20 The Death of Aaron

<< Numbers 21: Death of Aaron: The Brazen Serpent >>

The forty years were almost passed, and it was time for the people to take up their journey to the promised land. They were to come into the country from the east, by the gate-way of the Jordan.

On the east side of the great valley which leads south from the Dead Sea to Ihe Red Sea was a rough, mountainous country with upland pastures and deep, narrow valleys. About, midway, where the mountains rise the highest, they are called Mount Seir. Here are the cliffs with caves which in Abraham’s day were the homes of the cave-dwellers, the Horites. And here, long after the time of our story, in the Romandays, the buildings of Petra the “rock city” were cut out. Near by, in Mount Seir, we may believe, was the high top called Mount Hor. The natural wildness of the scenery, the carved buildings, and the bright and rich colors of the rock make Petra strange and beautiful.

The people of this mountain country were the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. But they were not friendly to the children of Israel, and would not let them pass through their country. So the people must go a long way to the south to go around the land of Edom.

We must read about something that happened in Mount Hor, and something else that happened as they were journeying around the land of Edom.

And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers: And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet. And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him. And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying, Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor: And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there. And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount. And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.—Numbers XX. 14-29; XXI. 4-9.

Author: William L. Worcester 1904

Spiritual Correspondences

Serpents >> Affection for sensuous things

Brass >> Good in outward life

Serpent of Brass >> The lifting up of affections by the Lord

Spiritual Meaning

NUMBERS XX

14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:

14 Nevertheless, he who is only in representative worship merely external, is still persuaded from the natural affection of truth, that natural good, which is selfish good, provided there be only truths, is a genuine means of leading to the heavenly life, in conjunction with spiritual good, because it is in the natural life that regeneration is effected.

15 How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:

15 And the man of the church is instructed and apparently supported by this persuasion, while yet natural love merely, is opposed to and destructive of spiritual love both as to understanding and will.

16 And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border:

16 And only when the man of the church truly supplicates, the Lord by His love and by His truth, delivers him from the bondage of merely natural love, and endows him with the affection of truth, which is intermediate between the natural and spiritual man.

17 Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.

17 For in the temptation, the man of the church desires to enjoy the delights of the merely natural life, at the same time that he is willing to avoid its evils, its falsities, and even its appearances of truth from the Word by which it is supported; moreover he is willing to be guided by the leading principles of the Word, to continue in the path of rectitude without being diverted by evils or by errors, and thus to keep himself free from the evils of the world while passing through it.

18 And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.

18 But the truth is that the corrupted natural man is utterly opposed to the spiritual man, and desires his destruction by means of falsities derived from evil.

19 And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet.

19 Yet in spite of this warning, the temptation of the spiritual man continues; and he thinks he will pursue the path of rectitude; that if he imbibes false doctrines internal and external his redemption is still secure; and thus he is still persuaded that he may gratify his natural man and yet suffer no injury.

20 And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.

20 But the truth dictates that this cannot be ; that the corrupted natural man is utterly opposed to man’s spiritual progress both in affection and thought.

21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.

21 And this leads the spiritual man to see the true quality of the corrupted natural; that he cannot make progress in the spiritual life by tampering with it; and that he must, therefore, separate himself, and advance by means of uncontaminated truths,

22 And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.

22 But there follows this temptation as to truth and as to good, a change of state from the affection, or from the good, of truth to a further state of desolation arising from the corrupted natural man.

23 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,

23 In which there is influx from the Lord as to truth and as to good giving the perception,

24 Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.

24 That corrupted good, or merely representative worship, or external worship separated from internal must be rejected, since it can form no part of the truly heavenly life which is from the Lord, because it is contrary to Divine Truth; causes a disregard or misunderstanding of internal promptings; and provokes contention and strife about truths.

25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:

And thus corrupted worship, and the appearances of truth by which it is supported must be completely desolated;

26 And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.

26 Those who are in such worship must be deprived of the truths by means of which they have been able to simulate true worship, a new arrangement of those truths with those who are in truth conjoined with good must follow; those in external worship without internal must be associated with their like in the life eternal; and such worship must be entirely rejected.

27 And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.

27 And this actually happens according to Divine Order; and corrupted worship is desolated, this being fully perceived by the regenerated man;

28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.

28 Those who are in mere external worship are deprived of truths; and those who are in genuine worship are fully supplied with them ; corrupted worship is vastated even as to inmost things; and Divine Good and Divine Truth conjoined cease to be desolated.

29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

29 But when, with the man of the church, a prior state passes away, and a new state succeeds, there is mourning on account of lost truths, because good now triumphs, and the affection of truth as well as the affection of good is distressed.

NUMBERS XXI

4 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.

4 And thus progress is made from a state of desolation as to truths into another state of temptation from the hells, not arising from the corrupted natural man as to its false doctrines, so much as from interior distress on account of falsities from evil;

5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

5 In which state Divine Truth, internal and external, is, as it were, despised; the tendency is to return to the state of the merely natural man and to reject regeneration because there are no remains of heavenly good and truth; and the good of truth, according to the needs of the state, is utterly disgusting.

6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

6 The consequence of which is that sensual lusts begin to gain dominion, and much injury is done, both to the truth of the church and to its principles of good.

7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

7 Therefore there is earnest application to the Word;it is confessed that evil tendencies have prevailed, and, that perception has been lost both as to good and as to truth; while earnest prayer and intercession follows for deliverance.

8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

8 And hence there is revelation from the Lord by the Word that the Human is to be made Divine even as to the sensual and corporeal degrees by combats against hereditary tendencies to. evil, or against all the hells and by victories over them; and that therefore everyone in the church who, in temptation, flees from and contends against the evils of the natural man, has power from the Lord by faith in Him to overcome also, and to enjoy eternal life.

9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

9 And therefore it happens in the church, generally, that the Human of the Lord is acknowledged to be Divine by such combats and victories; and that when man, in temptations; suffers from evils arising from the abuse of his sensual nature, and by application to the Lord and faith in Him, conquers those evils, he comes into the enjoyment of eternal life.

Author: Rev. HENRY MACLAGAN (1911)