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Embed code for: The Promised Journey - Old Testament
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An in-depth study of Numbers 20-21
The Promised Journey
Numbers 20 - 21
The Waters of Meribah, The Bronze Snake, and other stories…
The book of Numbers is classified as Narrative History, despite its name, as it describes the travels of the Israelite people from Egypt to the Promised Land. This book is presented like a narrative, however still keeping its historical elements. It continues the story of Exodus, with Moses and Aaron leading the people of God to the land He has provided for them. The book of Numbers goes into detail about the events of the journey, as well as the various incidents the Israelites stumbled upon or caused.
In numbers 20-21, the Israelites are in the city of Kadesh-Barnea, which is in the Desert of Zin. The phrase, “Desert of Zin” is also translated as the “Wilderness of Sin” or “Desert of Sin”, which is ironic, compared to the Israelites’ rebellion during their journey.
Historical and Cultural Context
Numbers 20 takes place at the final stretch of the “promised journey”. It has been 40 years of traveling in the desert, and they are close to reaching the promised land. During these 40 years, Moses has been faithful to God, as well as Aaron. However, nearing the end of the journey, Moses and Aaron both disobey God’s commands, which both result in their deaths.
Also, for the Israelite people, they have been in the desert for over four decades without a place to rest and call home, and they are getting frustrated with walking around, being in constant fear of other cities and highway thieves.
Numbers 20: The Waters of Meribah
Before Numbers 20, Moses’s sister, Miriam died, due to her disobedience in God. After her death, Moses still had to lead the people, while also morning the death of his sister. This is when the people started complaining about the lack of water they had, comparing the conditions of Egypt to that of their surroundings. Because of the Israelites unbelief, Moses went to God, hoping for a sign to tell the Israelites that God was still with them and he was watching over them, as if the giant pillar of fire at night wasn’t enough to believe…
Numbers 20: 2 - 6
Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.
The Lord gives Moses and Aaron a staff and tells him to speak to the nearest rock, ordering it to yield its water. The rock would yield water, for Moses to give to the congregation.
However, Moses did not follow the commands that the Lord gave. Moses, instead struck the rock twice. The rock still produced water, but, because of their disobedience, the Lord punished Moses and Aaron by permitting him to be the one to lead the Israelites to the promised land. The land where the rock was struck was called The Waters of Meribah.
Numbers 20: 7 – 13
And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.
The Waters of Meribah: Summary
In this story, the Hebrews are losing faith in God through their journey. They are still used to their life in Egypt, where, even though they were enslaved, had food and water to survive. In the desert, however, they don’t have much food or water. When the Lord decides to have Moses tell the rock to give forth water, this was to be a symbolism of asking the Lord to give us spiritual nutrients. The rock was also a symbolism of the Lord, as He is strong. However, by Moses hitting the rock twice, this symbolizes two things: First, that we can demand things from the Lord through force, and Second, that we can use the Lord for our advantage, to prove a point, in Moses’s case, to stop the people from rebelling. Both of these ideas are wrong, which is why the Lord punished Moses by not leading his people to the promised land, because he would have taught them the wrong way to be in Shalom with the Lord.
Numbers 20: The City of Edom
After the Lord blessed the people with water, they came across the city of Edom. Moses sent messengers to the city of Edom, asking for passage through the city. The city denies them passage, and even goes as far as sending an army against them.
This was probably a political move to deny them access because if Edom allowed the Israelites passage, they would be helping them escape Egypt, which would make them enemies with Egypt. Egypt was a very rich and powerful empire, so to go against them would be devastating.
Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. And when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King’s Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.” And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him.
Numbers 20: Aaron’s Death
Numbers 20 ends with Aaron’s death, as punishment of both Moses and Aaron’s disobedience of hitting the rock. Aaron was at fault because he did not correct or warn Moses of what he was doing when he struck the rock. The bible doesn't mention how he died. The congregation wept for Aaron for a month after his death.
Aaron’s death was a representation of what could happen if you don’t follow the Lord’s command. This is also foreshadowing Moses’s death.
Numbers 20: 22 – 29
And they journeyed from Kadesh, and the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, “Let Aaron be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land that I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor. And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.” Moses did as the Lord commanded. And they went up Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. And when all the congregation saw that Aaron had perished, all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days.
Word Study – Numbers 20
The city, Kadesh-Barnea, is a complex name. The name translates to an entire phrase: Sacred Desert Of Wandering. Other Hebrew translations are read as: Holy Purifying Wanderings.
Mount Hor has a peculiar translation in the Hebrew language. It is translated into “Mountain Mountain”, literally, har hahar, in Hebrew.
“Meribah” in Hebrew means contend, strife, argue, or quarrel. When the place of the rock was called the Waters of Meribah, it symbolized that the people struggled here, for “where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy”.
The name of the city, Edom, is translates as Red or Ruddy.
Numbers 21: The Destruction of Arad
While traveling, they came across the city of Arad. The king of Arad captured some of the Israelites, Israel prayed to the Lord to bring them into their control, to bring them to their destruction. The Lord heeded their wished and sent the Canaanites to destroy the city of Arad.
This is an example of how the Lord provides for his people. The lord dedicated an entire city to the Israelites, just for destruction.
Numbers 21: 1 – 3
When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. And Israel vowed a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction.” And the Lord heeded the voice of Israel and gave over the Canaanites, and they devoted them and their cities to destruction. So the name of the place was called Hormah.
Numbers 21: The Bronze Snake
On the way to the Promise Land, the Israelites lost faith in the Lord again. This time, however, the Lord punished the people be sending them poisonous snakes. The snakes ended up killing a lot of people, so the people came to Moses, asking if there was any way to rid themselves of the snakes. The Lord said to make a bronze snake and set it on a pole, and anyone who looks upon the snake will be cured. Moses did what the Lord asked and, as the people looked upon the bronze snake, they were cured of the snake venom.
Numbers 21: 4 – 9
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
Word Study – Numbers 21
Summary – Numbers 20 - 21
Numbers 20 and 21 depict the final events of the Israelites journey into the promised land. It also shows gives us insight into the power and authority of God. Even though the actions taken place regarding Moses and Aaron’s death could be seen as unfair, by examining the scriptures, we can understand about God’s plan for the nation of the Israelites, and, ultimately, for us.
Moore, W. Glenn. "How Long Did the Children of Israel Wander in the Wilderness." How Long Did the Children of Israel Wander in the Wilderness. W. Glenn Moore. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <http://www.itsaboutthattime.net/40yearswandering.htm>
Henrey, Matthew. "Numbers 20." BibleStudyTools.com. Salem Communications. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/numbers/20.html>
http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/numbers/20.html>. Various Authors. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
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very formal presentation…
11/10 - good Preziu will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction.” And the Lord heeded the voice of Israel and gave over the Canaanites, and they devoted them and their cities to destruction. So the name of the place was called Hormah.
Numbers 20 and 21 depict the final events of the Israelites journey into the promised land. It also shows gives us insight into the power and authority of God. Even though the actions taken pl