Numbers 20

Listen to Numbers 20
1 The children of Israel, even the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.
2 There was no water for the congregation: and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
3 The people strove with Moses, and spoke, saying, Would that we had died when our brothers died before Yahweh!
4 Why have you brought the assembly of Yahweh into this wilderness, that we should die there, we and our animals?
5 Why have you made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in 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 Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces: and the glory of Yahweh appeared to them.
7 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
8 Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you, and Aaron your brother, and speak you to the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water; and you shall bring forth to them water out of the rock; so you shall give the congregation and their cattle drink.
9 Moses took the rod from before Yahweh, as he commanded him.
10 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring you forth water out of this rock?
11 Moses lifted up his hand, and struck the rock with his rod twice: and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle.
12 Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, Because you didn't believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.
13 These are the waters of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with Yahweh, and he was sanctified in them.
14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, Thus says your brother Israel, You know all the travail that has befallen us:
15 how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and our fathers:
16 and when we cried to Yahweh, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of your border.
17 Please let us pass through your land: we will not pass through field or through vineyard, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go along the king's highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed your border.
18 Edom said to him, You shall not pass through me, lest I come out with the sword against you.
19 The children of Israel said to him, We will go up by the highway; and if we drink of your water, I and my cattle, then will I give the price of it: let me only, without [doing] anything [else], pass through on my feet.
20 He said, You shall not pass through. Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.
21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: why Israel turned away from him.
22 They journeyed from Kadesh: and the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor.
23 Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor, by the border of the land of Edom, saying,
24 Aaron shall be gathered to his people; for he shall not enter into the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against my word at the waters of Meribah.
25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor;
26 and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered [to his people], and shall die there.
27 Moses did as Yahweh commanded: and they went up into Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.
28 Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain.
29 When all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they wept for Aaron thirty days, even all the 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?

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