How to Really Enter the Promised Land

by Joshua Tilghman on March 3, 2012


Have you ever wondered why Moses couldn’t enter the Promised Land? The Bible states that he was the meekest man on earth and faithful in ALL God’s house. But Moses makes one mistake by striking the rock instead of speaking to it and God takes away the prize of the Promised Land. Moses is instead condemned to die in the desert with good health!

Hmm…seems a little extreme, doesn’t it? Isn’t God a little more compassionate than that? Couldn’t God forgive him and let him in?

On the surface, this Biblical story seems too harsh. If we stopped at the literal rendering, it is! The first time I read this story, I was a child. Even then I questioned God’s motive in being so harsh and unforgiving on the matter. All I could conclude from the story is that God is pretty serious about disobedience; the story didn’t leave me with ANY wiggle room. It was scary to think that I could be faithful in everything I did, have one slip up because of anger, and end up with no hope of a Promised Land!  

This story begs the question: Is there more to this account than Moses disobeying an external God? Is there some metaphysical or esoteric meaning beneath the surface of the literal interpretation that makes more sense? Absolutely. This story is more about the betrayal of ego than a man who disobeyed an external God. Bear with me and you’ll have no doubt about it.

In the twentieth chapter of Numbers, the Israelites are complaining because they have no water. Without water, they would soon be dead. So God instructs Moses to speak to a rock so that water would gush out. But Moses wasn’t in the best frame of mind on this occasion. When God instructs him to speak to the rock, he is already angry with the Israelites because of their griping and complaining. Moses just wants the people to trust God, but no matter how many miracles God performs, the people seem to forget. As always, they resort to complaining. Sounds like humanity in general, doesn’t it?

Right before Moses strikes the rock, he says this to the people:

“…Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” (Num. 20:10, KJV).

 So Moses called them rebels. Instead of speaking to the rock to provide life-giving water, Moses’ anger (EGO) takes over and he yells at the people. This does not make God happy, and you already know Moses’ punishment. But this story has less to do with an angry God and more about of a state of being. Let me explain. After Moses struck the rock, God states:

“…Because you believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them (Num. 20:12, KJV).

Please notice the first portion of the scripture which I have put in bold above. In this scripture, the Biblical author wants to show that God was concerned about how Moses represented him in the eyes of the people. Moses was to be God’s representative. How does someone represent God? For one thing, you don’t do it with ego. And yet, Moses debased God to the very status of human ego! This is bad. The simplest acts of nature, like a worker bee toiling for the hive, are a better representative of God than human ego.

The reason why God didn’t allow Moses to enter the Promised Land in the literal story becomes obvious. No one can enter the Promised Land—where the ego is supposed to be crucified—if the ego is in control. This is the very thing God was trying to teach the Israelites to do in the wilderness. Egypt is an allegorical representation of living in the flesh. The Promised Land is an allegorical representation of living in the spirit. Moses, as God’s representative, was supposed to lead the people from the land of flesh (the five senses) to the Land of the spirit (within and beyond the senses). But the Israelites and the Egyptians who went with them had to go through the wilderness, or the experience of life, to get there. We are all on this journey. We all have to do this. That’s why the scripture tells us that even Jesus learned obedience through the things that he suffered. Even he had to do this.

Now notice the other part of the bolded scripture. God had already given them the Promised Land. This is also so true for all of us. The Promise Land is not a physical place. It’s within us! This is no different than Jesus teaching that the Kingdom of God is within us! Just like God had already given the Israelites the Promised Land, we ALL already have the Promise Land. Our egos are one aspect of the illusion that keeps us from realizing this.

As you can see, this story is not about Moses making God angry. Rather, the meaning underneath the literal story shows us how vital it is to dissolve the ego and walk in the spirit. This takes time. It takes practice. It takes going into the wilderness. And finally, it takes a lot of time in the prayer closet, alone, in meditation. This is where the real wilderness experience takes place. This is also where the real experience of dissolving the ego takes place as well.

anny April 16, 2013 at 10:04 am

Hello Joshua,

Although I do agree with everything you have written above, I do think there is more to it than that. There are always more layers of understanding, one not necessarily better than the other, often complementary.

You write that Moses struck the rock in anger. That may be true but there is another instance where Moses struck the rock in order to provide water for the people in Exodus 17:6 and there it is at the explicit command given to him by God. So you might also say, he just did what God had commanded him to do before. And there is more. At that time God had said to him: take your staff with you with which you struck the water at the passing through the Red Sea (and the water stood up like a rock after that). Actually Moses had done nothing of the kind at the time but had stretched out his hand over the water. This staff however is the same staff which had been turned into a serpent and vice versa, which you explained as being the spinal column and the rising of the kundalini. Things are being linked together here and I do not quite see to what purpose here but there must be a message in it. There is a playing with words and seeming contradictions are no contradictions but want to tell us something.

Also you mention that Moses calls the people rebels. In Hebrew it says ‘morim’, which indeed can be translated as rebels but which also contains the word ‘mar’, bitter. And that is a word that has been used a lot around the whole period of slavery in Egypt and during their journey through the desert. Already in the beginning of their period of slavery it is said that things were made bitter for them. At the last meal before they left Egypt they had to eat bitter herbs. That may be to remember that they were slaves in Egypt but eating means first of all taking something in and after that digesting it, taking the nutrients out of it and letting it go, literally and symbolically. After they had crossed the sea, one of the first things they met was the bitter water which they did not want to drink. By this God made clear they still had to process all pent up emotions and could not just push them down as we so often do. They may have been delivered from Egypt, but processing the consequences of their slavery was their own responsibility. As it is ours. That of course is very hard to do but God also showed them what the result would be if they did. They came to the oasis Elim where there were palms. You might say, what does that have to do with anything. This kind of palm however is called tamar, 400-mar, which is the bitterness of the slavery they had just left behind them. The palm however is a date palm. Once you ‘eat’ the date, once you work through your bitterness, you will find the result is sweet. It turns out to be a date! If you refuse to start this process however you will never find that out.

As far as Moses is concerned, the story seems to tell that he is being punished by not being allowed to enter the promised land, but is he? You write that someone who is controlled by his ego is not allowed to enter the promised land but the people, who proved to be nothing but controlled by the ego, were allowed to enter it and they could because the promised land in question is a work in progress. Did not God tell them to kill the peoples they found there which again meant transforming their ego?

Moses however was told to climb a mountain, he was raising his awareness. The mountain was called Nebo, which you can read as 50-bo. The fifty (symbol of the world to come) is in him already. That is what this name says. The numerical value is 58, which is also the value of the words ‘chen’ (grace, mercy) and ‘nah’ (the verb to rest). From this pinnacle of awareness he gets to see the land from north to south, he gets to see how the people will also come to this awaress in the end. They are being led by Joshua ben Nun from there on. Nun is the number 50. Joshua (Jesus) is a son of the fifty, which means he has come to awareness also and is fully up to the task of leading the people. Moses may take his well deserved rest.

Well, that is enough for now. I’d love to hear if you have any ideas about this.

Anny

shawn July 18, 2014 at 7:44 pm

You are so right Anny. Moses had far less ego than these so called rebels.

Fernando November 22, 2014 at 3:07 pm

This is very intersting bible commentary. Moises did not enter into the promised land physically. However, he entered the promise land with his inmortal body. I believe that his soul is in paradise which I believe, and others in the jewish world as well, that paradise is located in the promise land. To me the reason why Moises did not have the honor to physically enter the promise land is that of disobedience when he hit the rock instead of speaking to the rock. In Exodus 17, God commnads Moises to hit the rock with his rod. The incident in Numbers seems to me that it was the second time that they reach the same place, since Israel was going in circles in the wilderness because of their lack of trust in God. The settings of these two events are similar but the People around them are different if you read these accounts carefully. So this second time around that this happend, Moises being held to greater accountability of his actions than the rest, made the mistake to take the first command instead of the second command to speak to the rock instead of hitting it. It takes alot more faith to speak to something to make something happen than to do an action to make it happen.

Joshua Tilghman December 15, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Fernando. Just out of curiousity, what is the Promised Land exactly to you?

Fernando December 16, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Joshua T.

The promise land to me is the Holy Land in Israel. Moreover, not only there is a physical dwelling however there is a spiritual dwelling in the land called paradise. The garden of Eden is there as well but it has been concealed from the human eye and guarded as the bible says.

Shlazette Komizya December 26, 2014 at 12:23 am

You write: “This story begs the questions:” One does not “beg questions.” A single “question” at a time is begged. From Wikipedia: <> If you don’t know the meaning of the words and phrases that you use, how can you expect to be taken seriously as an exegetist/exegist? To “beg the question” is not to look for the (an) answer, and, I expect, if you continue dispensing your malapropisms, you’ll soon find yourself begging for readers.

Joshua Tilghman December 26, 2014 at 7:15 pm

LOL. Okay, Shalazette. A simple typo. A little harsh for a simple mistake, don’t you think? I’ll edit the typo.

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