Numbers xx.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Sin, Zin, or Tsin, nearer to Judea than the desert, where the Hebrews encamped before, Exodus xvi. 1. (Haydock) — Moses informs us of very little from the time when the people murmured at Cades-barne, in the second year, till the beginning of the 40th year of their sojournment. — In Cades. The Rabbins assert, they remained there the first time twenty-nine years, (chap. xiv. 45,) and the second, ten. (Genebrard, in the year of the world 2670.) But we do not believe they continued there above a year the first time. — Mary. St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Ambrose, suppose she was always a virgin, in which respect she was a figure of our blessed Lady, as well as in her name. She was probably 130 years old, as she was very discreet at the time of the birth of Moses, and employed by Providence in preserving his life, as the blessed Virgin screened our Saviour from the fury of Herod. She had the superintendence over the Hebrew women; (Exodus xv. 20.; Theodoret, in Mic. vi. 4) and hence many apply to her and her brothers those words of Zacharias, (xi. 8,) I cut off three shepherds in one month. Mary died without being permitted to enter the promised land, on account of her murmuring, chap. xii. Thus the synagogue, though proud of her prerogatives, cannot enter the land of rest. (Calmet) — There. Some place this Cades not far from the Red Sea, (ver. 20,) south of Idumea, while the other was to the north, and nearer Chanaan, being generally called Cades-barne. (Bonfrere and Cornelius a Lapide) (Chap. xx. 16.) — In this place Mary died, four months before Aaron. (Menochius)

Ver. 3. Brethren, Core, &c., (chap. xvi. 32,) or with them who died (chap. xi.) at the graves of lust. (Calmet)

Ver. 6. And cried….to murmur. These words are not found in the Hebrew, Septuagint, &c., nor in the new edition of St. Jerome, though they occur in most of the Latin manuscripts. (Calmet) — If it be an addition, it must be very ancient. (Mariana)

Ver. 8. The rod, with which Moses had wrought so many miracles, and which was placed in the tabernacle, ver. 9. It is called his rod, in the Hebrews v. 11. We do not find that the rod of Aaron, which budded, was used to work miracles. — Thou. Septuagint, “you.” Both Moses and Aaron concurred in the action, (ver. 12,) but Moses was the chief agent. (Calmet)

Ver. 10. Rock. Your frequent murmurs will stop the course of God’s bounty. If God had not condemned the conduct of his ministers on this occasion, we could hardly find any reason to blame them. But the Fathers observe, that they betrayed a want of resolution, and intended to throw the blame upon the incredulity of the people, in case they failed of success. Because they exasperated his spirit, and he distinguished with his lips, Psalm cv. 33. See St. Chrysostom and St. Augustine on this psalm. They were not commanded to strike the rock at all; and when the water did not come at first, they struck again, (Calmet) being afraid lest they should now be taken for impostors. (Haydock) — They speak as if the work was their own. — Can we, &c. They exasperate the people, instead of promoting their conversion. In a word, they did not glorify God, (Calmet) by representing him as the sovereign holiness and mercy; and the God of unbounded power. (Haydock)

Ver. 11. The rock. This rock was a figure of Christ, and the water that issued out from the rock, of his precious blood, the source of all our good; (Challoner) while the striking twice with the rod, denoted the cross, composed of two pieces of wood. (St. Augustine, q. 35.) (Worthington)

Ver. 12. You have not believed, &c. The fault of Moses and Aaron, on this occasion, was a certain diffidence and weakness of faith: not doubting of God’s power or veracity; but apprehending the unworthiness of that rebellious and incredulous people, and therefore speaking with some ambiguity. (Challoner) — St. Augustine (contra Faust. xvi. 16,) does not think them guilty of any grievous crime. (Menochius) — But this must be left undetermined. (Calmet) — Land, beyond the Jordan, which is described (chap. xxxiv. 2,) as the land of promise, though the east side of the Jordan was so too. (Haydock)

Ver. 13. The water of contradiction or strife. Hebrew Meribah. (Challoner) — Sanctified: he shewed the effects of his power and clemency towards the people, and he treated his ministers with a just severity. The Samaritan copy here inserts what we read in Deuteronomy, only it places the speech of Moses in an historical form. “The Moses said, Lord, &c. (Deuteronomy iii. 24-28.) Moreover, the Lord said to Moses, you shall pass by,” &c. (Deuteronomy ii. 4-6.)

Ver. 14. Cades, not far from Mount Hor, on the confines of Idumea, ver. 22, and Judges xi. 16. (Calmet)

Ver. 16. Angel, who had performed so many wonders in favour of the Hebrews. He is generally supposed to have been St. Michael in the cloud.

Ver. 18. Edom, the people who dwelt near Mount Hor. Those of Seir, lying more to the west, (Du Hamel) granted them leave to pass, and to buy food, Deuteronomy ii. 28, 29. Grotius maintains, that the Hebrews might justly have forced a passage upon this refusal; as St. Augustine (q. 44,) says, that they might lawfully have waged war upon the Amorrhites, on the like occasion; and the holy wars have been defended on the same plea, because the Saracens would not suffer the Christians to go in pilgrimage to the holy land. See Mare, lib. i. 1. But Selden (Mare, claus. 20,) asserts, that princes have a right to hinder others from passing through their territories; and St. Augustine only excepts one case, when they are sure the strangers can or will do no harm. But how can they obtain this assurance? Calmet answers, the long continuance of the Hebrews near the confines of Seir, without offering any molestation, and their being conducted by so holy a general, might give the people of Hor sufficient security. But at any rate the Israelites could not wage war upon them for refusing a passage, since they were expressly forbidden by God: Stir not against them, (Deuteronomy ii. 5,) the people of Seir, nor against any of the Idumeans, the children of Esau, who had taken possession of the country of the Horrhites, Genesis xiv. 6. The Hebrews seem to have been convinced of this, otherwise they would not have feared their multitudes, nor taken such a circuitous road. The angel in the cloud directed them to proceed, without molesting their territory. They went, therefore, towards the south, round the land of the Idumeans, who dwelt near the Dead Sea. (Haydock)

Ver. 19. Price. Hebrew, “I will only do one thing, walk through.” Septuagint, “the matter is of no consequence, we go by the mountain.” Louis de Dieu translates, “It is not indeed a word, (or idle pretence) I will pass through on foot.”

Ver. 22. Hor, in the territory of Cades, or Rekem, which is the same town as Petra. (Onkelos; Josephus, Antiquities iv. 4.) Hor was part of a range of mountains, like Libanus. The Hebrews encamped at a place called Mosera, Deuteronomy x. 6. (Calmet)

Ver. 24. People, in the bosom of Abraham, while his body is consigned to the grave. — Incredulous. Hebrew, “you rebelled against,” &c., the words were addressed to both. Septuagint, “you irritated me.” (Haydock)

Ver. 26. Vesture, or pontifical attire. Eleazar had been anointed already, so that perhaps he stood in need of no other ceremony to be acknowledged high priest. He was dispensed with on this occasion to attend his dying father. The spirit of God gives great encomiums to Aaron, Malachias ii. 4-7., and Ecclesiasticus xlv. 7, 27. He, at the same time, prefigured Christ, the gospel, and the old law. He spoke plainly, and was allowed to enter the holy of holies; while Moses was excluded, spoke with difficulty, and had a veil on his face. See St. Jerome, ep. ad Fab. man. 33. But on the other hand, he represented the law with all its defects. He falls into several great faults, and dies despoiled of his glorious vestments, to shew the abrogation of his priesthood. The pagans have, perhaps, introduced some parts of his history into that of Mercury, the god of thieves and of travellers, the messenger of the other gods, whom they adorn with a wand, &c., in imitation of the rod of Aaron, who was the interpreter of Moses, and the head of that people, which wandered for 40 years, after plundering Egypt. (Calmet)

Ver. 29. Dead, in the 123d year of his age. (Menochius) — Neither Moses, Aaron, nor Mary, representing the Law, the priests, and the prophets of the Old Testament, could introduce the people into the promised land. This honour was reserved for Josue, the illustrious figure of Jesus Christ, and of his Church. (Calmet)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The death of Mary, the sister of Moses. The people murmur for want of water: God giveth it them from the rock. The death of Aaron.

1 And the children of Israel, and all the multitude came *into the desert of Sin, in the first month: and the people abode in Cades. And Mary died there, and was buried in the same place.

2 And the people wanting water, came together against Moses and Aaron:

3 And making a sedition, they said: Would God we had perished among our brethren before the Lord.

4 *Why have you brought out the church of the Lord into the wilderness, that both we and our cattle should die?

5 Why have you made us come up out of Egypt, and have brought us into this wretched place, which cannot be sowed, nor bringeth forth figs, nor vines, nor pomegranates, neither is there any water to drink?

6 And Moses and Aaron, leaving the multitude, went into the tabernacle of the covenant, and fell flat upon the ground, and cried to the Lord, and said: O Lord God, hear the cry of this people, and open to them thy treasure a fountain of living water, that being satisfied, they may cease to murmur. And the glory of the Lord appeared over them.

7 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

8 Take the rod, and assemble the people together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak to the rock before them, and it shall yield waters. And when thou hast brought forth water out of the rock, all the multitude and their cattle shall drink.

9 *Moses therefore took the rod, which was before the Lord, as he had commanded him,

10 And having gathered together the multitude before the rock, he said to them: Hear, ye rebellious and incredulous: *Can we bring you forth water out of this rock?

11 And when Moses had lifted up his hand, and struck the rock twice with the rod, there came forth water in great abundance, so that the people and their cattle drank.

12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron: *Because you have not believed me, to sanctify me before the children of Israel, you shall not bring these people into the land, which I will give them.

13 This is the water of contradiction, where the children of Israel strove with words against the Lord, and he was sanctified in them.

14 In the mean time Moses sent messengers from Cades to the king of Edom, to say: Thus sayeth thy brother Israel: Thou knowest all the labour that hath come upon us:

15 In what manner our fathers went down into Egypt, and there we dwelt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us, and our fathers:

16 And how we cried to the Lord, and he heard us, and sent an angel, who hath brought us out of Egypt. Lo we are now in the city of Cades, which is in the uttermost of thy borders,

17 And we beseech thee, that we may have leave to pass through thy country. We will not go through the fields, nor through the vineyards, we will not drink the waters of thy wells, but we will go by the common highway, neither turning aside to the right hand nor to the left, till we are past thy borders.

18 And Edom answered them: Thou shalt not pass by me, if thou dost, I will come out armed against thee.

19 And the children of Israel said: We will go by the beaten way: and if we and our cattle drink of thy waters, we will give thee what is just: there shall be no difficulty in the price, only let us pass speedily.

20 But he answered: Thou shalt not pass. And immediately he came forth to meet them, with an infinite multitude, and a strong hand:

21 Neither would he condescend to their desire, to grant them passage through his borders. Wherefore Israel turned another way from him.

22 And when they had removed the camp from Cades, they came to mount Hor, which is in the borders of the land of Edom:

23 Where the Lord spoke to Moses:

24 Let Aaron, saith he, go to his people: for he shall not go into the land, which I have given the children of Israel, because he was incredulous to my words, at the waters of contradiction.

25 *Take Aaron and his son with him, and bring them up into Mount Hor:

26 And when thou hast stripped the father of his vesture, thou shalt vest therewith Eleazar, his son: Aaron shall be gathered to his people, and die there.

27 Moses did as the Lord had commanded: and they went up into Mount Hor before all the multitude.

28 And when he had stripped Aaron of his vestments, he vested Eleazar, his son, with them.

29 And Aaron being dead in the top of the mountain, he came down with Eleazar.

30 And all the multitude seeing that Aaron was dead, mourned for him thirty days throughout all their families.



1: Year of the World 2552, Year before Christ 1452.

4: Exodus xvii. 3.

9: Exodus xvii. 5. and 6.; Wisdom xi. 4.

10: Psalm lxxvii. 15. and 20.; 1 Corinthians x. 4.

12: Deuteronomy i. 37.

25: Numbers xxxiii. 38.; Deuteronomy xxxii. 50.