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Numbers Chapter 20
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Miriam's Death; Lack of Water
20:1 In the first month, the entire Israelite community came to the Tzin Desert, and the people stopped in Kadesh. It was there that Miriam died and was buried.
20:2 The people did not have any water, so they began demonstrating against Moses and Aaron.
20:3 The people disputed with Moses. 'We wish that we had died together with our brothers before God!' they declared.
20:4 'Why did you bring God's congregation to this desert? So that we and our livestock should die?
20:5 Why did you take us out of Egypt and bring us to this terrible place? It is an area where there are no plants, figs, grapes or pomegranates. [Now] there is not even any water to drink!'
20:6 Moses and Aaron moved away from the demonstration to the Communion Tent entrance, and fell on their faces. God's glory was revealed to them.

Water from the Rock
20:7 God spoke to Moses, saying,
20:8 'Take the staff, and you and Aaron assemble the community. Speak to the cliff in their presence, and it will give forth its water. You will thus bring forth water from the cliff, and allow the community and their livestock to drink.'
20:9 Moses took the staff from before God as he had been instructed.
20:10 Moses and Aaron then assembled the congregation before the cliff. 'Listen now, you rebels!' shouted Moses. 'Shall we produce water for you from this cliff?'
20:11 With that, Moses raised his hand, and struck the cliff twice with his staff. A huge amount of water gushed out, and the community and their animals were able to drink.

Punishment of Moses and Aaron
20:12 God said to Moses and Aaron, 'You did not have enough faith in Me to sanctify Me in the presence of the Israelites! Therefore, you shall not bring this assembly to the land that I have given you.'
20:13 These are the Waters of Dispute (Mey Meribhah) where the Israelites disputed with God, and where He was [nevertheless] sanctified.

Encounter with Edom
20:14 Moses sent envoys from Kadesh to the King of Edom [with the following message]: 'This is what your brother Israel declares: You know about all the troubles that we have encountered.
20:15 Our fathers migrated to Egypt and we lived in Egypt for a long time. The Egyptians mistreated both our fathers and us.
20:16 When we cried out to God, He heard our voice and sent a representative to take us out of Egypt. We are now in Kadesh, a city at the edge of your territories.
20:17 Please let us pass through your land. We will not go through any fields or vineyards, and we will not drink any water from your wells. Until we pass through your territories, we will travel along the King's Highway, not turning aside to the right or to the left.'
20:18 Edom's response was, 'Do not pass through my [land], or I will greet you with the sword!'
20:19 The Israelites said, 'We will keep on the beaten path. If we or our cattle drink any of your water, we will pay the full price. It is of no concern. We only want to pass through on foot.'
20:20 'Do not come through!' was Edom's response. Edom came forth to confront [the Israelites] with a large number of people and a show of force.
20:21 Edom thus refused to allow Israel to pass through its territories, and Israel had to go around [the area].

Aaron's Death
20:22 Moving on from Kadesh, the entire Israelite community came to Hor Mountain.
20:23 At Hor Mountain, God said to Moses and Aaron,
20:24 'Aaron will [now die and] be gathered up to his people. He will not come to the land that I am giving the Israelites because you rebelled against My word at the Waters of Dispute.
20:25 '[You Moses] take Aaron and his son Eleazar, and bring them up to Hor Mountain.
20:26 Divest Aaron of his vestments and place them on his son Eleazar. Aaron will then be gathered up [to his ancestors] and die there.'
20:27 Moses did as God commanded him. [The three of them] climbed Hor Mountain in the presence of the entire community.
20:28 Moses divested Aaron of his vestments, and placed them on [Aaron's] son Eleazar. Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. When Moses and Eleazar descended from the mountain,
20:29 the people realized that Aaron had died. The entire family of Israel mourned Aaron for thirty days.


first month
  Nissan of the 40th year (Rashbam; Josephus, Antiquities 4:4:7), after the entire generation of the Exodus had died (Rashi; Bachya; Abarbanel; but see Deuteronomy 2:16). There is no information about what happened during the 38 intervening years, other than the travels mentioned in Numbers 33:19-36 (Ibn Ezra).

Tzin Desert
  To the south-west of the Dead Sea. Some translate it as 'Desert of Palms' (Adereth Eliahu).

  See Numbers 33:36. Also see Genesis 14:7; 16:14, 20:1. This is not to be confused with Kadesh Barnea, from which the spies were sent (Ramban; Bachya).

Miriam died
  Some say that she died on 1 Nissan (Seder Olam 9; Midrash HaGadol; Josephus, Antiquities 4:4:6), while others say that she died on 10 Nissan (Megillath Taanith 13; Targum Yonathan; Orach Chaim 580:2). Some say that the Israelites arrived in Kadesh on 1 Nissan, and Miriam died on 10 Nissan (Shalsheleth HaKabbalah; Seder HaDoroth). It was about the same time that the message was sent to the king of Edom (Seder Olam 9). Josephus, however, has the encounter with Edom before Miriam's death (Antiquities4:4:5).

moved away
  (Saadia; Ibn Ezra; Septuagint). Literally, 'came.'

fell on their faces
  To pray (Ibn Ezra; Ralbag; Bachya), or to try to appease the demonstrators (Ralbag). Some say that they fell on their faces to seek prophecy (Ibn Ezra; see Genesis 17:3, Ezekiel 1:28). This may not have been the first time that God spoke to Moses after a 38 year hiatus (Taanith 30b; Sifra on Leviticus 1:1). See Deuteronomy 2:16.

  Some say that this was Aaron's staff, which was placed in the Holy of Holies (see Numbers 20:9, 17:25; Chizzkuni; K'li Yekar; Zera Berakh 2). According to others, it was Moses' staff, which had been kept in the Tabernacle (Lekach Tov; Abarbanel; cf. Targum Yonathan). This was the staff with God's name engraved on it (Midrash Aggadah). According to one opinion, God had told Moses to take his own staff, but Moses took Aaron's (Tzafanath Paaneach).

Speak to
  Or, 'Speak to [the Israelites] regarding...' (Ramban; Ralbag; Tur).

  The Hebrew word sela denotes a cliff or any other bedrock that protrudes from the ground, and not a loose rock on the surface. Some say that he was to speak to the nearest rock available (Ramban).

in their presence
  (see HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). Or, 'to the first one they see' (Ramban).

from before God
  See note on previous verse.

  Or, 'a second time,' referring to Exodus 17:6 (HaKethav VeHaKabbalah; Mekhilta de Rashbi).

enough faith
  Or, 'You did not work to make [the Israelites] have faith' (Saadia; Ralbag).

sanctify Me
  See Numbers 20:13.

Waters of Dispute...
  See Numbers 20:24, Psalms 81:8, 95:8, 106:32. Also see 27:14, Deuteronomy 32:51; Ezekiel 47:19, 48:28. Cf. Exodus 17:7

  (Rashbam). Or 'sanctified through [Moses and Aaron]' (Ibn Ezra; cf. Leviticus 10:3). Or, 'He was profaned' (HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). Or, 'showed His power against them' (Saadia; cf. Targum Yonathan).

  Kadesh in Hebrew. Some say that it was for this reason that the place was named Kadesh BeMidbar Rabbah; Tanchuma 11; Chizzkuni).

from Kadesh
  Apparently right after Miriam's death (cf. Seder Olam 9). Josephus, however, has this before Miriam's death (see note on Numbers 20:1). See Deuteronomy 2:4-8.

King of Edom
  This is Hadar, mentioned in Genesis 36:39 (Seder HaYashar, p.217). Edom lived in the area south of the Dead Sea (cf. Adereth Eliahu).

  Edom consisted of the descendants of Jacob's brother Esau (see Genesis 25:30, 36:1, 36:8, 36:9, 36:19).

King's Highway
  An important highway running north along the plateau to the east of the Dead Sea. It was later improved by the Romans, and stretches are still discernable. Or, 'the way the king goes' (Bachya), or, 'the route specified by the king' (Ibn Ezra; Sforno; Abarbanel).

beaten path
  (Targum). Mesilla in Hebrew. Or, 'cleared path' (Radak, Sherashim), or, 'mountain route' (Septuagint; cf. 2 Chronicles 9:11).

It is of no concern
  (Tur; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah; Septuagint) Or, 'It will cause no harm' (Rashi), or, 'we have no bad intentions' (Targum).

on foot
  Or, 'with my foot troops' (Bachya; see Exodus 12:37).

show of force
  Literally, 'strong hand.' See Exodus 3:19

had to go around the area
  Since God had told the Israelites not to fight with Edom (Deuteronomy 2:5; BeMidbar Rabbah).

Hor Mountain
  Some identify this with Jebel Nebi Harun, 50 miles south of the Dead Sea, and just south of Petra in an area known as Acre (cf. Josephus, Antiquities 4:5:7). It is thus described as being on the border of Edom (Numbers 21:4, 33:37). Others identify it with Jebel Madurah, north-west of the Dead Sea, or Jebel Akkar (cf. Josephus). Hor HaHar can also be translated 'mountain of the mountain,' and some say that it was a mountain with a protrusion (like a second mountain) on top of it (BeMidbar Rabbah 19:16; Rashi). Some sources translate it as Mt. Umanos (Targum Yonathan), which may be identified with Amanah, a mountain to the north of the Holy Land (cf. Song of Songs 4:8; Shevi'ith 6:1). See Deuteronomy 10:6.

Waters of Dispute
  See Numbers 20:13.

Aaron died
  On 1 Av, at the age of 123 years; Numbers 33:38,39.

family of Israel
  Literally, 'House of Israel;' see Exodus 16:31.

thirty days
  See Genesis 50:3; Deuteronomy 34:8. A number of the events recorded subsequently occurred during these 30 days; see Numbers 21:12. It was when the period of mourning was over that Israel fought against Sichon; see Numbers 21:21.

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