Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And when Moses asked for water for his people) in the wilderness, (We said: smite with your staff the rock) that you have with you. This was a rock given to him by Allah. It had 12 nipples that resemble the nipples of women and upon striking each one of these a spring gushed therefrom. (And there gushed out therefrom twelve springs (so that) each tribe knew their drinking place) each tribe knew their own spring. Allah said to them: (Eat) the honey and quails (and drink of) all the springs (that which Allah hath provided. And do not act corruptly, making mischief in the earth) and do not cause mischief on the earth, or act contrary to what Moses commanded.
And, mention, when Moses sought water for his people, for they suffered thirst in the wilderness, We said, ‘Strike with your staff the rock, (the one that ran off with his robe, a light cube-like [rock] about the size of a man’s head, made of marble) and he struck it, and there exploded, there burst and gushed forth, from it twelve fountains, equal to the number of tribes, each people, [each] tribe among them, came to know their drinking-place, which they did not share with any of the others. And We said to them, ‘Eat and drink of that which God has provided, and do not be degenerate in the earth, seeking corruption’ (mufsidīn is a circumstantial qualifier emphasising its operator, the subject of the verb [lā ta‘thaw, ‘do not be degenerate’] derived from ‘athiya, meaning afsada, ‘to corrupt’).
And when Moses sought water, sought the sending down of the rains of knowledge, wisdoms and meanings from the heaven of the spirit, [for his people,] We said, We commanded him to strike the staff of the soul on which he supported himself in his attachment to the body and his remaining fixed on the earth reflecting upon the rock of the brain, which is the foundation point of the intellect: ['Strike with your staff the rock,] and there exploded from it twelve fountains, of the waters of knowledge according to the number of human emotions, which are the five outer senses, the five inner ones as well as the considerative rational and practical [ones]: that is why the Prophet said: 'Whoever loses a sense, then verily he has lost knowledge'; each people came to know their drinking-place, that is to say, the people of every [kind of] science [came to know] the source of that science, such as the artisans, the scholars working from the source that is the practical intellect; the wise and the gnostics [from the source that is] the considerative [intellect]; the tanners from the science of seeing colours; the music makers from the science of sounds and so on. According to the second interpretation: We commanded Moses, the heart, to strike the staff of the soul upon the rock of the brain and there exploded from it twelve fountains, which are the mentioned emotions each of which is specific to one of the twelve mentioned powers, namely, the tribes of Jacob, the spirit. Each one came to know its drinking-place. 'Eat and drink of that which God has provided, that is, profit from what God has provided you in the way of knowledge, action, states and stations; and do not be degenerate in the earth, seeking corruption', do not go to excess in corruption out of ignorance.
Allah said, "Remember My favor on you when I answered the supplication of your Prophet, Musa, when he asked Me to provide you with water. I made the water available for you, making it gush out through a stone. Twelve springs burst out of that stone, a designated spring for each of your tribes. You eat from the manna and the quails and drink from the water that I provided for you, without any effort or hardship for you. So worship the One Who did this for you.
وَلاَ تَعْثَوْاْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ
(And do not act corruptly, making mischief on the earth) meaning, "Do not return the favor by committing acts of disobedience that cause favors to disappear.''
Ibn `Abbas said that the Children of Israel, "Had a square stone that Musa was commanded to strike with his staff and, as a result, twelve springs burst out of that stone, three on each side. Each tribe was, therefore, designated a certain spring, and they used to drink from their springs. They never had to travel from their area, they would find the same bounty in the same manner they had in the first area.''This narration is part of the long Hadith that An-Nasa'i, Ibn Jarir and Ibn Abi Hatim recorded about the trials.
This story is similar to the story in Surat Al-`Araf (Chapter 7) although the latter was revealed in Makkah. In Surat Al-A`raf, Allah used the third person when He mentioned the Children of Israel to the Prophet and narrated what He favored them with. In this Surat Al-Baqarah, which was revealed in Al-Madinah, Allah directed His Speech at the Children of Israel. Further, Allah said in Surat Al-A`raf,
فَانبَجَسَتْ مِنْهُ اثْنَتَا عَشْرَةَ عَيْنًا
(And there gushed forth out of it twelve springs) (7:160), describing what first occurred when the water begins to gush out. In the Ayah in Surat Al-Baqarah, Allah described what happened later on, meaning when the water burst out in full force. Allah knows best.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
That rock can still be seen in the Sinai Peninsula with the twelve holes of the springs. Twelve springs were caused to flow for the Israelites in order to avoid water disputes among their twelve clans.
And when Moses sought water for his people We said “Strike the rock with your staff” and there exploded from it twelve fountains and each people came to know their drinking place “Eat and drink of that which God has provided and do not be degenerate in the earth seeking corruption.” One who is capable of extracting water from solid rock is capable of quenching thirst without water. But He made the trace or effect athar of the miracle manifest in [Moses] and connected him to the locus maḥall of calling for help. This in order for Moses to work with his self nafs in moving the stone and give him responsibility in striking it with his staff. Thus there would be a measure of [human] effort involved in making His decree come to pass when he sought water for his people. Then the Real سبحانه wanted each people to follow a way sunna stick to their boundary ḥadd and not dispute with their companions. He singled out for each tribe a marker by which they would know their drinking place so that they would not go to each others' drinking places. When He had met their needs He bid them to be grateful to preserve the command and to stop choosing sin and so He said “and do not be degenerate in the earth seeking corruption.” The drinking places are different and each comes to their own so one drinking place is sweet and fresh another salty and bitter another clear and pure and another dried up with only a few drops. The water carrier for each people leads them and the scout of each party drives them on so the lower selves come to the watering places of desires and cravings the hearts come to the drinking places of piety and acts of obedience the spirits come to the watering places of unveiling and witnessing and the innermost selves come to the watering places of realities. The latter [innermost selves] are snatched from the being and outward markings al-kawn wa-l-marsūmāt [of humans] then from the sensory awareness and attributes al-iḥsās wa-l-ṣifāt [of humans] then annihilated in the reality of ecstatic finding and essence al-wujūd wa-l-dhāt.