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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 20

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-29

Chapter 20

Chapter twenty records the verse, the death of Miriam, the sister of Moses. And she died there in Kadesh the desert of sin and was buried.

And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves against Moses and against Aaron. And the people began to chide with Moses, and they spake, saying, Would that God that we died with our brothers before the LORD! ( Numbers 20:2-3 )

Would to God that you know that these guys with these incense were there that you know, the fire would hit us and we would've been killed then because now we're dying of thirst. It's a horrible way to die, it's a horrible way to die, it's a horrible way to die of thirst, you know. They were giving him a bad time again.

And so Moses and Aaron went before the LORD and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather the assembly together, thou, and Aaron your brother, and speak 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: and thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded. And then 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? 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 the beast also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron [and he said], Because you believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. This is water of strife; because the people strove with God ( Numbers 20:6-13 ).

Now, Moses went out as God's representative to the people. God said, "Go out and speak to the rock". Remember the first time around God said take your rod and smite the rock. Now in the New Testament we read that this rock was Jesus. Moses gave them water out of the rock and that rock was Christ. So that the rock is actually the symbol of Jesus Christ who said to the woman at the well, "He who drinks of the water that I give shall never thirst again. It will be like a well of living water springing up within" ( John 4:14 ). The rock was Christ; the water of life. Call everyone that thirsteth, Come ye to the fountains, drink the water of life freely; Christ the rock.

Now, Christ was smitten in order that the water of life might flow from Him to all of us. The shepherd was smitten but out of the smiting there came forth that water, life giving water, salvation to all of us. But once smitten, He never needed to be smitten again. So Moses is breaking now the whole analogy. In the second time around, smiting the rock twice is breaking the analogy because now once Christ was smitten all that is necessary is just to speak. All I have to do is come.

Jesus said, "If any man is thirst, let him come unto me and drink" ( John 7:37 ). And all you have to do is ask. Christ needs not to be smitten again. We don't have to go through the mass. He needs not to be crucified again. Once smitten was sufficient. The water flowed from the smitten rock and now all that is necessary is to speak, to ask and ye shall receive. And so Moses is breaking this whole analogy because he's angry.

Now he went in before the Lord. The Lord said, "Moses, just go out and speak to the rock. Call the congregation together and in their eyes speak to the rock and water will fall forth that they might feed, that they might drink and give their beast a drink." Moses went out and said, "Ye rebels, must I smite this rock to give you water again?" and hit the thing. Now, God is gracious. Water came forth abundantly. God said, "Moses, you failed to sanctify me in the eyes of the people".

In other words, "You misrepresented Me before those people. I wasn't angry with them, Moses, and the rock did not need to be smitten. You were to speak to the rock. You did not obey and you failed to sanctify Me or to represent Me." It was a misrepresentation of God. And God said, "Because of that misrepresentation, you're not going to be able to lead this congregation into the Promised Land." The dream of Moses' life is taken away, that which he was living for, the privilege of being able to lead these people in the land. The failure to properly represent God.

It seems like very stiff punishment indeed but it shows to us how earnest God is that we properly represent him. Jesus said, "Ye are my witnesses"( Isaiah 43:10 ). But what kind of a representation am I giving to the world around me of Jesus Christ? What is there of thinking Christ when they look at me? What kind of concepts are they developing of Jesus Christ as they look at me? How faithfully am I representing him? And so Moses was refused the privilege taking the people into the Promised Land for his failure to sanctify God before the people.

Now Moses sent messengers into the king of Edom saying, "We'd like to pass through your land. We'll stay on the highways, we won't take the food out of your fields but we just need passage through the land." And actually we're cousins now. Remember the Edomites were descendents of Esau. Moses was a descendant from Jacob; they were twin brothers, so there's a close relationship. "And so we went down and you've heard of all the horrible things we endured in Egypt but now God has been with us and we're coming back and we're going back to our land. We'd like passage through your land." And the king of Edom refused them passage through the land. He said, "No, you can't do it." And he came down with his armies to forbid them passage through the land. And so the children of Israel then took a circuitous route going around and circumscribing the land of Edom.

And in the latter portion of the twentieth chapter we have recorded the death of Aaron. The Lord said to Moses,

Take Aaron up into the mountain and take Eleazar his son, in the sight of all of Israel. And take the robes of the high priest off of Aaron, and put them on Eleazar: for Aaron is going to die here. So Moses and Aaron and Eleazar, Aaron's son; went up into the mountain in the sight of Israel. And Moses took off the robes of the high priest from Aaron, put them on Eleazar; and Aaron died and was buried there ( Numbers 20:25-29 ).

And the children of Israel continued then their journey.

So we get the continued journey of the children of Israel. And one of the most fascinating characters in the Old Testament, this guy Balaam as we continue our excursion through the book of Numbers. So, next week we'll continue on in this interesting portion of the history of the children of Israel. And we'll break it up. We'll go about eight chapters next week and eight chapters the following week.

Shall we stand? Again, remember in first Corinthians the tenth chapter declares, "And these things all happened as example for us that we should learn not to lust after evil things." This whole history of the children of Israel has been preserved by God as an example for you not to murmur against God, not to lust after evil things, not to stop or hesitate when God says to go forward, not to turn back through unbelief when God has promised to give to you a life of fullness and richness. All of it is exemplary history. May we learn the lessons of history to our own benefit.

May the Lord be with you and watch you during the week. May his hand be upon you to guide you, to bless you and to keep you in the love of Jesus Christ. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Numbers 20". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/numbers-20.html. 2014.
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