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Print Version Main Index : Commentaries : Wesley's Notes : Numbers Index : Chapter 20

Numbers, Chapter 20
Chapter 19 | Chapter 21
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Bible Version
Cross Reference
Matthew Henry
JFB Commentary
Wesley's Notes
Geneva Study Bible
View Numbers 20 in the note window.

This chapter begins the history of the fortieth year of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Little is recorded of them from the beginning of their second year till this, which brought them to the borders of Canaan. Here is,

  1. The death of Miriam, ver. 1.
  2. The fetching water out of the rock, ver. 2 - 13.
  3. The treaty with the Edomites, ver. 14 - 21.
  4. The death of Aaron and installment of Eleazar, ver. 22 - 29.

1: Then - To wit, after many stations and long journeys here omitted, but particularly described, (Nu 33:1-49). Zin - A place near the land of Edom, distinct and distant from that Sin, (Ex 16:1). The first month - Of the fortieth year, as is evident, because the next station to this was in mount Hor, where Aaron died, who died in the fifth month of the fortieth year, (Nu 33:38). Moses doth not give us an exact journal of all occurrences in the wilderness, but only of those which were most remarkable, and especially of those which happened in the first and second, and in the fortieth year. Miriam died - Four months before Aaron, and but a few more before Moses.

2: No water - Which having followed them through all their former journeys, began to fail them here, because they were now come near countries, where waters might be had by ordinary means, and therefore God would not use extraordinary, lest he should seem to prostitute the honour of miracles. This story, though like that, (Ex 17:1-7), is different from it, as appears by divers circumstances. It is a great mercy, to have plenty of water; a mercy which if we found the want of, we should own the worth of.

3: Before the Lord - Suddenly, rather than to die such a lingering death. Their sin was much greater than that of their parents, because they should have taken warning by their miscarriages, and by the terrible effects of them, which their eyes had seen.

8: The rod - That which was laid up before the Lord in the tabernacle; whether it was Aaron's rod, which was laid up there,(Nu 17:10), or Moses's rod by which he wrought so many miracles. For it is likely, that wonder - working rod, was laid up in some part of the tabernacle, though not in or near the ark, where Aaron's blossoming rod was put.

9: From before the Lord - Out of the tabernacle.

12: Ye believed me not - But shewed your infidelity: which they did, either by smiting the rock, and that twice, which is emphatically noted, as if he doubted whether once smiting would have done it, whereas he was not commanded to smite so much as once, but only to speak to it: or by the doubtfulness of these words, (Nu 20:10). Must we fetch water out of the rock? which implies a suspicion of it, whereas they should have spoken positively and confidently to the rock to give forth water. And yet they did not doubt of the power of God, but of his will, whether he would gratify these rebels with this farther miracle, after so many of the like kind. To sanctify me - To give me the glory of my power in doing this miracle, and of my truth in punctually fulfilling my promise, and of my goodness in doing it notwithstanding the peoples perverseness. In the eyes of Israel - This made their sin scandalous to the Israelites, who of themselves were too prone to infidelity; to prevent the contagion, God leaves a monument of his displeasure upon them, and inflicts a punishment as publick as their sin.

13: Meribah - That is, strife. In them - Or, among them, the children of Israel, by the demonstration of his omnipotency, veracity, and clemency towards the Israelites, and of his impartial holiness and severity against sin even in his greatest friends and favourites.

14: All the travel - All the wanderings and afflictions of our parents and of us their children, which doubtless have come to thine ears.

16: An Angel - The Angel of the Covenant, who first appeared to Moses in the bush, and afterward in the cloudy pillar, who conducted Moses and the people out of Egypt, and through the wilderness. For though Moses may be called an angel or messenger yet it is not probable that he is meant, partly because Moses was the person that sent this message; and partly because another angel above Moses conducted them, and the mention hereof to the Edomites, was likely to give more authority to their present message. In Kadesh - Near, the particle in being so often used.

17: The wells - Or, pits, which any of you have digged for your private use, not without paying for it, (Nu 20:19), but only of the waters of common rivers, which are free to all passengers. No man's property ought to be invaded, under colour of religion. Dominion is founded in providence, not in Grace.

18: By me - Through my country: I will not suffer thee to do so: which was an act of policy, to secure themselves from so numerous an host.

19: Said - That is, their messengers replied what here follows.

23: And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron - So these two dear brothers must part! Aaron must die first: but Moses is not likely to be long after him. So that it is only for a while, a little while, that they are separated.

24: Because they rebelled - This was one but not the only reason. God would not have Moses and Aaron to carry the people into Canaan, for this reason also, to signify the insufficiency of the Mosaical law and Aaronical priesthood to make them perfectly happy, and the necessity of a better, and to keep the Israelites from resting in them, so as to be taken off from their expectation of Christ.

26: His garments - His priestly garments, in token of his resignation of his office. Put them on Eleazar - By way of admission and inauguration to his office.

27: In the sight of all the congregation - That their hearts might be more affected with their loss of so great a pillar, and that they all might be witnesses of the translation of the priesthood from Aaron to Eleazar.

28: And Moses stript Aaron - And Death will strip us. Naked we came into the world: naked we must go out. We shall see little reason to be proud of our cloaths, our ornaments, or marks of honour, if we consider how soon death will strip us of all our glory, and take the crown off from our head! Aaron died there - He died in Mosera,(De 10:6). Mosera was the general name of the place where that station was, and mount Hor a particular place in it. Presently after he was stript of his priestly garments, he laid him down and died. 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 God and our generation some service?

29: Saw - Understood by the relation of Moses and Eleazar, and by other signs. Thirty days - The time of publick and solemn mourning for great persons.

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