Israel’s final year in the wilderness, year 40, marks the death of Miriam, Aaron, and Moses.
The oldest member of Israel’s first family was Miriam. Miriam’s great-granddad was Levi, the son of Jacob. Jewish sages refer to Miriam as a child prophetess who predicted Moses’ future role at age five. Nissan Mindel of the Kehot Publication Society outlines the importance of Miriam in the wilderness: “Our sages say that the three great divine gifts that sustained the Jewish people in the desert—the Manna, the clouds of glory and the well—were in the merit of these three worthy shepherds, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam respectively. “Miriam’s Well,” as it became known—a rolling rock that accompanied the Jewish people on their wanderings—provided fresh water in the desert.”
The fortieth year in the wilderness begins with Miriam’s death (cf. Numbers 20:1) and the people are without water. The spiritual mother of Israel is dead and people of God express their grief by taking it out on Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron take out their grief on God (cf. Numbers 20:12)
The death of the nation of Israel was necessary for its rebirth in Canaan
Sharon Rimon writes: “And the well was in Miriam’s merit, for what does it say? “And Miriam died there and was buried there” (Num. 20:1), and what does it say afterward? “And there was no water for the congregation” (Num. 20:2) (Bamidbar Rabba [Vilna ed.] :
Five months later Aaron, the founder of the Jewish priesthood dies and the clouds of Glory disappear. Nissan Mindel writes this about Aaron’s role in early Judaism, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and seeking after peace, loving all creatures and bringing them near unto the Torah,” for “its (the Torah’s) ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace… When Aaron died, the Clouds of Glory disappeared, and the children of Israel were soon attacked by the Canaanite king of Arad.”
Israel’s final year in the wilderness concludes with the”mysterious” death of Moses. The Midrash describes Moses’ end: “God leans down from the heavens and ends Moses’ life with a soft, gentle kiss. This is derived from Deuteronomy 34:5, where it is written, “So Moses, the servant of the Eternal, died there, in the land of Moab, at the command of the Eternal.” The Hebrew reads, al pi Adonai, “by the mouth of the Eternal.” Hence the legend about God kissing Moses at his moment of death.”
With the deaths of the first family, no more manna, quail, clouds or water from the rock. Instead, God raises up Joshua and Caleb and a brand new chapter begins for Israel. Why? God knew this generation needed new leaders and new signs.
What’s next for the Evangelical Church? Our we in our final years? We have a brand new generation of Evangelicals praying the Psalms:
Lead thou me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for thou art my refuge
a strong tower against the enemy (Psalm 61)
And believing Matthew 16:
“And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock, I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”