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Numbers Twenty

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Numbers 20:1 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.

Numbers 20:2 And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.

Numbers 20:3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!

Numbers 20:4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?

Numbers 20:5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.

Numbers 20:6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.

Numbers 20:7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

Numbers 20:8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

Take the rod. This was not the rod of judgment, with which Moses had smitten the rock almost forty years before. Water from that rock had followed them as a perennially flowing stream through all their wilderness wanderings. The rod mentioned here was Aaron's rod that budded (Numbers 17:10; 20:9), implying resurrection instead of judgment.

speak ye unto the rock. This rock was a high craggy rock (in Hebrew cela), in contrast to the small rock (in Hebrew tsur), which had been smitten before (Exodus 17:6).

Numbers 20:9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.

Numbers 20:10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

Numbers 20:11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

he smote the rock. Once again the Lord miraculously provided water out of the rock for the horde of Israelites (see note on Exodus 17:6 for the first instance). However, this time Moses disobeyed God by smiting the rock twice instead of speaking to it once. Worse than this, he was now so used to having the Lord perform miracles for the people through him that he took the credit (“must we fetch you water”—Numbers 20:10). It was for this reason that God would not allow him to cross the Jordan. “Ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Numbers 20:12).

Numbers 20:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Numbers 20:13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.

Numbers 20:14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:

thy brother Israel. The Edomites were descended from Esau, Jacob's brother.

Numbers 20:15 How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:

Numbers 20:16 And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border:

Numbers 20:17 Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.

the king's high way. This route has been the major transportation route from Damascus to the Gulf of Aqabah for over three thousand years. It runs through the lands of Edom, Moab and Ammon, somewhat parallel to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. A modern paved highway more or less follows along the same ancient route.

Numbers 20:18 And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.

Numbers 20:19 And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet.

Numbers 20:20 And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.

Numbers 20:21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.

Numbers 20:22 And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.

Numbers 20:23 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,

Numbers 20:24 Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.

Numbers 20:25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:

Numbers 20:26 And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.

Numbers 20:27 And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.

Numbers 20:28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.

Aaron died there. The death of Aaron essentially marked the end of the forty years of wanderings (see Numbers 33:38). Although it is not mentioned, this means that all the other men who had been more than twenty years old when the ten spies brought back their evil report were now dead (Numbers 14:26-35). Thus it was time to resume the planned conquest of Canaan.

Numbers 20:29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.