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doubt, they made use of every argument to remove the unjust suspicion of the people, and then implored the LORD to turn their hearts ; but, as they were so pious, and entertained the highest veneration for the SUPREME Being, it was natural to desire that God might give some signal proof that the priesthood was really of Divine institution ; otherwise there would have been perpetual commotions in the congregation, and the honour of God would have been continually insulted. X
It is shocking to read of the folly and ingratitude of in the Israelites * , but we are told that, on the very next morning, the congregation which had been so graciously delivered by the mercy of God, at the intercession of Moses and Aaron, once more assembled with clamour and reproach : accusing them for having (as they said) slain the people of the LORD. The GLORY OF THE LORD again shone forth in vindication of his insulted servants, who, far from wishing for the destruction of these inconsiderate wretches, as soon as they perceived that a plague was begun, had immediate recourse to the ordinance_which God. had appointed as a means of reconciliation: Aaron, by the desire of Moses, took.' a censer with some of the holy fire from the altar, and made an atonement for them; and the Lord graciously rewarded their benevolent purposes, by granting them the heart-felt delight, which those exalted minds must. necessarily feel, who can pray for those who despitefully use them, and return good for evil.
It pleased God to appoint another monument, to commemorate the contest between His ministers and these pretenders to the priesthood. He spake unto
Moses, that he should command the chief princes of Israel, or heads of tribes, to bring each man a rod, with the name of his tribe written upon it. And the Levites were required to write the name of Levi upon their rod. "
As soon as they were collected, Moses, by Divine di. rection, laid the rods before the Lord in the tabernacle; and, to his great astonishment, when he went to look at them in the morning he found, that the rod of Levi had put forth buds and blossoms, and even yielded almonds. Moses immediately brought them forth, and exhibited the miracle to all the people. There is no doubt, but sufficient care was taken to prevent collusion, and that every one had marked his stick or rod, so as to be able to know it again ; they could not therefore dispute the decision, which was so evidently in favour of Aaron. God gave command, that from that day none but the sons of Aaron should presume to come into the tabernacle on pain of death.
How graciously kind and condescending was God to this stubborn people ! giving them continual proofs of kis power and providence, and ordaining memorials, both of his judgments and mercies, to remain for the • satisfaction of succeeding generations..
The rod of Aaron was preserved in the Ark, or laid up by it, for a number of years, and certainly was to be seen at the time Moses wrote his history.
The people were so affected with this last miracle , that they fell from presumption to despair, and expressed apprehensions that, if they approached the Tabernacle, they should die; not considering, that those who pe. rished, brought destruction on themselves, excepting indeed the children of the men who were swallowed up alive; but we must remember, that they would have. been in a very helpless situation, had they survived their
parents ; and as they died innocent, there is no doubt but Divine goodness removed them to a happier state.
Suitable reflections upon this Section will naturally arise from the punishment of the men who broke the Sabbath, and of those who dishonoured the priesthood. nutadan
MOSES AND AARON OFFEND THE LORD BY STRIKING
From Numb. Chap. xx.
Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin, in the first month : and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there: and was buried there.
And there was no water for the congregation ; and they gathered themselves together against Moses, and against Aaron.
And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying - Would God that we had died when our brethren died . before the Lord.
And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?
And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of . Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place ? it is no place of seed, of figs, of vines, or of pomegranates, neither is there any water to drink.
And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly, unto the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces : and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod; and gather' thou the assembly together, thou
and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye into the rock be. fore their eyes, and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock : so thou shalt give the congregation, and their beasts drink. . ...
And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.
And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear, now, ye rebels : must we fetch you water out of this rock ? ; And Moses lift up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abun. dantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.
And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel ; therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
This is the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel strove with the Lord : and he was sanctified in them.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
· It was now the fortieth year after the departure of the Israelites out of the land of Egypt; and they were once more drawing towa: ds the land of promise. They abode in Kadesh, not Kadesh-Barnea, which was on the borders of Canaan ; but another Kadesh on the confines of Edom; farther off from the land of Canaan,
but in the way to it from the Red-sea, to which they · had been hurried back.
The greatest number of those persons, who came out
Muse appears, that there on this
of the land of Egypt, were dead; we are therefore to consider this and the succeeding part of the history, as relating to the next generation (their children), 'to whom the Lord had transferred the inheritance of the promised land, of which he was about to put them in possession.
It was the duty of Moses and Aaron, as the Ministers of God, to follow the Divine commands with the exactest punctuality ; but, instead of speaking to the rock in the name of the LORD, Moses struck it. This action had a direct tendency to dishonour God in the eyes of the people ; for Moses did not even mention His Holy Name, but seemed desirous to take the glory to himself and his brother,-Must we fetch water out of this rock, ye rebels? and Aaron appears to have agreed with him in sentiment. And, we find, that they not only dis. obeyed the commands of the LORD, but on this occa. sion, disbelieved His promises. Perhaps Moses and · Aaron imagined they should never obtain the rest they had lived in expectation of finding in the land of Canaan : of this we may be certain, that both their thoughts and actions were very sinful, or the Lord would not have punished them so severely. Moses, who relates the transaction, does not attempt to exculpate himself, and makes no complaint of injustice done him; with his usual meekness, he yielded to the Divine wilt, and resolved to regulate his future conduct, by a steadfast regard to the honour of God; and we may be certain, that the Almighty recompensed him for his disappointment of an earthly. Canaan, by hopes of a better rest in a world to come, or he could not have sustained himself as he did, in a variety of subsequent trials. Had the LORD passed over this offence, it would have shewed Him to be a respecter of persons *, which the Scripture assures us He is not.
* Acts x. 34.