The New Departure
Numbers 20:1
Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month…

The fortieth year is now running its course. The time of the curse has nearly expired. And now preparations may be begun for entering a second time on the march to Canaan, where a new generation must vindicate the claim of Israel to be indeed "the hosts of the Lord," by taking possession of the land of promise. It was at Kadesh that the sentence had been pronounced which doomed their fathers to these dreary years of wandering. It is at Kadesh again that the camp is reorganised. It seems likely that during the interval there was no definite aim or object before the people, so that they moved about as suited their convenience or necessities, very much as the wandering tribes of the desert do still. This would lead to a relaxation of discipline and order in the camp, and more or less scattering of the people. Their unity was indeed to a certain extent kept up, and their marching orders given as of old, probably at long intervals. So at least we would infer from the itinerary in chap. Numbers 33.; but there must have been no little disorganisation and dispersion, rendering it necessary that there should be a reassembling of the forces. For this purpose no place could be better or more appropriate than Kadesh, not only because it must have been so familiar to all, but also because, by making it their point of departure, they resumed the thread that had been broken by the unbelief of their fathers. The total loss of the long interval of time, moreover, is more distinctly marked by the gathering of the people together at the old halting-place. There is a striking contrast between the new departure and the old. The first began with the numbering and mustering of the armed men, and all the bustle, activity, and energy of a youthful host setting out to victory. The second seems to have a much less hopeful beginning. The twentieth of Numbers is one of the saddest chapters in the book. It begins with the death of her who had been the leader in the song of victory on the shores of the Red Sea. It ends with the death of him who had so long been the honoured representative of Israel in the Holy and the Most Holy Place. And, between the two, we have the old story of murmuring on the part of the people, and mercy on the part of God, but with this sad addition, that Moses himself has a fall — a fall so serious that it leads to his own, as well as Aaron's, exclusion from the land of promise. It seems a hopeless beginning indeed. But was there not something hopeful in its very hopelessness? Recall that scene of wrestling at Peniel, when the patriarch Jacob gained the new name of Israel. How did he gain it? By his own strength? Nay. It was through weakness that he was made strong. It was when his power was utterly broken that his hope of victory began. This will illustrate what we mean when we say that there is something hopeful in the very hopelessness of this chapter. And this prepares the way for the great lesson of the next chapter, which may be expressed in the very words which follow the passage just quoted from the 146th Psalm, "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God."

(J. M. Gibson, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.

WEB: The children of Israel, even the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month: and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.

The Death of Miriam
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