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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 20

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verse 1

Numbers 20:1 (JE and P). The Death of Miriam at Kadesh.— As the narrative is now arranged, this must be assumed to have occurred at the close of the forty years’ wanderings. Zin, which is identified with Kadesh, was reached, according to P, immediately before the final advance towards Canaan ( cf. Numbers 33:36). But according to JE the arrival at Kadesh took place before the penal wanderings ( Numbers 13:26); the omission of the years here is perhaps due to the compiler’ s effort to conceal the discrepancy.

Verses 2-13

Numbers 20:2-13 (mainly JE). The Lack of Water Supplied by a Miracle.— The account of the people’ s demand for water, and of the means by which it was supplied, seems to be a duplicate of the narrative in Exodus 17:1-7, for the name Meribah appears in both; but whereas there the scene is Horeb, here it is Kadesh. Probably the account in Ex. comes mainly from E, whilst this account proceeds from J. These stories of water having been produced miraculously from a rock by the stroke of a leader’ s rod are perhaps prosaic interpretations of poetical descriptions (like that preserved in Numbers 21:16-18) of the procuring of water by more ordinary means. The explanation of the offence through which both Moses and Aaron were excluded from Canaan is very defective. In Numbers 20:12 the offence is represented as unbelief, but in Numbers 20:24 ( cf. Numbers 27:14) it is declared to have been rebellion; whilst there is nothing in the present narrative to support either statement. There must be some considerable textual corruption (probably in Numbers 20:8 and Numbers 20:10); and it has been conjectured that in the original of one of the sources there was something like this, “ And Yahweh spake unto Moses and Aaron, and said, Speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, and ye shall bring forth to them water out of the rock. But Moses and Aaron rebelled against the commandment of Yahweh and said, Can we bring forth water for them out of this rock?” To this Yahweh replied, “ Hear me (so LXX), ye rebels,” and bade them strike the rock (which previously they had only been directed to address, Numbers 20:8), and this command was obeyed ( Numbers 20:9). It must be supposed that to draw water from the rock by striking it with the wonder-working rod was less of a marvel than to do so by mere words, and that Moses and Aaron were punished for doubting Yahweh’ s power to effect the latter miracle: cf. Psalms 106:33.

Numbers 20:9 . the rod from before the Lord: i.e. Aaron’ s rod (see Numbers 17:10).

Numbers 20:11 . his rod: read (LXX), “ the rod ( cf. Numbers 20:9). Aaron’ s rod is used in the miracles related in Exodus 7:9; Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:5; Exodus 8:16.

Numbers 20:13 . Meribah: from the Heb. ribh, “ to strive.” Perhaps the right reading is “ Meribah of Kadesh,” as in Numbers 27:14, Deuteronomy 32:51.— was sanctified: i.e. vindicated Himself; cf. Isaiah 5:16. The Heb. contains a reference to the name Kadesh.

Verses 14-21

Numbers 20:14-21 . Israels Abortive Appeal to Edom (JE).— Israel’ s desire to cross Edom was due to the wish to attack Canaan on the E. instead of on the S., where they had met with defeat ( Numbers 14:45). As Kadesh was W. of Edom, the encompassing of the country ( Numbers 21:4) involved a march from Kadesh to the SE.

Numbers 20:16 . border: The term here means territory ( cf. Numbers 22:36).

Numbers 20:19 . without . . . else: better, “ it is no great matter (of annoyance).”

Verses 22-29

Numbers 20:22-29 . The Death of Aaron (P).– Mt. Hor, the scene of Aaron’ s death, has been identified by some with Jebel Maduran, an isolated hill not far from the S. end of the Dead Sea, which must have been near to the NW. frontier of Edom. If the identification is correct, P must have believed that Israel crossed, instead of compassing, Edom. Others identify it with Jebel Haroun, near Petra. According to Deuteronomy 10:6, Aaron’ s death took place at Moserah (the Moseroth of Numbers 33:30). The date of it is definitely assigned in Numbers 33:38 to the fortieth year after the Exodus.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Numbers 20". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/numbers-20.html. 1919.
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