Numbers 14

Listen to Numbers 14

The People Rebel

1 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people 1wept that night.
2 And all the people of Israel 2grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or 3would that we had died in this wilderness!
3 Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? 4Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?"
4 And they said to one another, 5"Let us choose a leader and 6go back to Egypt."
5 Then 7Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel.
6 8And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes
7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, 9"The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land.
8 If 10the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, 11a land that flows with milk and honey.
9 Only 12do not rebel against the LORD. And 13do not fear the people of the land, for 14they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them."
10 15Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But 16the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.
11 And the LORD said to Moses, "How long will this people 17despise me? And how long will they not 18believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?
12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I 19will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they."

Moses Intercedes for the People

13 But 20Moses said to the LORD, "Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them,
14 and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. 21They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people. For you, O LORD, are seen face to face, and 22your 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 kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say,
16 'It is because the LORD 23 was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness.'
17 And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying,
18 24'The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, 25visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.'
19 Please 26pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just 27as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now."

God Promises Judgment

20 Then the LORD said, "I have pardoned, 28according to your word.
21 But truly, as I live, and as all 29the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD,
22 30none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these 31ten times and have not obeyed my voice,
23 32shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.
24 But my servant 33Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has 34followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.
25 35Now, since the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valleys, 36turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea."
26 And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,
27 "How long shall 37this wicked congregation grumble against me? 38I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me.
28 Say to them, 39'As I live, declares the LORD, 40what you have said in my hearing I will do to you:
29 41your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and 42of all your number, listed in the census 43from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me,
30 not one shall come into the land where I 44swore that I would make you dwell, 45except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
31 46But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that 47you have rejected.
32 But as for you, 48your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness.
33 And your children 49shall be shepherds in the wilderness 50forty years and shall 51suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.
34 52According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, 53forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.'
35 54I, the LORD, have spoken. Surely this will I do to all 55this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die."
36 56And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land--
37 the men who brought up a bad report of the land--57died by plague before the LORD.
38 Of those men who went to spy out the land, 58only Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive.

Israel Defeated in Battle

39 When Moses told these words to all the people of Israel, the people 59mourned greatly.
40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, 60"Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned."
41 61But Moses said, "Why now are you transgressing the command of the LORD, when that will not succeed?
42 62Do not go up, 63for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies.
43 For there 64the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you."
44 65But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither 66the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp.
45 Then 67the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to 68Hormah.

Images for Numbers 14

Numbers 14 Commentary

Chapter 14

The people murmur at the account of the spies. (1-4) Joshua and Caleb labour to still the people. (5-10) The Divine threatenings, The intercession of Moses. (11-19) The murmurers forbidden to enter the promised land. (20-35) Death of the evil spies. (36-39) Defeat of the people, who now would invade the land. (40-45)

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.

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.

Cross References 68

  • 1. Numbers 11:4
  • 2. ver. 27, 29, 33; Numbers 16:41; Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2; Exodus 17:3; Psalms 106:25; [Joshua 9:18]
  • 3. [ver. 27-29]
  • 4. ver. 31
  • 5. Nehemiah 9:17
  • 6. [Deuteronomy 17:16; Acts 7:39]
  • 7. Numbers 16:4, 22; Numbers 20:6
  • 8. ver. 30; Numbers 13:6, 8
  • 9. Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy 1:25
  • 10. Deuteronomy 10:15; 2 Samuel 22:20; 1 Kings 10:9; Psalms 18:19; Psalms 22:8; Isaiah 62:4
  • 11. See Exodus 3:8
  • 12. Josh. 22:16, 18, 19, 29
  • 13. Deuteronomy 7:18; Deuteronomy 20:3
  • 14. Numbers 24:8; [Psalms 14:4; Psalms 74:14]
  • 15. Exodus 17:4
  • 16. See Leviticus 9:23
  • 17. ver. 23; Numbers 16:30
  • 18. Deuteronomy 1:32; Deuteronomy 9:23; Psalms 78:22, 32; Psalms 106:24; Hebrews 3:18; [John 12:37]
  • 19. Exodus 32:10
  • 20. Exodus 32:12; [Deuteronomy 9:28; Deuteronomy 32:27; Psalms 106:23; Ezekiel 20:9, 14]
  • 21. Joshua 5:14">Ex. 1Joshua 5:14; Joshua 2:9, 10; Joshua 5:1
  • 22. See Exodus 13:21
  • 23. Deuteronomy 9:28; [Joshua 7:9]
  • 24. See Exodus 34:6, 7
  • 25. See Exodus 20:5
  • 26. Exodus 34:9
  • 27. Psalms 78:38; Psalms 106:45
  • 28. Psalms 106:23; [James 5:16]; See 1 John 5:14-16
  • 29. Psalms 72:19; Habakkuk 2:14
  • 30. Deuteronomy 1:35; Psalms 95:11; Psalms 106:26; Hebrews 3:17, 18
  • 31. [Genesis 31:7; Job 19:3]
  • 32. Numbers 32:11; Ezekiel 20:15; [Numbers 26:64]
  • 33. ver. 6; Numbers 13:6
  • 34. Numbers 32:12; Joshua 14:8, 9
  • 35. ver. 43, 45; See Numbers 13:29
  • 36. Deuteronomy 1:40
  • 37. ver. 35
  • 38. Exodus 16:7, 12
  • 39. ver. 21, 23; Numbers 26:65
  • 40. [ver. 2]
  • 41. 1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:17
  • 42. Numbers 1:45; Numbers 26:64; Deuteronomy 1:35
  • 43. Numbers 1:3; Exodus 30:14
  • 44. See Genesis 14:22
  • 45. ver. 6, 38; See Numbers 13:6
  • 46. ver. 3; Deuteronomy 1:39
  • 47. Psalms 106:24
  • 48. [See ver. 29 above]
  • 49. Numbers 32:13; [Psalms 107:40]
  • 50. Psalms 95:10; [Deuteronomy 2:14]
  • 51. Ezekiel 23:35
  • 52. Numbers 13:25
  • 53. [Ezekiel 4:6]
  • 54. Numbers 23:19
  • 55. ver. 27
  • 56. Numbers 13:32
  • 57. 1 Corinthians 10:10; Hebrews 3:17; Jude 5
  • 58. Numbers 26:65; See Numbers 13:16
  • 59. Exodus 33:4
  • 60. Deuteronomy 1:41
  • 61. [2 Chronicles 24:20]
  • 62. Deuteronomy 1:42
  • 63. [Deuteronomy 31:17]
  • 64. ver. 25, 45; See Numbers 13:29
  • 65. Deuteronomy 1:43
  • 66. [1 Samuel 4:3]
  • 67. ver. 43; [Deuteronomy 1:44]
  • 68. Numbers 21:3; Judges 1:17

Chapter Summary


This chapter treats or the murmurings of the children of Israel upon the evil report of the spies, which greatly distressed Moses and Aaron, Nu 14:1-5; and of the endeavours of Joshua and Caleb to quiet the minds of the people with a good account of the land, and of the easy conquest of it, but to no purpose, Nu 14:6-10; and of the Lord's threatening to destroy the people with the pestilence, Nu 14:11,12; and of the intercession of Moses for them, which so far succeeded as to prevent their immediate destruction, Nu 14:13-20; nevertheless they are assured again and again, in the strongest terms, that none of them but Joshua and Caleb should enter into the land, but their carcasses should fall in the wilderness, even all the murmurers of twenty years old and upwards, Nu 14:21-35; and the ten men that brought the evil report of the good land died of a plague immediately, but the other two lived, Nu 14:36-38; and the body of the people that attempted to go up the mountain and enter the land were smitten and discomfited by their enemies, after they had with concern heard what the Lord threatened them with, Nu 14:39-45.

Numbers 14 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.