Numbers 14

The People Rebel

1 Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.
2 All the sons of Israel 1grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, "2Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!
3 "Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, 3to fall by the sword? 4Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?"
4 So they said to one another, "5Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt."
5 6Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel.
6 Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes;
7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, "7The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.
8 "8If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us-9a land which flows with milk and honey.
9 "Only 10do not rebel against the LORD; and do not 11fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them."
10 12But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then 13the glory of the LORD appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.

Moses Pleads for the People

11 14The LORD said to Moses, "How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will 15they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?
12 "I will smite them with 16pestilence and dispossess them, and I 17will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they."
13 18But Moses said to the LORD, "Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from their midst,
14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O LORD, are in the midst of this people, for 19You, O LORD, are seen eye to eye, while 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 slay this people as one man, 20then the nations who have heard of Your fame will say,
16 'Because the LORD 21could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.'
17 "But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared *,
18 '22The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but 23He will by no means clear the guilty, 24visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.'
19 "25Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."

The LORD Pardons and Rebukes

20 So the LORD said, "26I have pardoned them according to your word;
21 but indeed, 27as I live, 28all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.
22 "Surely 29all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet 30have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice,
23 31shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.
24 "But My servant Caleb, 32because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, 33I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.
25 "34Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys; turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the Red * Sea."
26 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
27 "How long * shall I bear with this evil congregation who are 35grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.
28 "Say to them, '36As I live,' says the LORD, 'just as 37you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you;
29 38your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all 39your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me.
30 'Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore * to settle you, 40except * Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
31 '41Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey -I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected.
32 '42But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness.
33 'Your sons shall be shepherds for 43forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.
34 'According to the 44number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition.
35 '45I, the LORD, have spoken, surely * this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.' "
36 46As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land,
37 even 47those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died by a 48plague before the LORD.
38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land.

Israel Repulsed

39 When Moses spoke 49these words to all the sons of Israel, 50the people mourned greatly.
40 In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, "51Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised."
41 But Moses said, "52Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the LORD, when it will not succeed?
42 "53Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the LORD is not among you.
43 "For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch * * as you have turned back from following the LORD. And the LORD will not be with you."
44 But they went up heedlessly to the ridge of the hill country; neither 54the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses left the camp.
45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as 55Hormah.

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 55

  • 1. Numbers 11:1
  • 2. Numbers 11:5; Numbers 16:13; Numbers 20:3, 4; Numbers 21:5
  • 3. Exodus 5:21; Exodus 16:3
  • 4. Numbers 14:31; Deuteronomy 1:39
  • 5. Nehemiah 9:17
  • 6. Numbers 16:4
  • 7. Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy 1:25
  • 8. Deuteronomy 10:15
  • 9. Exodus 3:8; Numbers 13:27
  • 10. Deuteronomy 1:26; Deuteronomy 9:23, 24
  • 11. Deuteronomy 1:21, 29
  • 12. Exodus 17:4
  • 13. Exodus 16:10; Leviticus 9:23
  • 14. Exodus 32:9-13
  • 15. Psalms 106:24
  • 16. Leviticus 26:25; Deuteronomy 28:21
  • 17. Exodus 32:10
  • 18. Exodus 32:11-14; Psalms 106:23
  • 19. Exodus 13:21; Deuteronomy 5:4
  • 20. Exodus 32:12
  • 21. Joshua 7:7
  • 22. Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:6, 7; Deuteronomy 5:10; Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalms 103:8; Psalms 145:8; Jonah 4:2
  • 23. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9; Deuteronomy 7:10
  • 24. Exodus 34:7
  • 25. Exodus 32:32; Exodus 34:9
  • 26. Micah 7:18-20
  • 27. Numbers 14:28; Deuteronomy 32:40; Isaiah 49:18
  • 28. Isaiah 6:3; Habakkuk 2:14
  • 29. 1 Corinthians 10:5
  • 30. Exodus 5:21; Exodus 14:11; Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2; Exodus 17:2, 3; Exodus 32:1; Numbers 11:1, 4; Numbers 12:1; Numbers 14:2
  • 31. Numbers 26:65; Numbers 32:11; Hebrews 3:18
  • 32. Numbers 14:6-9
  • 33. Numbers 26:65; Numbers 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:6-15
  • 34. Numbers 13:29
  • 35. Numbers 11:1
  • 36. Numbers 14:21
  • 37. Numbers 14:2; Deuteronomy 2:14, 15; Hebrews 3:17
  • 38. Hebrews 3:17
  • 39. Numbers 1:45, 46
  • 40. Numbers 14:24
  • 41. Numbers 14:3
  • 42. Numbers 26:64, 65; Numbers 32:13; 1 Corinthians 10:5
  • 43. Deuteronomy 2:7; Deuteronomy 8:2, 4; Deuteronomy 29:5
  • 44. Numbers 13:25
  • 45. Numbers 23:19
  • 46. Num 13:4-16, 32
  • 47. 1 Corinthians 10:10; Hebrews 3:17, 18
  • 48. Numbers 16:49
  • 49. Numbers 14:28-35
  • 50. Exodus 33:4
  • 51. Deuteronomy 1:41-44
  • 52. 2 Chronicles 24:20
  • 53. Deuteronomy 1:42
  • 54. Numbers 31:6
  • 55. Numbers 21:3

Footnotes 24

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

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