Numbers 20:3
And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!
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(3) Would God that we had died . . . —The reference seems to be to the plague which broke out after the insurrection of Korah. The language of the murmurers is very similar to that which is recorded in Numbers 16:14, and the word gava (die, or expire), which is twice used in this verse, and which occurs in Numbers 16:26; Numbers 16:28, in connection with the history of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, is found only in one other place throughout the last four books of the Pentateuch—viz., Numbers 20:29. The probability that that plague was of comparatively recent occurrence, and not separated from the present murmuring by a period of nearly forty years, has been inferred from the use of the word brethren in this verse. The generation which was contemporary with those who perished in the plague which followed the rebellion of Korah is supposed by some to have been almost extinct at the time to which the events recorded in this chapter are commonly referred, and the word fathers, it is alleged, would, in that case, have been more applicable to those who perished than brethren. It may be observed, further, that the inquiry, “Wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt?” is more natural when regarded as the language of the generation which had come up out of Egypt as adults, and who looked back to the exodus as to a recent event, than when regarded as that of a generation of which a large number had been born in the wilderness, and the rest had left Egypt nearly forty years previously. These considerations, however, do not appear to be entitled to much weight. The older portion of the congregation, who would naturally be the spokesmen, would speak of those who perished in the insurrection of Korah as their brethren, whether the event itself was of recent occurrence or not; and the words which are rendered “Why have ye brought up, &c.?” may, with equal propriety, be rendered “Why did ye bring up, &c.?”(Comp. Numbers 20:16 and Note).

Numbers 20:3. Before the Lord — Suddenly, rather than to die such a lingering death. Their sin was much greater than that of their parents, because they should have taken warning by their miscarriages, and by the terrible effects of them, which their eyes had seen.

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 language of the murmurers is noteworthy. It has the air of a traditional remonstrance handed down from the last generation. Compare marginal references. 2-13. there was no water for the congregation—There was at Kadesh a fountain, En-Mishpat (Ge 14:7), and at the first encampment of the Israelites there was no want of water. It was then either partially dried up by the heat of the season, or had been exhausted by the demands of so vast a multitude. i.e. Suddenly, rather than to die such a lingering and painful death. Their sin was much greater than their parents’ in like case, because they should have taken warning by their miscarriages, and by the terrible effects of them, which their eyes had seen.

And the people chode with Moses,.... Contended with him in a wrangling and litigious manner, showing no reverence nor respect unto his person on account of the dignity of his office, and the many favours they had received from him; and this at a time, when, instead of quarrelling with him, they should have condoled him on the loss of his sister, and bewailed their own loss also of one who had been a prophetess to them, and a leader of them, Micah 6:4.

and spake, saying, would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord; either at Taberah by fire, or as Korah and his company in like manner, or as the fourteen thousand and seven hundred by a pestilence, Numbers 11:1 which they thought a much easier death, either of them, than to die of thirst: they might well call them brethren, not only because of the same nation, and nearly related to them, but because they were of the same temper and disposition, and indeed brethren in iniquity; and they seem to use this appellation, as being of the same sentiments with them, and in vindication of them, and adopt almost their very language; see Numbers 14:2.

And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!
3. And the people strove] The root of the verb (rîbh) is also that of the word Merîbhâh (‘the place of strife’), the name of the place being thus explained by means of a play on words; cf. Numbers 20:13.

when our brethren died before Jehovah] in the revolt of Korah (ch. 16).

Verse 3. - And the people abode with Moses. As their fathers had done in similar circumstances, as recorded in Exodus 17. Would God that we had died. See on Numbers 14:2. When our brethren died before the Lord. This is difficult, because the visitations of God at Kibroth-hattaavah (Numbers 11:34) and at Kadesh (Numbers 14:37) had overtaken not their brethren, but their fathers, some thirty-eight years before. On the other hand, the daily mortality which had carried off their brethren is clearly excluded by the phrase, "before the Lord." It may he that the rebellion of Korah happened towards the end of the period of wandering, and that the reference is to the plague which followed it; or it may be that the formula of complaint had become stereotyped, as those of children often do, and was employed from time to time without variation and without definite reference. The latter supposition is strongly supported by the character of the words which follow. Numbers 20:3Sin of Moses and Aaron at the Water of Strife at Kadesh. - In the arid desert the congregation was in want of water, and the people quarrelled with Moses in consequence. In connection with the first stay in Kadesh there is nothing said about any deficiency of water. But as the name Kadesh embraces a large district of the desert of Zin, and is not confined to one particular spot, there might easily be a want of water in this place or the other. In their faithless discontent, the people wished that they had died when their brethren died before Jehovah. The allusion is not to Korah's company, as Knobel supposes, and the word גּוע, "to expire," would be altogether inapplicable to their destruction; but the reference is to those who had died one by one during the thirty-seven years. "Why," they murmured once more against Moses and Aaron, "have ye brought the congregation of God into this desert, to perish there with their cattle? Why have ye brought it out of Egypt into this evil land, where there is no seed, no fig-trees and pomegranates, no vines, and no water to drink?"
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