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 1 with Moses, saying, 2 “If only 3 we had died when our brothers died before the Lord! 20:4 Why 4 have you brought up the Lord’s community into this wilderness? So that 5 we and our cattle should die here? 20:5 Why 6 have you brought us up from Egypt only to bring us to 7 this dreadful place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink!”
1 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.
2 tn Heb “and they said, saying.”
3 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.
4 tn Heb “and why….” The conjunction seems to be recording another thing that the people said in their complaint against Moses.
5 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?”
6 tn Heb “and why.”
7 tn Here also the infinitive construct (Hiphil) forms the subordinate clause of the preceding interrogative clause.