(Continued from page 497)God's Judgement of Israel's failure to enter Canaan
Numbers 14:1 tells us that, "All the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. " As usual they began to grumble against Moses and to wish that they had died back in Egypt - but then their complaints took a more serious turn and mutiny against God and His servant Moses was proposed. They determined to appoint another leader and return to Egypt (vs. 4). Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes (vs. 6) and tried desperately to stem the rebellion and convince the people that: "If the Lord is pleased with us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us - a land which flows with milk and honey" (vs. 8). For their faithfulness, they were on the verge of being stoned to death (vs. 10) when, suddenly, in the midst of the turmoil and the crazed mob action, the glory of God appeared in the tabernacle. We can only imagine the horrifying scene as the rebellious mob were about to stone Joshua and Caleb, their men of faith. The sudden appearance of the blinding glory of God frightened them into listening! God was ready to destroy them and begin a new nation with Moses, but faithful Moses once again interceded for them, quoting the Lord's own words, "just as thou hast declared " (vs. 17) and repeating back to Him the words He had proclaimed before Moses in the mount (vs. 18; cf. Exodus 34:6-7):
18 'The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.'
Because of Moses' intercession, God pardoned the people. Nevertheless, He declared that, because they rebelled against Him ten times, they would not see the promised land (vss. 22-23). In verse 29 He added that the corpses of all their numbered men would fall in the wilderness. That terminology excluded the tribe of Levi since we read that they were not included among the numbered men. Those who were numbered, twenty years old and upward, who had grumbled against the Lord, would not see the land, but Joshua and Caleb, who were of the numbered men but had shown unwavering faith, were also specifically excluded from the judgment. Those who had used the safety of their children as an excuse for their lack of faith now learnt, ironically, that only the children would share in God's victory (Numbers 14:31-32):
31 'Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey - I will bring them in, and they shall know the land which you have rejected. 32 'But as for you, your corpses shall fall in this wilderness."
We are considering 600,000 numbered men, and a period of over thirty-eight years, which is 14,508 days in the wilderness. That would average out to the death of forty-two or forty-three men a day, three to four men an hour. The next thirty-eight and a half years in the wilderness was filled with a constant funeral dirge as the cries of widows and orphaned children filled the air for all those years.
As for the ten spies who brought back the bad report, theirs was an instant punishment as they "died of a plague before the Lord" (14:37). Then the congregation began to mourn, saying "we have sinned. " Professing a loss of interest in entering Canaan was one thing; being told they could never enter was a deep shock to the Israelites, and the awful finality of the judgement of God brought about an astonishing decision. They determined then to go into the land, perhaps hoping their willingness to enter battle immediately would cause God to reconsider, but instead they added sin to the earlier sin and, even though Moses forbade it as further transgression of God's command, they went up recklessly without the Ark of the Covenant and hence without God's presence and protection. The Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in the hill country came down and defeated them (v44) and drove them down "as far as Hormah." Numbers 15:1 marks the beginning of the wilderness wanderings. The sinful, disobedient people, who had grumbled against God and attempted to stone to death his chosen leaders, would never see the land they had expected to inherit when they left Egypt.
1. New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, 1977
2. 'The Book of Exodus, Introduction and Exegesis' - The Interpreters Bible, I, 833-1097; Rylaarsdam, J. Coert.
3. 'The Book of Exodus' McNeile, A. H., London: Methuen & Son, 1908
4. The Manna of Sinai, Bodenheimer, F. S., The Biblical Archaeologist Reader, 76-80
5. ‛The Book of Numbers, Introduction and Exegesis' - The Interpreters Bible, II, 137-311
6. The Lion Handbook to the Bible, 1973 Ed., Lion Publishing
7. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament - An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Walvoord, J. F. and Zuck, R. B.; Victor Books, 1985).
8. The Book of Leviticus, the New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Wenham, G. J.. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing C.., 1979