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1 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: 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 themselves 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 have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?

5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.

6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.

7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; 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.

9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.

10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

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.

12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

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

14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:

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:

16 And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border:

17 Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.

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

19 And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet.

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

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

22 And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.

23 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,

24 Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: 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.

25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:

26 And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.

27 And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.

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.

29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

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.

Discussion for Numbers 20

  • STEPHEN MEEHAN on Numbers 20
    It is interesting to note that while God would not allow Moses to enter into the Promised Land along with the Israelites because of his disobedience, that Moses did eventually enter on the Mount of Transfiguration when he appeared alongside Elijah and with Jesus on that mount. He may yet appear a second time when the two witnesses show up during the Tribulation period, maybe again with Elijah - the two who represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah).
  • Artie vanlandingham on Numbers 20
    We must remember the curse of enmity in Genesis 3:15 applies to anger and God is the God of peace. The anger of Moses played against his humbleness of heart and his discourse was not something God was proud to observe while giving life with water to the people and their animals.
  • BSP on Numbers 20
    Verse 10~Moses spoke as though he was the one who would bring water out of the rock, but he failed to give the real praise and credit to Jehovah God.
  • Stanjett - in Reply on Numbers 20
    God told Moses to 'speak' to the rock. But Moses disobeyed God and hit the rock with his rod. It still brought out water but for this God told Moses he would not go into the promised land.
  • BSP on Numbers 20
    Verse 12~Moses was described as a meek man, but here he allowed others to provoke him and he committed an act of arrogance. He missed out on the opportunity to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. We must guard against any form of arrogance.
  • Irene123 on Numbers 20
    P.S. - Aaron died because he was Moses' right-hand man; he was the priest and didn't counsel Moses against striking. He knew somewhere along the line to stop Moses, but he didn't. Aaron was God's mouthpiece; God is FAITHFUL, and would have warned Aaron of Moses' intent. No, it doesn't say all this here, but Isa. 1:18 - " ... let us reason together ... " He wants us to reason His word out.
  • Irene123 on Numbers 20
    Nobody remembered Ex. 17:6 on here: This was the 1st time this happened; God told Moses to SMITE ...; in Num. 20:8 God told Moses to SPEAK ... "; it was simply, with God, an 'obedience' test. The Israelites KNEW God, and not Moses, br'ot the water. The sanctification was in teaching, by Moses obedience, His people to obey. Moses and Aaron were to be EXAMPLES of obedience.
  • April on Numbers 20
    I think that the people should have realized that the LORD was suppose to be their rock,not their flesh needs and complaining,I hope that I will realize when I am being ungrateful for what I have
  • BSP on Numbers 20
    In verse 8, God gave Moses specific instructions. Moses didn't exactly follow those instructions and because of this he was not allowed to go into the Promised Land.
  • Karl on Numbers 20
    responds to Jane; Fearful of a jealous God? The LORD is wrathful but also forgiving to those of a contrite heart, true repentance is the lesson we must all learn. We much approach the LORD with humble reverence, some must first learn this through wrath. Do not fear The LORD, Jane, embrace his compassion as LORD Jesus taught. Hope this helps.


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Why did Moses strike the rock twice instead of doing what God commanded?
  • He forgot
  • He was angry
  • He didn't believe God
  • It was a big rock