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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 20


1 The whole Israelite community arrived in the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled at Kadesh. It was here that Miriam died, and here that she was buried.


As the community had no water, they held a council against Moses and Aaron.


The people contended with Moses, exclaiming, "Would that we too had perished with our kinsmen in the LORD'S presence!


Why have you brought the LORD'S community into this desert where we and our livestock are dying?


Why did you lead us out of Egypt, only to bring us to this wretched place which has neither grain nor figs nor vines nor pomegranates? Here there is not even water to drink!"


But Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the meeting tent, where they fell prostrate. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them,


and the LORD said to Moses,


"Take the staff and assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron, and in their presence order the rock to yield its waters. From the rock you shall bring forth water for the community and their livestock to drink."


So Moses took the staff from its place before the LORD, as he was ordered.


He and Aaron assembled the community in front of the rock, where he said to them, "Listen to me, you rebels! Are we to bring water for you out of this rock?"


2 Then, raising his hand, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff, and water gushed out in abundance for the community and their livestock to drink.


3 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you were not faithful to me in showing forth my sanctity before the Israelites, you shall not lead this community into the land I will give them."


These are the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites contended against the LORD, and where he revealed his sanctity among them.


4 From Kadesh Moses sent men to the king of Edom with the message: "Your brother Israel has this to say: You know of all the hardships that have befallen us,


how our fathers went down to Egypt, where we stayed a long time, how the Egyptians maltreated us and our fathers,


and how, when we cried to the LORD, he heard our cry and sent an angel who led us out of Egypt. Now here we are at the town of Kadesh at the edge of your territory.


5 Kindly let us pass through your country. We will not cross any fields or vineyards, nor drink any well water, but we will go straight along the royal road without turning to the right or to the left, until we have passed through your territory."


But Edom answered him, "You shall not pass through here; if you do, I will advance against you with the sword."


The Israelites insisted, "We want only to go up along the highway. If we or our livestock drink any of your water, we will pay for it. Surely there is no harm in merely letting us march through."


But Edom still said, "No, you shall not pass through," and advanced against them with a large and heavily armed force.


Therefore, since Edom refused to let them pass through their territory, Israel detoured around them.


6 Setting out from Kadesh, the whole Israelite community came to Mount Hor.


There at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron,


"Aaron is about to be taken to his people; he shall not enter the land I am giving to the Israelites, because you both rebelled against my commandment at the waters of Meribah.


Take Aaron and his son Eleazar and bring them up on Mount Hor.


Then strip Aaron of his garments and put them on his son Eleazar; for there Aaron shall be taken in death."


Moses did as the LORD commanded. When they had climbed Mount Hor in view of the whole community,


Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on his son Eleazar. Then Aaron died there on top of the mountain. When Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain,


all the community understood that Aaron had passed away; and for thirty days the whole house of Israel mourned him.


1 [1] The first month: we would expect the mention also of the day and of the year (after the exodus) when this took place; cf similar dates in Numbers 1:1; 10:11; 33:38; Deut 1:3. Here the full date seems to have been lost. Probably the Israelites arrived in Kadesh in the third year after the exodus. Cf Deut 1:46. The desert of Zin: a barren region with a few good oases, southwest of the Dead Sea. See note on Numbers 13:21.

2 [11] Twice: perhaps because he had not sufficient faith to work the miracle with the first blow. Cf Numbers 20:12.

3 [12-13] The sin of Moses and Aaron consisted in doubting God's mercy toward the ever-rebellious people. In showing forth my sanctity: God's sacred power and glory: an allusion to the name of the place, Kadesh, which means "sanctified, sacred." Meribah means "contention." Cf Exodus 17:7.

4 [14] Your brother Israel: the Edomites were descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob. Their country, to the southeast of the Dead Sea, was also known as Seir; cf Genesis 25:24-26; 36:1; 8- 9.

5 [17] The royal road: an important highway, running north and south along the plateau east of the Dead Sea. In ancient times it was much used by caravans and armies; later it was improved by the Romans, and large stretches of it are still clearly recognizable.

6 [22] Mount Hor: not definitively identified, but probably to be sought in the vicinity of Kadesh. According to Deut 10:6 Aaron died at Moserah (cf "Moseroth" in Numbers 33:30-31), which is apparently the name of the region in which Mount Hor is situated.

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