NUMBERS 20
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1 Then came the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel], even the whole congregation [kol HaEdah], into the desert of Zin [Midbar of Tzin] in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam [Miryam] died there, and was buried there.


This chapter opens at the beginning of the fortieth year of Israel's wanderings.

Very little is recorded of the terrible forty years -- just glimpses of the beginning and the ending -- but it is well to ponder upon this weary period. Forty long, monotonous years in a hot, barren, dusty, comfortless wilderness -- all the adults under the shadow of the sentence of death, waiting their turn to die.

Think of living under such conditions of hardship, with no hope of any release but death. The Scriptures speak of it as a waste, howling wilderness, a place of withering drought, and infested with fiery serpents and scorpions.

What did they do during those long years of endless waiting? In those forty years they moved their camp forty-two times, and they never knew -- from one day to the next -- when the next move would be.

Why were these people in this position? God had chosen and called them, brought them close to Himself and shown them marvellous things -- but they had remained earthy and had failed to rise to the call. So a whole generation were cast aside to perish in these miserable surroundings.

And now the last year begins. The promised land of plenty, with its fruitful fields and green valleys and pleasant, settled houses, is within sight. They have arrived at Kadesh, south of the Dead Sea and on the west border of the land of Edom. (Kadesh means holiness. In the antitype it is the point reached at the end of the wilderness journey, before entering the Promised Land.)

The first event at Kadesh is the death and burial of Miriam. What a long, eventful time it had been -- 120 years -- since we saw Miriam as a little girl courageously facing the majesty of the Princess of Egypt on behalf of her baby brother!

And now Miriam was gone. She, too, had had a great moment of failure and shame, when she questioned the supremacy of Moses and suffered the humiliation and affliction of leprosy, but this would now only be a regretted incident in their long period of working together. *




2 And there was no water [mayim] for the congregation [Edah]: and they gathered themselves together against [Moshe] and against [Aharon].

The people on one side -- Moses and Aaron on the other. The same old picture! Forty years had taught them nothing of faith in God or affection and trust for their leaders. *



3 And the people chode [contended] with [Moshe], and spake, saying, [If only] we had died when our brethren died before Yahweh!

From time to time during the forty years, many had been smitten by God -- as concerning the golden calf, the report of the spies, the lust for meat, the rebellion of Korah -- and now in their faithless despair they wished they were among those whom God had destroyed.

We can, and must, sympathize with the bitterness of their lot, but how displeasing would their complaining be to God, and how grieving it would be to Moses who had given his life to teach and to care for and to entreat for them! Human nature is an evil, sinful, ungrateful thing.



6 And [Moshe] and [Aharon] went from the presence of the assembly [Kahal] unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation [entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed], and they fell upon their faces: and the glory [kavod] of Yahweh appeared unto them.

What a wonderful thing! "The glory of the Lord appeared unto them." If Moses had stopped to think, this could have settled and quieted his overwrought emotions, and brought a great peace and calm that no outward provocation could disturb.

As we consider these instances of open divine manifestation, we may feel that if only the glory of the Lord would appear to us, we could cheerfully and fearlessly face anything! But does not the glory of God appear to us -- if we will let it?

Does it not appear in all His wonderful works around us in the ever-present marvels and beauties of His holy Word; in the terrible but inspiring accuracy of the working out of His purpose with the seething nations in these closing Gentile days, and above all in the promise that if we truly seek Him, He will come and make His abode with us? It is only our fleshly heedlessness that prevents our feeling the power of the presence of that glory.

The brotherhood today is being shaken to its foundations, and long-accepted standards of truth and holiness are being cast aside, but good will come of it if we hold fast and are not swept backwards by the general tide. Let us pause and step aside and take time to let the glory of God appear unto us and envelop our lives, and all else will fade into insignificance, and we shall have calm and peace. *



7 And Yahweh spake unto Moses [Moshe], saying,

"THE Rod." Clearly some particular rod is meant. What rod?



9 And Moses [Moshe] took the rod from before Yahweh, as He commanded him.

Arising out of Korah's rebellion, some time before this, God had confirmed the authority of Moses and Aaron by the token of the blossomed rod. And God had said (17:10) --

"Bring Aaron's Rod before the Testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels."

Paul tells us (Heb. 9:4) that this rod was kept inside the very Ark of the Covenant itself. This was the most sacred place possible, teaching us the importance of the significance of this Rod.

So the Rod Moses was to take was Aaron's Rod that budded. Now let us trace this Rod back a little further, and we shall find that it has an interesting history. We shall find that "Aaron's" Rod is the same as "Moses' " Rod.

Turning back to Exodus 4 (the occasion of the burning bush), we find Moses protesting (v. 1):

"Behold, they will not believe me."

God says, "What is that in thine hand?" Moses replies, "A rod." Then comes the sign of the rod turned into a serpent, and back again. Concluding the vision, God says (v. 17):

"Take THIS Rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs."

So this is the Rod by which the serpent sign is to be manifested. The particular appointment of this Rod is further emphasized when we note in verse 20 it is called, "The Rod of God."

It also helps us to form the picture when we remember (see verse 16) that Aaron is appointed as the mouthpiece for Moses -- they are one unit. Verse 30 informs us:

"And Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and DID THE SIGNS in the sight of the people."

--Aaron did the signs, with Moses' Rod -- the "Rod of God." Turning to Exodus 7, we find the same thing happening. In verse 10 (at Moses' command) Aaron cast down "his" rod before Pharaoh, and it becomes a serpent. In verse 15 God tells Moses to take the Rod which had become a serpent. In verse 17 Moses is to speak of it as "the Rod in mine hand" smiting the waters. But in verse 19 we find Moses telling Aaron to "Take thy rod" and smite the waters.

This was the first plague. If we trace the plagues through, we find that some (Ex. 7:19; 8:6, 17) Aaron brings with the Rod, some (9:23; 10:13) Moses brings with the (same) Rod.

The point to be noted is that throughout Moses and Aaron act as an interchangeable unit, and it is the same Rod -- the "Rod of God." It is again spoken of as the Rod of God when it is used to play an important part in the defeat of Amalek (Ex. 17:9). As long as Moses holds up this Rod, Israel prevails. Truly this is a very important Rod.

Now, in the Scriptures, "rod" is a common figure of rulership of one who rules -- particularly, of the Messiah: the King of Kings--

"The Lord shall send the Rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies" (Psa. 110:2).

"Israel is the Rod of Mine inheritance" (Jer. 10:16).

"There shall come forth a Rod out of the Stem of Jesse ... with righteousness shall he judge"

 (Isa. 11:1-4).

So we see in this Rod of Moses and Aaron -- this "Rod of God" -- the manifested power and authority of God.

At its first mention God's power is manifested in turning it into a serpent and back again to a rod. Is this just meaningless wonder-working? On the contrary, here is a deep symbol, embodying the whole purpose of God with man.

God made Adam in His Own image, and gave him dominion over all the earth -- note the two aspects, manifestation and rulership. Solomon records (Ecc. 7:29) that God made man upright, but that man forsook this upright state -- that is, the Rod became a Serpent. Sin took over, and natural man became the seed of the serpent -- no longer the Rod of God.

But God's loving purpose is to bring man back from the serpent condition to the rod condition -- to make him again upright, the true and complete image of God, exercising holy and faithful dominion over an earth filled with God's glory.

All this shown in Christ -- the typical man -- born under the serpent-cursed constitution to which man had fallen, but cleansing and transforming himself from it by obedience, and achieving royal honour and dominion as the chosen Rod of God.

The other two signs of the burning-bush manifestation emphasize the same truths. The hand that became leprous and then was restored to health shows another aspect of the picture. The Rod and Serpent show a change of position and activity -- the leprous hand shows a change of physical condition. Leprosy, the dreaded living death that slowly but relentlessly consumed its helpless victims, is a scriptural symbol of the deadly uncleanness of sin.

The third and culminating sign was the water of the river (living water) poured out on the dry land and becoming blood.

In John chapter 2 there is something strikingly similar -- a "sign" in which poured out water becomes wine (type of blood) -- a sign which appears on the surface to be mere wonder-working, but which undoubtedly has a deep meaning.

It was on the third day (Jn. 2: 1). And it was the

"beginning of miracles (Revised Version signs) that Jesus did."

Surely the water that became blood is the Word made flesh for the redemption of fallen man -- the blood poured out on a dry and thirsty land. *

** Bro Growcott - The Serpent and the Rod



10 And Moses [Moshe] and Aaron [Aharon] gathered the congregation [Kahal ] together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels [morim, contentious ones]; must we fetch you water [mayim] out of this rock?

11 And Moses [Moshe] lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water [mayim] came out abundantly, and the congregation [Edah] drank, and their beasts also.

There is an abundance of the living water...'let him that is athirst come'.


"He that ruleth his own spirit is greater than he that taketh a city." (Prov 16: 32)

Meekness is true self-control -- the greatest achievement and victory possible to man. And the man Moses was meek above all the men on the face of the earth.

But on this occasion his self-control gave way. Angrily denouncing the children of Israel, he struck the Rock twice. The water came out; the congregation drank; and the incident appeared closed. Moses, though doubtless regretting his brief outburst, would probably -- in the light of his forty years of faithful labour -- not regard it very seriously.

But it was not closed. God called him to account, and humbled His faithful servant Moses before this evil multitude.*

Bro Growcott - The serpent and the rod




12 And Yahweh spake unto Moses [Moshe] and Aaron [Aharon], Because ye believed Me not, to sanctify [honour] Me [as kadosh] in the eyes of the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel], therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land [Kahal into HaAretz] which I have given them.

Having been baptized into Moses they looked to him for meat and drink. The angel had brought them out by his hand into a waste and howling wilderness, under a promise to give them a land flowing with milk and honey. But after three days the nation found itself without water; and though soon after they found some, it was so bitter they could not drink it. And they murmured against Moses.

The Lord heard them and healed the waters. A month after their departure from Egypt, their provision failed them. Again they murmured against Moses and his prophet; and turned back in their hearts to the land of their affliction. But God heard them, and gave them bread and meat to the full, and continued to them this sustenance for forty years [Ex.16:35], until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan.

One would have supposed that after giving them bread from heaven all their murmurings would have ceased. But when they came to Rephidim and found no water they murmured again, and were ready to stone Moses, and tempted God, saying, "Is the Lord among us, or not?"

Though the manna still fell, the rebellious-hearted Israelites questioned the presence of the Lord among them! Though tempted, He still bore with them; but yet was angry with Moses for their sakes. He commanded him to go to the rock in Horeb, on the top of which he would take his stand. He was then to smite it, and to speak to the rock before their eyes, that it might give forth water.

Having convened them, he addressed them, saying, "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And he smote the rock twice; and the water came out abundantly, and they drank " (Numb. 20:10,12; Exod. 17:6). Moses in his indignation smote the rock once too often. in this he exceeded his commission; therefore the Lord said, "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."

These incidents had a secondary import which is found in the antitypes of the forty-second generation. Thousands of Israelites and Gentiles believed the gospel of the kingdom, and were baptized into Christ.

As a whole they constituted "a holy nation" -- a nation within the nation -- which fed upon the true bread of heaven, and drank of the water of life by faith in the things of Christ.

But they were and are still strangers and sojourners in the world, which to them is like the wilderness of Arabia to Israel of the fourth generation. But there have been multitudes in Christ, as there were in Moses, who did run well but were afterwards hindred. They turned back in their hearts to Egypt, loving the present world, and not having faith enough to get the mastery over it.

Now, the apostle likens such to those of the fourth generation who were murmurers, and faithless, and whose carcasses fell in the wilderness, from which they will never arise to enter the land of Israel under Shiloh. "They did all eat the same spiritual meat," says he; "and did all drink the same spititual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was (or represented) Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted" (1 Cor. 10:3-6).

Their faith was addressed through sensible objects; ours through written testimony. But for the most part professors look not beyond "the things which are seen and temporal." Whether in Moses, or professedly in Christ, they are mere creatures of sensation, who walk by sight and not by faith.

Let us, reader, not be of this number; but let us rejoice in hope of the promise made to the fathers, though at present it seemeth not to the eye of sense to grow. "If a man eat of this bread (the spiritual) he shall live in the Age (EIS TON AIONA);" and, drinking of the blood of Christ, which is the spiritual drink represented by Horeb's stream, the Rock of Israel will raise him up at the last day to life in the age to come (EIS ZOEN AIONION.) But if, after their example, we love the present world, though we may have believed and obeyed the truth in the beginning, we shall come under the sentence of exclusion from "the rest which remains for the people of God."

Elpis Israel 2.4.



God said to him: "Ye believed me not." Did Moses really disbelieve God? Belief is a far greater and deeper thing than mere assent to the truth of a matter. Belief is what we DO. Our way of life is the true index of what we actually believe, whatever our professions may be.

"What doth it profit though a man SAY he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?" (Jam. 2:14).

If we SAY we love God and desire to please Him, then deliberately choose a way of life (as marrying into the world)# that we know He hates, we clearly demonstrate what our belief actually is -- our faith (belief) is in the flesh, not in God.

John, the gentle apostle of love, records plainly and bluntly:

"Let no man deceive you: he that DOETH righteousness is righteous."

Moses did not sanctify God on this occasion -- therefore it was necessary for God to sanctify Himself in publicly punishing Moses. David says that, under provocation, Moses 

"spake unadvisedly with his lips." James warns us (3:6):

"The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. If any man offend not in word, he is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."

Not only evil talking, but all foolish talking, says Paul, is an abomination to the God of holiness. How much we say lightly and forget! But God does not forget. Jesus said:

"Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:36).

Because of the apparent drasticness of this saying, some have endeavored to water it down by changing the meaning of the word translated "idle," but when we look it up and face it squarely -- we find it does mean "idle." Saintship is no light thing!

The word Is "argos," meaning -- idle, profitless, barren, unfruitful." It carries the idea of empty unproductiveness when there should be usefulness.

Bro Growcott - The serpent and the rod


#Is it lawful for believers to marry unbelievers? Bro Thomas' rebuke printed in the Ambassador 1866 is worthy of consideration in approaching this problem as it arises within the ecclesias.