Evening Bible Study
The nation of Israel
was miraculously set free from their slavery in Egypt by the mighty works of a
They spent their first year out of Egypt at the base of Mount Sinai where Moses
received the commandments of God and they built their portable worship center
called the Tabernacle.
Their journey from Sinai
into the Promised Land should have taken two weeks, but because the people were
not willing to trust God to help them, they ended up wandering in the
wilderness for forty years.
The book of Numbers covers that period of forty years where the nation
learns to grow up and become a lean, mean, fighting machine.
We are now at
the end of the forty years, and the people have made a big circle back to Kadesh,
the gateway to the Promised Land.
They are going to start taking the steps necessary before crossing the
border into the land of Canaan, the Promised Land.
20:14 –21 Edom says
:14 Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. “Thus says
your brother Israel: ‘You know all the hardship that has befallen us,
:14 Kadesh = “holy” – where Israel
has camped out, getting ready to head into Canaan.
– Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons named Esau and Jacob. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau and
the Israelites were the descendants of Jacob.
is one possible location for the king of Edom.
:15 how our
fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the
Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers.
:16 When we cried out to the Lord, He heard our voice and sent the Angel
and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge
of your border.
:16 the Angel
– the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.
:17 Please let
us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor
will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King’s Highway; we will
not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through
your territory.’ ”
:17 the King’s
This was an ancient highway
that ran between the Gulf of Aqaba and Damascus. By the time of Numbers, this road had been in
One of the places
it would pass through would be the ancient city of Sela, or “Petra”.
:18 Then Edom
said to him, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you
with the sword.”
:19 So the children of Israel said to him, “We will go by the Highway, and
if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me
only pass through on foot, nothing more.”
:20 Then he said, “You shall not pass through.” So Edom came out against
them with many men and with a strong hand.
:21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so
Israel turned away from him.
The Edomites weren’t about to let this mass of two million people come
through and destroy their land.
20:22-29 Aaron dies
:22 Now the children of Israel, the whole congregation, journeyed from
Kadesh and came to Mount Hor.
The Hebrew here is actually hōr
hāhār, or “mountain of mountains”
There are two
places called Mount Hor – one at the northern border of Israel, probably Mount
Hermon. The other one is located in the
south, in modern Jordan, near the city of ancient Petra.
:23 And the
Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom,
:24 “Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land
which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My
word at the water of Meribah.
:25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor;
:26 and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for
Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there.”
:26 gathered to his
people – he is going to join his ancestors in Paradise, in death.
Imagine being told that this was the day you were going to die!
:27 So Moses
did just as the Lord commanded, and they went up to Mount Hor in the sight of
all the congregation.
:28 Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son;
and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came
down from the mountain.
– these were the high priest’s garments.
They represented the job that Aaron had, as high priest.
Giving the garments to Eleazar was like passing the baton. As soon as the clothes are switched, Aaron
An interesting picture: When our job
is finished, we change clothes and go home.
:29 Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of
Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.
defeated at Hormah
:1 The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that
Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel and
took some of them prisoners.
:2 So Israel made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed deliver
this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.”
:3 And the Lord listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the
Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of
that place was called Hormah.
This may sound a bit extreme.
several problems involved:
1. We have a
warped sense of justice today.
In today’s society, we have an unjust view of when death is wrong.
wrong to kill whales. But it’s
okay to kill unborn children.
The Bible, on the other hand, condemns murder, but not punishment for
2. People don’t
understand who the Canaanites were.
These were a people who had a HUGE morality problem.
They worshipped their gods with crude sexual practices, or
even with human sacrifices.
When they built their houses, they protected themselves from
evil spirits by killing their babies and burying them in pots in the
foundations of their houses.
God would use Israel as a tool of judgment on these wicked
This is not the first time they’ve been to this place. The last time they were here was forty years
earlier, when the spies gave the bad news about the giants, and the people
initially refused to go into the Promised Land.
After God said that they were to turn around and go back into the
wilderness, some people decided they would change their mind and try going
(Nu 14:44–45 NKJV) 44 But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop. Nevertheless,
neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed from the camp.
45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down
and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.
This time is different. This time
they followed God’s leading and asked for His help.
Defeat or Defeated
You can’t get away from the battles.
There will be times in life that are going to be just plain difficult.
Will you defeat the enemy or will you be defeated?
Even when the difficulty looks to others as if you’ve lost, you haven’t.
(2 Co 4:7–12 NKJV) —7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the
excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on
every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not
forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body
the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in
our body. 11 For we
who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus
also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death is working in us,
but life in you.
It’s about where your focus is.
If my focus is on doing my own thing, following my own
leading, then I’m in trouble.
If my focus is on the Lord and following Him, then no
matter what the outcome is, I am not truly defeated.
21:4-9 The Bronze
:4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go
around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on
It would have been so much
easier to have just taken this “King’s Highway” north, past the Dead Sea, and then hang a left
into the Promised Land.
have to take a huge detour to the east around the land of Edom.
Sometimes things don’t go as easy as we wish they would.
They were getting impatient. They
were ready to do this “Promised Land” thing, and now they are faced with a
When we get impatient, trouble’s right around the corner.
That’s one of the tricks a good salesman will use to get
you to break down and buy something. He’ll
get you to think that if you don’t buy it now, right now, that it’s going to be
gone, or you’ll lose your good deal.
One of the
signs of spiritual maturity, one of the “fruit of the Spirit” is “patience”.
(Ga 5:22 NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering…
(Jas 1:2–4 NKJV) —2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various
trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let
patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking
“patience” is linked with “perfect”, being “mature”
(Greek: teleios, “finished”, “complete”)
James is saying that we ought to learn to “enjoy the
You can complain about the detours or you can learn to
I really like my GPS app on my phone. When I go visit someone in a place I’ve never
been, I don’t worry anymore about getting lost when I’m driving by myself. As long as my GPS is working, I can make all
kinds of wrong turns and it gets me back on track. Yesterday I went to visit Dan Dalke. He’s no longer at the USC county hospital,
but has been moved to a nursing home in Inglewood. Probably not the best part of town. There was a strange mixture of adult book stores and
churches. Low rider Cadillacs. I was concerned when the nursing home’s
parking lot had a security fence around it and I had to park on the
street. And though I have to admit at
times I was a little uncomfortable, it was also kind of cool being in a place
I’ve never been before. One of the cool
things about Dan’s nursing home is that it faces a huge, beautiful park. When I found Dan, he was in a chair with a
view of this gorgeous park.
You can complain or learn to enjoy it.
:5 And the
people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of
Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul
loathes this worthless bread.”
:5 worthless bread
This is how they’re describing the manna.
If we judged what manna was all about by their comments, we wouldn’t be too
excited about it.
Moses told us what it tasted like:
(Ex 16:31 NKJV) —31 And the house of
Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the
taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
The Psalmist calls it “bread of angels” –
(Ps 78:24–25 NKJV) —24 Had rained down manna
on them to eat, And given them of the bread of heaven. 25 Men ate angels’ food;
He sent them food to the full.
They didn’t go hungry, they had an abundance. Problem was it was just all food that was
good for them.
Hunger for good things.
We’ve often talked about how manna is kind of like the word of God. We need to read it daily to feed
ourselves. But if we’re not careful, it
can become “boring” to us. We can get
tired of reading it or listening to Bible Studies.
I find that most of the time this happens to me, it’s not the teacher
that’s the problem, it’s my heart.
(Pr 27:7 NKJV) —7 A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, But to a hungry soul
every bitter thing is sweet.
:6 So the Lord
sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the
people of Israel died.
:6 fiery serpents
Did the serpents actually breathe fire? Or did
their bites hurt like a burn? Maybe
their coloring was similar to fire? Some
translations (NIV) translate the Hebrew “venomous snakes”, but the actual word
is saraph which means “burning”, the
same word that is the root of “seraphim”, or “burning ones”, the angels around
the throne of God.
The serpents were a judgment on the people’s complaining.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that the things that happened to Israel in
the wilderness were for our instruction, so we could learn from their mistakes.
(1 Co 10:9 NKJV) nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were
destroyed by serpents;
They “tried” the Lord, ekpeirazo
- to test thoroughly, tempt;
I see this as “putting God’s patience to the test”,
“you’re really testing my patience”
The idea of “just how far can I go and get away with it”.
the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against
the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from
us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
Moses has been so faithful over the last forty years to constantly
intercede for the people.
Last week we saw Moses lose his temper with the people and their constant
complaining. But this time Moses handles
the complaining okay. He prays.
It looks as if God’s discipline has worked, Moses simply intercedes for the
:8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a
pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall
:9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if
a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
:9 Moses made a
suggested that this is the origin of the sign for physicians. Perhaps not.
A Caduceus was also a winged pole with two serpents, carried by the
Greek mythological god Hermes.
Later on, the people would start to worship this bronze serpent.
Seven hundred years later, King Hezekiah would finally take the thing, break
it to pieces, and get rid of it.
(2 Ki 18:4 NKJV) He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down
the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made;
for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it
“Nehushtan” means simply, “a thing of brass”.
The people had taken something that was meant to heal
them, and turned it into an idol.
Turning Good into Idolatry
That’s our tendency, to always be getting our eyes off of God, Who really
did the work, and put it on material things, which don’t count for much.
Idols (this became an idol) are often found when people aren’t experiencing
a fresh work of God. Instead we think
back to when we “really were close to God” and find ourselves focusing on
something like a concert, or a certain pastor or speaker.
I think this is
why some churches have written prayers and chant ancient songs.
There was a time when God answered a certain prayer in a magnificent way,
and the people got to thinking that this was the way to pray…
The sad thing is that we can take something that has been a wonderful tool
in God’s hands, and turn it into something that takes us away from God Himself.
Sometimes when I’m not careful, I get to thinking back to “the good old
days of the Jesus Movement”. But could
it be that the best days are still ahead?
:9 when he looked
at the bronze serpent, he lived
Whenever any person got bit by one of these snakes, all he had to do was to
find the bronze serpent and look up at it.
He didn’t have to utter some magic formula.
He didn’t have to do some impossible deed.
Just look at the thing of brass.
A person might
get bit by a snake and immediately he’s faced by the thought, “Do I believe
that looking at a brass snake is going to do me any good?”
What good does looking up at a bronze snake do?
It’s a physical act that demonstrates faith in God to heal.
Then God would see that that person chose to follow after God’s provision
rather than disobey God’s ways, and God would respond by healing that person.
I wonder if anyone was ever bit by a snake, and refused to look up at the
serpent, and then died of his snake bite?
Looking to Jesus.
Jesus chose this incident to illustrate what it was like to be saved.
(Jn 3:14–16 NKJV) —14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so
must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not
perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His
only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have
What was Jesus saying?
1. He would be lifted up.
The serpent was lifted up on a pole.
Jesus was to be lifted up on a cross.
2. Salvation comes from believing.
Jesus, on a cross, would be placed before the world.
The world only has to believe enough to look to Him and
trust Him to save them to receive eternal life.
21:10-20 From Hor
:10 Now the children of Israel moved on and camped in Oboth.
:11 And they journeyed from Oboth and camped at Ije Abarim, in the
wilderness which is east of Moab, toward the sunrise.
:12 From there they moved and camped in the Valley of Zered.
:13 From there they moved and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which
is in the wilderness that extends from the border of the Amorites; for the
Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.
:14 Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the Lord: “Waheb in
Suphah, The brooks of the Arnon,
:14 the Book of the Wars of the Lord
We do not have a copy of this book.
:15 And the
slope of the brooks That reaches to the dwelling of Ar, And lies on the border
See map of
The people are going around the land of Edom on the east side.
The Arnon River
is the ancient boundary between Moabites and the Amorites, but also the
Moabites and the Ammonites.
If you looked at a map
of the land east of Israel, the Bashan and Og’s kingdom would be at the top, then the Ammonites,
then Sihon’s kingdom, then the Moabites, and in the south the Edomites.
:16 From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the Lord said to
Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.”
– Hebrew for “well”
:17 Then Israel
sang this song: “Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it—
:18 The well the leaders sank, Dug by the nation’s nobles, By the lawgiver,
with their staves.” And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah,
:17 Spring up, O
well – When was the last time Israel needed water?
Num.20:2-13 The waters of Meribah
The people complained.
Moses got mad.
Where Moses disobeyed by not speaking to the rock, but striking it.
We talked about how the Rock was Jesus (1Cor.10), and the picture God was
trying to make: Striking the rock the
first time (Jesus smitten for us), then speak to the rock (just believe in Him)
to receive water.
And now the people are singing to the well!
I know that it says that the leaders dug the well, but it’s neat that the
people were singing to it.
I can’t help
but think of the Rivers of Living Water (John 7:37-39) that spring up in us as
we worship God in song.
This seems to be where the song “I’ve Got a River of Life” comes from (at
I can’t but help think that the people are finally getting it. They are doing a little better, at least with
:19 from Mattanah
to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth,
:20 and from Bamoth, in the valley that is in the country of Moab, to the
top of Pisgah which looks down on the wasteland.
:20 in the country
See map of
There are a few things that happened that are not in the account in
Numbers. We get the details later from
Moses in the book of Deuteronomy.
When Israel was denied permission by Edom to travel through their land, God
warned Israel that He wouldn’t give them any of the Edomite land.
At the same time, God also tells Israel not to hassle the Moabites
As we’re going to see in chapters 22-25, it’s too bad that Moab didn’t know
this at the time, or else they might not have given Israel so much trouble!
Also known as Mount Nebo.
Show “Kadesh to
Pisgah” map video
A mountain a few miles due east of the northeast edge of the Dead Sea,
almost to the Plains of Moab across from Jericho.
This is where Moses viewed the promised land before his death (Deut.34:1).
Even though we will see the Israelites move northward and conquer two
Amorite kingdoms, they will come back here to cross the Jordan and enter the
:21 Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying,
- Sihon’s capital was in Heshbon
This fight with Sihon was the turning point for Israel. God seems to have considered this the
beginning of their taking the Promised Land (Deut. 2:24-25)
with the next king, Og, though we don't think about them much, were quite
significant parts of Israel's history.
Sihon alone, outside our passage here in Numbers 21, is found in 27 others
verses in the Bible! Even by Solomon's time (some 400 years later) that part of
the country, Gilead, was known as Sihon's kingdom. (1Ki.4:19)
The battle here would be so important, that God would use this victory to
shake up future enemies!
(Jos 2:10–11 NKJV) —10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red
Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of
the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.
11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there
remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is
God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
One victory builds on another.
God often uses the victories in our past to build upon, preparing us for
(1 Sa 17:34–37 NKJV) —34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his
father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the
flock, 35 I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its
mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and
killed it. 36 Your
servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will
be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 Moreover David said,
“The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the
bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to
David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”
Even if you've suffered a few defeats, remember that God is able to give
you victory again.
:22 “Let me
pass through your land. We will not turn aside into fields or vineyards; we
will not drink water from wells. We will go by the King’s Highway until we have
passed through your territory.”
:23 But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. So
Sihon gathered all his people together and went out against Israel in the
wilderness, and he came to Jahaz and fought against Israel.
Jahaz (see map)
:24 Then Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword, and took
possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the people of
Ammon; for the border of the people of Ammon was fortified.
:24 Israel defeated
Though it is Israeli men wielding Israeli weapons, later on Israel would
realize that it was God who was doing the real battle.
(Dt 31:4 NKJV) And the Lord will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings
of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them.
God’s deliverance, my hand.
We can get the idea sometimes that if I’m “trusting in the Lord” with my
problems, that I can’t be doing anything about it.
And sometimes it does mean standing back and doing nothing
Moses was told at the Red Sea: “Stand by and see the salvation ...”
But sometimes, like here, trusting in God can mean getting up and letting
God lead you to do something.
:24 from the Arnon to the Jabbok
This was the territory of the Amorites, of Sihon.
Moab's border (though it had extended north of the Arnon before Sihon captured
The Jabbok was the Ammonite border.
God had warned Israel not to take the land of the Ammonites (Deut.2).
The Jabbok river was halfway between the Dead Sea and Kinnereth (Galilee).
:25 So Israel
took all these cities, and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in
Heshbon and in all its villages.
:26 For Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought
against the former king of Moab, and had taken all his land from his hand as
far as the Arnon.
:27 Therefore those who speak in proverbs say: “Come to Heshbon, let it be built; Let the city of Sihon be repaired.
:27-29 Sihon's song
Apparently this was one of the top forty tunes of Sihon's day, after he had
captured all this territory from the Moabites.
:28 “For fire went out from Heshbon, A flame from the city of Sihon; It consumed Ar of Moab, The lords of the heights of the Arnon.
:29 Woe to you, Moab! You have
perished, O people of Chemosh! He has
given his sons as fugitives, And his
daughters into captivity, To Sihon king
of the Amorites.
The god of the Moabites.
He was known in other places as Moloch or Milcom.
Chemosh was worshipped by burning your children to him.
:30 “But we have shot at them; Heshbon
has perished as far as Dibon. Then we
laid waste as far as Nophah, Which
reaches to Medeba.”
Sihon’s tune and did a “remix”, adding verse 30 which talked about their
:31 Thus Israel
dwelt in the land of the Amorites.
:32 Then Moses sent to spy out Jazer; and they took its villages and drove
out the Amorites who were there.
:33 And they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. So Og king of Bashan
went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei.
Another term for the land
of Gilead, the land east of the Jordan to the north, east of the sea of Galilee
:34 Then the
Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand,
with all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon
king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon.”
:35 So they defeated him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no
survivor left him; and they took possession of his land.
Og was no ordinary guy, he was a giant.
(Dt 3:11 NLT) (King Og of Bashan was the last survivor of the giant Rephaites.
His bed was made of iron and was more than thirteen feet long and six feet
wide. It can still be seen in the Ammonite city of Rabbah.)
The Rephaim were a race of giants.
A bed that’s 13 ½ feet long and 6 feet wide! That’s a BIG bed!
Goliath wasn’t the only giant in the Bible.
The Israelites were originally afraid of going into the Promised Land
because of the giants (Num. 13-14). And
yet here they are conquering a giant before they have even crossed the border.
Life is full of giants. You won’t be
able to avoid them.
The truth is, God is bigger than the giants.
:34 Do not fear him
Even though Og and his surroundings were huge, God was bigger.
What kind of fears do you face?
Don’t be afraid
Why should I not be afraid?
1. God loves me
(Zec 2:8 NKJV) For thus says the Lord of hosts: “He sent Me after
glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the
apple of His eye.
2. God is on my
(Ro 8:31 NKJV) What then shall we say to these things? If God is
for us, who can be against us?
3. God is much
bigger than my enemies
(1 Jn 4:4 NKJV) You are of God, little children, and have overcome
them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
4. God’s will is
(what if God’s will for me is a terrible thing and I won’t be able to take
(Je 29:11 NKJV) —11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward
you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and