Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 20

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-6

The Murmuring of the People At Kadesh

v. 1. Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the Desert of Zin, on the northern border of the Wilderness of Paran, in the first month of the fortieth year of the wilderness journey, Cf v. 29 with Numbers 33:38; and the people abode in Kadesh, in or near the place where they had camped some thirty-eight years before, Numbers 13:26. The older generation had in the mean time died, being overthrown in the wilderness for their unbelief, 1 Corinthians 10:5. And Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and the most prominent among all the women of the host, died there, and was buried there.

v. 2. And there was no water for the congregation; and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, in a dissatisfied mob, just as their fathers had done before them.

v. 3. And the people chode with Moses and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren, all those that had gradually been taken away during the stay in the wilderness, died before the Lord!

v. 4. And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness that we and our cattle should die there? It is the same unreasonable grumbling, the same exaggeration of unbelief which had characterized the actions of the people more than a generation before.

v. 5. And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, which the memory of their childhood now painted before their eyes in glowing colors, to bring us in unto this evil place? It is no place of seed, that is, where grain can grow, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. They missed all the delights of field and orchard and vineyard, and the entire situation filled them with disgust.

v. 6. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly, where they had heard the bitter complaint, unto the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation; and they fell upon their faces, in helpless surrender and in pleading supplications And the glory of the Lord appeared unto them, in majestic contrast to their abject perplexity. Christians should also keep in mind at all times that it is nothing but God's goodness and mercy which still takes care of them, in spite of all their dissatisfaction and their many faults.

Verses 7-13

Water Out of the Rock.

v. 7. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

v. 8. Take the rod, the same shepherd's staff which had already figured so largely in various miracles, Exodus 17:5, and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron, thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, in an address which was equivalent to a command and must yield results; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. So the Lord chose to overlook the people's sin of grumbling and to treat them with a kindness which they did not deserve.

v. 9. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, for it had probably been deposited in the Sanctuary, as He commanded him.

v. 10. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he, Moses, said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels, must we fetch you water out of this rock? The thought seems to be implied: Your attitude is one of such perpetual nagging and grumbling that there is some doubt in my mind whether we really ought, and whether we shall be able, to provide you with water.

v. 11. And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice; and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank and their beasts also. So God proved Himself the patient and merciful Lord, and Jesus Christ, the spiritual Rock, who accompanied the host, made them a gift of the water.

v. 12. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed Me not, because they had not firmly, unconditionally, and confidently placed their humble trust in His word, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, to give evidence before the eyes of the children of Israel that He was the Holy One, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. Neither of them would have this privilege, since by their fleshly zeal and disgust they had distorted and obscured before the eyes of the people the image of Jehovah Himself; neither of them would enter the Land of Promise. The occasional discontent which manifests itself in the lives of Christians, though usually a sin of weakness, is highly displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and often brings some evidence of His displeasure upon the offenders.

v. 13. This is the water of Meribah (strife), because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, in murmuring against His dispensations, and He was sanctified in them, both by exposing the unbelief of the people and by punishing the weakness of Moses and Aaron. Cf Psalms 106:32-33. This incident is a warning, lest any one become secure. Even firm and tested Christians are not safe against temptation and falling, against disobedience, foolishness, doubt, unbelief. It is fortunate that the merciful God does not desert His children at such times, but renews faith in their hearts and keeps them safe unto the end.

Verses 14-21

The Refusal of the Edomites to Grant Israel Passage.

v. 14. And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, since the plan of entering into Canaan from the east made it necessary for the people to pass through the country inhabited by the descendants of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, for the two nations were descended from brothers, Thou knowest all the travel (trouble) that hath befallen us, the long and arduous desert journey which had fallen to the lot of the children of Israel after all the vicissitudes of the land of Egypt;

v. 15. how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us and our fathers;

v. 16. and when we cried unto the Lord, He heard our voice and sent an Angel, the Angel of the Lord in a special sense, the Son of God Himself, who was the Leader of the host of Israel, Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20; Exodus 33:2, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt; and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border;

v. 17. let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country; we will not pass through the fields or through the vineyards, in an irregular, careless, and straggling manner of marching, or in a way which permitted individual foraging, neither will we drink of the water of the wells, that is, take the water without paying for it; we will go by the king's highway, the great public and military road, built and maintained at the expense of the nation; we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed through thy borders.

v. 18. And Edom, that is, the king of the Edomites, in the name of his people, said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. To the very ungracious refusal is added the menacing threat, which emphasized the denial of the petition.

v. 19. And the children of Israel, through their representatives, said unto him, We will go by the highway; and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it, the people of the country were not to suffer any inconvenience or loss by reason of this journey through their land; I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet; literally, "It isn't anything, it isn't really a serious matter for which I am asking, just a small favor, I merely want to pass through afoot. "

v. 20. And he said, Thou shalt not go through. The refusal of the king of Edom was definite and final. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand; the king mobilized his army and made ready to attack Israel, as soon as the latter would cross his border.

v. 21. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border; wherefore Israel turned away from him. The Lord had them change their proposed itinerary, probably because He did not want to have the people become discouraged by war. The children of Edom are often represented in Scriptures as the enemies of the Lord's people and as a type of the unbelievers of all times. The children of this world, in spite of their apparent attitude of friendliness so frequently shown, will do everything in their power to hinder the children of God from obtaining eternal salvation.

Verses 22-29

the death of aaron

v. 22. And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh and came unto Mount Hor, the exact location of which cannot now be determined, although it was probably near the place where the city of Petra was later built, southeast of their last camping-place.

v. 23. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor, at the station called Moserah, Deuteronomy 10:6, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,

v. 24. Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, be joined to the number of those that had gone before, to await the great resurrection; for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah; both he and Moses had at that time become guilty of striving with the Lord.

v. 25. Take Aaron and Eleazar, his son, and bring them up unto Mount Hor;

v. 26. and strip Aaron of his garments, the special garments distinctive of the high priest's office, and put them upon Eleazar, his son; and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people and shall die there.

v. 27. And Moses did as the Lord commanded; and they went up into Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.

v. 28. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar, his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount. And Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount, probably after attending to the proper burial of Aaron.

v. 29. And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, his death having taken place on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the departure from Egypt, Numbers 33:37-38, when he was one hundred and twenty-three years old, Exodus 7:7, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel. All believers have the comforting assurance that their death, though a consequence of sin, takes place according to God's will, the grave being the body's resting-place until the great day of the final resurrection.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Numbers 20". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/numbers-20.html. 1921-23.
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