Numbers 20

1 And the children of Israel, the whole assembly, came into the wilderness of Zin, in the first month; and the people abode at Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.
2 And there was no water for the assembly, and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
3 And the people contended with Moses, and spoke, saying, Would that we had died when our brethren died before Jehovah!
4 And why have ye brought the congregation of Jehovah into this wilderness, that we should die there, we and our beasts?
5 And why have ye made us to go up out of Egypt, to bring us to 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.
6 And Moses and Aaron went from before the congregation to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and fell upon their faces; and the glory of Jehovah appeared to them.
7 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying,
8 Take the staff, and gather the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, and it shall give its water; and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock, and shalt give the assembly and their beasts drink.
9 And Moses took the staff from before Jehovah, as he had commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, ye rebels: shall we bring forth to you water out of this rock?
11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his staff smote the rock twice, and much water came out, and the assembly drank, and their beasts.
12 And Jehovah said to Moses and to Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to hallow me before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land that I have given them.
13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the children of Israel contended with Jehovah, and he hallowed himself in them.
14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, Thus says thy brother Israel: Thou knowest all the trouble that hath befallen us,
15 how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians evil entreated us and our fathers;
16 and when we cried to Jehovah, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and brought us forth out of Egypt; and behold, we are at Kadesh, a city at the extremity of thy border.
17 Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country; we will not pass through fields, or through vineyards, neither will we drink water out of the wells: we will go by the king's road; we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy border.
18 But Edom said to him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.
19 And the children of Israel said to him, We will go by the high way; and if we drink of thy water, I and my cattle, then I will pay for it: I will only, without anything else, go through on my feet.
20 And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.
21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; and Israel turned away from him.
22 And they removed from Kadesh; and the children of Israel, the whole assembly, came to mount Hor.
23 And Jehovah spoke to Moses and to Aaron in mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, saying,
24 Aaron shall be gathered unto his peoples; for he shall not enter into the land that I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my commandment at the waters of Meribah.
25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor,
26 and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron shall be gathered [to his peoples], and shall die there.
27 And Moses did as Jehovah had commanded, and they went up mount Hor before the eyes of the whole assembly.
28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there upon the top of the mountain; and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain.
29 And the whole assembly saw that Aaron was dead, and they mourned for Aaron thirty days, [even] the whole house of Israel.

Numbers 20 Commentary

Chapter 20

The people come to Zin, They murmur for water, Moses directed to smite the rock, The infirmity of Moses and Aaron. (1-13) The Israelites are refused a passage through Edom. (14-21) Aaron reigns the priest's office to Eleazar, and dies in mount Hor. (22-29)

Verses 1-13 After thirty-eight years' tedious abode in the wilderness, the armies of Israel advanced towards Canaan again. There was no water for the congregation. We live in a wanting world, and wherever we are, must expect to meet with something to put us out. It is a great mercy to have plenty of water, a mercy which, if we found the want of, we should more own the worth of. Hereupon they murmured against Moses and Aaron. They spake the same absurd and brutish language their fathers had done. It made their crime the worse, that they had smarted so long for the discontent and distrusts of their fathers, yet they venture in the same steps. Moses must again, in God's name, command water out of a rock for them; God is as able as ever to supply his people with what is needful for them. But Moses and Aaron acted wrong. They took much of the glory of this work of wonder to themselves; "Must we fetch water?" As if it were done by some power or worthiness of their own. They were to speak to the rock, but they smote it. Therefore it is charged upon them, that they did not sanctify God, that is, they did not give to him alone that glory of this miracle which was due unto his name. And being provoked by the people, Moses spake unadvisedly with his lips. The same pride of man would still usurp the office of the appointed Mediator; and become to ourselves wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Such a state of sinful independence, such a rebellion of the soul against its Saviour, the voice of God condemns in every page of the gospel.

Verses 14-21 The nearest way to Canaan from the place where Israel encamped, was through the country of Edom. The ambassadors who were sent returned with a denial. The Edomites feared to receive damage by the Israelites. And had this numerous army been under any other discipline than that of the righteous God himself, there might have been cause for this jealousy. But Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing; and now the hatred revived, when the blessing was about to be inherited. We must not think it strange, if reasonable requests be denied by unreasonable men, and if those whom God favours be affronted by men.

Verses 22-29 God bids Aaron prepare to die. There is something of displeasure in these orders. Aaron must not enter Canaan, because he had failed in his duty at the waters of strife. There is much of mercy in them. Aaron, though he dies for his transgression, dies with ease, and in honour. He is gathered to his people, as one who dies in the arms of Divine grace. There is much significancy in these orders. Aaron must not enter Canaan, to show that the Levitical priesthood could make nothing perfect; that must be done by bringing in a better hope. Aaron submits, and dies in the method and manner appointed; and, for aught that appears, with as much cheerfulness as if he had been going to bed. It was a great satisfaction to Aaron to see his son, who was dear to him, preferred; and his office preserved and secured: especially, to see in this a figure of Christ's everlasting priesthood. A good man would desire, if it were the will of God, not to outlive his usefulness. Why should we covet to continue any longer in this world, than while we may do some service in it for God and our generation?

Footnotes 1

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 20

In this chapter is an account of the children of Israel coming to the wilderness of Zin, where Miriam died, and where wanting water they murmured, Nu 20:1-5, upon which Moses and Aaron applied to the Lord, who ordered Moses to speak to a rock, which should give forth water, and which being smitten by him, accordingly did, Nu 20:6-11, but Moses and Aaron, in their conduct of this affair, displeased the Lord, Nu 20:12,13, after this, Moses sent to the king of Edom to desire a passage through his country, which request was refused, Nu 20:14-21, upon Israel's coming to Mount Hor, Aaron, by order, went up to the mount, and, when stripped of his clothes, which were put on his son Eleazar, he died, lamented by all the people, Nu 20:22-29.

Numbers 20 Commentaries