Numbers 20

* The people come to Zin, They murmur for water, Moses directed

to smite the rock, The infirmity of Moses and Aaron. (1-13) The

Israelites are refused a passage through Edom. (14-21) Aaron

reigns the priest's office to Eleazar, and dies in mount Hor.


1-13 After thirty-eight years' tedious abode in the wilderness,

the armies of Israel advanced towards Canaan again. There was no

water for the congregation. We live in a wanting world, and

wherever we are, must expect to meet with something to put us

out. It is a great mercy to have plenty of water, a mercy which,

if we found the want of, we should more own the worth of.

Hereupon they murmured against Moses and Aaron. They spake the

same absurd and brutish language their fathers had done. It made

their crime the worse, that they had smarted so long for the

discontent and distrusts of their fathers, yet they venture in

the same steps. Moses must again, in God's name, command water

out of a rock for them; God is as able as ever to supply his

people with what is needful for them. But Moses and Aaron acted

wrong. They took much of the glory of this work of wonder to

themselves; "Must we fetch water?" As if it were done by some

power or worthiness of their own. They were to speak to the

rock, but they smote it. Therefore it is charged upon them, that

they did not sanctify God, that is, they did not give to him

alone that glory of this miracle which was due unto his name.

And being provoked by the people, Moses spake unadvisedly with

his lips. The same pride of man would still usurp the office of

the appointed Mediator; and become to ourselves wisdom,

righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Such a state

of sinful independence, such a rebellion of the soul against its

Saviour, the voice of God condemns in every page of the gospel.
14-21 The nearest way to Canaan from the place where Israel

encamped, was through the country of Edom. The ambassadors who

were sent returned with a denial. The Edomites feared to receive

damage by the Israelites. And had this numerous army been under

any other discipline than that of the righteous God himself,

there might have been cause for this jealousy. But Esau hated

Jacob because of the blessing; and now the hatred revived, when

the blessing was about to be inherited. We must not think it

strange, if reasonable requests be denied by unreasonable men,

and if those whom God favours be affronted by men.
22-29 God bids Aaron prepare to die. There is something of

displeasure in these orders. Aaron must not enter Canaan,

because he had failed in his duty at the waters of strife. There

is much of mercy in them. Aaron, though he dies for his

transgression, dies with ease, and in honour. He is gathered to

his people, as one who dies in the arms of Divine grace. There

is much significancy in these orders. Aaron must not enter

Canaan, to show that the Levitical priesthood could make nothing

perfect; that must be done by bringing in a better hope. Aaron

submits, and dies in the method and manner appointed; and, for

aught that appears, with as much cheerfulness as if he had been

going to bed. It was a great satisfaction to Aaron to see his

son, who was dear to him, preferred; and his office preserved

and secured: especially, to see in this a figure of Christ's

everlasting priesthood. A good man would desire, if it were the

will of God, not to outlive his usefulness. Why should we covet

to continue any longer in this world, than while we may do some

service in it for God and our generation?
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