Numbers 20:1-13

Water From the Rock

1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.
2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron.
3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD!
4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here?
5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them.
7 The LORD said to Moses,
8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him.
10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”
11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
13 These were the waters of Meribah,[a] where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he was proved holy among them.

Numbers 20:1-13 Meaning and Commentary

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 20:1-13 In-Context

1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.
2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron.
3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD!
4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here?
5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them.
7 The LORD said to Moses,
8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him.
10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”
11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he was proved holy among them.
14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying: “This is what your brother Israel says: You know about all the hardships that have come on us.
15 Our ancestors went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our ancestors,
16 but when we cried out to the LORD, he heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. “Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory.
17 Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”

Cross References 28

  • 1. Numbers 13:21
  • 2. ver 14; Numbers 13:26; Numbers 33:36; Deuteronomy 1:46; Judges 11:17; Psalms 29:8
  • 3. S Exodus 15:20
  • 4. S Exodus 15:22
  • 5. Exodus 17:1
  • 6. S Numbers 16:19
  • 7. ver 13; S Genesis 13:7; Exodus 17:2; Exodus 21:18
  • 8. S Exodus 5:21
  • 9. S Numbers 14:2; Numbers 16:31-35
  • 10. S Numbers 14:2
  • 11. S Exodus 14:11; Exodus 17:3; Numbers 14:3; Numbers 16:13
  • 12. Numbers 13:23; Numbers 16:14
  • 13. S Exodus 17:1
  • 14. S Exodus 40:2
  • 15. Numbers 14:5
  • 16. S Numbers 16:19
  • 17. S Exodus 4:2; S Exodus 10:12-13; Exodus 4:17,20
  • 18. Exodus 17:6; Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 43:20; Jeremiah 31:9
  • 19. Numbers 17:2
  • 20. Numbers 17:10
  • 21. ver 8
  • 22. Psalms 106:32,33
  • 23. S Exodus 17:6; S Isaiah 33:21; Deuteronomy 8:15; Psalms 78:16; Isaiah 48:2; 1 Corinthians 10:4
  • 24. Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 32:51; Isaiah 5:16; Isaiah 8:13
  • 25. ver 24; Deuteronomy 1:37; Deuteronomy 3:27
  • 26. S Exodus 17:7
  • 27. S ver 3; Deuteronomy 33:8; Psalms 95:8; Psalms 106:32
  • 28. S Leviticus 10:3

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. "Meribah" means "quarreling" .