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20 After the Israelites, the whole group of them, journeyed into the Zin Wilderness during the first month, they set up camp in Kadesh. And it was there that Miriam died and was buried.

They ran out of water and again blamed their leaders, Moses and Aaron.

Israelites (arguing with Moses): It would have been so much better if we had simply died along with the rest of our relatives, Korah, Abiram, and Dathan, right in front of the Eternal One.[a] 4-5 Why in the world would you drag us, the Eternal’s own group, out of Egypt into this wilderness where we’ll soon die and our livestock too? And there aren’t any grains, figs, grapes, or pomegranates, and there isn’t even any water!

Will these people never learn? But why should they be any different than the rest of us? We all tend to forget God’s provision, and we focus on the challenge before us. God has been leading them through a region full of challenges. You would think that after 40 years of daily provision from God in the wilderness these people would quit fearing the worst, especially since they have already gone through this very same experience once before—when they came out of Egypt in Exodus 17. Unfortunately, Moses doesn’t follow God’s instruction just as it is delivered to him, so he, too, is unfaithful. Instead of “provision” or “water-of-plenty,” the place is known as Meribah (“rebellion”). They are to remember their lack of faith and their active rebellion against God their savior every time they mention this place.

After hearing them out, Moses and Aaron walked away. At the congregation tent’s opening, they collapsed to the ground, interceding for the people. Then and there, the Eternal’s glory shone for them to see, and He spoke to Moses.

Eternal One: You and Aaron grab the staff before the covenant chest, gather the whole group so that all the people can see and hear you, and speak to the rock. Tell it to release its water for them to use. In this way, you’ll get water from the rock for everyone to drink, including all the animals.

So Moses did that. He took the staff just as God told him to do. 10 Then he and his brother gathered all the people in front of the rock.

Moses (to the Israelites): Listen up, you rebellious lot. Should we get water for you from this rock?

11 And as he spoke, Moses raised his hand and hit the rock—once, twice—and immediately the water came gushing out. All drank their fill, people and animals alike. 12 But the Eternal One scolded Moses and Aaron for their actions.

Eternal One: Because you didn’t trust Me and treat Me as holy before the Israelites, you will not lead this group into the land I have given them.

13 Because at this spot the Israelites rebelled against the Eternal and the display of His holiness, the water here is called Meribah, which means “rebellion.”

14 Also while in Kadesh, Moses sent a message to the Edomite king.

Kadesh (“holy”) is the place where God was not treated in a holy manner by the Israelites, including Moses and Aaron. And neither do Israel’s ancient relatives from Esau, the Edomites, who shared a common ancestor with Israel—Isaac.

Moses’ Message (to the king of Edom): Greetings from your brother, Israel. You’ve heard how hard these past years have been for us; 15 how in the midst of famine, our ancestors journeyed down into Egypt; and how after settling there a long while, the Egyptians began to treat our ancestors and then us harshly. 16 The Eternal heard and answered our pitiful cry, actually sent a messenger and led us out of Egypt. Now here we are in Kadesh, right at the border of your country. 17 Would you please grant us permission to cross through? I promise that we won’t take anything from your seeded farmland or cultivated countryside. Nor will we drink from your wells. We will stick to the main road, the king’s highway, and not step off it either to the right or left until we’re well past your country’s limits.

Edom’s Message: 18 No. If you so much as put a foot in our territory, we’ll attack you.

Israelites’ Message: 19 But we will keep strictly to the highway and pay you if any of us or any of our animals drink any water, only let us pass through.

Edom’s Message: 20 Absolutely not.

At that point, the Edomites indeed came out in force, fully armed, against the Israelites. 21 This response proved there was no negotiating with Edom for passage, so the Israelites turned to go another direction.

22-23 The whole Israelite community packed up and left Kadesh. They journeyed to the edge of Edomite territory, to Mount Hor, specifically.

Eternal One (to Moses and Aaron): 24 Because you two didn’t follow My orders back at the waters of Meribah, it is time for Aaron to die and be with his ancestors. 25 So bring Aaron, along with the son who will be his successor, Eleazar, up to Mount Hor. 26 There, you shall strip Aaron of his priestly garments that distinguish him as the priest of priests and put them on Eleazar. There, Aaron will join his ancestors in death.

27 With a heavy heart, Moses did just as the Eternal One had instructed. These brothers, now old, slowly made their way up Mount Hor while the whole community watched. 28 When they reached the top, Moses stripped Aaron of his priestly robes and put them on Aaron’s son, Eleazar. And Aaron died there. Then Moses and Eleazar went back down the mountain. 29 Understanding that Aaron was dead, the family of Israel wept for 30 days.


  1. 20:3 Numbers 16:35

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