Numbers chapter 20

Miriam dies. The waters of Meribah. Edom refuses passage. Aaron dies.





VERSE 1. The children of Israel, even the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month. The people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died there, and was buried there.

Miriam died there. The nation had three co-founders: Moses, Aaron, and Mirian.

They were siblings.

We imagine Miriam’s death occasioned a time of national mourning.




VERSE 2. There was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.


VERSE 3. The people quarreled with Moses, and spoke, saying, “We wish that we had died when our brothers died before the LORD!

We wish that we had died. As usual, the people over-react. They speak with vitriol.


VERSE 4. Why have you brought the LORD’s assembly into this wilderness, that we should die there, we and our animals?

Why have you? They blame Moses for the nation being in the desert.

That despite the fact that they know it was the LORD God who liberated them from slavery in Egypt.


VERSE 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.”


VERSE 6. Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the Tent of Meeting, and fell on their faces. The LORD’s glory appeared to them.

and fell on their faces. That is, they fell face down to the ground.

By now, Moses and Aaron were experienced and wise. When the angry community held a council against them, they walked away and fell to the ground in prayer.

In times of difficulty, the best thing we can do is to listen to God.


VERSE 7. The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,


VERSE 8. “Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you, and Aaron your brother, and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it pour out its water. You shall bring water to them out of the rock; so you shall give the congregation and their livestock drink.”

speak to the rock. Through their saying words, a great miracle will happen.

We often forget that God is limitlessly powerful. We often ask such trivial things of him. But he delights when we ask great and mighty things. Read more »

You shall bring water to them out of the rock. It was Moses who caused the rock to pour out water. It was Moses who did the miracle.


VERSE 9. Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.


VERSE 10. Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Shall we bring water out of this rock for you?”


VERSE 11. Moses lifted up his hand, and struck the rock with his rod twice, and water came out abundantly. The congregation and their livestock drank.

Moses lifted up his hand, and struck the rock. This was the wrong thing to do. In verse 8 above, Moses was instructed to speak to the rock, not hit it with a stick.

However, there was a previous incident where the LORD God instructed Moses to hit a rock. Maybe Moses was confused?

Exodus 17:6. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb. You shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Later, the LORD God will hold this against Moses. Moses will be prevented from entering the Promised Land.

Numbers 27:14. because in the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin, to honor me as holy at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)


VERSE 12. The LORD 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.”

Because you didn’t believe in me. The one and only sin of Moses was to hit the rock instead of speak to it.

For that, he was prevented from entering the Promised Land.

This is a very strong punishment.


VERSE 13. These are the waters of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.

Meribah. This Hebrew word means “quarreling.”




VERSE 14. Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying: “Your brother Israel says: You know all the travail that has happened to us;


VERSE 15. how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. The Egyptians mistreated us and our fathers.


VERSE 16. When we cried to the LORD, he heard our voice, sent an angel, and brought us out of Egypt. Behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the edge of your border.


VERSE 17. “Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or through vineyard, neither will we drink from the water of the wells. We will go along the king’s highway. We will not turn away to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed your border.”


VERSE 18. Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through me, lest I come out with the sword against you.”

You shall not pass. Edom refused to help God’s people, probably for no other reason than to make their lives difficult.

In the next chapter, there are three more examples of obstinacy:

  • Numbers 21:1. The Canaanite king of Arad
  • Numbers 21:23. Sihon, King of the Amorites
  • Numbers 21:33. Og, King of Bashan

through me. This is a grand example of narcissism. The king of Edom equates the land with himself.


VERSE 19. The children of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway; and if we drink your water, I and my livestock, then I will give its price. Only let me, without doing anything else, pass through on my feet.”


VERSE 20. He said, “You shall not pass through.” Edom came out against him with many people, and with a strong hand.


VERSE 21. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border, so Israel turned away from him.




VERSE 22. They traveled from Kadesh, and the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor.


VERSE 23. The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor, by the border of the land of Edom, saying,


VERSE 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.

he shall not enter into the land. Aaron is disbarred from entering the Promised Land. Why?

because you rebelled against my word. Aaron is disbarred from entering the Promised Land because of Moses.

This is a very strong punishment. And a lot of guilt for Moses to bear.


VERSE 25. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor;


VERSE 26. and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son. Aaron shall be gathered, and shall die there.”

strip Aaron of his garments. This seems very unusual.

In the biblical narrative, people are rarely naked.

put them on Eleazar his son. The mantle of Aaron’s priesthood is transferred to Eleazar.


VERSE 27. Moses did as the LORD commanded. They went up onto Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.


VERSE 28. Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son. Aaron died there on the top of the mountain, and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain.

Aaron died there. The nation had three co-founders: Moses, Aaron, and Mirian.

They were siblings.

Aaron’s death occasioned a time of national mourning, as we see in the next verse:


VERSE 29. When all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they wept for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

they wept for Aaron thirty days. The nation mourned Aaron for a month.


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: todd

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