Bible Commentaries
Numbers 20

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Num 20:1 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.

Ver. 1. In the first month. ] To wit, of their fortieth year, after they came out of Egypt. For from this chapter to the end of Deuteronomy, are described the passages of the last year only, of their journeying in the wilderness; little being recorded of the thirty-eight years, since the spies’ report.

And Miriam died there. ] A good woman, and of great use to the people in their travels. Mic 6:4 But once she raised a great storm against her brother’s wife, Num 12:1 about precedency probably: as did likewise in this kingdom Anne Starthope, Duchess of Somerset, against Katherine Parr, Queen Dowager, wife to her husband’s brother, the Lord Admiral, in the days of King Edward VI. This Anne died A.D. 1587, being ninety-nine years of age. a Miriam could be no less likely than 130, taking her to be same that was set to watch what would become of Moses, when he was laid out in an ark of bulrushes. Exo 2:4

a Life of Edw. VI, p. 81. Camd., Elis., fol. 356.

Verse 3

Num 20:3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!

Ver. 3. And the people chode. ] Wanting both water and patience, they broke the peace with their superiors. See Trapp on " Num 14:15 "

Verse 4

Num 20:4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?

Ver. 4. And why have ye brought up. ] See how this new generation doth patrissare This is but the old coccysmus of those ancient malcontents; Exo 17:2 so much the worse in these, because they made no better use of God’s dealing with their fathers. Dan 5:22

Verse 5

Num 20:5 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.

Ver. 5. Neither is there any water to drink. ] Thirst, a most eager appetite, enrageth their affections, and makes them thus hot with Moses.

Verse 8

Num 20:8 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.

Ver. 8. Take the rod. ] God puts off their rebellion, and satisfies their thirst by a miracle.

Speak unto the rock. ] He is not bidden now to smite it; as once in Exodus 17:6 , which because he did unbidden, God was deeply displeased, as some are of opinion.

Verse 9

Num 20:9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.

Ver. 9. And Moses took the rod. ] The same rod that once smote the river, to destroy the Egyptians. The same word is a savour of life to believers, and of death to unbelievers. 2Co 2:16

Verse 10

Num 20:10 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?

Ver. 10. Hear now, ye rebels. ] They could hardly hear, for the belly hath no ears, and their tongues scarce knew to utter any language but that of Samson, "Give me water, or I die." Jdg 15:18 But why did Moses speak to them, when he should have spoken to the rock only? Num 20:8 This was ill; but worse to speak so unadvisedly. He struck at the rock, and as ready almost to split against it, he makes two arguments against it. (1.) Hear now, ye rebels, q.d., Will the Lord ever give water to such rebels? (2.) Shall we give you water out of the rock? Will that ever be done To fetch fire out of a flinty rock is far more likely; but to distil water out of it, how can that be done? Lo, Moses is staggered, and now at a stand. Adeo nihil est in nobis magnum, quod non queat minui: a the strongest faith much assailed, may flag and hang the wing. The best carry their treasure but in earthen vessels, which, dashing against the rock of unbelief, miseras rimas ducunt, &c., leak pitifully.

a Bucolch.

Verse 11

Num 20:11 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].

Ver. 11. He smote the rock twice. ] In a great heat and pang of passion.

Qui non moderabitur irae,

Infectum velit esse dolor quod suaserit, et mens. ” - Horat.

Sometimes both grace and wit are asleep in the holiest and wariest breasts. The best may be miscarried by their passions to their cost. Ira comes of Ire, say grammarians: because an angry man goes out of himself, off from his reason; and when he is pacified, he is said redire ad se, to come again to himself.

And the water came out abundantly. ] This cleaving of the hard rock was a work of omnipotency. Psa 78:15 The works of God are in contrariis medias. a This rock was Christ, 1Co 10:4 fitly compared to a rock; (1.) For despicable appearance; Isa 53:2-3 (2.) For exaltation and advancement; (3.) For firmness and stability; Mat 16:18 (4.) For scandal and offence to the wicked; Rom 9:33 (5.) For weight and danger. Mat 21:44

And their beasts also. ] The wicked, in like sort, coming to the Lord’s supper, do receive there panem Domini, not panem Dominum.

a Luther.

Verse 12

Num 20:12 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.

Ver. 12. Because ye believed me not. ] Ye could not conceive, and were not very willing, that I should show such favour to so undeserving a people: so measuring my thoughts by your thoughts, and my ways by your ways; Isa 55:8 casting me into a dishonourable mould, as it were; and this publicly, before all the people.

Therefore ye shall not bring. ] So God was unto them "a God that forgiveth, and taketh vengeance of their practices," as the psalmist saith. Psa 99:8 Repentance may come too late in regard of temporal chastisement, as here it did. Deu 3:24-26

Verse 13

Num 20:13 This [is] the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.

Ver. 13. And he was sanctified in them. ] By overcoming their evil with good; striking the rock for them, when he might justly have stricken them with utter destruction. Man’s badness interrupteth not the course of God’s goodness; "his unbelief maketh not the faith of God without effect." Rom 3:3

Verse 14

Num 20:14 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:

Ver. 14. Thus saith thy brother. ] "A brother is born for adversity"; Pro 17:17 and good blood will not belie itself. But "a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; and their contentions are like the bars of a castle." Pro 18:19

Verse 16

Num 20:16 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:

Ver. 16. Sent an angel. ] This was Christ; or, as some would have it, Moses; like as Phineas is thought to be that angel at Bochim. Jdg 2:1

Verse 17

Num 20:17 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.

Ver. 17. We will not pass. ] So should a Christian bespeak the world. Let us pass through thy country; we will neither touch nor taste of thy cares, but go by the king’s highway, that good old way that God hath scored out unto us, until we arrive at the key of Canaan, at the kingdom of heaven.

Verse 18

Num 20:18 And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.

Ver. 18. Thou shalt not pass. ] As fearing what so great an army once got in might do; they are not usually so easily removed. It was therefore great injustice in Pope Julius, to excommunicate and depose John, king of Navarre, as a heretic, and public enemy to the see apostolic, because being himself a peer of the realm of France, and having a great part of his patrimony in that country, he would not suffer the Spaniard, the Pope’s champion, to lead an army through his country against the French, his liege lord, and deliver to him three of the strongest castles he had in his kingdom. a

a Guicciard., lib. ii.

Verse 24

Num 20:24 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.

Ver. 24. Ye rebelled. ] In that ye smote the rock, and smote it twice: he spoke bitterly also to the people, calling them rebels, and slighting them. This is called rebellion here. Every man’s heel hath some iniquity, as dirt, cleaving to it: and the greatest lamps have needed snuffers.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 20". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.