Numbers Chapter 20

The Israelites wandered through the wilderness for forty years. When last mentioned, they were in the wilderness of Paran. Many had rebelled and were destroyed for that. They were promised then, that all the adults would not live to see the promised land, but would die as they wandered. The book of Numbers continues as follows:

1 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.
2 And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!
4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?
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, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.
6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.

They were led into the desert of Zin. While living there, Miriam died. The people began to suffer for water, so they took their complaints and arguments to Moses and Aaron. They murmured and said they would have been better to have died with the others before them, then to suffer death where they were. This sounds so familiar. It seems to have been a pattern, that they would go for a little while and then begin to complain about their situation. They were not happy with the desert being a place where they could not grow food either. Moses and Aaron went to the Lord and He appeared to them.

7 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.
9 And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

Moses was told to take his rod in front of the assembly, and he and Aaron were to speak to the rock and it would give them water. Moses went with his rod, as he was commanded. He drew the attention, it almost sounds as if stirred up in anger towards the murmuring people, and hit the rock twice with his rod. Water came out of the rock in abundance.

12 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified in them.

Moses and Aaron had not showed the people that this was the power of God, but it seems like they claimed this miracle as their own doing. The Lord chastised them. In the time of thirst before, Moses was told to strike the rock to bring forth water. This time they were told to speak to the rock, but they had not faithfully followed through. Knowing that hitting the rock had worked before, they trusted in their own wisdom. Moses and Aaron would not bring the people to the promised land. The place of the rock was called Meribah. The Lord was with the children of Israel there.


14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:
15 How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:
16 And when we cried unto the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border:
17 Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.
18 And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.
19 And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet.
20 And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.
21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.

The Israelites, who were in Kadesh, on the border of Edom, planned to pass through the land of the Edomites. Moses sent out some men to go to the king and explain the situation. They were to ask if they might go through the land, not touching anything of the people’s, but passing straight through. The king refused, saying he would fight them if they did. The Israelites offered to pay for anything used on the way, such as water. The king refused again, but instead brought his people against the messengers. I believe that the Lord promised he would raise his hand against those who opposed the children of Israel, so I am guessing that either, this was not going to be good for the land of Edom, or it was in fact part of the necessary path for the Israelites, as they wandered.

22 And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.
23 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,
24 Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.
25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:
26 And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.
27 And Moses did as the Lord commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.
28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.
29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

Instead, the Israelites moved to the area of mount Hor, still bordering Edom.


The Lord told Aaron that he would die and not continue with the people, because he had not listened to the counsel of the Lord in Meribah. Aaron and Eleazar were to go up into the mount. Eleazar was to become the new high priest in his stead. Moses, Aaron and Eleazar went into the mount, and the host of Israel witnessed it. Moses removed the garments from Aaron and passed them to his son Eleazar. Aaron died, leaving Moses and Eleazar to return to the people. All the Israelites mourned for this loss for thirty days. (See also Numbers 23:37-39) I believe this was near the end of their wanderings.

A lot happened to the Israelites in this chapter. Miriam, the sister to Moses, died. I imagine that she was a great example to the people of Israel, as many of the family members of the modern prophets are today. The people were blessed, again, with a miracle from the Lord. They needed water and even though they were complaining, the Lord gave them water. Also, we learn of a relationship between the Israelites and the outside world. They were not to be allowed to simply go through the land of Edom, but were forced to go around it at this time. We also learn here of how the Lord will not allow his called servants to be disobedient to direct commandments. Moses and Aaron did not follow what had been commanded, and probably could have been able to lead the people astray. As a result they were promised that they would not see the promised land. This promise was fulfilled in Aaron, as he passed the office of the high priesthood to his son and then he died. I am not sure what may have happened to have caused Moses and Aaron to do what they did, but I know that we can only be blessed by the Lord when we follow his commandments. When we choose to disobey, He is no longer bound to give us promised protection and other blessings. Prophets are mortal, and capable of making mistakes just like the rest of us. They are not immune from temptations, trials, and their own faults and fears. They are also not immune from consequences for those mistakes. I think that a lot of times, God must take a step back from those who disobey, and allow the world to effect us without His interference. I think on the other hand, when we are obedient, the biggest blessing is that we can be guarded from much of the negative influence around us, or at least given a greater strength to endure, because His presence is there.

I can’t say that I have ever known the reason that Moses was not allowed to see the promised land, so reading this was new for me. I have known, however, that Moses must have been forgiven of this, because the scriptures teach us that he was taken to live with God. In Alma 45:19, we learn of the great prophet Alma as we read, “Behold, this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself; and we suppose that he has also received Alma in the spirit, unto himself; therefore, for this cause we know nothing concerning his death and burial.” (emphasis added) I also believe that Moses was given the privilege of restoring priesthood keys in modern times. In Doctrine and Covenants 110:11 we read, “After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.” I know that the Lord would only allow a worthy bearer of the priesthood, to restore it once again, and in order to be worthy, he must have been forgiven of this trespass. As a prophet of God, the standard was higher for Moses. As disciples of Christ today, the standard is high for us as well. I get great comfort in knowing that through repentance, I can be forgiven of the mistakes and sins in my life. I have a strong feeling that we would be surprised if we could see the amount of mercy that will be shown for our mistakes. I hope that knowing this, can give me greater resolve to draw nearer to the Lord and strive daily to keep His commandments.


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I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.


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