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From what I understand the Well of Miriam in the desert was actually a rock which miraculously brought forth water. As such why do we refer to it as the 'Well of Miriam' and not the 'Rock of Miriam'?

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  • Isn't it a A place where a liquid such as water surfaces naturally?
    – Double AA
    May 11 '14 at 20:35
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    @DoubleAA I'm not particularly interested in the English definition, unless it is identical to the torah's definition of a b'er. But in any case it is a misnomer. May 11 '14 at 20:49
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    @not-allowedtochangemyname, if you're "not particularly interested in the English definition, unless it is identical to the torah's definition of a b'er", then why do you ask in your question about a "well" and not about a "b'er"?
    – msh210
    May 11 '14 at 21:24
  • @msh210 I was translating the hebrew term for the benefit of j.se users who are not familiar with it. It's the same reason I translated rock instead of using the term selah. May 11 '14 at 22:33
  • @DoubleAA are you suggesting it was not miraculous like the torah claims? after all it was portable and gave water to 2 million people for 40 years.
    – ray
    May 12 '14 at 8:56
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My guess is that there was nothing special about the rock, which existed way before Miriam and lasted long after her. The only thing special about it was that it produced water like a well, which lasted only as long as Miriam was alive.

Hence, it wasn't the rock of Miriam, since she had nothing to do with it being a rock. It is the well of Miriam, since she caused it to be a well.

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In Bamidbar 21 it's referred to as a well, multiple times:

טז וּמִשָּׁם, בְּאֵרָה: הִוא הַבְּאֵר, אֲשֶׁר אָמַר יְהוָה לְמֹשֶׁה, אֱסֹף אֶת-הָעָם, וְאֶתְּנָה לָהֶם מָיִם. יז אָז יָשִׁיר יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת: עֲלִי בְאֵר, עֱנוּ-לָהּ. יח בְּאֵר חֲפָרוּהָ שָׂרִים, כָּרוּהָ נְדִיבֵי הָעָם, בִּמְחֹקֵק, בְּמִשְׁעֲנֹתָם; וּמִמִּדְבָּר, מַתָּנָה

My guess is that as a result it's called the Well of Miriam, though the Ibn Ezra on that Pasuk says that it does not refer to Be'er Miriam.

וזאת הבאר גם היא היתה פלא ואיננה הבאר הנקרא באר מרים לפי דעתי

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Perhaps because it wasn't just a rock - first and foremost it served the function of a well.

The Gemara in Taanis 9b clearly states that it was brought in Miriam's merit and Rashi writes over there:

...בארה של מרים - סלע וזבין ממנו מים והיה מתגלגל והולך עם ישראל

The Well of Miriam - a rock and water flowed from it and it would roll and (lit.) go (i.e. travel) with the Jewish People.

So it would seem whilst it was indeed a rock, it was a miraculous feature within the Jewish peoples' existence in the desert. It provided a wellspring of water and would travel in tandem with them.

In fact, we can build on this by bringing another Gemara in Shabbos 35a which shows that despite being a rock its modus operandi was to provide a constant stream of water and therefore function as a well.

It writes there:

אָמַר רַבִּי חִיָּיא: הָרוֹצֶה לִרְאוֹת בְּאֵרָהּ שֶׁל מִרְיָם יַעֲלֶה לְרֹאשׁ הַכַּרְמֶל וְיִצְפֶּה וְיִרְאֶה כְּמִין כְּבָרָה בַּיָּם — וְזוֹ הִיא בְּאֵרָהּ שֶׁל מִרְיָם. אָמַר רַב: מַעְיָן הַמִּיטַּלְטֵל טָהוֹר — וְזֶהוּ בְּאֵרָהּ שֶׁל מִרְיָם

Rabbi Ḥiyya said: One who wants to see Miriam’s well, which accompanied the Jewish people throughout their sojourn in the desert, should do the following: He should climb to the top of Mount Carmel and look out, and he will see a rock that looks like a sieve in the sea, and that is Miriam’s well. Rav said: A spring that is portable, i.e., that moves from place to place, is ritually pure and is regarded as an actual spring and not as drawn water. And what is a movable spring? It is Miriam’s well. (Sefaria translation & notation)

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