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Numbers 20:1-6

Context
The Israelites Complain Again

20:1 1 Then the entire community of Israel 2  entered the wilderness of Zin in the first month, 3  and the people stayed in Kadesh. 4  Miriam died and was buried there. 5 

20:2 And there was no water for the community, and so they gathered themselves together against Moses and Aaron. 20:3 The people contended 6  with Moses, saying, 7  “If only 8  we had died when our brothers died before the Lord! 20:4 Why 9  have you brought up the Lord’s community into this wilderness? So that 10  we and our cattle should die here? 20:5 Why 11  have you brought us up from Egypt only to bring us to 12  this dreadful place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink!”

Moses Responds

20:6 So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting. They then threw themselves down with their faces to the ground, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them.

1 sn This chapter is the account of how Moses struck the rock in disobedience to the Lord, and thereby was prohibited from entering the land. For additional literature on this part, see E. Arden, “How Moses Failed God,” JBL 76 (1957): 50-52; J. Gray, “The Desert Sojourn of the Hebrews and the Sinai Horeb Tradition,” VT 4 (1954): 148-54; T. W. Mann, “Theological Reflections on the Denial of Moses,” JBL 98 (1979): 481-94; and J. R. Porter, “The Role of Kadesh-Barnea in the Narrative of the Exodus,” JTS 44 (1943): 130-43.

2 tn The Hebrew text stresses this idea by use of apposition: “the Israelites entered, the entire community, the wilderness.”

3 sn The text does not indicate here what year this was, but from comparing the other passages about the itinerary, this is probably the end of the wanderings, the fortieth year, for Aaron died some forty years after the exodus. So in that year the people come through the wilderness of Zin and prepare for a journey through the Moabite plains.

4 sn The Israelites stayed in Kadesh for some time during the wandering; here the stop at Kadesh Barnea may have lasted several months. See the commentaries for the general itinerary.

5 sn The death of Miriam is recorded without any qualifications or epitaph. In her older age she had been self-willed and rebellious, and so no doubt humbled by the vivid rebuke from God. But she had made her contribution from the beginning.

6 tn The verb is רִיב (riv); it is often used in the Bible for a legal complaint, a law suit, at least in form. But it can also describe a quarrel, or strife, like that between Abram’s men and Lot’s men in Genesis 13. It will be the main verb behind the commemorative name Meribah, the place where the people strove with God. It is a far more serious thing than grumbling – it is directed, intentional, and well-argued. For further discussion, see J. Limburg, “The Root ‘rib’ and the Prophetic Lawsuit Speeches,” JBL 88 (1969): 291-304.

7 tn Heb “and they said, saying.”

8 tn The particle לוּ (lu) indicates the optative nuance of the line – the wishing or longing for death. It is certainly an absurdity to want to have died, but God took them at their word and they died in the wilderness.

9 tn Heb “and why….” The conjunction seems to be recording another thing that the people said in their complaint against Moses.

10 tn The clause uses the infinitive construct with the lamed (ל) preposition. The clause would be a result clause in this sentence: “Why have you brought us here…with the result that we will all die?”

11 tn Heb “and why.”

12 tn Here also the infinitive construct (Hiphil) forms the subordinate clause of the preceding interrogative clause.



TIP #08: Use the Strong Number links to learn about the original Hebrew and Greek text. [ALL]
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