Chapter 14


The People Rebel

    • Then all the Israelites cried aloud that night and complained about Moses and Aaron saying, “We would have rather died in Egypt, or even in the wilderness! Why is God bringing us into this land to die in battle and our wives and children be taken as plunder? We’d be better off returning to Egypt. Let’s appoint a leader to guide us back to Egypt.”

      • On Israel’s faithlessness Guzik notes, “We should not forget that the twelve spies were sent one from each tribe (Numbers 13:2); in this way, they truly represent the people of Israel, and the lack of faith of the majority of the spies is a lack of faith on behalf of the whole nation…So here, Israel stood barely a year out of Egypt, on the threshold of the Promised Land. Over the first ten chapters of Numbers they had been fully prepared to walk as Promised Land people – they had been ordered and organized; cleansed and purified; set apart and blessed; taught how to give and how to function as priests; had been made to remember judgment spared and deliverance brought; and had been given God’s presence as a guide and the tools needed to lead the people…Now God invited them to take the land – and they rebelled through their mourning. Unbelief made them think of God’s good for them (the gift of the Promised Land) as something evil.”

      • On Israel’s grievous rebellion Guzik says, “Here, they directly accused the Almighty with sin and evil towards them. They were angry with God, accusing Him of plotting the murder of them and their wives and children… This was a deep state of rebellion. God, who can do no evil, with Whom there is no shadow of turning, was called evil and a murderer by His own people…This was pure rebellion. They said that they did not want God’s plan, they did not want God’s leaders, and they did not want God’s land. They believed that they knew better than God…Notice how man-centered their rebellion was: They said to one another (the decision was made among themselves, believing their majority vote had more wisdom than God). Let us select (they didn’t like God’s selection, so they wanted a leader who would truly represent them – in all their rebellion against God).

      • Have circumstances ever led you to be angry with God and question Him directly? Guzik writes, “Some counsel it is a healthy thing to be angry with God, and to let it all out, so that God and you can be reconciled, as sort of a matter of counseling therapy. While it is true that one may be angry with God, and should take every such feeling to God, it is wrong to ever assume or imply that such feelings are justified. If we are angry at God, we are in sin, because God has never done anything that deserves us being angry. We should honestly bring such sin before God, but never for a moment feeling it to be justified.”

    • Upon hearing this, Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground in front of the Israelites. The two faithful scouts, Joshua and Caleb, tore their clothes and said, “The land we explored is an extremely good land, flowing with milk and honey! Don’t be afraid of the people who live there. If God is pleased with us, He will give us this land. We will defeat them because they don’t have any protection anymore- the Lord is with us! Don’t rebel against the Lord!”

      • Moses and Aaron prostrated themselves out of humility, fear, grief, and anguish…Joshua and Caleb joined in the effort to reverse the rebellion and avert God’s wrath; they tore their clothes in a gesture of grief.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

    • In response, the entire community of Israelites threaten to stone Joshua and Caleb.

      • Guzik writes, “Rebellious, carnal man cannot endure the men of faith, who came with the challenge of faith. They would kill Joshua and Caleb for calling them to forsake their unbelief and to trust God.”

God’s Judgment of Israel’s Rebellion

    • Then, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle and He said to Moses, “How long will these people hate and distrust Me despite all the miraculous signs they have seen Me perform? I will destroy them with a plague and make you into a greater and more powerful nation than they are.”

      • Guzik writes, “This is a dramatic offer to Moses; God says He will give rebellious Israel what they deserve – judgment (indeed, what they said they wanted – to die in the wilderness! [14:2]), and He will fulfill His promises of a land, nation, and blessing to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through Moses instead!…This was heady stuff for Moses; he is offered the position of ‘patriarch’ – to become a father for Israel in the same way Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were. Moses knew of their greatness and fame – he was used of God to compile their stories in the book of Genesis!… We must regard this as a real ‘offer’ from God; the Lord does not speak make-believe words. If Moses were to do nothing, this plan of God would go into effect – the nation would perish, and somehow, God would start all over again with Moses – and the new nation would be better (greater and mightier) than the present one!”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The writer of Hebrews refers to this episode in his effort to strengthen the faith of Christians whose trust in the Good News was wavering (Hebrews 3:7-19; 12:3, 25; Psalm 95:8-11).

    • But Moses replied, “If you do this the Egyptians will hear about it. They know You rescued the Israelites from them, and that You are with these people. They know that You have appeared to them, and that Your cloud covers them, leading them during the day, and that You appear in a pillar of fire to lead them at night. If You kill them all at once, all the nations that have heard of how great You are will say that You killed the Israelites in the wilderness because You were unable to bring them to the land that You promised to give them. Instead of killing them, please show Your power and glory just as You have described before. You have said that You do not get angry quickly; that You are filled with unfailing love; and that You forgive sin and rebellion. You have also said that You will not let the guilty go unpunished and that the consequences of a parent’s sin will affect their children for three or four generations. In accordance with Your unfailing love, please pardon the Israelites for their sins, just as You have been doing since we left Egypt.”

      • Guzik comments, “Moses did not entertain God’s offer for a moment. Instead, he pled for the nation and loved them despite their rebellion, and he was zealous for the glory of God…Moses’ zeal for God’s glory was evident. He knew that if God wiped out the present nation and started again with Moses, it would be a black mark on His reputation before the nations – especially Egypt…Perhaps then the nations could claim that the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land. It could be said that the sin and rebellion of man was greater than the power and goodness of God…Moses brought God’s promise before Him. He begged God to not give the nations any opportunity to think God has not been true to His word…Moses glories in the power of God, but asks that God would use His power by showing mercy and longsuffering to a rebellious Israel…Moses basically said: “Lord, you have revealed Yourself to me by Your word. Your word declares who You are. Now Lord, please act towards Israel according to who You have declared Yourself to be in Your word.”

      • Guzik expounds on Moses’ amazing response, “This was a spectacular example of intercession…What made this intercession spectacular was not primarily Moses’ method (appealing to God’s glory, power, and promise); but Moses’ heart. Here, Moses is totally others-centered, not concerned for his own glory, but only for Israel. He displays he shares the heart of God towards His people, and that is what made Moses’ intercession spectacular…This, of course, was God’s intention all along: To develop and draw out of Moses just this kind of heart, transforming Moses into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), long before the time of Jesus.”

    • The Lord answered, “I will pardon these people as you have asked. However, as surely as I live and the entire earth is filled with My glory, none of the men who witnessed My glory and miraculous signs that I performed in Egypt and the wilderness, yet still tested Me 10 times,disobeyed, and hated Me, will ever see the land that I promised to their fathers. Since Caleb is different and has remained loyal to Me, I will bring him to the land that he scouted and his descendants will receive their inheritance in that land. The Amalekites and Canaanites are in the valley, so turn around tomorrow and go back toward the Red Sea.”

The Israelites turn around and head back in the direction of the Red Sea.
      • Some people believe that prayer really doesn’t matter because God already knows what He is going to do and an individual’s prayer is not going to alter future events regardless. However, Guzik uses this passage to refute that belief: “The heart of Moses and his method of intercession were successful…This means that Moses’ prayer mattered…We don’t understand the relationship between the eternal, sovereign plan of God and our prayers; but we know it is no game. God never wanted Moses to think of it as a game, and wanted Moses to at least think that his prayers had directly affected the outcome: I have pardoned, according to your word! We should pray as if life and death, heaven and hell, would be decided by our prayers!”

    • The Lord continued speaking to Moses and Aaron, “How long do I have to put up with this evil community of Israelites who continue to complain about Me? Tell them this: As surely as I live, I will give them exactly what I heard them say- every single person who was registered in the census (age 20 years and older) will die in the wilderness. Not a single one of this generation will enter the promised land except Caleb and Joshua- the only two who didn’t complain. I will bring their children, the ones who they said would be carried off as plunder, into the promised land and they will enjoy what their parents rejected. However, the children will have to bear the consequences of their parents’ rebellion by wandering in the wilderness as shepherds for 40 years until the last of their parents’ generation dies. This 40 year period is based on the number of days that the scouts explored the promised land- one year for each day. In this way, each member of this wicked community who conspired against Me will learn what it is like to have Me as an enemy.”

      • Some individuals view this punishment as excessively severe. However, the HCSB commentary highlights the gravity of what the Israelites had done by refusing to enter the promised land, “In rejecting entry into the promised land, they were rejecting an essential part of their covenant with Yahweh, which was in turn founded in His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:14-18; 15:18-21; 17:7-8).”

    • Of all those who had gone out on the scouting mission, only Caleb and Joshua remained alive. The Lord struck down the 10 scouts who had given the bad report and incited the rebellion.

Israel’s Defeat at Hormah

    • When Moses told the Israelites what the Lord had said, they were devastated. Early the next morning they got up and went to top of the ridge of the hill country saying, “We were wrong! Let’s go to the land that God promised us.”

    • But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command for you to turn back and go toward the Red Sea? Don’t try to go take the promised land now. You won’t succeed because God is no longer with you- you abandoned Him. The Amalekites and Canaanites will defeat you.”

    • The Israelites continued on anyway even though Moses and the Ark stayed in the camp. The Amalekites and Canaanites came, attacked them, and chased them all the way back to Hormah.

      • Guzik writes, “They were indeed sorry; many people are sorry for the consequence of their sin. But they were not so sorry as to turn their hearts to a genuine trust of the Lord…They wanted to make it all better with a few religious works and words but their hearts were not changed. All this was on their initiative, as a way of doing God’s will their way, and hoping to reap the same blessings. It could not work. Moses spoke rightly…”

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