NUMBERS 20: Moses Disobeys God

Numbers 20 stands out for several reasons:

1) Moses disobeys God.  When the sons of Israel complain that they have no water to drink, “they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron” (verse 2, NASB,).  God told Moses to “take the rod . . . assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water.  You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the *congregation and their beasts drink” (verse 8).

English: Moses Strikes the Rock, c. 1896-1902,...
English: Moses Strikes the Rock, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), gouache on board, 11 5/16 x 8 9/16 in. (28.8 x 21.8 cm), at the Jewish Museum, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moses took the rod but instead of speaking to the rock he angrily addressed the *assembly:  “‘Listen now, you rebels; shall we [Moses and Aaron] bring forth water for you out of this rock?’  Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank” (verses 10-11).

What was Moses’ error?  The LORD told him and Aaron, “You have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel.”

What was the result of Moses’ and Aaron’s sin?  “You shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”  Thus Moses and Aaron were not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

2)  Moses sends messengers to the king of Edom, asking for permission to pass through the land of Edom.  (The Edomites were the descendents of Esau, the brother of Jacob, a.k.a. Israel.)  Not only did the king of Edom deny the sons of Israel permission to pass through the land but also threatened to attack them if they tried (verses 17-21).

3)  Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, dies in the first verse of Chapter 20, and Aaron’s death is recorded at the end of the same chapter.   Aaron’s son Eleazar takes his place.

4) In terms of geography, Chapter 20 gives us a picture of where these things took place. “The sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the Wilderness of Zin  . . and the people stayed at Kadesh.  Now Miriam died there and was buried there” (verse 1).

Verse 13 begins, “Those were the waters of Meribah” (i.e. “contention”).

Verse 14 begins, “From *Kadesh Moses then sent messengers to the king of Edom.”

Mount Hor where it is believed that Aaron brot...
Mount Hor where it is believed that Aaron brother of Moses died, and the town of Taibeh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aaron dies on top of Mount Hor (verse 27-28).



*Kadesh is the Hebrew word for “holy.”

*Notice that the words “congregation” and “assembly” apply to the sons of Israel in the above passages.


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