BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 22, Day 3: Numbers 20:1-13

Introductory Note:  Since Day 2 and Day 3 are the same passage, my summary and end notes are exactly the same as well.

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.


6a)  “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together.  Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.”

b)  Moses did take the staff as commanded and did gather the Israelites together in front of the rock.  However, here Moses did his own thing.  He rebuked the people and took credit for bringing water from the rock.  He struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it.

7a)  They didn’t trust that God’s words were enough.  They thought they needed action so they struck the rock.

b)  They didn’t follow God’s commands.  They took credit for bringing up the water.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Not sure.  This is one of those questions I’ll have an answer to when I get to heaven.

8a)  They will not live to see the Promised Land as well.

b)  Yes.  As leaders they are held to a higher standard than the other Israelites (James 3:1).  Their lack of faith can influence countless others.  Aaron is to be expected.  He’s a follower, period.  Moses, however, was so close to God–closer than anyone before or after–that God must have been heartbroken at Moses’s lack of faith.  It would be similar to a betrayal by your best friend–only infinitely more so.

Conclusions:  The personal question was again in my opinion questionable.  I see it as a reminder that our actions do affect those around us and it’s something we need to be cognizant of.

I’m seeing the overall pattern here:  Trust in God.  Never doubt Him.  He will reward you if you do.  Punish you when you don’t.  Either on this side of heaven or the other.  Trust, trust, trust.  He will never let you down.

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.


4 thoughts on “BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 22, Day 3: Numbers 20:1-13

  1. Question 8c brings up a couple of things regarding the punishment of Moses in that this act keeps him from entering the Promise Land after leading his stiff-necked, rebellious people for 40 years. Our frail, flawed human nature asks the question: “Does this punishment fit the crime?” From our human perspective, we can sympathize with Moses, and wonder if he deserved this severe punishment. He is at a breaking point of his endurance and patience and is angry with the once again lack of faith of the new generation that has survived the wilderness. They have come “full circle” and like question 4(a) asks, they are back to their normal bickering, complaining, and quarreling like they did before the 40 year journey into no-where! However, AtoZ is correct in stating that he is deserving of the punishment because God is absolutely Holy and Just and knows our hearts. I may not understand it, and I may want to discuss the severity of the punishment with God. Unfortunately, we do live in a society that is quick to justify sin, and that is, even if we call it a sin! We live in a society that seemingly accepts and condones sin against God such as adultery, homosexuality, abortion, drunkenness, etc., and instead we call it actions between consenting adults, alternative lifestyle, termination of fetal tissue with woman’s choice, and social drinking for entertainment, etc. So we naturally, through rose-colored glasses, look at the sin of Moses and feel “it’s not fair” for God to be so hard on him. However, we must look at a Holy, Righteous, Just God, and all that He does is completely right and fair because He knows our heart. Our ways are not His ways, and He is the Almighty, Sovereign God of the universe. Our society, unfortunately, has a “small” view of God and His Holiness. Many feel that God is a loving, paternal grandfather with a long, white beard, and that He has lost contact and control with our civilization. Many folks have mentioned that even the Ten Commandments are outmoded, and we should have a new system that corresponds more to our current society! We are quick to forget that we are “only around” because of His great mercy and grace as we are all hell-bound sinners. Next year we will visit God’s wrath and holiness when we study the book of Revelation, and we will get a scary glimpse at a future that rebels and departs from a Holy God!


  2. Thanks so much. BSF has been canceled last 2 weeks and we will not be covering 22 and 23 in our discussion group. I did my questions and enjoyed reading your review. Are you a teaching leader for BSF? This is my first year and I am loving it!


    1. Debbie,

      You must be in the northeast! Glad to help and, no, I’m not a teaching leader. Maybe someday I’ll be asked to lead in some capacity.

      God bless and stay warm!!!


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