The whole community was in an uproar, wailing all night long.
All the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The entire community was in on it: "Why didn't we die in Egypt? Or in this wilderness?
Why has God brought us to this country to kill us? Our wives and children are about to become plunder. Why don't we just head back to Egypt? And right now!"
Soon they were all saying it to one another: "Let's pick a new leader; let's head back to Egypt."
Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in front of the entire community, gathered in emergency session.
Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, members of the scouting party, ripped their clothes
and addressed the assembled People of Israel: "The land we walked through and scouted out is a very good land - very good indeed.
If God is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land that flows, as they say, with milk and honey. And he'll give it to us.
Just don't rebel against God! And don't be afraid of those people. Why, we'll have them for lunch! They have no protection and God is on our side. Don't be afraid of them!"
But, up in arms now, the entire community was talking of hurling stones at them.
God said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me like dirt? How long refuse to trust me? And with all these signs I've done among them!
I've had enough - I'm going to hit them with a plague and kill them. But I'll make you into a nation bigger and stronger than they ever were."
But Moses said to God, "The Egyptians are going to hear about this! You delivered this people from Egypt with a great show of strength, and now this?
The Egyptians will tell everyone. They've already heard that you are God, that you are on the side of this people, that you are present among them, that they see you with their own eyes in your Cloud that hovers over them, in the Pillar of Cloud that leads them by day and the Pillar of Fire at night.
If you kill this entire people in one stroke, all the nations that have heard what has been going on will say,
'Since God couldn't get these people into the land which he had promised to give them, he slaughtered them out in the wilderness.'
"Now, please, let the power of the Master expand, enlarge itself greatly, along the lines you have laid out earlier when you said,
God, slow to get angry and huge in loyal love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sin; Still, never just whitewashing sin. But extending the fallout of parents' sins to children into the third, even the fourth generation.
"Please forgive the wrongdoing of this people out of the extravagance of your loyal love just as all along, from the time they left Egypt, you have been forgiving this people."
God said, "I forgive them, honoring your words.
But as I live and as the Glory of God fills the whole Earth -
not a single person of those who saw my Glory, saw the miracle signs I did in Egypt and the wilderness, and who have tested me over and over and over again, turning a deaf ear to me -
not one of them will set eyes on the land I so solemnly promised to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with such repeated contempt will see it.
"But my servant Caleb - this is a different story. He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately. I'll bring him into the land that he scouted and his children will inherit it.
"Since the Amalekites and Canaanites are so well established in the valleys, for right now change course and head back into the wilderness following the route to the Red Sea."
God spoke to Moses and Aaron:
"How long is this going to go on, all this grumbling against me by this evil-infested community? I've had my fill of complaints from these grumbling Israelites.
Tell them, As I live - God's decree - here's what I'm going to do:
Your corpses are going to litter the wilderness - every one of you twenty years and older who was counted in the census, this whole generation of grumblers and grousers.
Not one of you will enter the land and make your home there, the firmly and solemnly promised land, except for Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
"Your children, the very ones that you said would be taken for plunder, I'll bring in to enjoy the land you rejected
while your corpses will be rotting in the wilderness.
These children of yours will live as shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, living with the fallout of your whoring unfaithfulness until the last of your generation lies a corpse in the wilderness.
You scouted out the land for forty days; your punishment will be a year for each day, a forty-year sentence to serve for your sins - a long schooling in my displeasure.
"I, God, have spoken. I will most certainly carry out these things against this entire evil-infested community which has banded together against me. In this wilderness they will come to their end. There they will die."
So it happened that the men Moses sent to scout out the land returned to circulate false rumors about the land causing the entire community to grumble against Moses -
all these men died. Having spread false rumors of the land, they died in a plague, confronted by God.
Only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh were left alive of the men who went to scout out the land.
When Moses told all of this to the People of Israel, they mourned long and hard.
But early the next morning they started out for the high hill country, saying, "We're here; we're ready - let's go up and attack the land that God promised us. We sinned, but now we're ready."
But Moses said, "Why are you crossing God's command yet again? This won't work.
Don't attack. God isn't with you in this - you'll be beaten badly by your enemies.
The Amalekites and Canaanites are ready for you and they'll kill you. Because you have left off obediently following God, God is not going to be with you in this."
But they went anyway; recklessly and arrogantly they climbed to the high hill country. But the Chest of the Covenant and Moses didn't budge from the camp.
The Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in the hill country came out of the hills and attacked and beat them, a rout all the way down to Hormah.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)