Summary of passage: After 38 years of wandering, Miriam died (scholars date this as the first month of the 40th year of wandering). Again, grumbling by the Israelites against Moses and Aaron because there is no water. Same complaints about food, etc. Moses and Aaron feel down at the Tent of Meeting. The glory of the Lord appeared and told Moses to speak to a rock with his staff and water would appear. Moses struck the rock twice with his staff and water rushed out. However, God rebukes Moses and Aaron for his lack of faith and sentences them to die before the Promised Land is reached as well.
3) It is merely mentioned in passing. Acts of honor or mourning are not mentioned and life seems to move on quickly after her death. It shows how the older generation is dying and meeting God’s judgment upon them.
4a) As soon as there’s trouble or life becomes difficult or something doesn’t go their way, the Israelites blame Moses and Aaron. The people had already faced such an obstacle and God provided. So why not trust God now?
b) It’s hard to say here without a tone of voice. They could be exaggerating but thirst is a powerful motivator and not having water (and we’re not told for how long) can drive people insane.
5) The Lord provides for the Israelites physical needs (food, water, etc) as He always does. He angers over their lack of faith and punishes accordingly. Although both are sins (grumbling), the magnitude appears to differ in God’s eyes. Hunger and thirst can cloud the mind and desperation sets in. Lack of faith is a heart issue–one much more serious.
Conclusions: I wonder what this would have looked like if the Israelites, instead of grumbling, had cried out to God every time. What a testament that would have been!
No shocker for the rebuke of Aaron. But Moses? Scripture is vague here (I wonder if Moses was too embarrassed to write it down) but we know it must have been a grave sin for God to rebuke Moses as such. Some scholars say Moses didn’t follow directions here. I notice Moses taking credit for the miracle when he says “we” instead of God. I can’t imagine Moses’s heartache after all this time and all his faithfulness. It would drive me close to insanity.
Miriam’s death here is important; it showed the Israelites He was serious about everyone dying before entering the Promised Land. She’s the first of Moses’s family to suffer for their collective sins. Although Miriam had great moments of faith (Exodus 2:4-8; 15:20-21), one major sin marked her for life. We see this today in the downfall of politicians or celebrities. Great lesson for us: no one is exempt from God’s judgment.
Timeline: This is the beginning of the last year of wandering. It appears the Israelites camped at Kadesh here for 3-4 months (based off of Numbers 33:38) perhaps because of Miriam’s death. Aaron will die four months later. The bible doesn’t tell a lot of what happened in this 38 years. Presumably, nothing of consequence as the Israelites merely lived out God’s judgment.
Here we see a new generation of unbelievers as the old generation is dying.
Moses also was not commanded to speak to the nation nor to rebuke there. Here, we see Moses as we’ve never seen him before–utter contempt for the people he has so often saved from destruction. We also see pride when he says “we” as if God were not enough. Moses’s heart had twisted and God obviously didn’t like what He saw.
Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock. I can just imagine his frustration at the people boiling over. However, in his anger, he makes a fatal mistake–literally.
Yet God is so gracious and so good and so loving He provides for His people despite their sins.
Moses did not believe God. He probably remembered back in Exodus 17 where he had to strike the rock.
The punishment was strict. But as we all know, those who know God are called to a higher standard. Can you imagine the standard Moses had to live up to? A lot of pressure. Yet because he was so close to God and a leader, his punishment reflects God’s expectations of those who know Him. Great lesson for us as well.
Moses’s sin was small compared to the Israelites’ sins. Yet not in God’s eyes. God says in Deuteronomy 32:51 that Moses “broke faith” with Him and “did not uphold my [God’s] holiness amongst the Israelites.” A warning to us all–what we consider as a small sin can be huge to God.
Moses pleads with God to let him go over to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 3:23-27) and when God says no, Moses blames the people. Poor, poor Moses. He has seen time and time again of God reversing His initial punishment, not ridding the land of the Israelites and not giving Miriam leprosy that he thinks for sure God will relent and reverse His position. But God does not. Our hearts bleed for him; yet, God remains good and gracious and kind and judging. His ways, not ours.
The picture of Moses reflecting Jesus here is now tainted. Moses struck twice; Jesus only once.