Bible study 137 – Numbers 20Posted: February 17, 2017
The Israelites once more reach the border to Canaan, and are brave enough to once again complain to Moses and Aaron about the lack of water. They bring the complaint to God, who lets Moses use Aaron’s staff to bring water out from a rock. You might recall that the exact same thing happened in Exodus, at Meribah by Mount Horeb. This time we are in Meribah by Mount Hor. They can’t possibly be the same place, since the first Meribah was far away from Canaan. It seems more likely that both chapters originate from the same story; and considering the sudden and contextless appearance of Canaanite troops in the Exodus story, it seems to me likely that that whole chapter (Exodus 17) is simply misplaced.
Anyway, after giving everyone water, it turns out that God is angry over the affair. Is he angry at the people for complaining, something that usually leads to disease or death? No. Is he angry at Moses for performing the magic trick, and pretending it was his own and not God’s power? No. Is he angry at Aaron for doing what everyone around him tells him to do, as he has always done, and which has never gotten him in trouble before, even when he clearly broke the rules? Incredibly, yes. And the punishment for following Moses around and lending him his staff? Death. So Aaron goes up to Mount Hor, hands over his clothes to his son Eleazar (the new high priest), and dies, presumably slain by God. Incidentally, his sister Miriam dies at about the same time.
Moses also asks the king of Edom (a kingdom to the south of the Dead Sea) for passage through their lands, but he is refused.
“Let Aaron be gathered to his people. For he shall not enter the land that I have given to the Israelites, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. (…)”