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14. People Rebel

1And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 2And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3And wherefore doth Jehovah bring us unto this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will be a prey: were it not better for us to return into Egypt?

4And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. 5Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. 6And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were of them that spied out the land, rent their clothes: 7and they spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceeding good land. 8If Jehovah delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it unto us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9Only rebel not against Jehovah, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is removed from over them, and Jehovah is with us: fear them not. 10But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of Jehovah appeared in the tent of meeting unto all the children of Israel.

11And Jehovah said unto Moses, How long will this people despise me? and how long will they not believe in me, for all the signs which I have wrought among them? 12I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a nation greater and mightier than they.

13And Moses said unto Jehovah, Then the Egyptians will hear it; for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them; 14and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that thou Jehovah art in the midst of this people; for thou Jehovah art seen face to face, and thy cloud standeth over them, and thou goest before them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night. 15Now if thou shalt kill this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, 16Because Jehovah was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness. 17And now, I pray thee, let the power of the Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, 18Jehovah is slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation. 19Pardon, I pray thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy lovingkindness, and according as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.

20And Jehovah said, I have pardoned according to thy word: 21but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Jehovah; 22because all those men that have seen my glory, and my signs, which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; 23surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that despised me see it: 24but my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it. 25Now the Amalekite and the Canaanite dwell in the valley: to-morrow turn ye, and get you into the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.

26And Jehovah spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 27How 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. 28Say unto them, As I live, saith Jehovah, surely as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 29your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, that have murmured against me, 30surely ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware that I would make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31But your little ones, that ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have rejected. 32But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33And your children shall be wanderers in the wilderness forty years, and shall bear your whoredoms, until your dead bodies be consumed in the wilderness. 34After the number of the days in which ye spied out the land, even forty days, for every day a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my alienation. 35I, Jehovah, have spoken, surely this will I do unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.

36And 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, 37even those men that did bring up an evil report of the land, died by the plague before Jehovah. 38But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, remained alive of those men that went to spy out the land.

39And Moses told these words unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly. 40And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up to the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we are here, and will go up unto the place which Jehovah hath promised: for we have sinned. 41And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of Jehovah, seeing it shall not prosper? 42Go not up, for Jehovah is not among you; that ye be not smitten down before your enemies. 43For there the Amalekite and the Canaanite are before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned back from following Jehovah, therefore Jehovah will not be with you. 44But they presumed to go up to the top of the mountain: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. 45Then the Amalekite came down, and the Canaanite who dwelt in that mountain, and smote them and beat them down, even unto Hormah.

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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 Land.

9. their defence is departedHebrew, "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 magnified.

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 consigned.

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 and fears.

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 that enterprise.

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 rebellion.

45. even unto Hormah—The name was afterwards given to that place in memory of the immense slaughter of the Israelites on this occasion.




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