Background: God promised to bless the world through Abraham’s descendants who multiplied in Egypt but became enslaved. God called Moses to lead them and God delivered Israel out of Egypt leading them through the ‘Red Sea’ on dry ground while drowning the Egyptian army. The Lord led Israel by the pillar of cloud and fire and miraculously provided ‘manna and water from a rock’ despite Israel’s grumbling. At Mt. Sinai the Lord established His covenant with Israel and gave them the 10 commandments. Israel fell into idolatry by making a ‘golden calf’, butMoses pleaded with the Lord and the Lord promised to go with Israel and to forgive them (Ex. 34:1-9). The Israelites set out from Sinai in their tribal divisions with the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ before them and the eventually came to the the border of their promised land. They sent ‘twelve spies’ into Canaan who confirmed that it was a land flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13-14). But ten of the spies spread a ‘bad report’ and the community refused to enter the land. So the Lord said that generation would wander forty years and die in the desert and that their children would enter the land that they had rejected. Then the Israelites tried to enter Canaan without Moses and against the Lord’s decision the peoples living in the hills came down and attacked the Israelites and beat them back at Hormah (14:39-45). Then Korah and his followers lead a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, but the earth opens up and swallows them and the Lord confirms that the priests must come from Aaron’s line by causing Aaron’s staff to miraculously blossom and produce almonds (16-17). This brings us to the story of ‘Moses striking the Rock’ (Num. 20-21).
Moses Strikes the Rock and Snakes Strike Israel.
Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, dies marking the end of the generation that couldn’t enter Canaan. The second generation comes to a place where there was no water and thinking they would die they gather against Moses and Aaron. Almost forty years has been wasted (Numbers 33:38) and yet the second generation apparently haven’t learned from their parents sins. So Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before the Lord at the ‘Tent of Meeting’. The Lord tells Moses and Aaron to take the staff and gather the people before the rock. Moses is to speak to the rock and water will come out for the people and their livestock to drink. They gather at the rock and Moses said, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Moses strikes the rock twice and water gushes out for the people and their livestock to drink. Before the previous generation Moses had been to strike the rock (Exodus 17:6). Here Moses is told to speak to the rock and his words suggest that Moses was the one bringing out the water (Numbers 20:10). Moses had been told at one time to strike the rock But the Lord told Moses and Aaron, “Because you didn’t trust me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring the Israelites into the land I give them.” These were the waters of Meribah or quarrelling, because the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and the Lord showed himself as holy.
After this Moses sends messengers to the king of Edom asking to let Israel pass through your country. Yet, Edom comes out with a large army and Israel turns away. The Israelites come to Mount Hor, near the border of Edom. The Lord says it is Aaron’s time to die. So Moses takes Aaron and Eleazar, Aaron’s son, up Mount Hor as commanded by the commanded. On the mountain, Moses removed Aaron’s garments and puts them on Eleazar. Aaron dies and when Moses and Eleazar come down the mountain the people mourn for Aaron thirty days. The Lord did not allow Aaron to enter Canaan yet Aaron was privileged die in peace having seen his son succeed him as priest. Aaron accepted the Lord’s decision and the Lord graciously let Aaron die peacefully there on the mountain. God dealt severely with His prophet Moses and His high priest Aaron, but Aaron comes across as being content with the Lord’s decision. The Lord held His appointed leaders to a high standard which He continues to do today (James 3:1).