How the Long Journey of the Israelites
Came to an end
The Promised Land
Numbers xx: 1, to
Israelites, after coming to the border of the
promised land, went back into the wilderness to wait
there until all the men who had sinned against the
Lord in not trusting his word, should die. Moses
knew that the men who had been slaves in Egypt, were
in their spirit slaves still, and could not fight as
brave men to win their land. There was need of men
who had been trained up to a free life in the
wilderness; men who would teach their children after
them to be free and bold.
They stayed for nearly all the forty years of
waiting in the wilderness of Paran, south of Canaan.
Very few things happened during those years. The
young men as they grew up were trained to be
soldiers and one by one the old men died, until very
few of them were left.
When the forty years were almost ended, the people
came again to Kadesh-barnea. For some reason they
found no water there. Perhaps the wells from which
they had drawn water before were now dried up. The
people complained against Moses, as they always
complained when trouble came to them, and blamed him
for bringing them into such a desert land, where
there was neither fruit to eat nor water to drink,
only great rocks all around.
Then the Lord said to Moses:
"Take the rod, and bring the people together, and
stand before the rock, and speak to the rock before
them; and then the water will come out of the rock,
and the people and their flocks shall drink."
Then Moses and Aaron brought all the people together
before a great rock that stood beside the camp. And
Moses stood in front of the rock, with the rod in
his hand; but he did not do exactly what God had
told him to do, to speak to the rock. He spoke to
the people instead, in an angry manner.
"Hear now, ye rebels," said Moses. "Shall we bring
you water out of this rock?"
And Moses lifted up the rod, and struck the rock.
Then he struck it again, and at the second blow the
water came pouring out of the rock, just as it had
come many years before from the rock at Rephidim,
near Mount Sinai; and again there was a plenty of
water for the people and their flocks.
But God was not pleased with Moses, because Moses
had shown anger, and had not obeyed God's command
just as God had given it. And God said to Moses and
"Because you did not show honor to me, by doing as I
commanded you, neither of you shall enter into the
land that I have promised to the children of
One act of disobedience cost Moses and Aaron the
privilege of leading the people into their own land
of promise! About this time, Miriam, the sister of
Moses and Aaron, died at Kadesh-barnea. When she was
a little girl she helped to save the baby Moses, her
brother, from the river. She also led the women in
singing the song of Moses after the crossing of the
Red Sea. And soon after her death Moses and Aaron,
and Eleazar, Aaron's son, walked together up a
mountain called Mount Hor; and on the top of the
mountain Moses took off the priest's robes from
Aaron, and placed them on his son Eleazar; and there
on the top of Mount Hor Aaron died, and Moses and
Eleazar buried him. Then they came down to the camp
and Eleazar took his father's place as the priest.
they were at Kadesh-barnea, on the south of Canaan,
they tried again to enter the land. But they found
that the Canaanites and Amorites who lived there
were too strong for them; so again they turned back
to the wilderness, and sought another road to
Canaan. On the south the Dead Sea, and southeast of
Canaan, were living the Edomites, who had sprung
from Esau, Jacob's brother, as the Israelites had
sprung from Jacob. Thus you see the Edomites were
closely related to the Israelites.
And Moses sent to the king of Edom, to say to him:
"We men of Israel are your brothers. We have come
out of the land of Egypt, where the people of Egypt
dealt harshly with us, and now we are going to our
own land, which our God has promised to us, the land
of Canaan. We pray you let us pass through your
land, on our way. We will do no harm to your land
nor your people. We will walk on the road to Canaan,
not turning to the right hand nor the left. And we
will not rob your vineyards, nor even drink from
your wells, unless we pay for the water that we
But the king of Edom was afraid to have such a great
host of people, with all their flocks and cattle, go
through his land. He drew out his army, and came
against the Israelites. Moses was not willing to
make war on a people who were so close in their race
to the Israelites, so instead of leading the
Israelites through Edom, he went around it, making a
long journey to the south, and then to the east, and
then to the north again.
It was a long, hard journey, through a deep valley
which was very hot; and for most of the journey they
were going away from Canaan, and not toward it; but
it was the only way, since Moses would not let them
fight the men of Edom.
While they were on this long journey the people
again found fault with Moses. They said, "Why have
you brought us into this hot and sandy country?
There is no water; and there is no bread except this
vile manna, of which we are very tired! We wish that
we were all back in Egypt again!"
Then God was angry with the people; and he let the
fierce snakes that grew in the desert crawl among
them and bite them. These snakes were called "fiery
serpents," perhaps because of their bright color, or
perhaps because of their eyes and tongues, which
seemed to flash out fire. Their bite was poisonous,
so that many of the people died.
Then the people saw that they had acted wickedly in
speaking against Moses; for when they spoke against
Moses they were speaking against God, who was
leading them. They said:
"We have sinned against the Lord, and we are sorry.
Now pray to the Lord for us, that he may take away
the serpents from us."
So Moses prayed for the people, as he had prayed so
many times before. And God heard Moses' prayer, and
God said to him:
"Make a serpent of brass, like the fiery serpents;
and set it up on a pole, where the people can see
it. Then every one who is bitten may look on the
serpent on the pole, and he shall live."
And Moses did as God commanded him. He made a
serpent of brass, which looked like the fiery
snakes; and he lifted it up on a pole where all
could see it. And then, whoever had been bitten by a
snake looked up at the brazen snake, and the bite
did him no harm.
This brazen snake was a teaching about Christ,
though it was given so long before Christ came. You
remember the text which says, "As Moses lifted up
the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son
of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him
may have eternal life."
Northeast of the Dead Sea, above a brook called the
brook Arnon, lived a people who were called the
Amorites. Moses sent to their king, whose name was
Sihon, the same message as he had sent to the king
of Edom, asking for leave to go through his land.
But he would not allow the Israelites to pass
through. He led his army against Israel, and crossed
the brook Arnon, and fought against Israel at a
place called Jahaz. The Israelites here won their
first great victory. In the battle they killed many
of the Amorites, and with them their king, Sihon,
and they took for their own all their land, as far
north as the brook Jabbok. Do you remember how Jacob
one night prayed by the brook Jabbok?
And after this they marched on toward the land of
Canaan, coming from the east. And at last they
encamped on the east bank of the river Jordan, at
the foot of the mountains of Moab. Their long
journey of forty years was now ended, the desert was
left behind them, before them rolled the Jordan
River, and beyond the Jordan they could see the
hills of the land which God had promised to them for
The Promised Land