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The People Rebel against the Lord

14 Then all the people in the Israelite community raised their voices and cried out loud all that night. They complained to Moses and Aaron, “If only we had died in Egypt or this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land—just to have us die in battle? Our wives and children will be taken as prisoners of war! Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” They said to each other, “Let’s choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

Immediately, Moses and Aaron bowed with their faces touching the ground in front of the whole community of Israel assembled there. At the same time, two of those who had explored the land, Joshua (son of Nun) and Caleb (son of Jephunneh), tore their clothes in despair. They said to the whole community of Israel, “The land we explored is very good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us. This is a land flowing with milk and honey! Don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. We will devour them like bread. They have no protection, and the Lord is with us. So don’t be afraid of them.”

10 But when the whole community of Israel talked about stoning Moses and Aaron to death, they all saw the glory of the Lord ⌞shining⌟ at the tent of meeting. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to trust me in spite of all the miraculous signs I have done among them? 12 I’ll strike them with a plague, I’ll destroy them,[a] and I’ll make you into a nation larger and stronger than they are.”

13 But Moses said to the Lord, “What if the Egyptians hear about it? (You used your power to take these people away from them.) 14 What if the Egyptians tell the people who live in this land? Lord, they have already heard that you are with these people, that they have seen you with their own eyes, that your column of smoke stays over them, and that you go ahead of them in a column of smoke by day and in a column of fire by night. 15 But if you kill all these people at the same time, then the nations who have heard these reports about you will say, 16 ‘The Lord wasn’t able to bring these people into the land he promised them, so he slaughtered them in the desert.’

17 “Lord, let your power be as great as when you said, 18 ‘The Lord … patient, forever loving…. He forgives wrongdoing and disobedience…. He never lets the guilty go unpunished, punishing children … for their parents’ sins to the third and fourth generation….’ 19 By your great love, please forgive these people’s sins, as you have been forgiving them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

20 The Lord said, “I forgive them, as you have asked. 21 But as I live and as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, I solemnly swear that 22 none of the people who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I did in Egypt and in the desert will see the land which I promised their ancestors. They have tested me now ten times and refused to obey me.[b] 23 None of those who treat me with contempt will see it! 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different attitude and has wholeheartedly followed me, I’ll bring him to the land he already explored. His descendants will possess it. 25 (The Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys.) Tomorrow you must turn around, go back into the desert, and follow the road that goes to the Red Sea.”

26 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 27 “How long must I put up with this wicked community that keeps complaining about me? I’ve heard the complaints the Israelites are making about me. 28 So tell them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, I solemnly swear I will do everything to you that you said I would do. 29 Your bodies will drop dead in this desert. All of you who are at least 20 years old, who were registered and listed, and who complained about me will die. 30 I raised my hand and swore an oath to give you this land to live in. But none of you will enter it except Caleb (son of Jephunneh) and Joshua (son of Nun). 31 You said your children would be taken as prisoners of war. Instead, I will bring them into the land you rejected, and they will enjoy it. 32 However, your bodies will drop dead in this desert. 33 Your children will be shepherds in the desert for 40 years. They will suffer for your unfaithfulness until the last of your bodies lies dead in the desert. 34 For 40 days you explored the land. So for 40 years—one year for each day—you will suffer for your sins and know what it means for me to be against you.’ 35 I, the Lord, have spoken. I swear I will do these things to all the people in this whole wicked community who have joined forces against me. They will meet their end in this desert. Here they will die!”

36 So the men Moses sent to explore the land died in front of the Lord from a plague. 37 They died because they had returned and made the whole community complain about Moses by spreading lies about the land.[c] 38 Of all the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua (son of Nun) and Caleb (son of Jephunneh) survived.

The Amalekites and Canaanites Defeat Israel

39 When Moses told these things to all the Israelites, the people mourned bitterly, as if someone had died. 40 Early the next morning they headed into the mountain region. They said, “We have sinned. Now we’ll go to the place the Lord promised.”

41 But Moses asked, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? Your plan won’t work! 42 Don’t go! You will be defeated by your enemies because the Lord is not with you. 43 The Amalekites and Canaanites are there, and you will die in battle. Now that you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.”

44 But they headed into the mountain region anyway, even though the ark of the Lord’s promise and Moses stayed in the camp. 45 The Amalekites and Canaanites who lived there came down from those mountains, attacked the Israelites, and defeated them at Hormah.[d]


  1. 14:12 Or “I’ll take away the land I promised them.”
  2. 14:22 Part of verse 23 (in Hebrew) has been placed in verse 22 to express the complex Hebrew sentence structure more clearly in English.
  3. 14:37 Part of verse 37 (in Hebrew) has been placed at the end of verse 36 to express the complex Hebrew sentence structure more clearly in English.
  4. 14:45 Or “and defeated them, chasing them all the way to Hormah.”

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