Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Then came the children of Israel . . . into the desert
of Zin in the first month--that is, of the fortieth year (compare
Nu 20:22, 23,
with Nu 33:38).
In this history only the principal and most important incidents are
recorded, those confined chiefly to the first or second and the last
years of the journeyings in the wilderness, thence called Et-Tih.
and Nu 20:1
there is a long and undescribed interval of thirty-seven years.
the people abode in Kadesh--supposed to be what is now known as
Ain-el-Weibeh, three springs surrounded by palms.
It was their second arrival after an interval of thirty-eight years
The old generation had nearly all died, and the new one encamped in it
with the view of entering the promised land, not, however, as formerly
on the south, but by crossing the Edomite region on the east.
Miriam died there--four months before Aaron
2-13. there was no water for the congregation--There was at Kadesh
a fountain, En-Mishpat
and at the first encampment of the Israelites there was no want of
water. It was then either partially dried up by the heat of the season,
or had been exhausted by the demands of so vast a multitude.
6. Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly--Here is a
fresh ebullition of the untamed and discontented spirit of the people.
The leaders fled to the precincts of the sanctuary, both as an asylum
from the increasing fury of the highly excited rabble, and as their
usual refuge in seasons of perplexity and danger, to implore the
direction and aid of God.
8. Take the rod--which had been deposited in the tabernacle
the wonder-working rod by which so many miracles had been performed,
sometimes called "the rod of God"
or Aaron's rod
said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you
water out of this rock?--The conduct of the great leader on this
occasion was hasty and passionate
He had been directed to speak to the rock
but he smote it twice
in his impetuosity, thus endangering the blossoms of the rod, and,
instead of speaking to the rock, he spoke to the people
in a fury.
11. the congregation drank, and their beasts--Physically the water
afforded the same kind of needful refreshment to both. But from a
religious point of view, this, which was only a common element to the
cattle, was a sacrament to the people
(1Co 10:3, 4)
--It possessed a relative sanctity imparted to it by its divine origin
12. The Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not,
&c.--The act of Moses in smiting twice betrayed a doubt, not of the
power, but of the will of God to gratify such a rebellious people, and
his exclamation seems to have emanated from a spirit of incredulity
akin to Sarai's
These circumstances indicate the influence of unbelief, and there might
have been others unrecorded which led to so severe a chastisement.
13. This is the water of Meribah--The word "Kadesh" is added to it
to distinguish it from another Meribah
14-16. Moses sent messengers . . . to the king of Edom--The encampment
at Kadesh was on the confines of the Edomite territory, through which
the Israelites would have had an easy passage across the Arabah by
Wady-el-Ghuweir, so that they could have continued their course around
Moab, and approached Palestine from the east
[ROBERTS]. The Edomites,
being the descendants of Esau and tracing their line of descent from
Abraham as their common stock, were recognized by the Israelites as
brethren, and a very brotherly message was sent to them.
17. we will go by the king's highway--probably Wady-el-Ghuweir
through which ran one of the great lines of road,
constructed for commercial caravans, as well as for the progress of
armies. The engineering necessary for carrying them over marshes or
mountains, and the care requisite for protecting them from the shifting
sands, led to their being under the special care of the state. Hence
the expression, "the king's highway," which is of great antiquity.
19. if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it--From
the scarcity of water in the warm climates of the East, the practice of
levying a tax for the use of the wells is universal; and the jealousy
of the natives, in guarding the collected treasures of rain, is often
so great that water cannot be procured for money.
21. Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border,
&c.--A churlish refusal obliged them to take another route. (See on
which describe the retribution that was taken.)
22. the children of Israel . . . came unto mount Hor--now Gebel
Haroun, the most striking and lofty elevation in the Seir range, called
emphatically "the mount"
It is conspicuous by its double top.
24-28. Aaron shall be gathered unto his people--In accordance with
his recent doom, he, attired in the high priest's costume, was
commanded to ascend that mountain and die. But although the time of his
death was hastened by the divine displeasure as a punishment for his
sins, the manner of his death was arranged in tenderness of love, and
to do him honor at the close of his earthly service. His ascent of the
mount was to afford him a last look of the camp and a distant prospect
of the promised land. The simple narrative of the solemn and impressive
scene implies, though it does not describe, the pious resignation,
settled faith, and inward peace of the aged pontiff.
26. strip Aaron of his garments--that is, his pontifical robes, in
token of his resignation. (See
put them on his son--as the inauguration into his high office. Having
been formerly anointed with the sacred oil, that ceremony was not
repeated, or, as some think, it was done on his return to the camp.
28. Aaron died there in the top of the
A tomb has been erected upon or close by the spot where he was
29. When all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead--Moses and
Eleazar were the sole witnesses of his departure
According to the established law, the new high priest could not have
been present at the funeral of his father without contracting
But that law was dispensed with in the extraordinary circumstances. The
people learned the event not only from the recital of the two
witnesses, but from their visible signs of grief and change; and this
event betokened the imperfection of the Levitical priesthood
they mourned for Aaron thirty days--the usual period of public and