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Numbers 13-16 Common English Bible (CEB)

Leaders explore the land of Canaan

13 The Lord spoke to Moses: Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, which I’m giving to the Israelites. Send one man from each ancestral tribe, each a chief among them. So Moses sent them out from the Paran desert according to the Lord’s command. All the men were leaders among the Israelites. These are their names:

from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua, Zaccur’s son;

from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat, Hori’s son;

from the tribe of Judah, Caleb, Jephunneh’s son;

from the tribe of Issachar, Igal, Joseph’s son;

from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea, Nun’s son;

from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti, Raphu’s son;

10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel, Sodi’s son;

11 from the tribe of Joseph:

from the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi, Susi’s son;

12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel, Gemalli’s son;

13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur, Michael’s son;

14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi, Vophsi’s son;

15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel, Machi’s son.

16 These are the names of the men whom Moses sent out to explore the land. Moses changed the name of Hoshea, Nun’s son, to Joshua.

17 When Moses sent them out to explore the land of Canaan, he said to them, “Go up there into the arid southern plain and into the mountains. 18 You must inspect the land. What is it like? Are the people who live in it strong or weak, few or many? 19 Is the land in which they live good or bad? Are the towns in which they live camps or fortresses? 20 Is the land rich or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Be courageous and bring back the land’s fruit.” It was the season of the first ripe grapes.

21 They went up and explored the land from the Zin desert to Rehob, near Lebo-hamath. 22 They went up into the arid southern plain and entered Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of the Anakites, lived. (Hebron was built seven years before Tanis[a] in Egypt.) 23 Then they entered the Cluster[b] ravine, cut down from there a branch with one cluster of grapes, and carried it on a pole between them. They also took pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Cluster ravine because of the cluster of grapes that the Israelites cut down from there.

Report about the land of Canaan

25 They returned from exploring the land after forty days. 26 They went directly to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Paran desert at Kadesh. They brought back a report to them and to the entire community and showed them the land’s fruit. 27 Then they gave their report: “We entered the land to which you sent us. It’s actually full of milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 There are, however, powerful people who live in the land. The cities have huge fortifications. And we even saw the descendants of the Anakites there. 29 The Amalekites live in the land of the arid southern plain; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountains; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.”

30 Now Caleb calmed the people before Moses and said, “We must go up and take possession of it, because we are more than able to do it.”

31 But the men who went up with him said, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we.” 32 They started a rumor about the land that they had explored, telling the Israelites, “The land that we crossed over to explore is a land that devours its residents. All the people we saw in it are huge men. 33 We saw there the Nephilim (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We saw ourselves as grasshoppers, and that’s how we appeared to them.”

The Israelites’ complaint

14 The entire community raised their voice and the people wept that night. All the Israelites criticized Moses and Aaron. The entire community said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt or if only we had died in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our children will be taken by force. Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to each other, “Let’s pick a leader and let’s go back to Egypt.”

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the assembled Israelite community. But Joshua, Nun’s son, and Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, from those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite community, “The land we crossed through to explore is an exceptionally good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he’ll bring us into this land and give it to us. It’s a land that’s full of milk and honey. Only don’t rebel against the Lord and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are our prey.[c] Their defense has deserted them, but the Lord is with us. So don’t be afraid of them.” 10 But the entire community intended to stone them.

The Lord’s anger and Moses’ intercession

Then the Lord’s glory appeared in the meeting tent to all the Israelites. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people disrespect me? And how long will they doubt me after all the signs that I performed among them? 12 I’ll strike them down with a plague and disown them. Then I’ll make you into a great nation, stronger than they.”

13 Moses said to the Lord, “The Egyptians will hear, for with your power you brought these people up from among them. 14 They’ll tell the inhabitants of this land. They’ve heard that you, Lord, are with this people. You, Lord, appear to them face-to-face. Your cloud stands over them. You go before them in a column of cloud by day and in a column of lightning by night. 15 If you kill these people, every last one of them, the nations who heard about you will say, 16 ‘The Lord wasn’t able to bring these people to the land that he solemnly promised to give them. So he slaughtered them in the desert.’ 17 Now let my master’s power be as great as you declared when you said, 18 ‘The Lord is very patient and absolutely loyal, forgiving wrongs and disloyalty. Yet he doesn’t forgo all punishment, disciplining the grandchildren and great-grandchildren for their ancestors’ wrongs.’ 19 Please forgive the wrongs of these people because of your absolute loyalty, just as you’ve forgiven these people from their time in Egypt until now.”

20 Then the Lord said, “I will forgive as you requested. 21 But as I live and as the Lord’s glory fills the entire earth, 22 none of the men who saw my glory and the signs I did in Egypt and in the desert, but tested me these ten times and haven’t listened to my voice, 23 will see the land I promised to their ancestors. All who disrespected me won’t see it. 24 But I’ll bring my servant Caleb into the land that he explored, and his descendants will possess it because he has a different spirit, and he has remained true to me. 25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valley, tomorrow turn and march into the desert by the route of the Reed Sea.”[d]

The Israelites’ punishment

26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 27 How long will this wicked community complain against me? I’ve heard the Israelites’ dissent as they continue to complain against me. 28 Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “just as I’ve heard you say, so I’ll do to you. 29 Your dead bodies will fall in this desert. None of you who were enlisted and were registered from 20 years old and above, who complained against me, 30 will enter the land in which I promised[e] to settle you, with the exception of Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, and Joshua, Nun’s son. 31 But your children, whom you said would be taken by force, I’ll bring them in and they will know the land that you rejected. 32 Your bodies, however, will fall in this desert, 33 and your children will be shepherds in the desert for forty years. They will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies fall in the desert. 34 For as many days as you explored the land, that is, forty days, just as many years you’ll bear your guilt, that is, forty years. This is how you will understand my frustration.” 35 I the Lord have spoken. I will do this to the entire wicked community who gathered against me. They will die in this desert. There they’ll meet their end.

36 The men whom Moses sent out to explore the land had returned and caused the entire community to complain against him by starting a rumor about the land. 37 These men died by a plague in the Lord’s presence on account of their false rumor. 38 But Joshua, Nun’s son, and Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, survived from those men who went to explore the land.

39 Moses spoke these words to all the Israelites, and the people mourned bitterly. 40 They rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain range, saying, “Let’s go up to the place the Lord told us to, for we have sinned.”

41 But Moses said, “Why do you disobey the Lord’s command? It won’t succeed. 42 Don’t go up, for the Lord isn’t with you. Don’t be struck down before your enemies. 43 The Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you and you will fall by the sword because you turned away from the Lord, and the Lord is no longer with you.” 44 Yet they recklessly[f] ascended toward the top of the mountains, even though Moses and the Lord’s chest containing the covenant didn’t depart from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites, who lived in those mountains, descended, struck them down, and beat them all the way to Hormah.

Immigrants in the land of Canaan

15 The Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land where you will live, which I am giving you, and you make a food gift[g] to the Lord as a soothing smell for the Lord from the herd or the flock—whether an entirely burned offering, or a sacrifice to fulfill a solemn promise, or a spontaneous gift, or at your sacred seasons— the one presenting the offering to the Lord will bring a grain offering of one-tenth of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin[h] of oil. You will also offer one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering with either the entirely burned offering or the sacrifice, for each lamb. For a ram you will offer a grain offering of two-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with one-third of a hin of oil. You will also present one-third of a hin of wine for a drink offering as a soothing smell for the Lord. When you offer a bull for an entirely burned offering, or a sacrifice to fulfill a solemn promise, or a well-being sacrifice to the Lord, you will present[i] with the bull a grain offering of three-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with a half hin of oil. 10 You will present a half hin of wine for a drink offering as a food gift that is a soothing smell to the Lord. 11 So will it be done with each ox, each ram, or for any sheep or goat. 12 However many you offer, you will do the same for each one.

13 Every citizen will perform these rituals in bringing a food gift that is a soothing smell to the Lord. 14 If an immigrant lives with you or has settled among you for many years and would also like to offer a food gift that is a soothing smell to the Lord, that person must do just as you do. 15 The assembly will have the same regulation for you and for the immigrant. The regulation will be permanent for all time. You and the immigrant will be the same in the Lord’s presence. 16 There will be one set of instructions and one legal norm for the immigrant and for you.

17 The Lord spoke to Moses: 18 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land to which I’m bringing you, 19 whenever you eat the land’s food you will present a gift offering to the Lord. 20 You will present a gift offering from the first bread you bake just like you present a gift offering from the threshing floor. 21 You will give a gift offering from the first bread you bake for all time.

Offerings for accidental sin

22 If by accident you don’t obey all these commands that the Lord spoke to Moses, 23 or everything that the Lord commanded you through Moses from the day of the Lord’s command onward for all time, 24 then if it was done unintentionally without the knowledge of the community, the entire community must offer one bull from the herd as an entirely burned offering, a soothing smell to the Lord, with its grain and drink offering according to the specific instruction, and one male goat for a purification offering. 25 The priest will seek reconciliation for the entire Israelite community. They will be forgiven, because it was unintentional and because they brought their food gift to the Lord, along with their purification offering in the Lord’s presence for their accidental error. 26 The entire Israelite community and the immigrant residing among them will be forgiven, because all the people acted unintentionally.

27 If an individual sins unintentionally, that person must present a one-year-old female goat for a purification offering. 28 The priest will seek reconciliation in the Lord’s presence for the person who sinned unintentionally, when the sin is an accident, seeking reconciliation so that person will be forgiven. 29 There will be one set of instructions for the Israelite citizen and the immigrant residing with you for anyone who commits an unintentional sin.

Punishment for intentional sin

30 But the person who acts deliberately,[j] whether a citizen or an immigrant, and insults the Lord, that person will be cut off from the people 31 for despising the Lord’s word and breaking his commands. That person will be completely cut off and bear the guilt.

Instructions for Sabbath observance

32 When the Israelites were in the desert, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses, Aaron, and the entire community. 34 They placed him in custody, because it wasn’t clear what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses: The man should be put to death. The entire community should stone him outside the camp. 36 The entire community took him outside the camp and stoned him. He died as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Fringes on garments

37 The Lord said to Moses: 38 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: Make fringes on the edges of your clothing for all time. Have them put blue cords on the fringe on the edges. 39 This will be your fringe. You will see it and remember all the Lord’s commands and do them. Then you won’t go exploring the lusts of your own heart or your eyes. 40 In this way you’ll remember to do all my commands. Then you will be holy to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.

A challenge to the priesthood

16 Korah—Izhar’s son, Kohath’s grandson, and Levi’s great-grandson—with Dathan and Abiram, Eliab’s sons, and On, Peleth’s son, descendants of Reuben, rose up against Moses, along with two hundred fifty Israelite men, leaders of the community, chosen by the assembly, men of reputation. They assembled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You’ve gone too far, because the entire community is holy, every last one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

When Moses heard this, he fell on his face. He spoke to Korah and all his community, “In the morning the Lord will make known who is his, who is holy, and who is able to approach him. The one he chooses for himself is the one who will be able to approach him. This is what must be done. Korah and your entire community: Take censers for yourselves. Tomorrow put fire in them and place incense on them in the Lord’s presence. The man whom the Lord chooses, that one is holy. You Levites have gone too far!” Moses said to Korah, “Listen, you Levites, isn’t it enough for you that Israel’s God has separated you from the Israelite community to allow you to approach him, to perform the service of the Lord’s dwelling, and to serve before the community by ministering for them? 10 He has allowed you and all your fellow Levites with you to approach him. Yet you also seek the priesthood? 11 Thus you and your entire community have assembled against the Lord. But Aaron, what is he that you complain about him?”

Test of priesthood

12 Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, Eliab’s sons. But they said, “We won’t come up! 13 Isn’t it enough that you’ve brought us up from a land full of milk and honey to kill us in the desert so that you’d also dominate us? 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us to a land full of milk and honey, nor given us the inheritance of field and vineyard. Would you also gouge out the eyes of these men? We won’t come up!”

15 Moses became very angry and he said to the Lord, “Pay no attention to their offering. I haven’t taken a single donkey from them, nor have I wronged any one of them.”

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and your entire community should appear before the Lord tomorrow, you, they, and Aaron. 17 Every person should take his censer, place incense on it, and present it before the Lord. Each person will carry his censer, two hundred fifty censers in all, including you and Aaron.” 18 Then every person took his censer, placed fire on it, put incense on it, and stood at the entrance of the meeting tent with Moses and Aaron. 19 Korah gathered the entire community with them to the entrance of the meeting tent.

Then the Lord’s glory appeared to the entire community. 20 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this community so that I may consume them in a moment.”

22 They fell on their faces and said, “God, the God of all living things. If one person sins, should you become angry with the entire community?”

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “Speak to the community and say, ‘Withdraw from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’”

25 Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram. Israel’s elders followed him. 26 He spoke to the community: “Move away from the tents of these wicked men and don’t touch anything of theirs, lest you too be wiped out for all their sins.” 27 They withdrew from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Then Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrance of their tents with their wives, children, and little ones. 28 Moses said, “By this you will know that the Lord sent me to do these deeds and that it wasn’t my own desire. 29 If all these people die a natural death, or if their fate be that of all humans, then the Lord hasn’t sent me. 30 But if the Lord performs an act of creation, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them and everything that belongs to them, so that they descend alive to their graves, then you’ll know that these men disrespected the Lord.”

The rebels’ punishment

31 As soon as he finished speaking these words, the ground under them split open. 32 The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, including every human that belonged to Korah and all their possessions. 33 They along with all their possessions descended alive to their graves, and the earth closed over them. They perished in the middle of the assembly. 34 All the Israelites who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us.” 35 Then fire went out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred fifty men offering incense.

The reminder of the censers

36 [k] The Lord spoke to Moses: 37 Tell Eleazar, Aaron the priest’s son, to raise the censers from the fire and scatter the ashes about, because they are holy. 38 Hammer the censers of those who sinned and lost their lives into thin plates for the altar. Since they presented them in the Lord’s presence, they had become holy. They will be a sign for the Israelites.

39 Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers presented by those who had been consumed by fire and hammered them into a covering for the altar, 40 just as the Lord instructed him through Moses. This was a reminder for the Israelites that no outsider who isn’t one of Aaron’s descendants should approach to burn incense in the Lord’s presence, so as not to be like Korah and his community.

41 On the next day the entire Israelite community complained to Moses and Aaron, “You killed the Lord’s people.” 42 When the community assembled against Moses and Aaron, they turned toward the meeting tent. At that moment the cloud covered it, and the Lord’s glory appeared. 43 Moses and Aaron came to the front of the meeting tent, 44 and the Lord spoke to Moses: 45 Get away from this community, so that I may consume them in an instant.

They fell on their faces, 46 and Moses said to Aaron, “Take the censer, put fire from the altar on it, place incense on it, go quickly to the community, and seek reconciliation for them. Indeed, the Lord’s anger has gone out. The plague has begun.” 47 Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the middle of the assembly, for the plague had already begun among the people. He burned incense and sought reconciliation for the people. 48 He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped. 49 Those who died from the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, in addition to those who died because of Korah. 50 Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the meeting tent once the plague stopped.


  1. Numbers 13:22 Heb Zoan
  2. Numbers 13:23 Or cluster of grapes
  3. Numbers 14:9 Or our bread
  4. Numbers 14:25 Or Red Sea
  5. Numbers 14:30 Or raised my hand
  6. Numbers 14:44 Heb uncertain
  7. Numbers 15:3 Or offering by fire (cf Lev 3:11)
  8. Numbers 15:4 One hin is approximately one gallon.
  9. Numbers 15:9 Or he will present
  10. Numbers 15:30 Or with a high hand
  11. Numbers 16:36 17:1 in Heb
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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