This chapter begins with endings. Miriam’s death punctuates the fact that forty years have passed and Israel’s wandering is over. But these are wilderness children, raised on tales and legends of Egypt and skilled in the same bellyaching habits as their parents. For them, Canaan has always been a vague destination; they are nomads, always moving, never arriving. In the spring of that fortieth year, Israel migrated back to Kadesh-Barnea. It was a regular stop during the wandering years since it had a reliable source of water. But this time they found it dry. History repeats itself and we wonder if they’ll ever learn. (Will we?) In this episode we see Moses’ greatest failure and deepest regret. Weep with him, but watch him rise and keep going, determined to finish well. The work isn’t done. It’s a new generation. And this chapter ends with beginnings.
Numbers 20, Psalm 90
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