Numbers 20
Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.
The people journey in the wilderness of Zin; they murmur against Moses for want of water, Numbers 20:2-5. God commandeth Moses to speak to the rock, that it might yield water, Numbers 20:7,8. Moses striking the rock twice, Numbers 20:9-11, displeaseth God, Numbers 20:12. Moses desiring passage through Edom, Numbers 20:14-17, is denied, Numbers 20:18-21. Aaron by God’s command delivering up his office to Eleazar his son, dieth, Numbers 20:21-28. All the congregation bemoan him, Numbers 20:29.

Then, to wit, after many other stations and long journeys here omitted. but particularly described Num 33.

The desert of Zin; a place near the land of Edom, distinct and distant from that,

Sin, Exodus 16:1.

In the first month, to wit, of the fortieth year, as is evident, because the next station to this was in Mount Hor, where Aaron died, Numbers 20:22,23, &c., who died in the fifth month of the fortieth year, Numbers 33:38. Moses doth not give us an exact journal of all their 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.

Kadesh; whether the same place called Kadesh-barnea, where they were long since, Numbers 13:26, and to which they now return after thirty-eight years’ tedious travels and wanderings in the desert, Deu 2:14, or another place more southerly, it is not material. Miriam died four months before Aaron, and but a few more before Moses.

And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
The water having followed them through all their former journeys, began now to fail them here, because they were now come near Canaan and other 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 Exo 17, is different from it, as appears by divers circumstances.

And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!
i.e. Suddenly, rather than to die such a lingering and painful death. Their sin was much greater than their parents’ in like case, because they should have taken warning by their miscarriages, and by the terrible effects of them, which their eyes had seen.

And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And 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.
Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly; partly to avoid the growing rage of the people, for God’s singular protection of them did not exclude the use of ordinary means; and partly to go to God for relief and redress.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
The rod; that rod which was laid up before the Lord in the tabernacle, as appears from Numbers 20:9. But whether it was Aaron’s rod, which was undoubtedly laid up there, Numbers 17:10, or Moses’s rod, by which he wrought so many miracles, it is not considerable; or whether it was not one and the same rod, which was commonly called Moses’s rod, as here, Numbers 20:11, and elsewhere, and sometimes Aaron’s rod, as Exodus 7:12, which may seem most probable. For it is likely, though not related elsewhere in Scripture, that wonder-working rod, called the rod of God, Exodus 4:20, was laid up in some part of the tabernacle, though not in or near the ark, where Aaron’s blossoming rod for a particular reason was put. Speak ye unto the rock, which will sooner hear and obey my commands than these sottish and stubborn people.

And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.
i.e. Out of the tabernacle.

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?
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
To the men it was a sacrament, 1 Corinthians 10:3,4, but to the beasts it was no holy, but a common thing. So that the elements in the sacraments have no inherent and inseparable holiness, but only a relative holiness with respect to their use, out of which they are unholy and common.

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.
Ye believed me not, but showed your infidelity; which they did either by their looks and gestures, or rather by the matter and manner of their expressions and actions; either,

1. 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,

2. By the doubtfulness of these words, Numbers 20:10,

Must we fetch water out of the rock? which implies a suspicion of it, as the like words do, Genesis 18:13, whereas they should have spoken positively and confidently to the rock to give forth waters. And yet they did not doubt of the power of God, but of his will, whether he would gratify these rebels with this further miracle, after so many of the like kind. And besides the words themselves, it is considerable, both with what mind they were spoken, which God saw to be distrustful, and in what manner they were delivered, which the people might discern to come from misbelief or doubt. And there might be divers other unbelieving words used by them at this time and place, though they be not here recorded, it being usual in Scripture to give only the sum or principal heads of discourses or events, leaving the rest to be gathered out of them. See Psalm 106:32,33.

To sanctify me, i.e. to give me glory of my power in doing this miracle, and of my truth in punctually fulfilling my promise so to do, and of my goodness in doing it notwithstanding the people’s perverseness.

In the eyes of the children of Israel: this made their sin scandalous to the Israelites, who of themselves were too prone to infidelity, and little needed such an ill example; to prevent the contagion whereof God leaves a monument of his great displeasure upon them, and inflicts a punishment as public and manifest as their sin was.

This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.
Meribah, called Meribah Kadesh, to distinguish it from another Meribah, Exodus 17:7. Sanctified in them, or, among them, to wit, the children of Israel last mentioned, 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, as Moses was.

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:
Moses sent messengers, by God’s direction, Deu 2:1-3

Thy brother; for was not Esau (who is Edom, Genesis 36:1) Jacob’s brother? Malachi 1:2. All the travel; all the wanderings and afflictions of our parents, and of us their children, which doubtless have come to thine ears.

How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:
No text from Poole on this verse.

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:
An angel, to wit, the Angel of the covenant, Christ Jesus, who first appeared to Moses in the bush, Exodus 3:2, and afterward in the cloudy pillar, who conducted Moses and the people out of Egypt, and through the wilderness, as appears from Exodus 14:19 23:20 33:14 1 Corinthians 9:4. For though Moses may be called an angel or messenger, a title given to Phineas, Judges 2:1; and to the prophets, 2 Chronicles 36:16; and to Haggai, Haggai 1:13; yet it is not probable that he is meant, partly, because Moses was the person that sent this message; partly, because there was no reason why he should express himself by such a dark and doubtful title to them: and partly, because another Angel besides and above Moses did conduct them, and the mention hereof to the Edomites was likely to give more authority and efficacy to their present message.

In Kadesh, i.e. near the city Kadesh, the particle in being oft so used, as we have showed.

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.
Wells, or pits, which any of you have digged for your private use, to wit, without paying for it, Numbers 20:19 Deu 2:6; but only of the waters of common rivers, which are free to all passengers, and will not be prejudicial to thee.

And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.
i.e. Through my country, as thou desirest; I will not suffer time to do so: which was an act of common policy to secure themselves from so numerous a host.

And 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 any thing else, go through on my feet.
Children of Israel said unto him, i.e. their messengers replied unto them what here follows.

I will pay for it; for water was a scarce commodity in those parts.

And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.
Through his border, but permitted them to go by their border, Deu 2:4,8 Jud 11:18, and furnished them with victuals for their money, Deu 2:29.

Israel turned away, according to God’s command, Deu 2:5.

And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.
Whose inhabitants were then called Horims, Deu 2:12, and Esau the Horite, Genesis 36:20.

And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
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 and Aaronical priesthood to make them happy, and the necessity of a better, and so to keep the Israelites from resting in them so as to be taken off from their expectation of Christ, and from the entertainment of him when he should come.

Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:
No text from Poole on this verse.

And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.
Of his garments, to wit, of his priestly garments, Exodus 28:2 Leviticus 8:7-9, in token of his resignation of his office. See the like Isaiah 22:15,19-21.

Put them upon Eleazar, by way of admission and inauguration of him to his office.

And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor 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, and therefore might give him the honour due to him.

And 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.
Aaron died there, to wit, in Mount Hor.

Object. He died in Mosera, Deu 10:6.

Answ. Mosera was the general name of the place where that station was, and Mount Hor is a particular place in it, where he died, and was buried also, Deu 10:6.

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

When the congregation understood by the relation of Moses and Eleazar, and by other signs. So seeing is used Genesis 42:1 Acts 7:12.

Thirty days; the time of public and solemn mourning for great persons. See Deu 34:8.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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