Miriam’s death; Moses strikes the rock twice; Edom refuses to allow Israel passage on their land; Aaron’s death; the judgment of the fiery serpents; the serpent of brass; Israel defeats King Arad, the Amorites, and the Moabites; Balaam is hired to curse the Israelites; the prophecies of Balaam.


Chapter 20 marks the end of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. The death of Aaron, which takes place in this chapter, happened in the fortieth year after the Children of Israel came up out of Egypt (see Num. 3:38), and from this point, Israel either marched or halted, but did not wander.

It is significant that this chapter groups together three significant events: 1) Miriam’s death; 2) Moses sin (striking the rock twice); 3) Aaron’s death. These three events point to the fact that Aaron, representative of the priesthood, could not successfully lead Israel into the land of promise and rest; nor could Miriam, representative of the Prophets; nor could Moses, representative of the Law. The way into the Promised Land was to be led by Joshua, whom we will see as we study the Book that bears his name, is an incredible type of the Lord Jesus Christ (note: Joshua is the Hebrew rendering of the name Jesus!).

The reason God was so stern with Moses about disobeying His command to speak to the rock is revealed in I Corinthians 10:4. That wasn’t just ANY rock. That Rock was Christ! The Rock had already been smitten once (Ex. 17:5), and God didn’t want it smitten again. Striking it again would imply that Christ’s one sacrifice on the Cross wasn’t sufficient to pay for man’s sin. Because of Moses’ defilement of the type, he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. (Husbands, take note, God does not take kindly when someone spoils the picture of His Son! You, too, are a picture of Christ in your relationship to your wife (Eph. 5:22-32). Unless your relationship with your wife is right, it will be as impossible for you to enter Canaan (the fullness of life in Christ) as it was for Moses.)

Chapter 21 presents another incredible picture of Christ. The people had been bitten with the fiery serpents because of two sins: They spoke against God, and they spoke against Moses. Because of their sin, they were dying (Num. 21:5-6). In like fashion, we are sinners because we have sinned against God, and because we have sinned against our fellow man (Mark 12:30-31). Because of our sin, we have been bitten by the fiery serpent of sin, and are destined to die (Rom. 6:23a “the wages of sin is death”).

God’s remedy in Israel was a serpent of brass that was to be lifted up on a pole among the people, and all who looked to it were delivered from death to life. In John 3:14, Jesus said, “And AS Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him (i.e. look to Him in faith) should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Note several things comparing the physical salvation provided through the serpent of brass lifted up on the pole, and the spiritual salvation provided through the Lord Jesus Christ, lifted up on the cross:

1. Their salvation was BY FAITH.

It wasn’t by anything they did, the command was simply to “LOOK

and LIVE!”


Israel was not saved by looking at the serpent AND keeping the

Law … or bringing a sacrifice… or by promising reform. They were

saved by faith alone. Likewise, our salvation is not Christ PLUS

anything! If anything needs to be ADDED to Christ, it is to say

that Christ is not sufficient in Himself to provide our

salvation. God forbid!

3. Their was only ONE REMEDY. We have all heard countless times

that, “There are many roads to heaven.” There was only ONE

REMEDY in the camp of Israel, and there is only ONE REMEDY

today! Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am THE WAY (not “a” way). . .

no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Unless a person looks

to Christ by faith, the sting of death (I Cor. 15:56) is

inevitable and eternal.

4. Their salvation was IMMEDIATE. Just as their was an immediate

miracle when the bitten victim in Israel looked to the serpent of

brass, so every sinner bitten by the fiery serpent of sin

receives the immediate miracle of eternal life when He looks to

Christ by faith.

In chapters 22- 24 is the strange story of Balaam and Balak. Balak tried to hire Balaam to curse the Children of Israel, but every time he opened his mouth to do so, much to his surprise and Balak’s anger, out came blessing!


In the ROCK which Moses struck Num. 20:8-11; Ex. 17:6 (Christ, the Rock I Cor. 10:4, was struck once through His death on the cross, and does not need to be struck again. Rom. 6:10 “For in that he died, he died unto sin once.” )

In the SERPENT OF BRASS Num. 21:8-9 (John 3:14).

In the prophesied STAR and SCEPTER Num. 24:17 (Heb. 1:8 scepter; Rev. 22:16 star).