In the first month the Israelites came into the wilderness of Zin. It was in the 40th year since their journey had begun and Miriam, Moses’ sister was over 120 years old. Miriam died in Kedesh. It was Miriam who when Moses was a baby saved him from death when he was taken out of the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter. (Exodus 2) When the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea Miriam and the women gave thanks unto God for their deliverance. (Exodus 15) Miriam helped her brothers, Moses and Aaron, lead the Israelite people through the desert. Miriam had opposed Moses and suffered punishment from God as a result. (Numbers 12) Miriam was a great woman and we can be sure that Moses, Arron, and the people were saddened by her death.
At the wilderness of Zin the Israelites had no water for themselves or their flocks. Again they began to murmur against Moses and had wished they had died suddenly as some of the other Israelites. They feared a slow death by thirst.
Moses did not argue with the people but He and Aaron went to God’s Tent and prayed to God. God answered their prayer and told them what they must do. Moses was to take his rod, the same one that he had used to perform the miracles before the Egyptian people. (Exodus 7:20; Exodus 14:16; Exodus 17:6) But as before God did not tell Moses to hit the rock but to speak to it. If Moses would just order the rock to bring forth water the rock would obey.
It was near time for the Israelite people to enter into the Promised Land but still they were having problems. Moses had grown tired in his older years and it seems as if he had become angry. It was not a question of faith that God would provide water but of patience. Moses had lost some of his patience and instead of doing what the Lord had told Him he struck the rock twice.
God provided the water but because of Moses’ disobedience He punished Moses and Aaron. God told them that they would not be allowed to lead the people into the Promised Land. Because of Moses’ impatient anger God did not receive the honor for the water coming from the rock. If Moses had spoken to the rock instead of hitting the rock the people would have more clearly seen the miracle performed by God.
God told Moses and Aaron they failed to believe Him and follow His instructions. This dishonored God before the people because Moses and Aaron did not do as God had told them. Instead of acting out of obedience to God’s Word Moses acted out in anger. This action denied the people of being able to see the power of God.
Moses accepted the punishment of God without argument. Moses continued to serve the people as needed but the punishment had to be severe to Moses. Moses had led God’s people for 40 years and now himself would be denied the goal of reaching the Promised Land. It also taught the people that they must obey the Lord’s instruction, as Moses expressed this in Deuteronomy 3:26.
The Israelite people were moving north to a land called Moab. (Numbers 33:48) It was from Moab that Moses would prepare the people to enter into the Promised Land. The most direct route was to travel through the land of Edom on a road called the kings highway. The king’s highway was a major trading route and many people used it.
The people of Edom were the descendants of Esau. (Genesis 36) The Israelite people were descendants of Jacob Esau’s brother. There should have been a strong relation between the Israelites and the Edomites.
Moses sent a letter to the king of the Edomites asking his permission for the Israelites to pass through their land. In his letter Moses reminded the king that they were relatives and that the Israelites were not his enemy. Moses did not want to make war with the Edomites nor to conquer them but only to pass through their land on the way to Moab. He reminded the king of the history of the Israelite people and how they had been in bondage in the land of Egypt. This was a testimony that God was helping the Israelite people on their journey to the Promised Land. The king of Edom should have wanted to help the Israelites because he would not have wanted to oppose God.
Moses made assurances that the Israelite people would stay on the king’s highway and not take any of their crops or water. But the king of Edom refused and would not allow them passage through his land. Moses asked the king again and offered to pay for the water that the Israelites drank and that of their flocks. Still the king refused to allow them passage. The king also sent a large army to stop the Israelites from entering into his land. The Israelites could have fought this army as God had helped them before in battle but this was not God’s plan. As a result the Israelites went another way.
Many centuries later the Edomites helped the enemies of the Jews. Those enemies attacked the city of Jerusalem and when the people of Jerusalem tried to escape the Edomites stopped them. (Psalm 137:7) God punished the Edomites and they were completely defeated and had to leave the country.
God told Moses and Aaron to take Aaron’s son Eleazar up to Mount Hor where Aaron would die. On the first day of the 5th month Aaron died at the age of 123 years. It has been nearly 40 years since the Israelites had left the land of Egypt.
God did not kill Aaron, he died of natural causes. At the age of 123 God had blessed him with a long life. A description of Aaron’s character can be found in the book of Malachi. (Malachi 2:4-6) Aaron had a reverent fear for God and he taught the truth of God and he did not lie. Aaron led many people to turn away from their sin.
Aaron’s position was the High Priest and God wanted his son Eleazar to be the High Priest after him. Therefore Moses followed the instruction that God had given him. The High Priest wore special clothes. (Exodus 28:1-19) Moses had to take the clothes of Aaron and put them on Eleazar during a special ceremony. (Leviticus 8:7-9) Now Moses had to remove the clothes from Aaron and put them on Eleazar. This would show the people that Eleazar was the High Priest. After that Aaron died.
Moses and Eleazar then came down from Mount Hor and the people saw that Eleazar was wearing the High Priest clothes. They knew now that Aaron was dead and the Israelites mourned for 30 days.