Nu 14:1-45. The People
Murmur at the Spies' Report.
1. all the congregation lifted up their voice and
cried—Not literally all, for there were some exceptions.
2-4. Would God that we had died in
Egypt—Such insolence to their generous leaders, and such base
ingratitude to God, show the deep degradation of the Israelites, and
the absolute necessity of the decree that debarred that generation from
entering the promised land [Nu 14:29-35]. They were punished by their wishes
being granted to die in that wilderness [Heb 3:17; Jude 5]. A leader to reconduct them to Egypt is
spoken of (Ne 9:17) as
actually nominated. The sinfulness and insane folly of their conduct
are almost incredible. Their conduct, however, is paralleled by too
many among us, who shrink from the smallest difficulties and rather
remain slaves to sin than resolutely try to surmount the obstacles that
lie in their way to the Canaan above.
5. Moses and Aaron fell on their
faces—as humble and earnest suppliants—either to the
people, entreating them to desist from so perverse a design; or rather,
to God, as the usual and only refuge from the violence of that
tumultuous and stiff-necked rabble—a hopeful means of softening
and impressing their hearts.
6. Joshua … and Caleb, which were of them
that searched the land, rent their clothes—The two honest
spies testified their grief and horror, in the strongest manner, at the
mutiny against Moses and the blasphemy against God; while at the same
time they endeavored, by a truthful statement, to persuade the people
of the ease with which they might obtain possession of so desirable a
country, provided they did not, by their rebellion and ingratitude,
provoke God to abandon them.
8. a land flowing with milk and honey—a
general expression, descriptive of a rich and fertile country. The two
articles specified were among the principal products of the Holy
9. their defence is
departed—Hebrew, "their shadow." The Sultan of Turkey
and the Shah of Persia are called "the shadow of God," "the refuge of
the world." So that the meaning of the clause, "their defence is
departed from them," is, that the favor of God was now lost to those
whose iniquities were full (Ge 15:16),
and transferred to the Israelites.
10. the glory of the Lord appeared—It
was seasonably manifested on this great emergency to rescue His
ambassadors from their perilous situation.
12. the Lord said, … I will smite them with
the pestilence—not a final decree, but a threatening,
suspended, as appeared from the issue, on the intercession of Moses and
the repentance of Israel.
17. let the power of my Lord be great—be
21. all the earth shall be filled with the glory
of the Lord—This promise, in its full acceptation, remains to
be verified by the eventual and universal prevalence of Christianity in
the world. But the terms were used restrictively in respect to the
occasion, to the report which would spread over all the land of the
"terrible things in righteousness" [Ps 65:5] which God would do in the infliction of
the doom described, to which that rebellious race was now
22. ten times—very frequently.
24. my servant Caleb—Joshua was also
excepted, but he is not named because he was no longer in the ranks of
the people, being a constant attendant on Moses.
because he had another spirit with him, and hath
followed me fully—Under the influence of God's Spirit, Caleb
was a man of bold, generous, heroic courage, above worldly anxieties
25. (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt
in the valley)—that is, on the other side of the Idumean
mountain, at whose base they were then encamped. Those nomad tribes had
at that time occupied it with a determination to oppose the further
progress of the Hebrew people. Hence God gave the command that they
seek a safe and timely retreat into the desert, to escape the pursuit
of those resolute enemies, to whom, with their wives and children, they
would fall a helpless prey because they had forfeited the presence and
protection of God. This verse forms an important part of the narrative
and should be freed from the parenthetical form which our English
translators have given it.
30. save Caleb … and Joshua—These
are specially mentioned, as honorable exceptions to the rest of the
scouts, and also as the future leaders of the people. But it appears
that some of the old generation did not join in the mutinous murmuring,
including in that number the whole order of the priests (Jos 14:1).
34. ye shall know my breach of
promise—that is, in consequence of your violation of the
covenant betwixt you and Me, by breaking the terms of it, it shall be
null and void on My part, as I shall withhold the blessings I promised
in that covenant to confer on you on condition of your obedience.
36-38. those men that did bring up the evil report
upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord—Ten of the
spies struck dead on the spot—either by the pestilence or some
other judgment. This great and appalling mortality clearly betokened
the hand of the Lord.
40-45. they rose up early in the morning, and gat
them up into the top of the mountain—Notwithstanding the
tidings that Moses communicated and which diffused a general feeling of
melancholy and grief throughout the camp, the impression was of very
brief continuance. They rushed from one extreme of rashness and
perversity to another, and the obstinacy of their rebellious spirit was
evinced by their active preparations to ascend the hill,
notwithstanding the divine warning they had received not to undertake
for we have sinned—that is, realizing
our sin, we now repent of it, and are eager to do as Caleb and Joshua
exhorted us—or, as some render it, though we have sinned,
we trust God will yet give us the land of promise. The entreaties of
their prudent and pious leader, who represented to them that their
enemies, scaling the other side of the valley, would post themselves on
the top of the hill before them, were disregarded. How strangely
perverse the conduct of the Israelites, who, shortly before, were
afraid that, though their Almighty King was with them, they could not
get possession of the land; and yet now they act still more foolishly
in supposing that, though God were not with them, they could expel the
inhabitants by their unaided efforts. The consequences were such as
might have been anticipated. The Amalekites and Canaanites, who had
been lying in ambuscade expecting their movement, rushed down upon them
from the heights and became the instruments of punishing their guilty
45. even unto Hormah—The name was
afterwards given to that place in memory of the immense slaughter of
the Israelites on this occasion.