BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 22, Day 2: Numbers 20:1-13

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.

End Notes:  The Israelites are back at Kadesh (see MAP and MAP) where they first told God “no” about entering the Promised Land (Numbers 13:26-28).

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.


10 thoughts on “BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 22, Day 2: Numbers 20:1-13

  1. The people of Israel were sturbon, but God loved them so much, they didnt understand the doing of God. Moses assembled them always when God told him to do so, I haven’t read where some lagged behind at the lords tent. Asick played agreat work in the life of the Israelites, Moses striking the rock for water in Numbers 20;11, Aaron and the twelve sticks representing the tribes of Israelite, Moses perfoming miracles in Egypt Exodus 10;8,in Exodus 14;16

    Complaining has never ended even to christians today, aperson gets saved tommorow starts complaining of maybe how she or he used to get provission through may be ways which does not please God, not understanding that when you get saved you belong to acommunity of no lack, provided you follow the rules and regulation of the kingdom, and there is no kingdom which has no regulations to be followed,even when the Israelites were in Eagpt there were rules they followed. As rebellious as they were God loved them& cared for them without looking at thepast. God doesn’t keep an account of our sins, he is always there waiting for us to admit our sins and faults and confess and be rightful with him.

    God loved Moses’s faith, because even as he went down God still used him,God didn’t opt to choose another leader.

    All Leaders of all ranks need to have an example of Moses’s leadership & faith, even though Moses missed the promised land, he is termed the great prophet of God


  2. Thank you so much for this blog, I feel like it helps me fully understand the BSF lessons. Would you tell me how we know that the 38 years of wandering have been completed at this point?
    Thank you!


    1. The death of Aaron is a definite marker. Numbers 33:38: “…Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelite came out of Egypt.”

      Furthermore, “the whole community set out” (Numbers 20:22) is an indication the Israelites are on the move. Despite, popular belief, the Israelites were not “wandering around” as in moving around. Most of the time, they were encamped, waiting for the unbelief generation to die. The 38 year period is largely silent because the Israelites were mostly just living.


  3. I, too, was looking for an obvious answer to why Moses was denied the privilege of leading the congregation into the Promised Lane. Changing translations helped me. Initially I was reading in the NIV so I switched to the NRSV and finally the KJV. It was the King James that made it much clearer to me. I could feel Moses’ frustration with the people there. God told him exactly what to do and according to his own report, he improvised. He should have known by now to give God the glory. He should have known (duh, just like us) to follow the plan. He was told, along with Aaron, his High Priest brother, to gather the congregation and to take the rod and SPEAK to the rock. Instead, Numbers 20:10 reports that “Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Shall we bring water out of this rock for you?” to the rock.” The King James says, “Hear now, ye rebels, MUST WE fetch you water out of this rock?” I think we see Moses’ old sin problem with anger popping back up. Don’t we all have an area like that we think we have mastered and just when we think we’re free of that sin and we’re feeling all lofty, it strikes again! He used his voice inappropriately. God said speak to the rock. He spoke to the people. Moses lifted his hand and STRUCK the rock two times. He did not obey God in the details. It might have seemed a small thing to us, like the poor guy gathering fire wood on the Sabbath who was killed. I’m sure I’m not the only one who found that harsh. No warning? No reprimand. No don’t do this again or you’ll be in big trouble. Fire Wood Guy had been enlightened by God’s truth, the Ten Commandments, along with the rest of the congregation of Israel. He knew better and was made an example. Moses knew that God was a Big Planner and wanted things just so for a reason. God said, “Speak to the rock.” Moses should have gathered the congregation and skipped the chastisement . As whiny and delustional as the people were about how great they had it back in Egypt, thirst was a real problem that needed solving. God provided the solution.. Oh, and it was like Moses was resenting giving water to the people? “Do we have to bring water to you?” Serving God’s people is a privilege and when WE start to complain about SERVING, I’m sure God is NOT happy with us either. God gave Moses a plan. Moses failed to execute it to the letter and complained about it. Sad. Such a great man and he didn’t get to lead God’s chosen people across the Jordan to the Promised Land.


    1. Perfect, Sweet Mama (and good to hear from you again–it’s been a bit and was wondering about you). LOL at “Fire Wood Guy”! Sounds like something I’d say!!! LOVED it!

      Thanks for tying it all together for us. You said it much better than I!

      Do take care and God bless!


    2. Great contribution, Sweet Mama! I appreciate your comments about old sins we think we’ve mastered – SO true! And thanks for the reminder about serving without complaining – it’s so easy for that to creep in. You enlarged this passage’s effect on my heart. Thank you.


  4. Hello again, another question I was wondering about – In Numbers 14:30, when God punishes the people for believing the 10 spies, He says that only Caleb and Joshua would enter the land. Moses and Aaron weren’t mentioned here. Do you think they expected to enter the land?


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