Reading 44/341, Numbers 19-21

[A] Moses and Aaron are punished today. Whether it was because of the words Moses spoke or because he hit the rock twice instead of once is not clear, probably both. Their punishment is to die before entering the Promised Land. Aaron dies today, Moses will die at the border and never enter.
[B] The bronze serpent is a type of Jesus. Just as looking at the serpent cured the illness caused by serpents, so when we look upon the death of Jesus on the Cross, it cures death. This bronze serpent is why a serpent on a pole is a symbol of medicine. For more on this, see today's homily.
[C] Israel wins two major battles today and begins to live in the cities of the people whom they killed, yet they are still wandering in the wilderness because they have not entered the Promised Land.
[D] Remember that Edom is another name for Esau, so the people of Edom are the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob, who was renamed Israel. This is why, even though Edom will not welcome them, they do not destroy them. The relationship between Israel and Edom will always be complicated. In 1400 years, an Edomite will become king of Israel: King Herod.


The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying, ‘Tell the children of Israel to bring you a red heifer without spot, which has no blemish, and on which there has never been a yoke. You shall give her to Eleazar the priest, and he shall bring her forth outside of the camp, and someone shall kill her before his face, and Eleazar the priest shall take some of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle her blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. Someone shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn, and the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the evening. He who burns her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the evening. A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and put them outside of the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water for impurity, it is a sin offering. He who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the evening, and it shall be to the children of Israel, and to the stranger who lives as a foreigner among them, a statute forever.

He who touches the dead body of any human shall be unclean seven days, the same shall purify himself therewith on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean, but if he does not purify himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Whoever touches a dead person, the body of a man who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tent of the Lord, and that soul shall be cut off from Israel, because the water for impurity was not sprinkled on him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet on him. This is the law when a human dies in a tent, everyone who comes into the tent, and everyone who is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. Every open vessel, which has no covering bound on it, is unclean. Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain with a sword, or a dead body, or the bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. For the unclean they shall take of the ashes of the burning of the sin offering, and running water shall be added in a vessel, and a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent, and on all the vessels, and on the people who were there, and on him who touched the bone, or the slain, or the dead, or the grave, and the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall purify him, and he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at evening. But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord, the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him: he is unclean. It shall be a perpetual statute to them, and he who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and he who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening. Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean, and the soul that touches it shall be unclean until evening.’”

The children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people dwelt in Kadesh, and Miriam died there and was buried there. There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves together against Moses and Aaron. The people strove with Moses, and spoke, saying, “Would that we had died when our brothers died before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this desert, that we should die here, we and our animals? Why have you made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in to this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink. Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you, and Aaron your brother, and speak you to the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water, and you shall bring forth for them water out of the rock; so you shall give the congregation and their livestock water to drink.” Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring you forth water out of this rock?” Moses lifted up his hand, and struck the rock with his rod twice, and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified among them.

Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, “Thus says your brother Israel, ‘You know all the travail that has happened to us, how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and our fathers, and when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and brought us forth out of Egypt, and behold, we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or through vineyard, nor will we drink of the water of the wells. We will go along the king's highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed your border.’” Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through me, lest I come out with the sword against you.” The children of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will give the price of it, let me just, without doing anything else, pass through on my feet.” He said, “You shall not pass through.” Edom came out against him with many people, and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border, and Israel turned away from him.

They traveled from Kadesh, and the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron on Mount Hor, by the border of the land of Edom, saying, “Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter into the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against my word at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor, and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son, and Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.” Moses did as the Lord commanded, and they went up onto Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son, and Aaron died there on top of the mountain, and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. When all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they wept for Aaron thirty days, all the house of Israel. The Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the South, heard that Israel came by the way of Atharim, and he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. Israel vowed a vow to the Lord, and said, “If you will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” The Lord listened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities, and the name of the place was called Hormah.

They traveled from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom, and the soul of the people was greatly discouraged because of the way. The people spoke against God, and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is no bread, and there is no water, and our soul loathes this worthless food.” The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, and many people of Israel died. The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord, and against you; pray to the Lord, that he will take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole, and it shall happen, that everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” Moses made a serpent of bronze, and set it on the standard, and it happened, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked at the serpent of bronze, he lived.

The children of Israel traveled, and encamped in Oboth. They traveled from Oboth, and encamped at Iye-abarim, in the desert which is before Moab, toward the sunrise. From there they traveled, and encamped in the valley of Zered. From there they traveled, and encamped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the desert, that comes out of the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. Therefore it is said in the book of the Wars of the Lord, “Vaheb in Suphah, the valleys of the Arnon, the slope of the valleys that incline toward the dwelling of Ar, leans on the border of Moab.” From there they traveled to Beer, that is the well of which the Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O Well; sing to it, The Well, which the princes dug, which the nobles of the people dug, with the scepter, and with their poles.” From the desert they traveled to Mattanah, and from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, and from Bamoth to the valley that is in the field of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looks down on the desert.

Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, “Let me pass through your land, we will not turn aside into field, or into vineyard; we will not drink of the water of the wells, we will go by the king's highway, until we have passed your border.” Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his border, but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel in the desert, and came to Jahaz, and he fought against Israel. Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, to the children of Ammon; for the border of the children of Ammon was strong. Israel took all these cities, and Israel lived in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the towns of it. For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, to the Arnon. Therefore the ballad singers say, “Come to Heshbon. Let the city of Sihon be built and established; for a fire has gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon. It has devoured Ar of Moab, The lords of the high places of the Arnon. Woe to you, Moab! You are undone, people of Chemosh! He has given his sons as fugitives, and his daughters into captivity, to Sihon king of the Amorites. We have shot at them. Heshbon has perished to Dibon. We have laid waste to Nophah, Which reaches to Medeba.” Thus Israel lived in the land of the Amorites. Moses sent to spy out Jazer, and they took the towns of it, and drove out the Amorites who were there. They turned and went up by the way of Bashan, and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. The Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand, and all his people, and his land, and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.” So they struck him, and his sons and all his people, until there was no one remaining, and they possessed his land.

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