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Numbers 20b-21a

Onward to Moab, Aaron's Death, & the Bronze Snake


Numbers 20:14-21:9
I. Context
Who are the main characters in the passage? What do we know about them?

Edomites:

Aaron & Eleazar:

Moses:

When and where does this passage take place?

When: This passage and previous passages have been part of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
Aaron's death in this passage is mentioned later in Numbers 33:38, which tells us that Aaron died on the first day
of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites left Egypt. Last week's passage indicates that Miriam
died in the first month (20:1). Thus, this week's passage likely occurs at the end of the Israelites' wandering in
the wilderness, approximately 40 years after leaving Egypt.

Where: The first verse in this passage, 20:14, indicates that this passage begins in Kadesh. We are told that it
was their desire to travel west and then north along The King's Highway, an established trade route that extended
northeast from the Gulf of Aquaba to the area east of the Jordan. However, being refused passage, they moved
along the southern border of Edom to Mt. Hor. After destroying the Canaanites who attacked them near Hormah,
they traveled near the Red Sea (most commentaries say "Reed Sea" here, a reference to the northern part of the
Gulf of Aquaba).

What is going on? (Summary of Events)


Moses seeks safe passage through Edom, but was denied.

Aaron dies on Mount Hor and the role of High Priest is passed on to his son, Eleazar.

After being attacked by local Canaanites and subsequently destroying them, the Israelites begin to
complain against God and Moses. As punishment, God sends poisonous snakes among them. Only
those who looked upon the bronze snake made by Moses were saved.

II. Interpretation
What principles are illustrated in this passage? What would you consider the theme of this passage?

What do we learn of God's character from this passage? Does this passage point us toward Christ? If so, how?

How is the Israelites' deliverance from "death by snakebite" similar to our deliverance from "death by sin"? (see John
3:14-15) What did this deliverance require of man in both situations?

III. Application

Sometimes (in truth, many times), things don't always go according to OUR plans. Just as Moses and the people
planned to go through Edom and were denied, we also must be flexible enough in our plans to conform them to God's
plans. Moses could have been frustrated at this detour, but instead, he leads onward, knowing that if God did not allow
this path to be open, there would be another.
The people, once again, find themselves allowing their circumstances to overwhelm their faith. How often do we dwell
on our circumstances when faced with challenges instead of seeking instead to trust in God's promises to us?