Numbers 20: Deaths of Miriam and Aaron

We will look at this chapter carefully. The events of this chapter occur near the end 40 year wilderness exile. After nearly 40 years, the people still complain about being removed from Egypt and “dying in the wilderness.”

Texts: Numbers 20; Deut. 32:48-51; Num. 33:36-39

We have the grace of hindsight and wonder who the people didn’t understand that God’s hand was all over the events the people of Israel experienced. However, as we live through our lives and tests, we aren’t able to see God’s hand until after the test is over and we have opportunity to look back. 

In the first month of this particular year, they were living in Kadesh in the land of Zin and this is where Miriam died. We don’t know the exact day of Miriam’s death from this verse, but we do know from other texts that Miriam died in the 40th year of their wilderness wondering. Jewish tradition says that she died on the 10th of Nissan but this is not directly noted in the Torah. 

We know of at least prior two times when God sent them to a place where was no water and they complained. God gave them water both times. Yet this time, they act the same way this time. 

God lead them to this place for a specific purpose. 

The people were more terrified of Moses and Aaron than they were of God because of what Moses could do. God didn’t tell Moses to have the Reubenite families who rebelled with Korah swallowed up but the ground took them down by Moses’ word.

At Meribah (a land of strength and quarreling), God told Moses and Aaron to speak to the rock and bring water out for the people of Israel. However, in anger, Moses hit the rock twice and said “Must we…” speaking for Moses and Aaron. Moses had struck a rock to bring out water before but this time God didn’t tell Moses and Aaron to strike the rock but to speak to it. 

Num. 20:12 says, “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” 

The “you” here is plural, not singular. God says that Moses and Aaron did not believe God? What didn’t they understand? They didn’t believe that just speaking to the rock would bring the water out. They did it their own way which was the way they had done it before. They also did not hallow or sanctify God’s name in the process. 

Deut. 32:48 tells us that on the day of Aaron’s death, God told Moses how he was going to die on Mt. Nebo in a similar way to Aaron. 

Neither Moses or Aaron challenged God when He told them they would not enter the promised land due to this particular sin. They were willing to accept His punishment because they did not give God the credit for the water. 

After Miriam’s death, Moses asked the king of Edom if the people of Israel could pass through their land and the king of Edom said no twice. Edom was adamant in their refusal to allow the people of Israel to pass through. Since God told Moses that they could not go to war with Edom, the people of Israel went around the land of Edom and did not enter their territory. 

The people of Israel fled to Mt. Hor, which is on the edge of Edom’s territory near the sea. This is where God told Aaron to go to be “gathered up to his fathers.” 

Num. 33:36-39 tells us that Aaron died in the fifth month of the 40 year of the wilderness wanderings. Since we know that Miriam and Aaron died in the same year, we can assume that Miriam also died in the 40th year. The people mourned for Aaron for 30 days. Their mourning period for Aaron ended at the sixth month of the 40th year of the wandering. 

The chapter ends with the mantle of Aaron’s authority given to his oldest surviving son Eleazar. Only Eleazar and Moses knew exactly where Aaron was laid to rest, in part due 

Reader: Dave De Fever. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.


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