Dave Burnette's Commentary

Numbers Chapter 20

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Moses
Date Penned: (1450-1410 BC)
Overview: A Record of Israel's Unbelief (c 1-27)
Theme: Wandering in The Wilderness (c 15-21)
Message: Moses Strikes the Rock and is Judged (v 1-29)

Numbers 20 Commentary

(20:20:1) The New Generation - It had been 37 years since Israel's first spy mission into the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14) and 40 years since the exodus from Egypt. The Bible is virtually silent about those 37 years of aimless wandering. The generation of those who had lived in Egypt had almost died off, and the new generation would soon be ready to enter the land. Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb were among the few who remained from those who had left Egypt. Once again they camped at Kadesh, the site of the first spy mission, which had ended in disaster. Moses hoped the people were ready for a fresh start.

(20;3-5) Israel blames Moses - After 37 years in the wilderness, the Israelites forgot that their wanderings were a result of their parents and their own sin. They could not accept the fact that they had brought their problems upon themselves, so they blamed Moses for their condition. Often our troubles result from our own disobedience or lack of faith. We cannot blame God for the consequences we are suffering for our own sins. Until we face the reality of our responsibility, we will have little peace and will fail to grow spiritually

(20:12) Moses Sins Against the Lord - The Lord had told Moses to speak to the rock; however, Moses struck it--not once, but twice. God did the miracle, but Moses took credit for it when he said, "Must we fetch you water out of this rock?" (20:10). For this he was forbidden to enter the Promised Land. Was God's punishment of Moses too harsh? After all, the people had nagged him, slandered him, and rebelled against him and God. Now they were at it again (20:2-5). But Moses was the leader and model for the entire nation. Because of this great responsibility to the people, he could not be let off lightly. By striking the rock, Moses disobeyed God's direct command and dishonored God in the presence of his people.

(20:14) The Edomites - Two brothers became the ancestors of two nations. The Edomites descended from Esau; the Israelites came from Jacob. Thus, the Edomites were "brothers" to the Israelites. Israel sent a brotherly message to Edom requesting passage through their land on the main road, a well-traveled trade route. Israel promised to stay on the road, thus harmlessly bypassing Edom's fields, vineyards, and wells. The Edomites refused, however, because they did not trust Israel's word. They were afraid that this great horde of people would either attack them or devour their crops (Deuteronomy 2:4-5). In order to avoid conflict at this stage in their journey, the Israelites turned back and traveled by a different route to the Promised Land.

(20:17) The Kings Highway - The king's highway was an old caravan route. Even long before this time it had been used as a major public road. 

(20:21) Avoiding Conflict - Moses tried to negotiate and reason with the Edomite king. When nothing worked, he was left with two choices--force a conflict or avoid it. Moses knew there would be enough barriers in the days and months ahead. There was no point in adding another one unnecessarily. Sometimes conflict is unavoidable. Sometimes, however, it isn't worth the consequences. Open warfare may seem heroic, courageous, and even righteous, but it is not always the best choice. At times, we should follow Moses' example and find another way to solve our problems, even if it is harder for us to do.

(20:26) Aaron Dies -  Aaron had fulfilled his duties and his purpose. He would now leave the earth and the living and enter the next life. The Lord said that Aaron would "be gathered unto his people," or join his ancestors. A good perspective to keep is that for God's people death is not only a departing but also a reunion; someday we will be reunited with all believers who have died. We can encourage each other with this thought (see Thessalonians 4:13-18).

(20:28) Aaron Fails to Enter the Promise Land - Aaron died just before entering the Promised Land, which was punishment for joining in Moses' disobedience at the rock of Kadesh (20:12). This was the first time in Israel's history that an existing high priest was replaced and a new one appointed. The priestly clothing was removed from Aaron and placed on his son Eleazar, following the commands recorded in the book of Leviticus.

Dave Burnette's Life Application

Sowing and Reaping

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue the book of Numbers with Chapter 20 and in today's text we see A deeper study of the mistakes of the nation or Israel in the wilderness as a result of their lack of faith in following the promises of God. Today we see the end of the wandering as the disobedient parents that made this decision die off. In making application we see the principle that is woven through scriptures of sowing and reaping. Israel sowed a seed of unbelief, then acted upon it, which reaped a harvest of unfulfilled blessings. I too have experienced this negative application of this principle of scripture in my life as I failed to believe God in what He promised me - then reaped a harvest of unfulfilled blessings. How about you? Do you recognize this principle in your life? Let us learn from today's text to remember that what we sow we will reap. 


Numbers 20

Numbers 20

 1Then 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.

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

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

 4And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?

 5And 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.

 6And 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.

 7And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

 8Take 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.

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

 10And 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?

 11And 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.

 12And 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.

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

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

 15How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:

 16And 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:

 17Let 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.

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

 19And 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 anything else, go through on my feet.

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

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

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

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

 24Aaron 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.

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

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

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

 28And 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.

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