August 15, 2021 – Numbers 20 – 21

Lesson Date: August 15, 2021

Focal Scripture Passage: Numbers 20:1-12, 23-29; 21:5-9

AIM: To lead students to identify ways the new generation of Israelites imitated the behavior of their parents, and to examine their behavior and attitudes to see if they are worthy of imitation.


Before class: Read the notes on Number 20 – 21 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Ask a volunteer to look up John 3:14 and to be prepared to read it to the class when called upon. If you know someone in the medical profession, ask him or her if you can borrow a pin, patch, or other item that shows the caduceus, the medical symbol that consists of snakes twined around a pole. If you cannot locate such an item, then find a picture of the caduceus online.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Ask: “What does it mean to say someone is a chip off the old block?” (it means that person looks or acts just like his or her parent). People sometimes say, “I could tell you were so-and-so’s son by the way you walked (or talked).” A widowed mother might say to her son, “You remind me so much of your dear father!” Children often resemble their parents, but that resemblance goes deeper than outward appearance. Ask: “How many of you behave in some way similar to one of your parents?”

Tell the class that children often imitate the good behavior of their parents, but unfortunately they sometimes also imitate their parents’ bad behavior. Sadly, those raised in drunken and abusive homes often repeat that behavior in their own homes. Other bad behaviors are often repeated generation after generation (unless the grace and mercy of God intervenes and breaks the pattern).

Remind the students that in the last three lessons we have seen several examples of complaint, murmuring, and rebellion on the part of the Israelites. Today’s lesson from Number 20 – 21 takes place about 38 years later, after most of the older generation had died off and the younger Israelites (those under age 20 when they left Egypt) had grown up to be leaders of their families and tribes. The title of today’s lesson is Chip Off the Old Block. We going to find out if the new generation learned from the mistakes of their parents, or followed their bad example.



  1. Review.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (the causes and costs of rebellion).
    • Ask if anyone would recite last week’s memory verse (Hebrews 13:17).
  2. More Murmuring and Complaining.
    • Read Numbers 20:1.
    • Explain the following:
      • 38 years of unrecorded wilderness wanderings took place between the end of chapter 19 and the beginning of chapter 20.
      • One way we know this is that the death of Aaron (recorded at the end of this chapter) occurred on the first day of the fifth month of the 40th year after the children of Israel left Egypt (Num. 33:38).
      • After 38 years of wandering the Lord led the Israelites back to Kadesh Barnea (locate on the Map of Egypt, Sinai, and Canaan), the site of their parents’ failure of faith (Num. 13 – 14).
      • Moses’ sister Miriam died there.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 20:2-5.
    • Remind the class that these Israelites had eaten manna and drunk water provided by the Lord for almost 40 years. They had eaten “at His table” almost all their lives, and He had not let them starve yet. Now, just like their parents before them, they have come to a place where there was no water.
    • Ask: “What did they do?” (complained to Moses).
    • Ask the class to look closely at verses 3-5 to identify the statements and questions the Israelites put to Moses. They should identify the following:
      • We wish we had died with our rebellious brethren and parents in the wilderness.
      • Why have you brought us – God’s people – into this wilderness to die?
      • Why did you bring us out of Egypt to a place with no food or water?
    • Stress the fact that this new generation sounded just like their parents! They complained about the lack of water, said they would be better off dead, they accused Moses of trying to kill them in the wilderness, and they even asked why he had brought them up out of Egypt. They said the exact same things their parents said. They most certainly were chips off the old block!
    • Read Numbers 20:6.
    • Ask: “What did Moses and Aaron do when the people complained?” (they fell on their faces before the Lord.
    • Ask: “What appeared to them?” (the glory of the Lord).
    • Summarize: Nearing the Promised Land, the younger generation of Israelites murmured and complained to Moses just like their parents did years earlier.
  3. The Sin of Moses.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 20:7-8.
    • Ask: “What did God tell Moses to do to the rock in order to get water?” (speak to it in front of all the people).
    • Read Numbers 20:9-11.
    • Tell the class that Moses took the rod and gathered all the people together at the rock. He called the people rebels and then asked them a question.
    • Ask: “What did he ask them?” (“Must we bring forth water out of this rock?” – he and Aaron claimed credit for what God was going to do).
    • Stress the fact that rather than pointing to God and His power, Moses drew attention to himself.
    • Ask: “What did Moses do?” (struck the rock).
    • Ask: “Was this what God told him to do?” (no).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 20:12.
    • Ask: “What was the penalty for Moses’ disobedience?” (he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land).
    • Stress the fact that that disobedience carries a high price!
    • Summarize: Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock. As a result of his sin, Moses was not going to be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
  4. The Death of Aaron – the New Generation Takes Over.
    • Read Numbers 20:23-26.
    • Locate Mount Hor on the Map of Egypt, Sinai, and Canaan.
    • Tell the students God said it was time for Aaron to die and for his son, Eleazar, to replace him as high priest.
    • Ask: “Why did God say Aaron would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land?” (because he and Moses rebelled against God’s command in the incident with the water from the rock). Again, disobedience carries a high price!
    • Read Numbers 20:27-29.
    • Explain the following:
      • Moses did exactly as God commanded.
      • In the sight of all the people, Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar went up on Mount Hor.
      • Moses removed the high priestly garments from Aaron and put them on his son, Eleazar.
      • Aaron died atop Mount Hor.
      • Moses and Eleazar came down the mountain and the people of Israel mourned for Aaron 30 days.
    • Summarize: Aaron died and his son Eleazar became the new high priest. A new generation of Israelites were taking positions of leadership.
  5. More Complaining – the Fiery Serpents.
    • Tell the students that surely the people of Israel would be finished complaining by now.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 21:5.
    • Ask: “Who did the people speak against?” (God and Moses).
    • Ask: “What did they ask?” (“Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?”).
    • Explain the following:
      • Most of these people had little or no memory of Egypt, but just like their parents before them they longed to return there.
      • As amazing as it sounds, bondage in Egypt still appealed to their flesh.
      • Unfortunately, the same is true for us: bondage to sin appeals to our flesh.
    • Ask: “What did they say about the food God provided for them every day?” (they said they hated it).
    • Tell the class it is a dangerous thing to disdain the provision God makes for us.
    • Ask: “Are you ever ungrateful for the things God has given you?”
    • Read Numbers 21:6-7.
    • Ask: “What did God do to silence the complainers?” (He sent poisonous snakes among them, which bit the people; many Israelites died).
    • Remind the students that earlier the people complained and spoke against Moses.
    • Ask: “What did the people say to Moses now?” (“We have sinned; please ask God to take away the snakes”).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 21:8-9.
    • Ask: “What did God tell Moses to do?” (make a bronze image of a poisonous snake and put it on a pole).
    • Ask: “How did God say this would save the people?” (anyone who was bitten and looked in faith at the bronze snake on the pole would be saved from death).
    • Tell the class Moses obeyed God and the people were saved from the poisonous snakes.
    • Ask the previously enlisted volunteer to read John 3:14.
    • Explain the following:
      • Jesus compared Himself to that bronze serpent.
      • Looking at the snake for salvation from death was an act of faith on the part of the ancient Israelites, just as looking to Jesus for salvation is an act of faith for us.
      • Show the caduceus (or picture) to the class.
      • This incident may be the reason the medical profession uses this odd symbol to represent healing (secular sources say it comes from Greek mythology, but many biblical symbols were brought over into western culture in past centuries).
      • The remainder of the chapter tells that God led the Israelites around to the east side of the Dead Sea and then northward toward the Jordan River (locate on the Map of Egypt, Sinai, and Canaan).
      • Along the way they won great military victories over Sihon, king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan.
    • Summarize: The new generation of Israelites complained against Moses, so God sent poisonous snakes to kill them. He spared those who had faith to believe His instruction.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Remind the students that the Israelites in this lesson were children and teenagers when God brought them out of Egypt. They grew up watching their parents complain, murmur, and rebel. They witnessed the terrible and deadly consequences of those behaviors. You would think the younger folks would have learned that God doesn’t put up with disobedience and complaining.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. As the older generation died off and the younger generation took the reins of leadership, they repeated the same mistakes their parents made. They complained about the food and the water, and even longed to return to slavery in Egypt. Sadly, they followed in the sinful footsteps of their parents. They were “chips off the old block.”

Ask: “Do you realize that others are watching you?” Tell the students that their children, grandchildren, and peers are observing their behavior. The scary truth is that those people will probably imitate it. (If you teach adults who have children, ask if they have ever seen their children imitate one of their bad behaviors.) Tell the class that regardless of their age, someone is watching them. It may be a friend, fellow student, co-worker, or Sunday School class member. Someone is watching and may imitate their behavior.

Tell the students the important question we must answer is this:

What kind of example am I setting for others?

Tell the students we should ask ourselves if our behavior will lead people to obey God and trust Him by faith, or lead them to be complainers who faithlessly disobey God’s commands? Tell the class we need to examine our behavior and attitudes to see if they are worthy of imitation.

Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes. Ask them to silently and privately examine themselves. Tell them to confess any sin God brings to their mind. Tell them to ask God to help them live in such a way that their behavior may be imitated. Voice a closing prayer.


CONCLUSION: Tell the students to live every day as if their words and actions were being recorded, because others are watching them. Remind them to do the Daily Bible Readings listed in their Sunday School Member Quarterly each day this week.

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