February 27

Numbers 18-20


An Act of Disobedience…the People Deciding         Numbers 13:1-20:13, cont’d.


Numbers 17-19       The Levites Instructed, cont’d.


Numbers 18:1-The LORD spoke to Aaron (:8,20) and tells him that he and his sons “bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary…priesthood”…meaning that they are responsible for (cf. Exod. 28:38; Leviticus 22:16) the sanctuary and priesthood…and will bear the consequences of any defilement of them.

18:2-7-The Levites were to assist Aaron and his sons in the Tabernacle...however, only Aaron and his sons could attend the altar and go inside the veil.

Numbers 18:8-20-The LORD tells Aaron what portion of the offerings he and his family members may keep for themselves.  This included offerings, whatever was not consumed by fire, wave offerings, devoted things, and revenue that came from the redemption of the firstborn of man and animal.  This was to be an "everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD"...(Ryrie-an indissoluble arrangement, see note on Leviticus 2:13).

Numbers 18:21-32-The LORD tells the Levites that they may keep the tithe given by the people…it is their “compensation in regard for your service” (:31).  The Levites are to give a tithe of the tithe and an offering of the tithe (:26,28).

Numbers 19:1-22-The sacrifice of the red heifer was for purification from the sin associated with touching a corpse.


Numbers 20:1-13    The Leader Sins (Moses)


Numbers 20:1-The book of Numbers quickly moves ahead in time.  Chapter 20 picks up the narrative of the history where chapter 15 ended.  40 years have passed.  All that time, the people have been wandering in the wilderness.  Now, they come back to Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin.  Miriam dies and is buried there.


For a timeline of the 40 years spent in the wilderness see:





Numbers 20:2-5-It seems that nothing much had changed over the last 40 years because the people still have not fully learned to trust in God.  There is no water and once again they assemble against Moses and Aaron.  And again, they talk about how good things had been in the past..."If we had only died then, before we saw this..."

Numbers 20:6-13-God tells Moses to assemble the people and in front of them, to "Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water".  The verb “speak” is plural…meaning that Moses and Aaron were both to do so.  However, Moses took action alone…"Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water out of this rock? Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod "...inferring that he was the one doing it.  It was an act of anger and self-glorification.  He did not give God credit…but himself.  God knew what Moses was doing and told him that as a result of this act of disobedience, neither he, nor Aaron would lead the people into the Promised Land (cf. Psalm 106:32-33).  By his actions, Moses was not honoring the LORD, giving Him the glory for what happened.

Here is a warning: Even though our sin can be forgiven by God, there are sometimes still consequences in our lives.


A Time of Discipline…the People Wandering            Numbers 20:14-31


Numbers 20:14-22  The Enemy Defeated (Moab)


Numbers 20:14-22-The Israelites wanted to travel to the east from Kadesh, so Moses sent word to the King of Edom and asked permission to use the “king’s highway” (a public caravan route) to pass through their territory.  The King refused and threatened to attack if they did so.  In response, they travel towards Mt. Hor (we do not know its exact location).  He tried to use their common ancestral lineage to convince the king to allow them to do so…but it made no difference.  It could be that the king of the Edomites was concerned that even though Moses had promised that they would not eat or drink anything from the land…he didn’t believe him and was afraid that a crowd that large would devastate the land of food and resources.  To make his point he threatened to attack them if they tried.  Moses offered to pay for anything that they used.  But again…the king refused.  So, they went in another direction.


Why did Moses call the Jews “your brother Israel” in reference to the Edomites?

The name Edom, "red," may have been derived from the red sandstone cliffs characteristic of the country. It was applied to Esau because of the color of his skin (Ge 25:25), or from the color of the pottage for which he sold his birthright (Ge 25:30). In Ge 36:8 Esau is equated with Edom as dwelling in Mt. Seir; and he is described as the father of Edom (36:9, Hebrew)…Esau married the daughter of Anah, a Horite (Ge 36:20-in verse 2 he is called a Hivite); and the lists in this chapter show that the races intermingled. The Horite government was in the hands of "dukes" (Ge 36:29 f, the Revised Version (British and American) "chiefs"). They were succeeded by dukes of the house of Esau (Ge 36:40 ff). This form of government gave way to that of an elective monarchy (Ge 36:31 ff); and this had existed some time before Israel left the wilderness. The then reigning king would not permit Israel to pass through the land (Nu 20:14 ff; 21:4). Israel was forbidden to "abhor an Edomite," on the ground that he was a brother; and children of the third generation might enter the assembly of the Lord (De 23:7 f). War with Edom was out of the question.

For more information on the Edomites see:



Numbers 20:23-29  The Death of Aaron


Numbers 20:23-29-Aaron dies at age 123 (cf. 33:38-39)...in the 40th year after the Exodus.  The reason given for his death is that he and Moses rebelled at Meribah (20:12).  In verse 12, the word “you” is plural…telling us that Aaron and Moses were involved in that rebellion…even though we don’t know how Aaron was.  Before he died, Moses removed Aaron’s priestly garments and placed them on his son, Eleazar, to show symbolically the transfer of responsibility.


Prayer: Lord, Moses was one of Your chosen servants.  And yet, he was not exempt from the consequences of sin.  It just goes to demonstrate how hostile sin is to Your nature.  Please keep me from temptation.  Don’t let me sin against You.  Help me to be a godly man.

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