1 Corinthians 10:3-4 – Israel’s Sustenance and Ours


Though the events of the Exodus are certainly accurate history, Paul sees these historical events as spiritual types/shadows that relate to our Christian walk today.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 – “these things became our examples,” “written for our admonition”
  • All were baptized…spiritual food…spiritual drink…spiritual Rock (1 Cor. 10:2-4)

“Spiritual Rock” (1 Corinthians 10:4)

The Rock represents Christ – “that Rock was Christ”.

  • Rock struck when Israelites thirsted (Exodus 17:1-7) = Christ crucified (Matt. 26:31)
    • Rocks were literally split when Christ died (Matt. 27:51)
    • Hebrew word for “rock” of Exodus 17:6 indicates a sunken rock (see Philip Mauro’s, The wonders of Bible chronology, 1970)
  • Rock spoken to (Numbers 20:1-13) = Christ glorified
    • Hebrew word for “rock” of Numbers 20 indicates an exalted or uplifted rock (see Philip Mauro’s, The wonders of Bible chronology, 1970)
    • Moses was forbidden from the Promised Land because he struck the rock when he was only supposed to speak to it (Num. 20:11-12). Like the rock, Christ only needed to be crucified once (Hebrews 6:6), and, after He was glorified, people could speak directly to Him.

“Spiritual Drink” (1 Corinthians 10:4)

The water that flowed from the rock represents the Holy Spirit and Christ’s Presence

  • John 7:37-39 – “‘rivers of living water,’…this He spoke concerning the Spirit.” According to the Jewish tradition of the time, Jesus shouted this on the same day that the Jews joyfully sang/chanted Isaiah 12:3, in commemoration of the waters that gushed forth from the rock. (see John Wesley’s commentary on John 7)
  • Striking the rock made way for the waters to flow. In a similar manner, Christ’s crucifixion made way for the Holy Spirit to come to all who believe.
  • After Christ was glorified, the Holy Spirit flowed down to all who called on Him (see Acts 2:33), just as the rock of Numbers 20.
  • “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them” (1 Cor. 10:4). “But as when it is said they ‘drank of the rock,’ it must mean that they drank of the water that flowed from the rock; so when it is said that the ‘rock followed’ or accompanied them, it must mean that the water that flowed from the rock accompanied them,” (see Albert Barnes’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 10). By receiving the water, they received the rock. Similarly, when we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive Christ’s presence (John 14:19, 23).

“Spiritual Food” (1 Corinthians 10:3)

The manna from heaven represents God’s Word and Christ’s Presence

  • Matt. 4:4 – Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” He is quoting here from Deuteronomy 8:3, directly comparing the manna from heaven with the Word of God.
    • Note: In addition to being compared with bread, God’s Word is also described as milk (1 Peter 2:2) and solid food (Hebrews 5:12-14). Thus, it nourishes us through all stages of maturity.
  • Manna came from heaven (Exodus 16:4a); God’s Word comes from heaven (Isaiah 55:10-11; 1 Thes. 2:13).
  • Collecting Manna tested the Israelites obedience (Exodus 16:4b); receiving and using God’s Word tests our obedience (James 1:22).
  • “As we feed by faith upon the written Word of God, we receive within ourselves the divine life of the personal Word, that is, Jesus Christ Himself [see John 6:51]…it is through the written Word that the personal Word, the living bread from heaven, comes down to nourish the soul of the believer.” (Derek Prince, The Spirit-Filled Believer’s Handbook, 1993). Thus, by receiving God’s Word we receive His presence and life, all depicted by the manna of Exodus.


The Israelites were sustained in the wilderness by bread and water, “lacking nothing” (Nehemiah 9:20-21). In a similar way, Christians who rely on, and seek after, God’s Word and Spirit will know the abundant life Christ promised (John 10:10b).

Two Warnings

  • Numbers 11 – When the Israelites complained that they needed more than bread and water, God gave them quail. The quail came from the sea, instead of the heavens or the rock (compare Revelation 17:15), and they feasted on its flesh. As a result, many Israelites died. This should be a warning to Christians: Are we seeking more than God’s Word and God’s Spirit?
  • Numbers 21:4-6 – Again, Israel complains that they are only given manna and water. For this, God send serpents that bite and kill them. Warning: Christians who are not satisfied with God’s Word and God’s Spirit will be susceptible to all kinds of destructive devices of the Enemy, “that serpent of old” (Revelation 20:2).

One thought on “1 Corinthians 10:3-4 – Israel’s Sustenance and Ours

  1. I love all things pertaining to Biblical typology and this really is good for my soul.
    As per usual lots of excellent content in this small article. Quite dense really stated in very few words amazing.
    Only one little item at the beginning when you mention Paul seeing the events talked about as spiritual you may want to add the words “as well” or “also” because it may appear that you are thinking Paul only thought of these events in that way which of course we know he wouldn’t have. Just a very minor quibble about grammar in the excellent article.

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