HOW THE LONG JOURNEY OF THE ISRAELITES CAME TO AN END
Numbers xx: 1, to xxii: 1.
O the 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
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
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 (see Story 25); 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 to Aaron:
"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 Israel."
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.
 You remember that when she was a little girl she helped
to save the baby Moses, her brother, from the river
(see Story 20). She also led the women in singing
the song of Moses after the crossing of the Red Sea as
told in Story 24. 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.
MIRIAM SINGING THE SONG MOSES WROTE
While 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 (see
Story 12). 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 use."
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
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
 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
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
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? (See Story 14.)
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 their own.