The People Rebel.[a] 1 The whole assembly cried out and wept loudly that night. 2 All the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole assembly said to them, “Would that we would have died in Egypt, or we had died in this desert! 3 Why did the Lord bring us into this land so that we fall by the sword? Our wives and our children will be taken as plunder! Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 They said to one another, “Let us choose a leader who will take us back to Egypt.”
5 Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered there. 6 Joshua, the son of Nun, and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, who had spied out the land, tore their clothes. 7 They spoke to the entire assembly of the people of Israel saying, “The land we passed through and explored is a tremendously good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land and give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection is gone, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them!”The Lord’s Response.
10 But the whole assembly decided to stone them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting in front of all of the people of Israel. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? How long before they trust me, in spite of all the signs that I have performed in their midst? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and I will destroy them. Then I will make a nation arise from you that is greater and mightier than they are.”[b]
13 But Moses said to the Lord, “The Egyptians will hear about it, for by your power you brought this people out from their midst. 14 They will report it to the people of this land. They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people, for you, O Lord, are seen face to face. Your cloud stands over them, and you go before them as a cloud by day and as a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if you kill this people as if it were a single man, then the nations that have heard of your fame will say, 16 ‘The Lord was not able to bring this people into the land that he promised them, so he killed them in the wilderness.’ 17 Therefore, my Lord, show your great power, for as you have declared, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in mercy, forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the father upon the sons to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 By your great mercy, I beseech you, forgive this people, just as you have forgiven this people ever since they left Egypt until now.”
20 The Lord answered, “I have forgiven them, just as you have asked. 21 But assuredly, just as I live and the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 because this entire people has witnessed my glory and the miracles that I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet they have put me to the test these ten times and have not heeded my voice, 23 none of them will see the land that I promised to their fathers. None of those who despised me will see it. 24 But I will bring my servant Caleb into the land that he entered because he has a different spirit and wholeheartedly follows me. His descendants will inherit it. 25 Turn back tomorrow and set out for the wilderness along the route to the Red Sea for the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valley.”
26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long will this wicked assembly grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of the people of Israel that they grumble against me. 28 So I declare to them: As I live, says the Lord, I will make the things you have said in my hearing happen: 29 your dead bodies will fall to the ground in this wilderness. None of you who are twenty years or older and who have complained about me 30 will enter the land in which I swore I would make you dwell except for Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, the son of Nun. 31 However, as for your little ones whom you said would become plunder, I will bring them in and they will come to know the land that you have despised. 32 But your dead bodies will fall to the ground in this wilderness. 33 Your children will wander in this wilderness for forty years, and they will bear the burden of your unfaithfulness, until your dead bodies lie in the wilderness. 34 The number of days that you explored the land was forty, and there will be one year for each day. You will bear the burden of your sins for forty years and you will come to know my rejection.[c] 35 I, the Lord, have proclaimed this. I will surely do this to this evil assembly that has gathered together against me. In this wilderness they will come to an end, there they will die.”
36 The men whom Moses sent to explore the land, and who, when they returned, incited the assembly to complain against him by giving an evil report concerning the land, 37 those men who brought the evil report concerning the land were struck down by a plague before the Lord. 38 Of the men who went to explore the land, Joshua, the son of Nun, and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, survived.
39 Doomed Invasion. When Moses reported these sayings to all the people of Israel, the people mourned bitterly. 40 They rose up early the next morning and went to the top of the mountain and said, “Here we are! We have sinned, but we are ready to go up to the place that the Lord has promised.” 41 But Moses said, “Why are you now disobeying the command of the Lord? This will not succeed. 42 Do not go up, for the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies. 43 The Amalekites and the Canaanites are there in front of you. You will fall by the sword, because you turned away from the Lord. The Lord will not be with you.” 44 In their presumption, they went up into the high hill country, but the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord and Moses did not go out from the camp. 45 The Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in the hill country came down and attacked them and drove them back to Hormah.
- Numbers 14:1 The ungrateful ones in the community, incited by the faithless spies, turn against the Lord dismissing all that he has done for them and preferring death to trusting in his promise.
- Numbers 14:12 The Lord’s wrath is short lived. No sooner does he threaten to destroy the rebellious lot, then he promises for a second time since the Exodus to raise up a faithful people.
- Numbers 14:34 The Lord metes out punishment on the unfaithful people, condemning them to die in the desert as they had wished.