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Numbers - Chapter 20

Bible Study Notes

Numbers 20:1-1 Miriam, Moses sister died and was buried when they reached Kadesh.  

Notes: Most scholars believe that these events occurred at the end of the 40 years of wandering. Most of the older generation have died out, and the younger ones are now taking over.

Numbers 20:2-13 The children of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron because there was no water to drink at Kadesh. Again, they wished they were dead and complained they should have never left Egypt. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces at the tent of meeting where the Lord appeared to them. The Lord instructed Moses to take his staff and tell the rock to yield water for the people to drink. Moses was so angry with the people for their rebellion that he not only told the rock to bring forth water, but he also struck the rock with his staff twice. The Lord was angry with Moses and Aaron for not believing by simply saying to the rock to yield water, but to strike it too as if that would ensure water would come out, the Lord forbid that both Moses and Aaron would enter the promised land.

Numbers 20:14-21 Moses sent a messenger to the King of Edom who was related to Jacob’s brother Esau (Moses being related to Jacob) and asked to pass through their land, promising not to touch anything. The King of Edom said they would not pass through unless they wanted a fight. The people begged that they would pay for passage through their land, but Edom said no, and instead brought out their army to meet the Israelites. Israel turned around and left.

Notes: Since Israel was forbidden by the Lord to engage in warfare with Edom (Deut. 2:4–6), they turned away from Edom’s border. As the prime mediators of God’s laws to Israel, Moses and Aaron had to be exemplary in their obedience. Their failure to follow the divine instruction exactly led to their forfeiting their right to enter Canaan. Some have suggested that another factor was involved: since God had told Moses in the earlier incident, “I will stand before you there on the rock” (Ex. 17:6), Moses should have known that God was present here on the rock as well; therefore Moses’ speaking to the rock (Num. 20:8) would be actually speaking to God, and therefore when Moses struck the rock with his staff twice (v. 11), it was a serious manifestation of anger against God, and it is not surprising that God punished Moses severely (cf. note on 1 Cor. 10:3–4).

Numbers 20:22-29 They left Kadesh and arrived at Mount Hor. The Lord announced to Moses and Aaron that it was time for Aaron to die. The Lord instructed Moses to bring Aaron and Aaron’s son Eleazar to the top of Mount Hor. Aaron stripped himself of the High Priest clothes and put them on his son, Eleazar. Aaron died and was probably buried on Mount Hor. The people wept for Aaron thirty days.

Notes: Aaron’s death further marked the passing of the first generation.


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