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to the earth. As soon as they arrive, the work of death commences. Garment after garment is stripped off, emblem after emblem of his sacred office is removed, and placed upon Eleazar his son; and with these robes the life itself departs, and ebbs away; the blood flows more slowly; the lungs breathe more painfully; the pulse beats more feebly; until, having resigned the last pontifical vestment, having yielded up the last ensign of his priestly functions, the soul casts off the mortal veil, as the body lays aside its ordinary covering; and he sinks upon the earth, committing his spirit into the hands of the God who gave it.
After the days of mourning for Aaron's death were accomplished, and possibly whilst deeply affected by the circumstances attending it, Israel vowed a vow of obedience unto the Lord, and he gave them a complete and distinguished victory over Arad, one of the powerful kings of Canaan. They were then directed to return from Mount Hor, by the way of the Red Sea, that they might compass
or go round the land of Edom; for the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, had refused them a passage through the country. The soul of the people, we are told, was discouraged by this disappointment, and because of the way. They had expected to proceed straight forward without impediment, and take possession, at once, of the promised land; and they could not endure the thought of farther delay. The time, however, of their sojourning in the wilderness was not yet accomplished, neither was the judgment of God pronounced against the transgressors at Kadesh-barnea fully completed. In this circuitous march, they encounter difficulties similar to those before experienced, and from which they had found miraculous deliverance. But all the wonders of divine mercy vanish like the morning cloud from their recollection the moment distress comes upon them again. They want food, and they forget the manna, and the quails: they thirst for water, and they remember not the rock that was smitten, and compelled to yield
its hidden treasures for their relief. Nay, they have manna, but "their soul loatheth this light bread." As if in utter and reckless despair, they join God also in their murmurings, and rebel openly against their eternal guide and King. The Lord, therefore, employs a new and peculiar species of punishment; "he sends fiery serpents among them, and much people of Israel die." This infliction, singular in its nature, manifest in its progress, and terrible in its effects, occurred in the year which terminated Israel's sojourning in the wilderness; and was the last visible means used by the Almighty for cutting off the remnant of those who had rebelled against him. The whole people prostrate and without defence against these reptiles, which shed their poison indiscriminately around, had recourse to him whom they had always found ready, even unsolicited, to interpose between them and the divine vengeance; to offer not only his prayers, but his life, and his portion in the promises, for their welfare. Their entreaty, indeed, is accompanied with the
Proud and boastful
n health and prosperity; in the hour of danger and of suffering, their accents are sufficiently lowly. They come to Moses, and say, "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." Moses readily undertakes the office of intercessor; but it does not please the Almighty to heal them with a word, nor to remove their plague with the breath of his mouth. He will establish a sign, a lasting memorial of his power and their disobedience, of his loving-kindness, and their ingratitude, of his justice, and their iniquities. "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.”
is remarkable, that this is almost the only
instance of divine punishment inflicted upon the Israelites, in which the exact number of the victims is not mentioned; but, that this was fearfully great, we may conclude, even from the very vagueness of the Scriptural expression-“ much people of Israel died." Since the object of the Almighty was twofold, to consume those whom he had doomed to destruction for their ancient transgressions, as well as to punish those who were engaged in the present rebellion, it is probable that the vengeance fell chiefly upon the older and more hardened offenders; who thus fulfilled the curse and left their carcases in the wilderness.
It seems impossible for any one, even slightly acquainted with the history of man's fall, of his present state, and of the means used to accomplish his redemption, to read this narrative, without immediately perceiving its analogy, in every respect, to the most prominent features in that fall, and that redemption. The resemblance is so strikingly obvious and true, that it requires scarcely any exer