Numbers 14

1 All the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 2 All the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “We wish that we had died in the land of Egypt, or that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why does the LORD bring us to this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will be captured or killed! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return into Egypt?” 4 They said to one another, “Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.” 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. 6 Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were of those who spied out the land, tore their clothes. 7 They spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceeding good land. 8 If the LORD delights in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us; a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 Only don’t rebel against the LORD, neither fear the people of the land; for they are bread for us. Their defense is removed from over them, and the LORD is with us. Don’t fear them.” 10 But all the congregation threatened to stone them with stones. The LORD’s glory appeared in the Tent of Meeting to all the children of Israel. 11 The LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, for all the signs which I have worked amongst them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” 13 Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear it; for you brought up this people in your might from amongst them. 14 They will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you LORD are in the middle of this people; for you LORD are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them, and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if you killed this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of you will speak, saying, 16 ‘Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness.’ 17 Now please let the power of the Lord be great, according as you have spoken, saying, 18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and disobedience; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation.’ 19 Please pardon the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your loving kindness, and according as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” 20 The LORD said, “I have pardoned according to your word: 21 but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the LORD’s glory; 22 because all those men who have seen my glory, and my signs, which I worked in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not listened to my voice; 23 surely they shall not see the land which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any of those who despised me see it. 24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed me fully, him I will bring into the land into which he went. His offspring shall possess it. 25 Since the Amalekite and the Canaanite dwell in the valley, tomorrow turn, and go into the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.” 26 The LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, that murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. 28 Tell them, ‘As I live, says the LORD, surely as you have spoken in my ears, so will I do to you. 29 Your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness; and all who were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against me, 30 surely you shall not come into the land, concerning which I swore that I would make you dwell therein, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, that you said should be captured or killed, them I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children shall be wanderers in the wilderness forty years, and shall bear your prostitution, until your dead bodies are consumed in the wilderness. 34 After the number of the days in which you spied out the land, even forty days, for every day a year, you will bear your iniquities, even forty years, and you will know my alienation.’ 35 I, the LORD, have spoken. I will surely do this to all this evil congregation, who are gathered together against me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.” 36 The men, whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up an evil report against the land, 37 even those men who brought up an evil report of the land, died by the plague before the LORD. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, remained alive of those men who went to spy out the land. 39 Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly. 40 They rose up early in the morning, and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Behold, we are here, and will go up to the place which the LORD has promised: for we have sinned.” 41 Moses said, “Why now do you disobey the commandment of the LORD, since it shall not prosper? 42 Don’t go up, for the LORD isn’t amongst you; that you not be struck down before your enemies. 43 For there the Amalekite and the Canaanite are before you, and you shall fall by the sword, because you turned back from following the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.” 44 But they presumed to go up to the top of the mountain. Nevertheless, the ark of the LORD’s covenant and Moses didn’t depart out of the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites who lived in that mountain, and struck them and beat them down, even to Hormah.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–4

Those who do not trust God, continually vex themselves. The sorrow of the world worketh death. The Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron, and in them reproached the Lord. They look back with causeless discontent. See the madness of unbridled passions, which makes men prodigal of what nature accounts most dear, life itself. They wish rather to die criminals under God’s justice, than to live conquerors in his favour. At last they resolve, that, instead of going forward to Canaan, they would go back to Egypt. Those who walk not in God’s counsels, seek their own ruin. Could they expect that God’s cloud would lead them, or his manna attend them? Suppose the difficulties of conquering Canaan were as they imagined, those of returning to Egypt were much greater. We complain of our place and lot, and we would change; but is there any place or condition in this world, that has not something in it to make us uneasy, if we are disposed to be so? The way to better our condition, is to get our spirits in a better frame. See the folly of turning from the ways of God. But men run on the certain fatal consequences of a sinful course.

Verses 5–10

Moses and Aaron were astonished to see a people throw away their own mercies. Caleb and Joshua assured the people of the goodness of the land. They made nothing of the difficulties in the way of their gaining it. If men were convinced of the desirableness of the gains of religion, they would not stick at the services of it. Though the Canaanites dwell in walled cities, their defence was departed from them. The other spies took notice of their strength, but these of their wickedness. No people can be safe, when they have provoked God to leave them. Though Israel dwell in tents, they are fortified. While we have the presence of God with us, we need not fear the most powerful force against us. Sinners are ruined by their own rebellion. But those who, like Caleb and Joshua, faithfully expose themselves for God, are sure to be taken under his special protection, and shall be hid from the rage of men, either under heaven or in heaven. (Nu 14:11-19)

Verses 11–19

Moses made humble intercession for Israel. Herein he was a type of Christ, who prayed for those that despitefully used him. The pardon of a nation’s sin, is the turning away the nation’s punishment; and for that Moses is here so earnest. Moses argued that, consistently with God’s character, in his abundant mercies, he could forgive them.

Verses 20–35

The Lord granted the prayer of Moses so far as not at once to destroy the congregation. But disbelief of the promise forbids the benefit. Those who despise the pleasant land shall be shut out of it. The promise of God should be fulfilled to their children. They wished to die in the wilderness; God made their sin their ruin, took them at their word, and their carcases fell in the wilderness. They were made to groan under the burden of their own sin, which was too heavy for them to bear. Ye shall know my breach of promise, both the causes of it, that it is procured by your sin, for God never leaves any till they first leave him; and the consequences of it, that will produce your ruin. But your little ones, now under twenty years old, which ye, in your unbelief, said should be a prey, them will I bring in. God will let them know that he can put a difference between the guilty and the innocent, and cut them off without touching their children. Thus God would not utterly take away his loving kindness.

Verses 36–39

Here is the sudden death of the ten evil spies. They sinned in bringing a slander upon the land of promise. Those greatly provoke God, who misrepresent religion, raise dislike in men’s minds toward it, or give opportunity to those to do so, who seek occasion. Justly are murmurers made mourners. If they had mourned for the sin, when they were faithfully reproved, the sentence had been prevented; but as they mourned for the judgment only, it did them no service. There is in hell such mourning as this; but tears will not quench the flames, nor cool the tongue.

Verses 40–45

Some of the Israelites were now earnest to go forward toward Canaan. But it came too late. If men would but be as earnest for heaven while their day of grace lasts, as they will be when it is over, how well would it be for them! That which has been duty in its season, when mistimed, may be turned into sin. Those who are out of the way of their duty, are not under God’s protection, and go at their peril. God bade them go, and they would not; he forbade them, and they would go. Thus is the carnal mind enmity against God. They had distrusted God’s strength; they now presume upon their own without his. And the expedition fails accordingly; now the sentence began to be executed, that their carcases should fall in the wilderness. That affair can never end well, which begins with sin. The way to obtain peace with our friends, and success against our enemies, is, to have God, as our Friend, and to keep in his love. Let us take warning from the fate of Israel, lest we perish after the same example of unbelief. Let us go forth, depending on God’s mercy, power, promise, and truth; he will be with us, and bring our souls to everlasting rest.

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