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In this part of Sacred Historý we have a very affecting instance of the weakness of human nature, which should teach us to have a constant guard on our owa hearts. If those faithful servants, Moses and Aaron, who made the law of God the general rule of their actions, erred in some particular instances, to what a height of wickedness will those arrive, who totally disregard it!
THE DEATH CP AARON.
For a number of years, the Israelites moved about from place to place in the desarts of Arabia, but chiefly about the mountains of Idumca, till almost all that generation of men, which came out of Egypt, were dead : at length the camp came to Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin; and Miriam died and was buried there.
* While they remained in this place, Moses sent messengers unto the King of Edom, entreating that he would consider the Israelites as brethren, and permit them to pass through his land ; assuring him, that the people would do no kind of injury to the fields and vineyards, or commit any hostilities, but march quietly along the king's highway, till they had passed the borders of Edom. This message Moses seňt in consequence of a command which he had received from the Lord, who, having destined Mount Seir as a possession to the descendants of Esau, would not permit the descendants of Jacob to supplant them.
* Numb, xx, 1.1,
The King of Edom, so far from complying with the reasonable request of Moses, came ont against the lon raelites with a powerful army; on which the latter, agreeably to the will of God, took another route, and soon after encamped at mount Hor, not far from the borders of Edom. By thus opposing the Israelites, the Edomites shęwed, that the old enmity of Esau to Jacob was, transmitted to their posterity. The time was not yet come, at which the descendants of the elders were to serve the younger
*; therefore the Israelites were enjoined got to annoy the Edomites.
+ When they were settled in mount Hor, the LORD gave notice to Aaron of his approaching death, inform ing him, that, on account of his late disobedience, he should not epter into the land of. Canaan : and soon after God commanded Moses to take Aaron and Elea, zar his son to the top of the mount, and there to strip Agron of his priestly garments, and put them upon Eleazar hiç son. Moscs accordingly went up the moun. tain with Aaron and Eleazar, in the sight of the whole congregation, and did, as the LORD required; and Aaron died on mount. Hor, The loss of their High Priest was a great affliction to the people, and they be. wailed his deatn, with the usual solemnities, for thirty days. Aaron was buried by Eleazar his son in some cave on mount Hor; but the place of his interment was kept from the knowledge of the Israelites; perhaps from an apprehension that, in after ages, they might pay some superstitious worship to him ; or probably to prevent his, remains from being removed by the Arabians, among whom they then dwelt.
Aaron was an hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on It must have been a very painful and affecting office to Moses to strip his beloved brother of the sacred vestments, and afterwards to witness his death, and ass: -t at his interment; and we can scarcely suppose, that the LORD GOD, gracious and merciful, would have called him to such a trial, without supporting his mind under it, by assurances that he should meet Aaron again in a better world; neither could Aaron have gone through the awful solemnity of resigning the priesthood and his life, with calmness and resignation, if he had : been devoid of similar expectations ; for these are the only comforts that can possibly reconcile the mind to approaching death, and the loss of beloved friends : supported by these, the departing spirit looks forward to the joys of futurity; and the surviving nourner submits without repining, to the will of Heaven.
* G n. xxv. 23.
+ Numb. xx. 22.
Aaron, on the whole, acquitted himself in the holy office, to which he was appointed by God, with great. propriety; for, excepting in the matter of the golden calf, when he suffered his 'inclination to be over ruled by the idolaters through fear, and in the instance of disbelieving the Lord's promise, when Moses' stiuck the rock, we read of no act of disobedience that he was guilty of. The Author of the book Ecclesiasticus bears honourable testimony to his character ;' and teaches us to venerate his memory, as' one who was chosen by Divine command out of all men living to offer sacrifices to the Lord, incense and a sweet savour, and to make reconciliation for his people *. How merciful was the LORD, in continuing the priesthood and sacrifices, even after the nation had so highly offended Him. By this means every individual, who composed the generation He in His just anger excluded from Canaan, had an op:
* Ecclus. xlr.
portunity of expressing his repentance, and of being reconciled to his God, so as to obtain, through His in-. finite mercy, an interest in the promises of an eternal inheritance *, to be fulfilled after the Media:or of the New Covenant should have made atonement for the sins of the whole world.
BRAZEN SERPENT SET UP IN THE WILDERNESS.
From Numb. Chap. xxi. And when King Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, kếard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies ; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners.
And Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.
And the Lord hearkened unto the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites : and they utterly de. stroyed them and their cities : and he called the name of the place Hormah.
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 snall 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.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
Though it was thirty-eight years since the spies were
into the land of Canaan, the remembrance of them remained ; and, without doubt, the inhabitants had been, from that time, suspicious that an attack would be made on them by the leraelites ? they therefore into mediately took the alarm, when they found that the people advanced by the very road the spies had taken, and it appeared necessary to repulse them in time. Most likely, it was to try the faith of the Israelites, that some of them were permitted to fall into the hands of Arad; and to shew them, that humility and repentance would restore them to the divine favour, God blessed them with success, when they addressed themselves to him as became their condition.
The wilderness, through which the people were at that time passing, was greatly infested with winged ser