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After the sons of Israel had contended against God concerning water,and Moses had not followed instructions it is said God proved himself holy among them

Numbers 20:13 NASB

” 13 Those were the waters of [c]Meribah, [d]because the sons of Israel contended with the Lord, and He proved Himself holy among them.

But its not clear to whom God proved himself holy.

Was it Moses/Aaron or the sons of Israel?

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For Num 20:13, we have various commentaries (Ellicott, Pulpit, Cambridge Bible) that appear to be agreed that "them" (בָּֽם׃ (bām) - masculine plural) is either:

  • The waters of Meribah, in which case the meaning is God was made holy by the miracle of the waters at Meribah, or
  • The People, in which case God is made holy in the eyes of the people. Most commentators prefer the latter.

While I agree, there is a common rule (as I have observed) that the Bible writers often employ a clever economy of words by deliberately employing a dual meaning phrase having two meanings when both are intended. I think this is very likely one of them.

If this is true, then God is made holy by the miracle of the waters at Meribah, and this making holy was in the eyes of the people. Thus, both meanings above could be simultaneously intended.

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  • When you say 'made holy' what do you mean ? The text says 'proved' holy, which is a very different thing. Or, as Young says These are waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel have striven with Jehovah, and He is sanctified upon them. (+1, by the way) – Nigel J May 15 '19 at 12:42
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    Proved holy, or demonstrated to be holy, or was sanctified in them, all imply (to me) that God was shown to be the Holy being that He deserved to be. His reputation was magnified and He was now regarded as completely distinct (holy) from all other false gods. – user25930 May 15 '19 at 21:02
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    Since them is plural, it could mean both. – Perry Webb May 15 '19 at 22:58

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