Read 41.) Numbers 20:1 thru 21:35, and 33:1-56. Important theological matters pertaining to who we are, and where we go upon passing from this life were taught in the last reading. But, here, we will learn of one of the very most important and valuable truths of all, from out of chapter 21. Fascinatingly, we have already come toward the very end of Israel’s 38 extra years of wilderness wanderings. Why so little content? Could it be that God led them in their discipline, but virtually ignored and merely endured them? What might have happened had they exhibited a national repentance, and engaged in an earnest seeking after the face of God? We will see such things later in the life of Israel. Chapter 20 opens with another sad account of little faith and more disobedience, but this time, it even included Moses! It is the March/April time frame of about 1406 BC now. The last of the first free generation is passing. Miriam, the older sister of Moses dies, and Aaron will, too. Though this would be a new generation, born and raised up during their wanderings, they would seem to be no better in either their faith in, or obedience to, the Lord. I am not certain, but this place was called Meribah, just as the place of the first rock from which water sprang 40 years before in Exodus 17. Are they right back where they had started from? It would appear so. From chapter 21, Israel is traveling east, to go under and around the Promised Land in order to gain passage into it. The passage, verses 4 thru 9, is most instructional. The people grumble again, and God sends venomous snakes among them. They implore Moses for relief from their consequence, and God tells Moses to fashion a bronze snake, and raise it on a pole. All anyone had to do was to look to that snake, and they would be saved from their bite. Jesus referred to these 6 verses in John 3:14+15 to show just how simple our spiritual salvation really is from the death bite of our own sin. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Only let it result in the New Birth of John 3:3-7, as it must, or you will not see the Kingdom of God! Were they saved by a bronze serpent? No! But, by simple faith and obedience!!!
The defeat of kings Sihon and Og, of Moab and Ammon, will be restated relatively frequently. It’s worth studying Bible maps to see where Edom, Moab, the Arnon River and Ammon were, and how they were east of the Promised Land and in what is modern-day Jordan and part of Syria. With chapter 33, we recount all the 40 years in the wilderness that led up to this time. Verse 38 gives us a time clue, and it points to Aaron’s passing on a July/August summer’s day in 1406 BC. Chapter 33 ends with verses 50 thru 56, and is very important. Take note of the command, and what this means for Israel. It is an either/or else command! We will learn of exactly how this will go for Israel when we get to Joshua chapters 13 thru 21. Keep this in mind, as it will come to play a truly vital role in all the rest of Israel’s history, as we read of its record throughout the remainder of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. It is what the Book is all about!
Harold F Crowell