Numbers 20

1 And the sons of Israel come in, -- all the company -- to the wilderness of Zin, in the first month, and the people abide in Kadesh, and Miriam dieth there, and is buried there.
2 And there hath been no water for the company, and they are assembled against Moses, and against Aaron,
3 and the people strive with Moses, and speak, saying, `And oh that we had expired when our brethren expired before Jehovah!
4 and why have ye brought in the assembly of Jehovah unto this wilderness to die there, we and our beasts?
5 and why hast thou brought us up out of Egypt to bring us in unto this evil place? no place of seed, and fig, and vine, and pomegranate; and water there is none to drink.
6 And Moses and Aaron go in from the presence of the assembly unto the opening of the tent of meeting, and fall on their faces, and the honour of Jehovah is seen by them.
7 And Jehovah speaketh unto Moses, saying,
8 `Take the rod, and assemble the company, thou and Aaron thy brother; and ye have spoken unto the rock before their eyes, and it hath given its water, and thou hast brought out to them water from the rock, and hast watered the company, and their beasts.'
9 And Moses taketh the rod from before Jehovah, as He hath commanded him,
10 and Moses and Aaron assemble the assembly unto the front of the rock, and he saith to them, `Hear, I pray you, O rebels, from this rock do we bring out to you water?'
11 and Moses lifteth up his hand, and smiteth the rock with his rod twice; and much water cometh out, and the company drink, also their beasts.
12 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, and unto Aaron, `Because ye have not believed in Me to sanctify Me before the eyes of the sons of Israel, therefore ye do not bring in this assembly unto the land which I have given to them.'
13 These [are] waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel have `striven' with Jehovah, and He is sanctified upon them.
14 And Moses sendeth messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, `Thus said thy brother Israel, Thou -- thou hast known all the travail which hath found us;
15 that our fathers go down to Egypt, and we dwell in Egypt many days, and the Egyptians do evil to us and to our fathers;
16 and we cry unto Jehovah, and He heareth our voice, and sendeth a messenger, and is bringing us out of Egypt; and lo, we [are] in Kadesh, a city [in] the extremity of thy border.
17 Let us pass over, we pray thee, through thy land; we pass not over through a field, or through a vineyard, nor do we drink waters of a well; the way of the king we go, we turn not aside -- right or left -- till that we pass over thy border.'
18 And Edom saith unto him, `Thou dost not pass over through me, lest with sword I come out to meet thee.'
19 And the sons of Israel say unto him, `In the highway we go, and if of thy waters we drink -- I and my cattle -- then I have given their price; only (it is nothing) on my feet I pass over.'
20 And he saith, `Thou dost not pass over;' and Edom cometh out to meet him with much people, and with a strong hand;
21 and Edom refuseth to suffer Israel to pass over through his border, and Israel turneth aside from off him.
22 And the sons of Israel, the whole company, journey from Kadesh, and come in unto mount Hor,
23 and Jehovah speaketh unto Moses and unto Aaron in mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, saying,
24 `Aaron is gathered unto his people, for he doth not go in unto the land which I have given to the sons of Israel, because that ye provoked My mouth at the waters of Meribah.
25 `Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and cause them to go up mount Hor,
26 and strip Aaron of his garments, and thou hast clothed [with] them Eleazar his son, and Aaron is gathered, and doth die there.'
27 And Moses doth as Jehovah hath commanded, and they go up unto mount Hor before the eyes of all the company,
28 and Moses strippeth Aaron of his garments, and clotheth with them Eleazar his son, and Aaron dieth there on the top of the mount; and Moses cometh down -- Eleazar also -- from the mount,
29 and all the company see that Aaron hath expired, and they bewail Aaron thirty days -- 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