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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Massah And Meribah

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MASSAH AND MERIBAH. Exodus 17:1-7 (JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] ) tells of a miraculous gift of water at a spot near Horeb, which was called Massah and Meribah (‘testing’ and ‘contention’) because the people tested Jahweh by doubting His providence and contended with Moses. It is implied that this occurred about a year after the Exodus. Numbers 20:1-18 , a later narrative (P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ), gives a similar account, but puts it thirty-seven years later, and with important variations. The scene is now laid at Kadesh , which receives the name Meribah from the contention of Israel with Jahweh. Moses and Aaron also sin against Him. There are references to the first passage in Deuteronomy 6:16 ; Deuteronomy 9:22 , Psalms 95:8 ; and to the second in Deuteronomy 32:51 , Psalms 106:32 ; in Psalms 81:7 the two are apparently confused. Deuteronomy 33:8 regards the events at Kadesh in a peculiar light: here Jahweh proves Levi at Massah and strives with (or for) him at Meribah. The tendency of recent criticism is to consider Exodus 17:1-16 and Numbers 20:1-29 as duplicate records of the same event, the locality of which must be fixed at Kadesh, where the spring ‘Ain Kadîs creates a fertile oasis. There the tribes were blended into a strong unity. Meribah , on this interpretation, originally signified ‘the place of judgment,’ because Moses delivered there his oracular sentences; cf. ‘waters of Meribah’ and ‘ En-mishpat ’ ( Genesis 14:7 ).

Massah never stands alone, save at Deuteronomy 6:11 ; Deuteronomy 9:22 . As variants of ‘Meribah’ we find ‘waters of Meribah,’ ‘waters of Meribah-kadesh ,’ and, at Ezekiel 47:18 , ‘waters of Meriboth-kadesh ,’ if the reading be correct. Ezekiel 47:19 ; Ezekiel 48:28 place Meribah on the southern border of the restored nation. It has been plausibly suggested that Meribôth-kadesh is the correct reading instead of ‘ten thousands of holy ones’ in Deuteronomy 33:2 .

J. Taylor.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Massah And Meribah'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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