his father.    from: Baal-Schem-Tow, Martin Buber


The staff of Aharon, which was temporarily a serpent, corresponds in the astrological interpretation of the Münchner Rhythmenlehre to the principle of Mars, which has to free the trapped waters from the rock.

Mars, which liberates the waters, appears in many places in the mythological images. 

With a lightning wedge, the Babylonian god Marduk strikes the dragon Tiamat and frees the waters that the dragon devoured, whereupon heaven and earth arise.

Likewise, the Vedic Indra, who strikes the dragon Vritra with the lightning bolt, so that the waters of the truth are released.


Mars, belonging to Aries, represents the other side of the sign Pisces with its planet Neptune. Mars is the Avenger of Neptune, who has to liberate the waters. 

At the end of the path Mars must become Neptune again.

Similarly, in the Arthurian legend, where the sword of Arthur, which he once pulled out of a rock, at the end is handed over to the lake. Wolfgang Döbereiner


In the case of Moses, who again used the staff instead of speaking to the rock as instructed, Mars was to become dialogue, the waters of speech.

It is not without reason that in German the preposition gegen - against forms a word field, which contains the fundamental element of the relationship – Begegnung - encounter, Gegenwart - presence, Gegenüber - opposite, counterpart, zugegen – present. 


Here, it is man, whom it is given to liberate the waters.


The name of Moses represents the Hellenized form of the Hebrew name Moshe-שששה. Moshe contains the root mosh - מוש – to pull. 

To the word field belongs moshekh -מושך - pull out, mussag - מושג - idea, moshia - מושיע - savior, as well as moshiakh - משיח, which became Messiah in Greek. In the case of Moses, according to Martin Buber, the name means pulled out, but also the one who pulls out or leads out.


Also, the Greek word Mythos, associated to mystic, from mysticos, the hidden or the secret, presumably goes back to the Hebrew adjective musthar - מוסתר -hidden, secret.

The Mythos is the Geheimnis, the German word for secret. Geheimnis comes from Heim – home. Originally, it means nothing elitist, something that is accessible only to the initiated, but the personhood of man, his sensibility, which is neither public nor measurable, the intimacy of his relationship to heaven.










(C) Herbert Antonius Weiler 2015