Verses of Numbers 20


Numbers 20:27 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)


Num 20:27-28. 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.

THE lapse of time is so gradual and silent, that, for the most part, it escapes our observation: but there are seasons and occurrences [Note: If this were used as a subject for the New Year, or for a Funeral, the mention of that particular occasion would be proper.] which almost irresistibly force upon us the conviction that our days are coming to a close. The history before us is particularly calculated to impress our minds with this thought. It was not till an advanced period of life that Moses and Aaron were called to their sacred office: and when, contrary to their expectation, they were turned back into the wilderness, and doomed to sojourn there during the space of forty years, it would appear as though that time would scarcely ever expire. But years rolled on; the destined period arrived; and death, which had nearly completed its work in the destruction of all the men who had come out of Egypt, received a new commission against those most distinguished servants of the Lord. At the commencement of the fortieth year, Miriam died: before it was half expired, Aaron too was cut off; and, before its termination, Moses himself also was constrained to yield to the stroke of death. In the death of Aaron, to which we would now call your attention, there are two things more especially to be noticed;


The transfer of his office—

Moses received an order to “strip off Aaron’s garments, and to put them on Eleazar his son.” That order was now executed: and in the execution of it we may see the true nature of that law, of which Aaron was the chief minister. We may see,


That it could not save—

[In the preceding Discourse we have observed, that the sentence of death passed on Moses, marked the insufficiency of the moral law to justify: and now we observe, that the transfer of Aaron’s priesthood marked the same respecting the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law was never designed to make any real satisfaction for sin. The annual repetition of the same sacrifices shewed, that they had not fully prevailed for the removal of guilt. As they could not satisfy divine justice, so neither could they satisfy the consciences of those who offered them: “they were remembrances of sin,” calculated to preserve a sense of guilt upon the conscience, and to direct the people to that great Sacrifice, which should in due time be offered for the sins of the whole world [Note: Heb 10:1-4; Heb 9:9-10.]. This, I say, was shadowed forth in the death of Aaron: for, if those sacrifices which he had offered could really atone for sin, why were they not accepted for his sin; or why was not some fresh sacrifice appointed for it? They could not so much as avert from him a temporal punishment, or procure for him an admission into the earthly Canaan: how then could they prevail for the removal of eternal punishment, and for the admission of sinners into the heavenly land? The Apostle tells us, that “it was not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin:” nor could a more striking evidence of its inefficiency be conceived, than that which was exhibited in the event before us.]


That it was not to continue—

[The sentence of death denounced against Aaron, manifested, as we have before shewn, that the law itself was in due time to be disannulled [Note: See the preceding Discourse. If this subject were taken alone, that part of it which illustrates this idea should, in substance, be introduced in this place.]. The stripping off of Aaron’s garments, and putting of them upon Eleazar, still more clearly marked the changeableness of Aaron’s priesthood; and intimated, that it should successively devolve on dying men, till he should arrive, who should never die, but “be a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec.”

But the manner in which this transfer was carried into execution deserves particular attention, inasmuch as it was peculiarly calculated to give the people an insight into the whole nature and design of the ceremonial law. Whether the ceremony passed in the sight of all the congregation or not, we cannot say: but they were certainly informed of what was about to take place on the arrival of Moses and Aaron at the destined spot. Now Moses was the person who, by God’s appointment, had put the priestly garments on Aaron, forty years before [Note: Exo 29:4-7.]; and he also was the person appointed to strip them off. Was this an accidental circumstance, without any mystical design? Can we suppose that, in a dispensation which was altogether figurative, such a singular fact as this was devoid of meaning? No: it was replete with instruction. We dread exceedingly the indulgence of fancy in interpreting the Scriptures; but we are persuaded that a very deep mystery was shadowed forth on this occasion. Moses was the representative of the law, as Aaron was of our great High-Priest. Now it was the law which made any priesthood necessary. If the law had not existed, there had been no transgression: if that had not denounced a curse for sin, there had been no need of an High-Priest to make atonement for sin: and if there had been no need of a real sacrifice, there had been no occasion for either a priesthood or sacrifices to shadow it forth. The law then called forth, if I may so speak, the Lord Jesus Christ to his office: and therefore Moses put the priestly garments on him who was to prefigure Christ. But the same law which rendered a real atonement necessary, made the figurative priesthood wholly ineffectual: its demands were too high to be satisfied with mere carnal ordinances: there was nothing in a ceremonial observance that could be accepted as a fulfilment of its injunctions; nor was there any thing in the blood of a beast that could compensate for the violation of them: therefore, to shew that nothing but the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ could be of any avail, the same hand that put the shadowy garments upon Aaron must strip them off again.

Thus in this transaction are we taught, not only that the ceremonial law was a mere temporary appointment, but that men should look through it to Him whom it shadowed forth. The language of it was, in effect, similar to that of the Apostle; “I through the law am dead to the law [Note: Gal 2:19.];” that is, “I, through the strictness of the moral law, am cut off from all hopes of acceptance with God by any obedience to its commands; yea, I despair of obtaining salvation by any works either of the ceremonial or moral law; and I trust wholly in the Lord Jesus Christ: I seek to be justified solely and altogether by faith in him.”]

Whilst our minds are instructed by the transfer of Aaron’s office to Eleazar his son, our hearts cannot but be affected by,


The surrender of his soul—

“The time was come when his spirit must now return unto God who gave it.” He goes up to Mount Hor, the appointed place, where he must lay down his mortal body, and from whence he must enter into the presence of his God. In this last scene of his life there is much that is worthy of observation:


The occasion was awful—

[Aaron had sinned; and for that sin he must die. We doubt not indeed but that he found mercy before God; but still he died on account of his transgression: his death was the punishment of sin [Note: ver. 24.]. This, in fact, is true respecting every one that dies: though in some respects death may be numbered among the Christian’s treasures, yet in other points of view it must still be regarded as an enemy [Note: 1Co 15:26.], and a punishment for sin. In this light it must be considered even by the most exalted Christian, no less than by the most ungodly; “his body is dead because of sin, even though his spirit be life because of righteousness [Note: Rom 8:10.].”

But in the death of this eminent saint we have a most instructive lesson. It was doubtless intended as a warning to all who profess themselves the servants of God. Like Lot’s wife, it speaks to all succeeding generations, and declares the danger of departing from God. No length of services will avail us any thing, if at last we yield to temptation, and “fall from our own steadfastness [Note: 2Pe 3:17.].” The death of Aaron shadowed forth that truth which is plainly declared by the prophet Ezekiel, that “if a righteous man turn away from his righteousness and commit iniquity, all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned; but in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die [Note: Eze 18:24.].” Many there are, who, from an attachment to human systems and a zeal for truths of an apparently opposite nature, would almost expunge this passage from the sacred volume: but, whether we can reconcile it with other passages or not, it is true; and every one of us shall find it true at last, that not he who runneth well for a season, but “he who endureth unto the end, shall be saved [Note: Mat 24:13.].”]


The manner [was] dignified—

[Methinks I see Aaron, accompanied by Moses and Eleazar going up to Mount Hor “in the sight of all the congregation:” there is in him no appearance of infidel hardness, or unbelieving fear, or pharisaic confidence: he acquiesces in the divine appointment, and, with meek composure, a firm step, and a cheerful countenance, ascends to meet his God. Thrice happy man! how enviable his state, to be so attended, and to be so assured! What can a saint desire more than this; to have his pious relatives about him; to see, not only those with whom he has moved in sweet harmony for many years, and who are soon to follow him into the eternal world, but his children also, who are coming forward to fill the offices he vacates, and to serve the Lord as he has done before them; to see them around him, I say, in his last hours; to enjoy their prayers; and to bestow on them his parting benedictions? How delightful, in that hour, to “know in whom he has believed,” and to be assured that he is “entering into the joy of his Lord!” Such may be the state of all; such ought to be the state of all. Hear how Peter speaks of his death: “I know that I must shortly put off this my tabernacle [Note: 2Pe 1:14.].” Hear Paul also speaking of his: “I know that when the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, I have an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens:” “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me [Note: 2Co 5:1; 2Ti 4:8.].” Shall it be said, These were Apostles; and we must not expect such attainments as theirs? I answer, These things are the privilege of all: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace [Note: Psa 37:37.].”]


The event [was] honourable—

[Upon every recurrence of difficulties, the whole people of Israel had vented their spleen against Moses and against Aaron. On some occasions they had been ready to stone these distinguished servants of the Lord. But now that Aaron was taken from them, the whole congregation of Israel bemoaned their loss [Note: ver. 29]. Now they call to mind those services, which once they despised. Now they say one to another, ‘How often have we seen him fall on his face before God, to implore mercy for us, at the very moment when we were murmuring against him as the source of all our troubles! How did we on a recent occasion see him rushing with his censer into the midst of the plague, to arrest the pestilence in its progress, even at the peril of his own life! Alas, alas, what a friend and father have we lost!’ Yes; thus it too generally is; men know their blessings only by the loss of them. They enjoy a faithful ministry, but will not avail themselves of it, till “the candlestick is removed,” and the privileges, which they have slighted, are withdrawn. The same is too often experienced by children who have neglected the admonitions of their parents, and servants who have disregarded the instructions of their masters. Happy they, who “know the day of their visitation,” and “walk in the light before the night cometh!” To those indeed who die, it is comforting to know that they shall leave such a testimony behind them: but, when we consider the augmented guilt and misery of those who have slighted our admonitions, our sorrow for them preponderates, and turns our self-congratulations into tender sympathy and grief: for the greater our exertions were for their salvation, the more certainly shall we appear as swift witnesses against them, to increase and aggravate their condemnation.]


What if God were now to issue the command to any one of us, “Go up to thy bed, and die?” how would it be received amongst us? Should we welcome such an order? Should we rejoice that the period was arrived for our dismission from the body, and for our entrance into the presence of our God? Such an order will assuredly be soon given to every one of us: the old and the young, the rich and the poor, those who have travelled all through the wilderness, and those who have but just entered into it, may have it said to them within a few hours, “This night is thy soul required of thee.” But, however men might receive the summons, its consequences to them would be widely different, according as they were prepared, or unprepared, to meet their God. Think,


Thou who art regardless of thine eternal state—

[Thou art now perhaps adorned in costly array, and filling some high station; perhaps, if not crowned with a mitre, like Aaron, at least officiating at the altar of thy God. But thine honours and thine ornaments must all be laid aside; and thine office, together with thy wealth, must be transferred to others. “Naked earnest thou into the world, and naked must thou go from it.” But whither must thou go? To heaven? Alas! persons of your description can find no admittance there. Thou wilt be excluded, like the foolish virgins, who had no oil in their lamps. O think, from what thou wilt be excluded: not from an earthly Canaan, but from heaven itself; and not, to be merely bereaved of good, but to bewail thy misery in hell for ever! Ah! fearful thought! The Lord grant that it may sink down into all our hearts, and stir us up to “flee from the wrath to come!”
Do any inquire, What shall we do to he saved? My answer is, There is an High-Priest, who dieth not; or rather, I should say, who, though once he died on Mount Calvary, now “liveth, and behold he is alive for evermore.” It is to him that Moses directed you when he stripped off Aaron’s robes; and to him Aaron himself directed you, when he surrendered up his soul. The typical priests being inefficient, “were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but the Lord Jesus hath an unchangeable priesthood; and is therefore able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth [Note: Heb 7:23-25.].” Believe in him, and the sting of death shall be removed: thou shalt have peace with God through his atoning blood; and, when taken hence, shalt be transported on the wings of angels to Abraham’s bosom.]


Thou who professest religion, yet art living at a distance from thy God—

[Let us suppose for a moment, thou art not so far from God, but that thou shalt find mercy at his hands in the last day: still it would be very painful to die under a cloud, and to leave thy surviving friends doubtful of thy state. Yet this is the best that thou canst expect, whilst thou art relaxing thy diligence, and “the things which remain in thee are ready to die.” But there is reason to fear that thou art “drawing back unto perdition,” and that “thy last end will be worse than thy beginning.” Think not that this is an uncommon case: there are many who “seem to be religious, and yet deceive their own souls.” How terrible then will be your disappointment, if, after walking, perhaps twenty, or, like Aaron, forty years, in expectation of reaching the promised land, you come short of it at last! Yet this will be the case with all who dissemble with God [Note: Job 20:4-7.]. When your minister, who had hoped that you would have been “his joy and crown of rejoicing” for ever, shall inquire, “Where is he?” and your dearest friends also shall ask, “Where is he?” how painful will it he, and perhaps surprising too, to be informed, that you were counted unworthy of that heavenly kingdom [Note: Job 20:7.]! The Lord grant that this picture may never be realised with respect to any of you! But I must caution you in the words of the Apostle; “Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into God’s rest, any of you should seem to come short of it [Note: Heb 4:1.].”]


Thou sincere and upright Christian—

[What a glorious change will it be to thee, when God shall bid thee to go up unto thy bed and die! Whatever honours thou possessest here, thou needest feel no regret at parting with them. Thou hast found thy trials in this wilderness great and manifold: and happy mayest thou he to go unto the rest that remaineth for thee. Thou hast no need to he afraid of death: it should be regarded only as the stripping off of thy garments, to retire to rest; or rather, as the being “unclothed, in order to he clothed upon, that mortality may he swallowed up of life [Note: 2Co 5:4.].” Go forward then in daily expectation of thy summons: yea, be daily “looking for, and hasting unto, the coming of that blessed day [Note: 2Pe 3:12.],”when thou shalt “depart, and be with Christ for ever.” Who can conceive the bliss that awaits thee at that hour? To behold Him, “of whom the Law and the Prophets testified,” and in whom their testimony received its full accomplishment! To behold Him whom Aaron’s love and services but faintly shadowed! Him, “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person!” Were death a thousand times more terrible than it is, it were eagerly to be coveted as an introduction to such bliss. Methinks, impatience were a virtue with such prospects as these: or if you must wait with patience your appointed time, endeavour at least so to live, that, at whatever hour your Lord may come, you may be found ready, and have “an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ [Note: 2Pe 1:11.].”]

Verses of Numbers 20


Consult other comments:

Numbers 20:27 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Numbers 20:27 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Numbers 20:27 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Numbers 20:27 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

Numbers 20:27 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Numbers 20:27 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Numbers 20:27 - Church Pulpit Commentary

Numbers 20:27 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Numbers 20:27 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Numbers 20:27 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)