Death of Miriam

Then the Israelites, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month [in the fortieth year after leaving Egypt]. And the people lived in Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.

Now there was no water for the congregation, and they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. The people contended with Moses, and said, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished [in the plague] before the Lord!(A) Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness to die here, we and our livestock? Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or of figs or of vines or of pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle) and fell on their faces [before the Lord in prayer]. Then the glory and brilliance of the Lord appeared to them; and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

The Water of Meribah

“Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock [a]in front of them, so that it will pour out its water. In this way you shall bring water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their livestock drink [fresh water].”

So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; 10 and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. Moses said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his hand [in anger] and with his rod he struck the rock twice [instead of speaking to the rock as the Lord had commanded]. And the water poured out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank [fresh water]. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed (trusted) Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, you therefore [b]shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”(B) 13 These are the waters of Meribah (contention, strife), where the sons of Israel contended with the Lord, and He showed Himself holy among them.

14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of [c]Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel, ‘You know all the hardship that has come upon us [as a nation]; 15 that our fathers (ancestors) went down to Egypt, and we lived there for a long time, and the Egyptians treated [both] us and our fathers badly. 16 But when we cried out to the Lord [for help], He heard us and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. Now look, we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory. 17 Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through a field or through a vineyard; we will not even drink water from a well. We will go along the [d]king’s highway, not turning [off-course] to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory.’”

18 But [the king of] Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through my territory, or I will come out against you with the sword.” 19 Again, the Israelites said to him, “We will go by the highway [trade route], and if I and my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it. Only let me pass through on foot, nothing else.” 20 But the king of Edom said, “You shall not pass through [my territory].” And Edom came out against Israel with many people and a strong hand. 21 Thus [the king of] Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him.

22 Now when they set out from Kadesh, the Israelites, the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor.

Death of Aaron

23 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor, by the border of the land of Edom, saying, 24 “Aaron will be gathered to his people [in death]; for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you [both] rebelled against My command at the waters of Meribah.© 25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor; 26 and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. So Aaron will be gathered to his fathers, and will die there.” 27 So Moses did just as the Lord had commanded; and they went up Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 After Moses stripped Aaron of his [priestly] garments and put them on Eleazar his son, Aaron died there on the mountain top. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 29 When all the congregation saw that Aaron had died, all the house of Israel wept (mourned) for him thirty days.


  1. Numbers 20:8 Lit before their eyes.
  2. Numbers 20:12 Moses apparently allowed his anger and frustration with the Israelites to blind him to the significance of what God had instructed. Although thoroughly exasperated by the Israelites, Moses was still held accountable for his behavior.
  3. Numbers 20:14 The Edomites were descendants of Esau, Jacob’s (Israel’s) twin brother.
  4. Numbers 20:17 This major trade route extended from the Gulf of Aqabah (south) to Damascus (north).

Cross references

  1. Numbers 20:3 : Num 16:49
  2. Numbers 20:12 : Ps 106:32, 33
  3. Numbers 20:24 : Num 20:7-12