1615.) Numbers 20

20. Poussin Moses Water Rock

“Moses Striking the Rock for Water” by Nicolas Poussin, 1649  (The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia)

Numbers 20   (CEV)

Water from a Rock

1The people of Israel arrived at the Zin Desert during the first month  and set up camp near the town of Kadesh. It was there that Miriam died and was buried.

20. RIP

Good-bye, sister Miriam.

2The Israelites had no water, so they went to Moses and Aaron 3and complained, ” Moses, we’d be better off if we had died along with the others in front of the LORD’s sacred tent.  4You brought us into this desert, and now we and our livestock are going to die! 5Egypt was better than this horrible place. At least there we had grain and figs and grapevines and pomegranates.  But now we don’t even have any water.”

Same song, 49th verse ! . .

20. figs

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Numbers 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 . . .

“It is no place of figs,” so the poor grumblers said.  They were continually grumbling, and generally about food, which after all isn’t the most important thing in life.  We have an expression, “I don’t care a fig,” meaning, “I don’t care at all.  It’s not worth caring about.”  I have been making a list of figs, those little things not worth caring about and yet about which we are sometimes tempted to grumble.  Perhaps you have a few private figs of your own — if so you can add them, privately, to the list.

I’m not in the place I want to be.  I’m not doing the work I want to do.  I’m not with the particular friend with whom I wanted to be.  I don’t feel very fit.  I can’t help others much.  (We forget that it doesn’t matter that we can’t, if others can.)  My plans are so often interrupted.  I’m so tired.  I don’t like this food.  Somebody said something about me.  I have all sorts of temptations.  Nobody knows how hard it is for me.  I can’t help feeling downhearted.  Figs, figs, figs — what will any one of these things matter a hundred years hence, or ten, or one?  Then what do they matter now?

6Moses and Aaron went to the entrance to the sacred tent, where they bowed down. The LORD appeared to them in all of his glory 7-8and said, ” Moses, get your walking stick.  Then you and Aaron call the people together and command that rock to give you water. That’s how you will provide water for the people of Israel and their livestock.”

9Moses obeyed and took his stick from the sacred tent. 10After he and Aaron had gathered the people around the rock, he said, ” Look, you rebellious people, and you will see water flow from this rock!” 11He raised his stick in the air and struck the rock two times. At once, water gushed from the rock, and the people and their livestock had water to drink.


“Water from the Rock” by Lucile Butel, 1989

12But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ” Because you refused to believe in my power, these people did not respect me. And so, you will not be the ones to lead them into the land I have promised.”

This may seem an excessively harsh punishment for Moses. It seems that with only one slip-up, he now had to die short of the Promised Land. But Moses was being judged by a stricter standard because of his leadership position with the nation, and because he had a uniquely close relationship with God.

It is right for teachers and leaders to be judged by a stricter standard (James 3:1); though it is unrighteous to hold teachers and leaders to a perfect standard. It is true the people’s conduct was worse than Moses’ but it is irrelevant.

Worst of all, Moses defaced a beautiful picture of Jesus’ redemptive work through the rock which provided water in the wilderness. The New Testament makes it clear this water-providing, life-giving rock was a picture of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus, being struck once, provided life for all who would drink of Him (John 7:37). But was unnecessary — and unrighteous — that Jesus would be struck again, because the Son of God needed only to suffer once (Hebrews 10:10-12). Jesus can now be come to with words of faith (Romans 10:8-10), as Moses should have only used words of faith to bring life-giving water to the nation of Israel.

–David Guzik

13The Israelites had complained against the LORD, and he had shown them his holy power by giving them water to drink. So they named the place Meribah, which means ” Complaining.”

Israel Isn’t Allowed To Go through Edom

14Moses sent messengers from Israel’s camp near Kadesh with this message for the king of Edom:

We are Israelites, your own relatives,

The nation of Israel was brother to the nation of Edom, because the patriarch Israel (also known as Jacob) was brother to Esau (also known as Edom), as related in Genesis 25:19-34.

–David Guzik

and we’re sure you have heard the terrible things that have happened to us. 15Our ancestors settled in Egypt and lived there a long time. But later the Egyptians were cruel to us, 16and when we begged our LORD for help, he answered our prayer and brought us out of that land.

Now we are camped at the border of your territory, near the town of Kadesh. 17Please let us go through your country. We won’t go near your fields and vineyards, and we won’t drink any water from your wells. We will stay on the main road  until we leave your territory.

“the main road”

The Hebrew text has ” the King’s Highway,” which was an important trade route through what is today the country of Jordan. It connected the city of Damascus in Syria with the Gulf of Aqaba in southern Jordan.   (CEV footnote)

See a map  HERE.

18But the Edomite king answered, ” No, I won’t let you go through our country! And if you try, we will attack you.”

19Moses sent back this message: ” We promise to stay on the main road, and if any of us or our livestock drink your water, we will pay for it. We just want to pass through.”

20But the Edomite king insisted, ” You can’t go through our land!”

Then Edom sent out its strongest troops 21to keep Israel from passing through its territory. So the Israelites had to go in another direction.

Aaron Dies

20. RIP

Good-bye, brother Aaron.

22After the Israelites had left Kadesh and had gone as far as Mount Hor 23on the Edomite border, the LORD said, 24” Aaron, this is where you will die. You and Moses disobeyed me at Meribah, and so you will not enter the land I promised the Israelites. 25Moses, go with Aaron and his son Eleazar to the top of the mountain. 26Then take Aaron’s priestly robe from him and place it on Eleazar. Aaron will die there.”

27Moses obeyed, and everyone watched as he and Aaron and Eleazar walked to the top of Mount Hor. 28Moses then took the priestly robe from Aaron and placed it on Eleazar. Aaron died there.

20. Tissot.  Death of Aaron.

“The Death of Aaron” by James Tissot (The Jewish Museum, New York)

When Moses and Eleazar came down, 29the people knew that Aaron had died, and they mourned his death for thirty days.

Num20 no eye has seen

Psalm 116:15 (King James Version)

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.



Several ideas floating in my mind:  the death of Miriam, who had watched over her baby brother as he floated down the Nile to Pharaoh’s daughter — water from a rock — troubled times — how much Moses probably had counted on and leaned on both his sister and his brother.  Then I found myself remembering a song from decades ago, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”  First released in January 1970, it is way high up on every chart of the greatest popular songs of all times.  HERE  it is.


Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Poussin.   http://www.abcgallery.com/P/poussin/poussin73.html
tombstone.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/20-rip.jpg?w=450
figs.   http://munchbrothers.org/wp-content/gallery/fig-sorbet/figs2.jpg
Butel.     http://www.artbible.net/1T/Exo1601_Manna_Quails/images/20%20BUTEL%20L%20EAU%20DU%20ROCHER.jpg
Tissot.    http://assets.messianicbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Tissot_The_Death_of_Aaron-adj.jpg?291596
No eye has seen.   http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/9c/e1/71/9ce171d56605975d7969e63bd19b684c.jpg

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