Lawsuit over water and Moses’ disobedience

In the first month,[a] the entire Israelite community entered the Zin desert and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there. Now there was no water for the community, and they assembled against Moses and Aaron. Then the people confronted Moses and said to him, “If only we too had died when our brothers perished in the Lord’s presence! Why have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this desert to kill us and our animals here? Why have you led us up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place without grain, figs, vines, or pomegranates? And there’s no water to drink!”

Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the meeting tent and they fell on their faces. Then the Lord’s glory appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses: “You and Aaron your brother, take the staff and assemble the community. In their presence, tell the rock to provide water. You will produce water from the rock for them and allow the community and their animals to drink.”

Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, as the Lord had commanded him. 10 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. He said to them, “Listen, you rebels! Should we produce water from the rock for you?” 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice. Out flooded water so that the community and their animals could drink.

12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you didn’t trust me to show my holiness before the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land that I am giving them.” 13 These were the waters of Meribah,[b] where the Israelites confronted the Lord with controversy and he showed his holiness to them.

The Israelites confront Edom

14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “This is what your brother Israel says: ‘You know all the adversity that has happened to us. 15 How our ancestors went down to Egypt and lived in Egypt for a long time. The Egyptians oppressed us as they had our ancestors, 16 and we cried out to the Lord. He heard our voice, sent a messenger, and brought us out of Egypt. Now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. 17 Please let us cross through your land. We won’t pass through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will walk on the King’s Highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have crossed your border.’”

18 Edom said to him, “You won’t cross through, or I will come out against you with a sword.”

19 The Israelites said to him, “We’ll go up by the road. If we drink from your water, either we or our livestock, we’ll pay for it. It’s a small matter. We would only ask to cross on foot.”

20 But he said, “You won’t cross.” Then Edom came out against them with a powerful army and a strong hand. 21 Edom refused to allow Israel to cross his border. And Israel turned away from him. 22 They marched from Kadesh.

Aaron’s death at Mount Hor

The entire Israelite community came to Mount Hor. 23 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor on the border of the land of Edom: 24 Aaron will join his ancestors, for he may not enter the land that I’ve given to the Israelites, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. 25 Take Aaron and his son Eleazar, and bring them up Mount Hor. 26 Strip Aaron of his clothes and put them on Eleazar his son. Then Aaron will die there.

27 Moses did as the Lord commanded. They went up Mount Hor in the sight of the entire community. 28 Moses stripped Aaron of his clothes and put them on Eleazar his son. Aaron died there at the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar descended from the mountain. 29 When the entire community saw that Aaron had died, the entire household of Israel wept thirty days for Aaron.


  1. Numbers 20:1 March–April, Nisan
  2. Numbers 20:13 Or confrontation