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Moses 39 – Attack By The King Of Arad

Before we look at the next tragedy that struck the murmuring Israelites, let’s review the parting of Aaron.
Let’s start at Kadesh Barnea, north of Petra.
The hosts of Israel again turned toward the south, and made their way over sterile wastes, that seemed even more dreary after a glimpse of the green spots among the hills and valleys of Edom.
From the mountain range overlooking this gloomy desert, rises Mount Hor, whose summit was to be the place of Aaron’s death and burial.
When the Israelites came to this mountain, the divine command was addressed to Moses:
“Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto Mount Hor: and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.”
Together these two aged men and the younger one toiled up the mountain height. The heads of Moses and Aaron were white with the snows of sixscore winters.
Their long and eventful lives had been marked with the deepest trials and the greatest honors that had ever fallen to the lot of man.
They were men of great natural ability, and all their powers had been developed, exalted, and dignified by communion with the Infinite One.
Their life had been spent in unselfish labor for God and their fellow men; their countenances gave evidence of great intellectual power, firmness and nobility of purpose, and strong affections.
Many years Moses and Aaron had stood side by side in their cares and labors. Together they had breasted unnumbered dangers, and had shared together the signal blessing of God; but the time was at hand when they must be separated.

They moved on very slowly, for every moment in each other’s society was precious. The ascent was steep and toilsome; and as they often paused to rest, they communed together of the past and the future.
Before them, as far as the eye could reach, was spread out the scene of their desert wanderings.
In the plain below were encamped the vast hosts of Israel, for whom these chosen men had spent the best portion of their lives; for whose welfare they had felt so deep an interest, and made so great sacrifices. Somewhere beyond the mountains of Edom was the path leading to the Promised Land–that land whose blessings Moses and Aaron were not to enjoy.
No rebellious feelings found a place in their hearts, no expression of murmuring escaped their lips; yet a solemn sadness rested upon their countenances as they remembered what had debarred them from the inheritance of their fathers.
Aaron’s work for Israel was done. Forty years before, at the age of eighty-three, God had called him to unite with Moses in his great and important mission.
He had co-operated with his brother in leading the children of Israel from Egypt. He had held up the great leader’s hands when the Hebrew hosts gave battle to Amalek.
He had been permitted to ascend Mount Sinai, to approach into the presence of God, and to behold the divine glory. The Lord had conferred upon the family of Aaron the office of the priesthood, and had honored him with the sacred consecration of high priest.
He had sustained him in the holy office by the terrible manifestations of divine judgment in the destruction of Korah and his company.
It was through Aaron’s intercession that the plague was stayed. When his two sons were slain for disregarding God’s express command, he did not rebel or even murmur. Yet the record of his noble life had been marred.
Aaron committed a grievous sin when he yielded to the clamors of the people and made the golden calf at Sinai; and again, when he united with Miriam in envy and murmuring against Moses.
And he, with Moses, offended the Lord at Kadesh by disobeying the command to speak to the rock that it might give forth its water. God intended that these great leaders of His people should be representatives of Christ. Aaron bore the names of Israel upon his breast.
He communicated to the people the will of God. He entered the most holy place on the Day of Atonement, “not without blood,” as a mediator for all Israel.
He came forth from that work to bless the congregation, as Christ will come forth to bless His waiting people when His work of atonement in their behalf shall be ended.
It was the exalted character of that sacred office as representative of our great High Priest that made Aaron’s sin at Kadesh of so great magnitude.
With deep sorrow Moses removed from Aaron the holy vestments, and placed them upon Eleazar, who thus became his successor by divine appointment.
For his sin at Kadesh, Aaron was denied the privilege of officiating as God’s high priest in Canaan–of offering the first sacrifice in the goodly land, and thus consecrating the inheritance of Israel.
Moses was to continue to bear his burden in leading the people to the very borders of Canaan. He was to come within sight of the Promised Land, but was not to enter it.
Had these servants of God, when they stood before the rock at Kadesh, borne unmurmuringly the test there brought upon them, how different would have been their future!
A wrong act can never be undone. It may be that the work of a lifetime will not recover what has been lost in a single moment of temptation or even thoughtlessness.
The absence from the camp of the two great leaders, and the fact that they had been accompanied by Eleazar, who, it was well known, was to be Aaron’s successor in holy office, awakened a feeling of apprehension, and their return was anxiously awaited.
As the people looked about them, upon their vast congregation, they saw that nearly all the adults who left Egypt had perished in the wilderness.
All felt a foreboding of evil as they remembered the sentence pronounced against Moses and Aaron. Some were aware of the object of that mysterious journey to the summit of Mount Hor, and their solicitude for their leaders was heightened by bitter memories and self-accusings.
The forms of Moses and Eleazar were at last discerned, slowly descending the mountainside, but Aaron was not with them. Upon Eleazar were the sacerdotal garments, showing that he had succeeded his father in the sacred office.
As the people with heavy hearts gathered about their leader, Moses told them that Aaron had died in his arms upon Mount Hor, and that they there buried him.
The congregation broke forth in mourning and lamentation, for they all loved Aaron, though they had so often caused him sorrow. “They mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.”
Concerning the burial of Israel’s high priest, the Scriptures give only the simple record, “There Aaron died, and there he was buried.” Deuteronomy 10:6.
In what striking contrast to the customs of the present day was this burial, conducted according to the express command of God.
In modern times the funeral services of a man of high position are often made the occasion of ostentatious and extravagant display.
When Aaron died, one of the most illustrious men that ever lived, there were only two of his nearest friends to witness his death and to attend his burial.
And that lonely grave upon Mount Hor was forever hidden from the sight of Israel. God is not honored in the great display so often made over the dead, and the extravagant expense incurred in returning their bodies to the dust.
The whole congregation sorrowed for Aaron, yet they could not feel the loss so keenly as did Moses. The death of Aaron forcibly reminded Moses that his own end was near.

But short as the time of his stay on earth must be, he deeply felt the loss of his constant companion–the one who had shared his joys and sorrows, his hopes and fears, for so many long years.
Moses must now continue the work alone; but he knew that God was his friend, and upon Him he leaned more heavily. PP 427

Numbers 21:1 The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners.

Arad is about 30 kilometers south of Hebron and called Tell Arad today. One can still see the traces of Canaanite worship at the site.


The king apparently cut off a few stragglers in the rear or on the borders of the line of march; for had he attacked the main body in force, there would likely have been some account of battle casualties.

Verse 2 So Israel made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.”

Literally, “I will dedicate their cities,” using the verb root of the word translated “devoted” in Lev. 27:29. The import of this is that the spoils of those cities should be devoted to God and His service (see Deut. 7:1, 2; Joshua 6:17, 21). When anything was devoted to God it could not be put to secular use.

Verse 3 And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah.

In harmony with their vow, which the Lord accepted, Joshua effected their destruction upon entering the Holy Land (Joshua 12:14).

Verse 3 And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah.

Hormah. The word means “destruction,” in the sense of devoted to God, and therefore not redeemable for man’s use. The verb form of the same word is given in verse 2 as “utterly destroy,” that is, offer to God as a sacrifice. The name was apparently applied to the city and its environs (Num. 14:45; Deut. 1:44; Joshua 12:14; 15:30).

Verse 3 And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah.

Verse 4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way.

Why was a detour necessary? Because they had been denied passage through Edom.

They were now on their journey to Ezion-geber (Deut. 2:8), with their backs toward the Holy Land. For encampments between Kadesh and the region of Moab see Num. 33:41–44.

Israel’s route of march led southward through the ‘Araba to the southern border of Edom, and thence eastward. Finally, turning northward, they passed to the east of both Edom and Moab (PP 428, 433; see note on page 577).

Verse 4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way.

Why the discouragement on the way?

The part of the country through which they were traveling, the Arabah, is a barren plain strewn with stones and sand, and usually hot and dry.

Are you right now becoming discouraged with the situation on life’s road?

In addition, they realized they were marching with their backs turned to Canaan, instead of entering it.

Verse 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”

Brought us up. The form of the Hebrew verb here used is another sign of their growing impatience, being the causal form: “caused us to go up.”
No bread. They had an abundance of food, but were rebellious about the monotony of their heavenly diet.

Worthless bread. The Hebrew word translated “wothless,” which occurs nowhere else in the Bible, is from the root “to be light,” that is, to hold in low esteem. The people were thinking of the varied and spicy foods of Egypt.

Verse 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.

Fiery serpents. Literally, “the serpents, the fiery ones.” The word translated “fiery” elsewhere appears as “seraphims” (Isa. 6:2, 6). It is from the root “to burn” (Joshua 11:9; Isa. 44:16; Eze. 43:21). The serpents were called fiery on account of the violent inflammation caused by their bite

Many of the people of Israel died.

The deaths were due to the withdrawal of the protecting hand of God. The part of the country through which they were traveling was infested with snakes, scorpions, etc. (Deut. 8:15); hence, every day provided miracles of divine protection. But now the Lord withdrew His protection and allowed the snakes to attack the people.

After the break we will continue with this very sad situation.

By the way, did you allow bitterness to poison your system?
Are you a complaining Christian?
Are you looking at the dark part of life and forgetting about the many blessings of life?

Does God care about dissatisfied people? How can a bitter person become a sweet person?

Do not miss out on the next delivery in this series from Egypt to Canaan.

Updated on 21st Mar 2022

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