Numbers 20:1
In the first month, the whole congregation of Israel entered the Wilderness of Zin and stayed in Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.
Sermons
The Abiding in Kadesh and the Death of MiriamD. Young Numbers 20:1
The Death of MiriamW. Jones.Numbers 20:1
The New DepartureJ. M. Gibson, D. D.Numbers 20:1
The Waters of MeribahAlexander MaclarenNumbers 20:1


1. The abiding in Kadesh. This was a return to the district occupied at the time when God pronounced the doom of wandering for forty years on the people (Numbers 13:26). We know also that the return took place as this long period was drawing to a close. There had been, so to speak, a profitless and melancholy wandering in a circle. We have but little information concerning this period, and what we have seems to have been given for the purpose of showing now rigorously God carried out the sentence. Chapter 33, tells us of the various halting-places, as if to impress us with the fact that Israel had not been allowed to go out of the wilderness. We are told of the rebellion of Korah and the giving of certain laws, but there is nothing to indicate progress. Probably, as has been suggested, there was more or less of dispersion during the forty years. God was waiting for an obstacle to be taken out of the way. In the Scriptures we do not find anything recorded unless as it bears on the advancement of the kingdom of God. Much of what the world calls history is after all mere trifling, and it is our wisdom and profit to notice not only what God has revealed, but also what he has concealed. This generation of the Israelites was thus a type of the many profitless lives that are lived in every generation. After a period of wandering and toil they come back to where they started from. There is nothing to show for all the years of weary work. Sadder still, there are many who come to be looked on as obstacles; their life stands in the way of human improvement and advance, and little or nothing can be done till they go. The return to Kadesh was like some great sign that a long and rigorous winter is drawing to its close.

2. The death of Miriam. There is a certain fitness in following up the regulations of chapter 19 with a record of death and burial. Death had dogged these Israelites all through their wanderings. There was perhaps no halting-place but what might have had this sentence joined with it: "Such a one died there and was buried there." Why then is the death of Miriam singled out for special mention? In the first place, she was a person of distinction by her office as prophetess, particularly as she was not only a prophetess, but sister to the two chief men in Israel. Then, being so, it is very noticeable that none of the three, so eminent in their life, were allowed to enter the promised land. There is mystery in their calling, mystery in the services they are called to render, and mystery in the seeming thwarting of all their hopes. One feels the hand of God is in all this. Man proposes, and reckons with something like certainty, but God disposes in a very different fashion. Miriam had sinned a great sin (chapter 12), but was it not a long while ago? She has lived on through all these wanderings, having seen many younger than herself falling on every hand. May she not then hope to live a little longer, and see the promised land before she dies? Perhaps such thoughts were in the aged woman's mind, perhaps many a time she had wept bitterly over her pride and envy in the past; but God's determinations cannot be set aside, and even when the earthly Canaan is again coming in sight, that sight is not for her. There was no way for Miriam, any more than the rest of us, to escape that suffering and loss in this world which so often come from wrong-doing. As to her possible part in the better country, there is necessary silence here. It is Christ who brought life and immortality to light. The great thing to be noticed is that Miriam died in Kadesh, was buried there, and consequently failed of entrance into the earthly Canaan. - Y.









The people abode in Kadesh.
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.)

Miriam died there.
I. DEATH TERMINATES THE MOST PROTRACTED LIFE. Miriam must have been about 130 years old when she died.

II. DEATH TERMINATES THE MOST EVENTFUL LIFE.

1. The girl watching over the life of her infant brother (Exodus 3:4-8).

2. The experienced woman sharing in the interest and action of the stirring events which led to the great emancipation from Egypt.

3. The prophetess leading the exultant songs and dances of a triumphant people (Exodus 15:20, 21).

4. The envious woman aspiring after equality with, and speaking against her greater brother (Numbers 12:1, 2).

5. The guilty woman smitten with leprosy because of the sin (Numbers 12:9, 10).

6. The leprous woman healed in answer to the prayer of the brother whom she had spoken against (Numbers 12:13-15). The most stirring and eventful life is closed by death, as well as the quiet and monotonous one.

III. DEATH TERMINATES THE MOST DISTINGUISHED LIFE.

1. Miriam was distinguished by her gifts. Prophetic gifts arc ascribed to her. "Miriam, the prophetess," is her acknowledged title (Exodus 15:20).

2. Miriam was distinguished by her position.

IV. DEATH, BY REASON OF SIN, SOMETIMES TERMINATES LIFE EARLIER THAN IT OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE DONE.

V. DEATH SOMETIMES TERMINATES LIFE WITH SUGGESTIONS OF A LIFE BEYOND. It was so in the case of Miriam. Can we think that the gifts with which she was so richly endowed, and the treasures of experience which in her long and eventful life she had gathered, were all lost at death? This would be in utter opposition to the analogy of the Divine arrangements in the universe.

(W. Jones.)

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