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Moses and the Journey's End
Moses Hits the Rock
The children of Israel traveled in the desert of Zin. They stopped at Kadesh,
which was a city on the border of a country called Edom. While they were there,
Miriam, who was Moses' sister died. They buried her there.
There was also no water there. The people started complaining again. The Lord spoke to Moses and told him to take his rod and speak to the rock. Water would come out of the rock and there would be water for all the people and all their animals.
But Moses was angry. He was tired and frustrated with these complaining people. So he went to the rock and stood there before all the people. He said, "Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?" Then instead of speaking to the rock as God had told him, he hit the rock twice with his rod. He probably hit in hard and in anger. Water came out for all the people.
But this made God angry with Moses and Aaron. God said to them, "Because you did not believe me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them."
The Inhospitable King
The children of Israel needed to go through the land of Edom. Moses sent a
message to the king of Edom asking permission to go through their land. Moses
promised that they would stay on the king's road, that they would not go through
the fields or vineyards, they would not drink the water. They would only go
through to get to the other side.
The king of Edom told them they could not go through or the people of Edom would come against them with swords.
Moses asked again. He said if the cattle drank some of the water they would pay for it.
The king of Edom said no, and sent the people out against the children of Israel to make sure they did not go through their country.
So the children of Israel had to go another way. They went to mount Hor and camped there for awhile.
God had told Moses and Aaron that they would not lead the people into Canaan.
God decided that it was time for Aaron to die. God told Moses to take Aaron and
Aaron's son, Eleazar, up onto mount Hor.
The people saw Moses, Aaron and Eleazar go up to the mountain. God had told Moses to take Aaron's garments off and put them on Eleazar. I don't think Aaron took off all of his clothes. I think he was taking off the special garments that he wore as the head of the Levite priesthood. This meant that Eleazar was now the head of the Levite priesthood, taking the place of his father.
Aaron died on the top of mount Hor. Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. The people knew that Aaron was dead. They mourned for him for thirty days. (Numbers 20)
The Brazen Serpent
King Arad the Canaanite heard that the children of Israel were close by. He made
war on them and took some of them prisoner. The children of Israel in turn made
a vow with God that if God would help them they would destroy King Arad's
cities. And that is what they did.
Now the people began their journey again. They left mount Hor and went toward the Red Sea. They had to go around Edom. It was a rough way to go and the people started complaining again. They were the usual complaints, that Moses had brought them into the wilderness to die, that there was no water, and that they were sick of manna.
God sent fiery serpents, or snakes, to the people. I think that fiery must mean that when they bit you it was extremely painful. And maybe they were easily made angry to bite. We do know that they were poison because many of the people died.
Now the people were sorry that they had complained. They asked Moses to pray to the Lord to take away the serpents. Moses prayed, but God did not take away the poison snakes. Instead he told Moses to make a little brass statue of a snake, the brazen serpent, and put it on a pole which could be put up high up so the people could see it. If someone got bit, all they had to do was look at the brazen serpent and they would live.
How easy it would be to just look at the brazen serpent! There were probably some people who thought that that was silly and could not possibly save them. Those people would have died if the poisonous snakes had bitten them. God was marching these people around in the wilderness. The people who were rebellious and did not have faith in God were dying like flies. God needed a people with faith in Him to go into Canaan.
The next people the children of Israel ran into were the Amorites. They sent messengers to Sihon, the king of the Amorites, asking if they could pass through their land. Sihon said no and gathered his people to fight against the children of Israel. This time the children of Israel fought back and won. They took the cities of the Amorites and began to live in them. They also fought against Bashan and took over their land as well. (Numbers 21)
Balaam Blesses Israel
The children of Israel had just fought the Amorites and the people of Bashan and
won. Now Balak, the king of Moab became afraid. Moab is where present day Jordan
is now. The children of Israel were camped on the plains on the east side of the
Jordan river. Remember that there were perhaps two million people. Many had died
because of disobedience and complaining, but the birthrate must have been good
and so seeing all those people must have been very upsetting for Balak.
Balak sent messengers to a man named Balaam. Balaam was famous among his people. Balak's message to Balaam was, "I ask you to come, and curse these people; for they are too strong for me; curse them that I might have power over them, that we may beat them and I may drive them out of the land; for I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed."
Blessings and curses are mentioned many times in the Bible. Basically if you ask that someone be blessed it means you are asking that good things happen to them. If you ask that someone be cursed you are asking that bad things will happen to them. Mostly we bring blessings and curses upon ourselves by the things we do. Some actions just naturally bring good things to us, some actions just naturally bring bad things to us. Actions that bring bad things to us are what we call sin.
The messengers were princes of Midian and Moab. They went to Balaam's house. They delivered the message and Balaam invited them to spend the night while he thought about it.
In the night God spoke to Balaam. "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse these people, for they are blessed."
In the morning Balaam told the messengers that he could not go with them. The messengers went back to Balak and told him that Balaam would not come and curse the children of Israel.
Balak sent another delegation, these princes were more important than the first messengers. This time the message from Balak was, "Don't let anything stop you from coming. I will promote you and give you great honor. I will do whatever you say. I ask you to come and curse these people."
Balaam answered them, "It doesn't matter if Balak offers me a house full of silver and gold. I cannot go against what God tells me to do."
Then he invited the princes to stay overnight. God spoke to Balaam again that night. "I don't want you to go with these men, but if you choose to go with them, you will speak the words I tell you to speak."
The next morning Balaam made a mistake. He chose to go with the men to Balak. This was being kind of wishy-washy. God had told him already that he could not curse the people, so why go? God was angry and He sent an angel to stand in the path in front of Balaam.
Balaam was riding his good little donkey. He also had two servants riding beside him. All of a sudden Balaam's donkey went off the path into a field. Balaam hit the donkey to get her back onto the path.
Then they were walking between two walls, probably made of stones, that went through a vineyard. The donkey scraped up against the wall and smashed Balaam's foot. Balaam hit her again.
Then they were in a place that was so narrow that the donkey could not turn at all. She sat down right there on the path with Balaam still riding her. Balaam was really getting angry now and he started beating her with his staff.
Then the donkey spoke to him, "Why have you hit me three times now?"
Balaam must not have been too surprised to hear his donkey talk and he answered, "Because you have mocked me! If I had a sword in my hand right now I would kill you!"
And the donkey said, "Haven't I been a good donkey ever since you have had me? Have I ever done this to you before?"
"Well no," admitted Balaam. Just then Balaam finally saw what his good donkey had been seeing. There was an angel standing in the path with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam fell flat on his face.
The angel explained, "Why have you hit your donkey three times? You were not to go with these men and so I have been standing in the path. If your donkey had not turned these three times I would have killed you, but she would have lived."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I have sinned. I will go back home now," Balaam told the angel.
The angel replied, "Go with the men, but remember, you will speak only what God tells you to speak."
Balak went out to meet Balaam. He asked Balaam, "Why didn't you come when I asked you? Don't you honor me enough?"
Balaam answered, "I have come to you, but I only have power to say the words which God puts in my mouth."
The next morning Balak took Balaam up to a high place where they could look out over the children of Israel who were camped below.
Balaam told Balak to build seven altars, and prepare to sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams. So it was done and the animals were sacrificed on the altars. Then Balaam went by himself to talk with God. God told Balaam what to say to Balak.
Balaam could only pronounce a blessing on Israel. This made Balak angry, so he took Balaam to a different place where they could see a different view of the children of Israel. Again they built seven altars and sacrificed seven oxen and seven rams.
It did no good. Balaam could only pronounce a blessing on Israel.
Again Balak took Balaam to another place. They built seven altars and sacrificed seven oxen and seven rams again.
It did no good for Balak. Balaam could only pronounce a blessing on the children of Israel. Balaak was very angry. He reminded Balaam that he could give him riches and a place of honor.
Balaam then reminded Balak that he had told the messengers who came to get him that he, Balaam, would only be able to say the words that God gave him to say. Balak had wanted the children of Israel to be cursed, but God had chosen to bless them.
Then Balaam went home. (Numbers 22-24)
Balaam could not curse the children of Israel. The people of Moab and the people
of Midian were still afraid of them. So they came up with a new plan.
The women of Moab worshipped an idol named Baal-peor. They invited the children of Israel to make sacrifices to and worship their god. This made the Lord very angry. God was so angry that he let a plague loose in the camp of the children of Israel. A plague is any kind of sickness which can spread through the people very quickly and kill them.
The Lord told Moses to have all the men who had joined with Baal-peor killed and their heads hanged out in the sun.
As the children of Israel were weeping in front of the tabernacle because of the dead men, one of their men brought a Midianite woman to show off to Moses and the children of Israel. Phinehas, the son of Aaron, killed the man and the Midianite woman. This act stopped the plague which the Lord had sent into the camp. Before it was stopped 24,000 people died.
The man and the woman who had been killed were not just little teenagers starstruck over each other. The man's name was Zimri. He was an important man in the tribe of Simeon. And the woman was not an ordinary woman. Her name was Cozbi, she was the daughter of Zur, who was a prince among the Midianites.
The Moabites and the Midianites thought that they could destroy the children of Israel by enticing them to forsake their God and worship Baal-peor instead. If the Moabite and Midianite women could lure away the men of Israel they would have not been a threat to them anymore. That was their plan, but it backfired on them.
Now the Lord told Moses to vex, or go to war against, the Midianites. (Numbers 25)
The children of Israel chose 1000 men from each tribe of Israel to go fight against the Midianites. So 12,000 men went to the Midianites and killed all the men. They killed all five kings of Midian, and they killed Balaam. Balaam had made a blessing on the children of Israel, but had then turned right around and told the Midianites how to defeat them in another way.
Then the fighting men brought home the Midianite women and children and all the flocks and goods. When Moses saw what they had brought back with them he was extremely angry. The Bible says he was "wroth" which means very, very, very angry.
"Have you saved all the women alive? These women listened to Balaam and enticed the children of Israel to worship Baal-peor. Because of that there was a plague among you. Kill all the male children and kill all the women. Only save the female children."
So, we see that the plan of Balaam destroyed his nation. God would not be with a people who worshipped idols. The children of Israel had been chosen to be a special people and a light to the world. God would fight against all those who fought against them. (Numbers 31)
Going into Canaan
The children of Israel were ready to go into Canaan. It had taken forty years
because they had not had enough faith in God's promises to go in when they left
Egypt. But now all they had to do was go over the Jordan River and begin to take
the land. (Numbers 32-33)
In the second year and second month of the calendar of the children of Israel they had been camped at Mount Sinai. When they were there God told Moses to count all the men, twenty years and up who could fight. They counted all the tribes except Levi. Of all twelve tribes they counted 603,550 men. (Numbers 1)
The children of Israel were counted again in Moab right before they went into Canaan. Moses and Eleazar had them counted after a plague. Eleazar was the son of Aaron, who had died. This time the count was 601,730. The only two men from the first count at Sinai, and who would go into Canaan were Caleb and Joshua. They were the two men who had trusted in God and wanted to go into Canaan years ago. They had been faithful to God and God allowed them to go into Canaan. (Numbers 26)
On the east side of the Jordan River was land that was good for raising cattle. The tribes of Reuben and Gad had a lot of cattle and decided that they wanted to stay there. Moses and Eleazar did not like this idea. All the children of Israel needed to go into Canaan together and fight for the land. It would not be fair if the tribes of Reuben and Gad did not share in the fighting. After all, everyone had just fought in the land that Reuben and Gad wanted.
But all the men came to an agreement. The women and children of Reuben and Gad would stay on the east side of the Jordan River in the cities which had just been conquered. They would make their homes and take care of the cattle. The men of Reuben and Gad would fight in Canaan with the rest of the tribes. Half of the tribe of Manasseh also decided to do the same. They promised that they would not return home until all the tribes were settled. (Numbers 32)
God's Promises and Warning
This is what God told Moses to tell the children of Israel before they went into
"You shall drive out the inhabitants of the land before you. You will destroy their idols and their high places where they worship them. If you do not drive them out they will be there to give you trouble. They will give you so much trouble and lead you so astray that I will do to you what I thought to do to them.
Each tribe shall divide up the land among you, larger families shall inherit more land, smaller families shall inherit less land. You will do it fairly, by drawing lots. (Numbers 33)
You will not do the things which the people of Egypt do. You will not do the things which the people of Canaan do.
You will keep My laws, for I am your God. If you keep My laws you shall live.
Because of the things which the Canaanites do the land has been made dirty, the land vomits them out. If you do the same things you will be vomited out of the land also." (Leviticus 18)
God promised the children of Israel that if they obeyed His laws He would walk among them. He would be their God and they would be His people.
But if they despised God's laws then God would set His face against them. Their enemies would kill them, their land would not grow food, wild beasts would kill their children and cattle. Diseases would come to them. God would destroy the high places where they worshipped idols. Then the children of Israel would be dragged away to the lands of other people where they would always be afraid or their enemies. And the land would rest.
Then God tells them that if this happens to them and if they are sorry and will confess their sins and will take the punishment which He gives them that God will remember all the promises which He has made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This is the reason why the children of Israel were told to destroy the Canaanites which were in the land, so that the children of Israel would not become like them and have terrible things happen to them. They were to be a righteous people. (Leviticus 26)
Moses was 120 years old when the children of Israel were ready to go into
Canaan. God told him that he could not go into Canaan. He had made God angry
when he hit a rock at Kadesh that he was supposed to speak to. God had said to
Moses, "Because you did not believe me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the
children of Israel, you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I
have given them." (Deuteronomy 34)
But I think it also had something to do with the unbelief and rebelliousness of the children of Israel. When they would not accept the first set of stone tables, which held the law of Jesus Christ, they had also rejected the high priesthood. Moses was a prophet and a high priest. The priesthood that was left to the children of Israel was to get the people ready for Jesus Christ. When Jesus came he would bring the high priesthood back with him. (Section 83:4)
God took Moses up onto the mountain Nebo where he could look at all the land of Canaan. This was the land which God had promised to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be their home. Moses died in Moab and no one knows where he is buried.
The children of Israel mourned for Moses for thirty days. Remember the twelve spies who went into Canaan forty years before? Joshua was one of the two spies who had faith in God. The other was Caleb. Those two men were the only original men who were allowed to go into Canaan. Joshua became their leader after Moses died. (Deuteronomy 34)
Joshua and the children of Israel had a long road ahead of them and many battles to fight. But this is the end of the story of Moses, who had done such a tremendous job of leading the people who God worked with to bless the nations of the earth.
Adapted by Lois M. Anderson from the Inspired Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants
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Copyright 2002 Lois M. Anderson: All Rights Reserved
Last revised: August 18, 2002