Numbers 20

This chapter of mourning shows how God removes those who are generally faithful from ministry when they make a significant mistake.  Remember that God destroyed those whose lives were marked by disobedience.  God is actually lenient with Moses and Aaron.  Even Miriam seems to pass aay quietly.  We are aware of each of their disobedience but we tend to trivialise Moses’ striking the rock – twice.  In Hebrew the words that describe Moses’ disobedience show it as being willful disobedience.  Moses acted in a high-handed way against God.  Moses had enough.  In some cases such disobedience can be overlooked, but if God overlooked Moses’ disobedience a pattern would be set for the whole of the Israelite history.  God could not allow that so he took Miriam, Aaron, and finally Moses to be with him.

Numbers 20

 1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

 2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

 6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

 9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

 13 These were the waters of Meribah, [a] where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.

 14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying:
       “This is what your brother Israel says: You know about all the hardships that have come upon us. 15 Our forefathers went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our fathers, 16 but when we cried out to the LORD, he heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt.
       “Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. 17 Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the king’s highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”

 18 But Edom answered:
       “You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.”

 19 The Israelites replied:
       “We will go along the main road, and if we or our livestock drink any of your water, we will pay for it. We only want to pass through on foot—nothing else.”

 20 Again they answered:
       “You may not pass through.”
      Then Edom came out against them with a large and powerful army. 21 Since Edom refused to let them go through their territory, Israel turned away from them.

 22 The whole Israelite community set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. 23 At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 24 “Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. 25 Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. 26 Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there.”

 27 Moses did as the LORD commanded: They went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. 28 Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, 29 and when the whole community learned that Aaron had died, the entire house of Israel mourned for him thirty days.

Questions

  1. What did God tell Moses and Aaron to do regarding Israel’s water supply?
  2. What did Moses actually do?
  3. Why did God think Moses’ actions were so serious?
  4. When have you seen public figures openly sinning?
  5. Why would God count the actions of spiritual leaders so seriously?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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