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(Num 19:1 - 22:1)

B'Midbar/Numbers 20:12   Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel ...


By these words, sentence is passed on Moshe and Aharon: neither of them will enter the Land that The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem has promised to give to the Children of Israel. Only four souls remain of all the adult generation that came out of Egypt - Moshe, Aharon, Joshua and Caleb - the rest have fallen in the wilderness; now just the latter two will enter the Land. Jacob Milgrom comments that this is a "fair and fitting punishment". Just as Israel who ", Hif'il prefix 3ms from the root , did not trust me" (B'Midbar 14:11), have died in the wilderness - " they shall not see the Land" (14:23) - so now Moshe and Aharon who ", Hif'il prefix 2mp from the root , did not trust me" (20:12), must also die in the wilderness - " you shall not bring this congregation to the Land". But will this not set back the work or the people? Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch observes that, "The Divine rule shows itself in the holiness of its absolute greatness in giving up even a Moshe and an Aharon for the further accomplishing of its work, its goal is dependant on nothing but itself and even a Moshe or an Aharon are not indispensable for it".

Generations of commentators have debated over exactly what Moshe did or said that caused this sentence to be passed. Richard Elliott Friedman offers both a typical question and answer: "What is Moshe's offence? What has he done that is so horrible as to deserve what is probably the worst possible thing that could have been done to him: that he will not live to enter the land? By word and act, Moshe is appropriating to himself an act of G-d. In doing this, he is undoing the message that G-d and Moshe himself have been conveying to the people up to this point." Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi, more briefly, states that "if it were not for this sin, Moshe and Aharon would have entered the Land." The 'this' being discussed is, of course, the matter of bringing water from the rock: "Moshe and Aharon assembled the congregation in front of the rock; and he said to them, "Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?" And Moshe raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. Out came copious water, and the community and their beasts drank" (B'Midbar 20:10-11, JPS), while Moshe's instructions had been simply, "You and your brother Aaron take the rod and assemble the community, and before their very eyes order the rock to yield its water. Thus you shall produce water for them from the rock and provide drink for the congregation and their beasts" (v. 8, JPS). Upbraiding the people and striking the rock seem to be the things that exceed the mandate; Moshe's use of the word 'we' is particularly troublesome.

The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno connects the report of the incident here with the way HaShem reminds Moshe about later: "You [plural, that is Moshe and Aharon] broke faith with Me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel" (D'varim 32:51, ESV). Taking the phrase " - You did not believe in Me" from our text above, he explains, "This means: You had no confidence that I would fulfill that which I had said; and 'You trespassed against Me' (D'varim 32:51), for you desecrated My honour and did not show those who were striving their foolishness, and 'You rebelled against My word' (B'Midbar 20:24) by not observing My commandment." Don Who Is ...

Abravanel: Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508 CE), Statesman and biblical commentator; born in Lisbon, died in Venice; wrote commentaries on the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures
Abravanel offers a different explanation, using the same trigger verse: "Each of them is accused of one expression of failure to act and one of wrong action. Aharon 'broke faith ... and did not uphold My sanctity' (D'varim 32:51) by not letting himself be killed rather than make the Golden Calf; Moses 'disobeyed My command' (B'Midbar 27:14) and 'did not trust Me' (20:12) by giving instructions to the spies than ended up lessening Israel's faith."

Rashi asks, when Moshe had expressed disbelief about G-d's abilities before when the people were demanding meat - "Could enough flocks and herds be slaughtered to suffice them? Or could all the fish of the sea be gathered for them to suffice them?" (B'midbar 11:22, JPS) - and there was no punishment, why there should be such severity now? His answer is that the first occasion "was in private so could be spared; but here, in full view of the whole assembly, they could not be spared, because of the sanctification of the Name." In private, Moshe's incredulity was between him and G-d; no-one else was affected and there was no impact on G-d's reputation or standing. In public, on the other hand, the whole assembly heard Moshe appropriate G-d's prerogative - "Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?" (20:10, JPS) - and then saw the expression of authority as he struck the rock twice. Even if more than a little peeved by the constant demands and lack of faith among the people, Moshe's apparent anger and solving the problem in his own name and strength stepped over the line: it abrogated G-d's sovereignty.

This event - at the place known as Meribah - was picked up by the Psalmist: "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put Me to the test and put Me to the proof, though they had seen My work" (Psalm 95:7-9, ESV) and echoed by the writer to the Hebrews: "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, 'Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put Me to the test and saw my works for forty years'" (Hebrews 3:7-9, ESV). This opens the question as to whether we can reach the point at which G-d says to us, "That's enough, no more"? If so, what happens? Bearing in mind that Moshe couldn't persuade G-d to let him enter the Land, can we repent?

Clearly, those who do not believe in Yeshua, who have not accepted Him as L-rd and Messiah, and refuse to do so, cannot expect to enter into relationship with G-d through Him, to receive the benefits of His crucifixion and resurrection or to be part of His kingdom either now or in the future. They are unable to enter G-d's rest because of their ongoing unbelief. Rav Sha'ul is clear that "Whoever will call upon the name of the L-RD will be saved" (Romans 10:13, NASB). Baruch HaShem for that! But if people refuse to call, then they would seem to have sealed their own fate.

Yet, the Children of Israel, described as 'rebels' by Moshe, the 'fathers' who put G-d to the test at Meribah, were already in relationship with G-d: they had seen the plagues in Egypt, He had brought them out of Egypt, parted the Sea of Suf for them, given them the Torah at Mt. Sinai, led them through the wilderness for nearly forty years and dwelt in their midst with the visible sign of the Pillar of Cloud and Fire. Nevertheless, they rebelled, grumbled and fell in the wilderness. Can we too, even as believers in Messiah Yeshua, be like this? The Hebrews writer seems to think so: "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God" (Hebrew 3:12, ESV). If we develop an attitude of unbelief, he says, we can fall away from our relationship with G-d. A few chapters on, the writer continues, "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of G-d and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of G-d to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt" (Hebrews 6:4-6, ESV). These are serious words indeed and seem to say that - just as in Moshe's case - repentance is not available for those who publicly fall away in unbelief. Yeshua's promise that "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28, NASB) may be proof against the enemy, but perhaps not against ourselves!

Let us take that warning to heart and make sure that, however low we may get at times - and everyone has bad days from time to time - or whatever trials we go through, we cling ever more firmly to our faith in Yeshua. The enemy may scream and shout, urging us to abandon our faith, but we must remember Yeshua's words: "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:21, NASB). In Messiah Yeshua, we can overcome, we can endure, we can stand firm; for that is what we have been called, equipped and empowered to do. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and G-d is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB).

Further Study: Vayikra 10:3; 1 Peter 3:14-16

Application: Are you ever tempted to just say, "Blow this for a game of soldiers!" and walk away from Yeshua? Hang on in there and don't let the enemy bluff you into giving away the farm. If we call out to Him, He will be there for us.

13Jun13 22:29 Tony: So true and right on time for my week's trials. Truly Yah's word is alive; he will never leave me nor forsake me. Baruch HaShem YHVH!

© Jonathan Allen, 2013



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