The children of Israel come to Zin where Miriam dies, 1. They murmur for lack of water, 2-6. Moses, smiting the rock, brings forth water at Meribah, 7-13. Moses at Kadesh desires passage through Edom, which is denied him, 14-21. At mount Hor Aaron resigns his place to Eleazar and dies, 22-29.
1 Then the children of Israel came, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. And Miriam died there and was buried there.
2 And there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people chided with Moses and spoke, saying, "O that we had died when our brothers died before the LORD! 4 And why have you brought the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness so that we and our cattle should die there? 5 And why have you conducted us from Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place of seed, of figs, of vines, or of pomegranates, neither is there any water to drink." 6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and they fell upon their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
8 "Take the rod and convene the assembly—you and Aaron your brother—and speak to the rock before their eyes, and it shall give forth its water. And you shall bring forth to them water out of the rock, and you shall give drink to the congregation and their beasts."
9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation before the rock, and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels. Must we fetch you water out of this rock?" 11 And Moses lifted his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice. And the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." 13 This is the water of Meribah because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.
14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, "Thus says your brother Israel: 'You know all the travail that has befallen us: 15 How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers, 16 And when we cried to the LORD, he heard our voice and sent an angel and has brought us forth from Egypt, and behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of your border. 17 Let us pass, I pray you, through your country. We will not pass through the fields or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells. We will go by the king's high-way. We will not turn to the right hand nor to the left until we have passed your borders.'"
18 And Edom said to him, "You shall not pass by me, lest I come out against you with the sword." 19 And the children of Israel said to him, "We will go by the highway, and if I and my cattle drink of your water, then I will pay for it. I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet." 20 And he said, "You shall not go through." And Edom came out against him with many people and with a strong hand. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border; therefore, Israel turned away from him.
22 And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh and came to mount Hor.
23 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron at mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom, saying, 24 "Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter into the land which I have given to the children of Israel because you rebelled against my word at the water 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 upon Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there." 27 And Moses did as the LORD commanded. And they ascended mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them upon Eleazar his son. And Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. And Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.
Matthew Henry Commentary - Numbers, Chapter 20[➚]
[v.2-13] - Compare this event with the event that took place at the rock in Horeb, as told in Exodus 17:1-7. Notice the subtle difference which was Moses' disobedience. At Horeb, he was told to strike the rock, but at Meribah, Moses was to merely speak to the rock. Instead of speaking to the rock, he struck it (verse 11) as he did before at Horeb.