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1 Then came the children of Israel, euen the whole Congregation, into the desert of Zin, in the first moneth: and the people abode in Kadesh, and Miriam died there, and was buried there.

2 And there was no water for the Congregation: and they gathered themselues together against Moses and against Aaron.

3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord.

4 And why haue yee brought vp the Congregation of the Lord into this wildernesse, that we and our cattell should die there?

5 And wherefore haue ye made vs to come vp out of Egypt, to bring vs in vnto this euil place? it is no place of seed, or of figges, or vines, or of pomegranates, neither is there any water to drinke.

6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly, vnto the doore of the Tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell vpon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared vnto them.

7 And the Lord spake vnto Moses, saying,

8 Take the rodde, and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speake yee vnto the rocke before their eyes, and it shall giue foorth his water, and thou shalt bring foorth to them, water out of the rocke: so thou shalt giue the Congregation, and their beasts drinke.

9 And Moses tooke the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the Congregation together before the rocke, and hee said vnto them, Heare now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rocke?

11 And Moses lift vp his hand, and with his rod he smote the rocke twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the Congregation dranke, and their beasts also.

12 And the Lord spake vnto Moses and Aaron, Because ye beleeue me not, to sanctifie me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this Congregation into the land which I haue giuen them.

13 This is the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel stroue with the Lord; and he was sanctified in them.

14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh, vnto the King of Edom; Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the trauaile that hath befallen vs:

15 How our fathers went downe into Egypt, and we haue dwelt in Egypt a long time: and the Egyptians vexed vs, and our fathers.

16 And when wee cryed vnto the Lord, he heard our voyce, and sent an Angel, and hath brought vs foorth out of Egypt: and behold, wee are in Kadesh, a citie in the vttermost of thy border.

17 Let vs passe, I pray thee, thorow thy countrey: we will not passe thorow the fields, or thorow the Uineyards, neither will we drinke of the water of the wells: wee will goe by the Kings high-way, we wil not turne to the right hand nor to the left, vntill wee haue passed thy borders.

18 And Edom said vnto him, Thou shalt not passe by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.

19 And the children of Israel said vnto him, We will goe by the high-way: and if I and my cattell drinke of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will onely (without doing any thing else) go thorow on my feet.

20 And he said, Thou shalt not goe thorow. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.

21 Thus Edom refused to giue Israel passage thorow his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.

22 And the children of Israel, euen the whole Congregation, iourneyed from Kadesh, and came vnto mount Hor.

23 And the Lord spake vnto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying;

24 Aaron shall bee gathered vnto his people: for hee shall not enter into the land which I haue giuen vnto the children of Israel, because yee rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.

25 Take Aaron, and Eleazar his sonne, and bring them vp vnto mount Hor.

26 And strippe Aaron of his garments, and put them vpon Eleazar his sonne, and Aaron shall be gathered vnto his people, and shall die there.

27 And Moses did as the Lord commaunded: and they went vp into mount Hor, in the sight of all the Congregation.

28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them vpon Eleazar his sonne, and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came downe from the mount.

29 And when all the Congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty dayes, euen all the house of Israel.

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Commentary for Numbers 20

The people come to Zin, They murmur for water, Moses directed to smite the rock, The infirmity of Moses and Aaron. (1-13) The Israelites are refused a passage through Edom. (14-21) Aaron reigns the priest's office to Eleazar, and dies in mount Hor. (22-29)1-13 After thirty-eight years' tedious abode in the wilderness, the armies of Israel advanced towards Canaan again. There was no water for the congregation. We live in a wanting world, and wherever we are, must expect to meet with something to put us out. It is a great mercy to have plenty of water, a mercy which, if we found the want of, we should more own the worth of. Hereupon they murmured against Moses and Aaron. They spake the same absurd and brutish language their fathers had done. It made their crime the worse, that they had smarted so long for the discontent and distrusts of their fathers, yet they venture in the same steps. Moses must again, in God's name, command water out of a rock for them; God is as able as ever to supply his people with what is needful for them. But Moses and Aaron acted wrong. They took much of the glory of this work of wonder to themselves; "Must we fetch water?" As if it were done by some power or worthiness of their own. They were to speak to the rock, but they smote it. Therefore it is charged upon them, that they did not sanctify God, that is, they did not give to him alone that glory of this miracle which was due unto his name. And being provoked by the people, Moses spake unadvisedly with his lips. The same pride of man would still usurp the office of the appointed Mediator; and become to ourselves wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Such a state of sinful independence, such a rebellion of the soul against its Saviour, the voice of God condemns in every page of the gospel.

14-21 The nearest way to Canaan from the place where Israel encamped, was through the country of Edom. The ambassadors who were sent returned with a denial. The Edomites feared to receive damage by the Israelites. And had this numerous army been under any other discipline than that of the righteous God himself, there might have been cause for this jealousy. But Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing; and now the hatred revived, when the blessing was about to be inherited. We must not think it strange, if reasonable requests be denied by unreasonable men, and if those whom God favours be affronted by men.

22-29 God bids Aaron prepare to die. There is something of displeasure in these orders. Aaron must not enter Canaan, because he had failed in his duty at the waters of strife. There is much of mercy in them. Aaron, though he dies for his transgression, dies with ease, and in honour. He is gathered to his people, as one who dies in the arms of Divine grace. There is much significancy in these orders. Aaron must not enter Canaan, to show that the Levitical priesthood could make nothing perfect; that must be done by bringing in a better hope. Aaron submits, and dies in the method and manner appointed; and, for aught that appears, with as much cheerfulness as if he had been going to bed. It was a great satisfaction to Aaron to see his son, who was dear to him, preferred; and his office preserved and secured: especially, to see in this a figure of Christ's everlasting priesthood. A good man would desire, if it were the will of God, not to outlive his usefulness. Why should we covet to continue any longer in this world, than while we may do some service in it for God and our generation?

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

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