Numbers 20:13
This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.
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(13) This is the water of Meribah.—i.e., of strife. (See Exodus 17:7, and Note; also Numbers 27:14, where the words “in Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin,” are added to distinguish the latter from the earlier miracle.) In Deuteronomy 32:51 the waters are spoken of as those of “Meribah of Kadesh.”

And he was sanctified in them.—The reference in the words in them seems to be either to the word waters, which is plural in Hebrew, or, more probably, to the children of Israel, amongst whom Moses and Aaron were included. It has been supposed that the place derived its name of Kadesh (or, more fully, Kadesh-Barnea, Numbers 32:8) from the cognate verb, which is rendered sanctify in this and the preceding verse. It was in Kadesh that the sentence of exclusion had been pronounced upon the people generally (Numbers 14:22-23), and upon Moses and Aaron in particular, and it was thus that the Lord sanctified Himself in dealing with the transgressors. If the place derived its name, Kadesh, from these circumstances, it must have been called by that name proleptically in Genesis 14:7—a supposition which is entirely consistent with the manner in which the place is mentioned in that verse (“Enmishpat, which is Kadesh.”)

Numbers 20:13. Meribah — That is, strife. In them — Or, among them, the children of Israel, by the demonstration of his omnipotency, veracity, and clemency toward the Israelites, and of his impartial holiness and severity against sin, even in his greatest friends and favourites.

20:1-13 After thirty-eight years' tedious abode in the wilderness, the armies of Israel advanced towards Canaan again. There was no water for the congregation. We live in a wanting world, and wherever we are, must expect to meet with something to put us out. It is a great mercy to have plenty of water, a mercy which, if we found the want of, we should more own the worth of. Hereupon they murmured against Moses and Aaron. They spake the same absurd and brutish language their fathers had done. It made their crime the worse, that they had smarted so long for the discontent and distrusts of their fathers, yet they venture in the same steps. Moses must again, in God's name, command water out of a rock for them; God is as able as ever to supply his people with what is needful for them. But Moses and Aaron acted wrong. They took much of the glory of this work of wonder to themselves; Must we fetch water? As if it were done by some power or worthiness of their own. They were to speak to the rock, but they smote it. Therefore it is charged upon them, that they did not sanctify God, that is, they did not give to him alone that glory of this miracle which was due unto his name. And being provoked by the people, Moses spake unadvisedly with his lips. The same pride of man would still usurp the office of the appointed Mediator; and become to ourselves wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Such a state of sinful independence, such a rebellion of the soul against its Saviour, the voice of God condemns in every page of the gospel.The water of Meribah - i. e. "Strife." The place is called "Meribah in Kadesh" Numbers 27:14, and "Meribah-Kadesh" Deuteronomy 32:51. to distinguish it from the "Meribah" of Exodus 17:2 ff.

And he was sanctified in them - An allusion doubtless to the name "Kadesh" (holy), which though not now bestowed, acquired a new significance from the fact that God here vindicated His own sanctity, punishing Moses and Aaron who had trespassed against it.

13. This is the water of Meribah—The word "Kadesh" is added to it [De 32:51] to distinguish it from another Meribah (Ex 17:7). Meribah, called Meribah Kadesh, to distinguish it from another Meribah, Exodus 17:7. Sanctified in them, or, among them, to wit, the children of Israel last mentioned, by the demonstration of his omnipotency, veracity, and clemency towards the Israelites, and of his impartial holiness and severity against sin even in his greatest friends and favourites, as Moses was.

This is the water of Meribah,.... Or "strife": this is the name by which the water had in this place, and from this rock, was called; and which is the same name given to the place at Horeb, where a rock had been smitten, and water had flowed, as now, the first year they came out of Egypt; and to distinguish this from that, this is sometimes called Meribah-Kadesh, Deuteronomy 32:51, this being at Kadesh, as that was at Rephidim:

because the children of Israel strove with the Lord: for their chiding and striving with Moses was interpretatively striving with the Lord himself, whose ministers and servants they were:

and he was sanctified in them; that is, the glory of his divine perfections was displayed in them; either in the waters fetched out of the rock, which was a proof of the almighty power of God, and of his truth and faithfulness to his promises; or in the children of Israel, in whose sight, and for whose sake this miracle was wrought: the Targum of Jonathan expressly says, in Moses and Aaron, in not sparing these his saints, but expressing severity towards them for their sin; so Jarchi and Aben Ezra interpret it.

This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he {h} was sanctified in them.

(h) By showing himself almighty and maintaining his glory.

13. he was sanctified in them] The verb is from the same root as that of Kadesh (‘sacred’), and there is perhaps an intentional play on the name. The expression means ‘he proved, or vindicated, himself as holy,’ in spite of the sin of Moses and Aaron.

in them] Either in the waters, i.e. by his miracle in giving water, or, better, in the hearts of the people; cf. Ezekiel 28:25.

Verse 13. - This is the water of Meribah, or "water of strife." Septuagint, ὕδωρ ἀντιλογίας. The word "Meribah" appears, however, to form part of a proper name in Deuteronomy 32:51. A similar use of the word is recorded in Exodus 17:7. That the same name was more or less definitely attached to these two scenes is only another way of saying that there was a strong similarity between the two sets of associations. At the same time the differences are so marked in the narratives that they leave very distinct impressions upon the mind. And he was sanctified in them, i.e., he revealed there his holiness and power, and put to silence their evil murmurings against him. He was sanctified in them all the more abundantly because Moses and Aaron failed to sanctify him in the eyes of the people; but what they failed to do he brought to pass without their agency. Numbers 20:13The account closes with the words, "This is the water of strife, about which the children of Israel strove with Jehovah, and He sanctified Himself on them." This does not imply that the scene of this occurrence received the name of "strife-water," but simply that the water which God brought out of the rock for the Israelites received that name. But God sanctified Himself on them, by the fact that, on the one hand, He put their unbelief to shame by the miraculous gift of water, and on the other hand punished Moses and Aaron for the weakness of their faith.

(Note: The assumption of neological critics, that this occurrence is identical with the similar one at Rephidim (Exodus 17), and that this is only another saga based upon the same event, has no firm ground whatever. The want of water in the arid desert is a fact so constantly attested by travellers, that it would be a matter of great surprise if Israel had only experienced this want, and quarrelled with its God and its leaders, once in the course of forty years. As early as Exodus 15:22. the people murmured because of the want of drinkable water, and the bitter water was turned into sweet; and immediately after the event before us, it gave utterance to the complaint again, "We have no bread and no water" (Numbers 21:4-5). But if the want remained the same, the relief of that want would necessarily be repeated in the same or a similar manner. Moreover, the occurrences at Rephidim (or Massah-Meribah) and at Kadesh are altogether different from each other. In Rephidim, God gave the people water out of the rock, and the murmuring of the people was stayed. In Kadesh, God no doubt relieved the distress in the same way; but the mediators of His mercy, Moses and Aaron, sinned at the time, so that God sanctified Himself upon them by a judgment, because they had not sanctified Him before the congregation. (See Hengstenberg, Dissertations, vol. ii.))

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