Numbers 14

The People Rebel

1 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.
2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness!
3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.
6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes
7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.
8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.
9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites.
11 The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?
12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”
13 Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them.
14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, LORD, are with these people and that you, LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
15 If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say,
16 ‘The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’
17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared:
18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’
19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”
20 The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.
21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth,
22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—
23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.
24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.
25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.[a]
26 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron:
27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites.
28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say:
29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me.
30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected.
32 But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness.
33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness.
34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’
35 I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.”
36 So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it—
37 these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the LORD.
38 Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.
39 When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly.
40 Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the LORD promised. Surely we have sinned!”
41 But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the LORD’s command? This will not succeed!
42 Do not go up, because the LORD is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies,
43 for the Amalekites and the Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the LORD, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword.”
44 Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp.
45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.

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 98

  • 1. S Genesis 27:38; Exodus 33:4; Numbers 25:6; Deuteronomy 1:45; Judges 20:23,26; 2 Samuel 3:32; Job 31:29
  • 2. S Exodus 15:24; Hebrews 3:16
  • 3. S Exodus 16:3
  • 4. S Numbers 11:1; Numbers 16:13; Numbers 20:4; Numbers 21:5
  • 5. S Exodus 5:21
  • 6. ver 31
  • 7. S Genesis 34:29; Deuteronomy 1:39; Psalms 109:11; Isaiah 33:4; Ezekiel 7:21; Ezekiel 25:7; Ezekiel 26:5
  • 8. Acts 7:39
  • 9. Nehemiah 9:17
  • 10. S Leviticus 9:24; Nu 16:4,22,45; Numbers 20:6; Joshua 5:14; 2 Samuel 14:4; 1 Chronicles 21:16; Ezekiel 1:28
  • 11. S Leviticus 19:2
  • 12. Numbers 11:28
  • 13. S Genesis 37:29,34; Judges 11:35; 2 Samuel 13:31; 2 Kings 19:1; Ezra 9:3; Esther 4:1; S Mark 14:63
  • 14. Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy 1:25
  • 15. Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 10:15; Psalms 18:19; Psalms 22:8; Psalms 37:23; Psalms 41:11; Psalms 56:9; Psalms 147:11; Proverbs 11:20; Isaiah 62:4; Malachi 2:17
  • 16. Numbers 13:27
  • 17. Deuteronomy 1:21
  • 18. Deuteronomy 1:26; Deuteronomy 9:7,23,24
  • 19. Genesis 26:24; 2 Chronicles 32:7; Psalms 118:6; Jeremiah 41:18; Jeremiah 42:11
  • 20. Deuteronomy 1:21; Deuteronomy 7:18; Deuteronomy 20:1
  • 21. Haggai 2:4
  • 22. S Genesis 21:22; Deuteronomy 1:30; 2 Chronicles 13:12; Jeremiah 15:20; Jeremiah 46:28; Haggai 1:13
  • 23. ver 24
  • 24. S Exodus 17:4
  • 25. S Exodus 24:16; Leviticus 9:23
  • 26. Exodus 23:21; Numbers 15:31; Numbers 16:30; 1 Samuel 2:17; Ezekiel 31:14; Malachi 1:13
  • 27. Deuteronomy 1:32; Psalms 78:22; Psalms 106:24; John 3:15
  • 28. S Exodus 3:20; S Exodus 4:17; S Exodus 10:1
  • 29. S Exodus 5:3; S Exodus 30:12
  • 30. S Exodus 32:10
  • 31. Deuteronomy 9:14; Deuteronomy 29:20; Deuteronomy 32:26; Psalms 109:13
  • 32. Exodus 32:11-14; Psalms 106:23
  • 33. Exodus 15:14
  • 34. Numbers 5:3; Numbers 16:3; Joshua 2:9
  • 35. Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 34:10
  • 36. S Exodus 33:16
  • 37. S Exodus 13:21
  • 38. Numbers 11:12
  • 39. Exodus 32:12; Joshua 7:7
  • 40. S Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:6; Psalms 145:8; John 4:2; James 5:11
  • 41. Exodus 20:5
  • 42. S Exodus 34:9; 1 Kings 8:34; Psalms 85:2; Psalms 103:3
  • 43. Psalms 106:45
  • 44. Psalms 78:38
  • 45. Exodus 34:6; Psalms 99:8; Psalms 106:23; Micah 7:18-20
  • 46. ver 28; Deuteronomy 32:40; Judges 8:19; Ruth 3:13; 1 Samuel 14:39; 1 Samuel 19:6; Isaiah 49:18; Jeremiah 4:2; Ezekiel 5:11; Zephaniah 2:9
  • 47. Leviticus 9:6
  • 48. Psalms 72:19; Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 40:5; Habakkuk 2:14
  • 49. ver 11
  • 50. S Exodus 14:11; Exodus 17:7; Exodus 32:1; Psalms 81:7; 1 Corinthians 10:5
  • 51. ver 16; S Exodus 33:1; Numbers 32:11; Deuteronomy 1:34; Psalms 95:11; Psalms 106:26
  • 52. ver 11
  • 53. Hebrews 3:18
  • 54. Numbers 13:6
  • 55. ver 6-9; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8,14
  • 56. Numbers 26:65; Numbers 32:12; Psalms 25:13; Psalms 37:9,11
  • 57. S Genesis 14:7
  • 58. S Genesis 10:18
  • 59. Deuteronomy 1:40
  • 60. Exodus 23:31; Numbers 21:4; 1 Kings 9:26
  • 61. Exodus 16:12; Deuteronomy 1:34,35
  • 62. S ver 21
  • 63. Numbers 33:56
  • 64. ver 23,30,32; Numbers 26:65; Numbers 32:13; 1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:17; Jude 1:5
  • 65. S Numbers 1:45
  • 66. S Exodus 30:12
  • 67. S ver 29
  • 68. Exodus 6:8; Deuteronomy 32:40; Nehemiah 9:15; Psalms 106:26; Ezekiel 20:5; Ezekiel 36:7
  • 69. Numbers 13:6
  • 70. Numbers 11:28
  • 71. S Leviticus 26:43; Psalms 106:24
  • 72. S ver 29,35; 1 Corinthians 10:5
  • 73. ver 34; S Exodus 16:35; Acts 13:18; Hebrews 3:9
  • 74. S ver 33
  • 75. Numbers 13:25
  • 76. Numbers 23:19
  • 77. S ver 32
  • 78. Numbers 13:4-16
  • 79. ver 2
  • 80. S Numbers 13:32
  • 81. S Numbers 13:32; 1 Corinthians 10:10; Hebrews 3:17
  • 82. Numbers 16:49; Numbers 5:9; Numbers 26:1; Numbers 31:16; Deuteronomy 4:3
  • 83. ver 30; Numbers 13:4-16
  • 84. ver 24; Joshua 14:6
  • 85. ver 28-35
  • 86. S Exodus 33:4
  • 87. ver 45; Numbers 13:17
  • 88. S Exodus 9:27; Deuteronomy 1:41
  • 89. 2 Chronicles 24:20
  • 90. Deuteronomy 1:42
  • 91. Judges 3:13
  • 92. ver 45; Numbers 13:29
  • 93. S Genesis 39:23; Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 6:27; Judges 1:19; Judges 6:16; 1 Samuel 3:19; 1 Samuel 18:14; 2 Chronicles 1:1
  • 94. Deuteronomy 1:43
  • 95. Numbers 31:6
  • 96. S ver 43
  • 97. S ver 40
  • 98. Numbers 21:3; Deuteronomy 1:44; Joshua 12:14; Joshua 15:30; Joshua 19:4; Judges 1:17; 1 Samuel 30:30; 1 Chronicles 4:30

Footnotes 1

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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