Add parallel Print Page Options

14 At this, everybody with one voice cried out, and the people groaned and wept all night.

Israelites (blaming Moses and Aaron): If only we had just died in Egypt or somewhere along the way in this wilderness, rather than the Eternal One leading us out here to have us slaughtered and our women and the youngsters dragged off as plunder, too, as objects for their pleasure. Wouldn’t it be good just to go back to Egypt? Let’s figure out among ourselves who should head the group and then make our way back to Egypt.

While all the gathered Israelites watched, Moses and Aaron collapsed to the ground before the people. Joshua (Nun’s son, Moses’ young assistant—the one who would succeed him) and Caleb (who was Jephunneh’s son) lamented the Israelites’ response. These two, who were among those who journeyed into the promised land to explore it and bring back a report, tore their clothes and addressed the whole community of Israelites.

Joshua and Caleb: The land that we saw was extraordinary! It’s some of the best land ever, flowing with milk and honey. So stop this moaning and wailing! If we all do what is right in the eyes of God, the Eternal will bring us into the land and make it ours. Do not rebel like this against the Eternal. Don’t be afraid of the land’s inhabitants. It is we who will devour them! They are now defenseless, and nothing can protect them from the Eternal, who is with us. You don’t need to be afraid of them!

10 But the rest of the Israelites were not convinced. Enraged, the crowd moved to stone Joshua and Caleb. Suddenly, the glory of the Eternal swept into the congregation tent in front of them all.

What a sad time it is for the Israelites! Joshua and Caleb have pleaded for courage among the people, and Moses and Aaron must now plead for patience on the part of the Lord. The Israelites stand on the edge of God’s promise, and they can’t find the courage to believe and to move forward by faith into the promise. Because of their reluctance to believe, they must wander through this wilderness with only God to supply their basic needs until He has purged the nation of those who lack faith. The next 38 years will cleanse the nation and develop the character each person needs to claim the promises of God. This same two-step process is repeated throughout the Bible: refine and cleanse while building the necessary faith. Unfortunately, the fire necessary for refinement is normally painful.

Eternal One (to Moses): 11 How many times will this ungrateful people turn their backs to Me? How long will they persist in their faithlessness, refusing to recognize all the wondrous signs I performed in their midst? 12 I will crush them with dreadful sickness and disinherit them from Me and the land. However, I will accept you and make you into a fearsome nation, far greater and more impressive than they might be or could ever dream of being.

Moses: 13 If You kill them, the Egyptians (whom You forced Your people away from) will get wind of it, 14 and they’ll tell the people of this new world, because all have already heard that You, O Eternal One, are present among Your people here, that You’ve been seen face-to-face, and that You personally guide them by a cloud-column during the day and a fire-column at night. 15 If You wipe out these, Your chosen people, in one fell swoop, then Your reputation among the other nations will be shot. All of those other peoples who have heard about You will say, 16 “The Eternal One couldn’t finish the job. He couldn’t bring the people into the land He’d promised to them, so He slaughtered them in the desert.” 17 Instead, demonstrate that great power of Yours when You declared, 18 “I am slow to get angry and overflow with consistently boundless love. I forgive wrongdoing and waywardness, but I don’t overlook the necessity for justice, so I punish the guilty ones’ third and fourth coming generations.” 19 So, in light of the greatness of Your unwavering love, forgive this people’s wrongdoing just as You’ve done before—from Egypt all the way here.

Eternal One: 20 I have pardoned them as you’ve asked Me to do. 21 But as I live, the earth will be filled with My brilliant glory; 22-23 this particular generation will never get to enjoy the land I promised to their ancestors so long ago. Although they witnessed My glory and signs firsthand, and the amazing feats I accomplished on their behalf in Egypt and on this desert sojourn, they tested Me over and over again, even 10 times, and even directly disobeyed. None of the people who have turned their backs on Me will ever see the land. 24 For Caleb, though, it’s a different matter. He’s distinct from the others by having a different spirit and has followed My lead wholeheartedly. I will make sure that he is able to enter the land and to live in it—he and his descendants after him.

25 Now, to avoid the Amalekites and Canaanites who presently inhabit the valleys, turn around tomorrow, and make for the desert by way of the Red Sea.[a]

26 The Eternal One reiterated to Moses and Aaron,

Eternal One: 27 How many times will these bad people grumble against Me and My choices? It seems that all I hear is Israelites complaining, complaining, complaining! 28 So tell them I say, “As I live, I will make sure that what you’re complaining about really does happen— 29 you’ll die out here in the desert, every single one of you old enough to have been organized in the counting (20 years or older) who complained about Me. 30 Not a single one of that group will have the privilege of entering the land I made an oath to give to you. Only Caleb (Jephunneh’s son) and Joshua (Nun’s son) will enter. 31 Your children, those whom you feared would be taken by the land’s present inhabitants, will eventually enter the land you’ve rejected. 32 But the rest of you? You’ll die out here in the desert. 33 Until then, your children will have to wait it out, keeping the herds and flocks out here in the wilderness. On account of your faithlessness, they’ll have to wait the 40 years it’ll take for you all to die. 34 The same number of scouting days—40—is the number of years you’ll carry the guilt of your wrongs for being so hard-headed and know Me as only an enemy.” 35 Well, there it is. I, the Eternal One, have spoken, and so I will do it. This especially wicked group that banded together against Me will suffer for it, each and every one, and will come to an end and die out here in this wilderness.

36-37 Remember that the men who had been hand-selected by Moses to scout out the promised land delivered a less-than-positive report. Consequently, in the assenting presence of the Eternal, they were all killed by a plague. 38 All, that is, except for Joshua (son of Nun) and Caleb (son of Jephunneh).

39 When Moses delivered this message from the Lord to the Israelites, they were devastated and greatly mourned. 40 But in the morning, they got up with the sun and climbed high into the hills.

Israelites: Well, here we are. Despite our wrongdoings, let’s go up into the land the Eternal promised us on our own.

Moses: 41 Why do you keep doing what you’re not supposed to do? You will not succeed in your efforts. 42-43 He will not accompany you, so you’re vulnerable on all sides. Because you’ve rejected the Eternal, you won’t have Him in your midst and on your side. When you run into the Amalekites and Canaanites, they will slay you on the spot.

44 Despite Moses’ protestations, the people tried. The chest of the Eternal’s covenant and Moses himself remained back in the camp. 45 Sure enough, the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived there descended upon them, attacked them, and chased them clear back to Hormah, which means the place of complete destruction.


  1. 14:25 Literally, Sea of Reeds

The People Rebel

14 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.(A) All the Israelites grumbled(B) against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt!(C) Or in this wilderness!(D) Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?(E) Our wives and children(F) will be taken as plunder.(G) Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?(H) And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.(I)

Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown(J) in front of the whole Israelite assembly(K) gathered there. Joshua son of Nun(L) and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes(M) and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.(N) If the Lord is pleased with us,(O) he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey,(P) and will give it to us.(Q) Only do not rebel(R) against the Lord. And do not be afraid(S) of the people of the land,(T) because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with(U) us.(V) Do not be afraid of them.”(W)

10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning(X) them. Then the glory of the Lord(Y) 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?(Z) How long will they refuse to believe in me,(AA) in spite of all the signs(AB) I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague(AC) and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation(AD) greater and stronger than they.”(AE)

13 Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them.(AF) 14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard(AG) that you, Lord, are with these people(AH) and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face,(AI) that your cloud stays over them,(AJ) and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.(AK) 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,(AL) so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’(AM)

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.(AN) Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’(AO) 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive(AP) the sin of these people,(AQ) just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”(AR)

20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them,(AS) as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live(AT) and as surely as the glory of the Lord(AU) fills the whole earth,(AV) 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs(AW) I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times(AX) 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath(AY) to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt(AZ) will ever see it.(BA) 24 But because my servant Caleb(BB) has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly,(BC) I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.(BD) 25 Since the Amalekites(BE) and the Canaanites(BF) are living in the valleys, turn(BG) back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.[a](BH)

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.(BI) 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live,(BJ) declares the Lord, I will do to you(BK) the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall(BL)—every one of you twenty years old or more(BM) who was counted in the census(BN) and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land(BO) I swore with uplifted hand(BP) to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh(BQ) and Joshua son of Nun.(BR) 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.(BS) 32 But as for you, your bodies will fall(BT) in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years,(BU) suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years(BV)—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land(BW)—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(BX) to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.(BY)

36 So the men Moses had sent(BZ) to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble(CA) against him by spreading a bad report(CB) about it— 37 these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report(CC) about the land were struck down and died of a plague(CD) before the Lord. 38 Of the men who went to explore the land,(CE) only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.(CF)

39 When Moses reported this(CG) to all the Israelites, they mourned(CH) bitterly. 40 Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country,(CI) saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. Surely we have sinned!(CJ)

41 But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed!(CK) 42 Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies,(CL) 43 for the Amalekites(CM) and the Canaanites(CN) will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you(CO) and you will fall by the sword.”

44 Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up(CP) toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp.(CQ) 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites(CR) who lived in that hill country(CS) came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.(CT)


  1. Numbers 14:25 Or the Sea of Reeds

Bible Gateway Sponsors