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14 Then all the people began weeping aloud, and they carried on all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of complaint against Moses and Aaron.

“We wish we had died in Egypt,” they wailed, “or even here in the wilderness, rather than be taken into this country ahead of us. Jehovah will kill us there, and our wives and little ones will become slaves. Let’s get out of here and return to Egypt!” The idea swept the camp. “Let’s elect a leader to take us back to Egypt!” they shouted.

Then Moses and Aaron fell face downward on the ground before the people of Israel. Two of the spies, Joshua (the son of Nun), and Caleb (the son of Jephunneh), ripped their clothing and said to all the people, “It is a wonderful country ahead, and the Lord loves us. He will bring us safely into the land and give it to us. It is very fertile, a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’! Oh, do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land. For they are but bread for us to eat! The Lord is with us and he has removed his protection from them! Don’t be afraid of them!”

10-11 But the only response of the people was to talk of stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared, and the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people despise me? Will they never believe me, even after all the miracles I have done among them? 12 I will disinherit them and destroy them with a plague, and I will make you into a nation far greater and mightier than they are!”

13 “But what will the Egyptians think when they hear about it?” Moses pleaded with the Lord. “They know full well the power you displayed in rescuing your people. 14 They have told this to the inhabitants of this land, who are well aware that you are with Israel and that you talk with her face-to-face. They see the pillar of cloud and fire standing above us, and they know that you lead and protect us day and night. 15 Now if you kill all your people, the nations that have heard your fame will say, 16 ‘The Lord had to kill them because he wasn’t able to take care of them in the wilderness. He wasn’t strong enough to bring them into the land he swore he would give them.’

17-18 “Oh, please, show the great power of your patience[a] by forgiving our sins and showing us your steadfast love. Forgive us, even though you have said that you don’t let sin go unpunished, and that you punish the father’s fault in the children to the third and fourth generation. 19 Oh, I plead with you, pardon the sins of this people because of your magnificent, steadfast love, just as you have forgiven them all the time from when we left Egypt until now.”

20-21 Then the Lord said, “All right, I will pardon them as you have requested. But I vow by my own name that just as it is true that all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, 22 so it is true that not one of the men who has seen my glory and the miracles I did both in Egypt and in the wilderness—and ten times refused to trust me and obey me— 23 shall even see the land I promised to this people’s ancestors. 24 But my servant Caleb is a different kind of man—he has obeyed me fully. I will bring him into the land he entered as a spy, and his descendants shall have their full share in it. 25 But now, since the people of Israel are so afraid of the Amalekites and the Canaanites living in the valleys, tomorrow you must turn back into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.”

26-27 Then the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron, “How long will this wicked nation complain about me? For I have heard all that they have been saying. 28 Tell them, ‘The Lord vows to do to you what you feared: 29 You will all die here in this wilderness! Not a single one of you twenty years old and older, who has complained against me, 30 shall enter the Promised Land. Only Caleb (son of Jephunneh) and Joshua (son of Nun) are permitted to enter it.

31 “‘You said your children would become slaves of the people of the land. Well, instead I will bring them safely into the land and they shall inherit what you have despised. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33 You must wander in the desert like nomads for forty years. In this way you will pay for your faithlessness, until the last of you lies dead in the desert.

34-35 “‘Since the spies were in the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years—a year for each day, bearing the burden of your sins. I will teach you what it means to reject me. I, Jehovah, have spoken. Every one of you who has conspired against me shall die here in this wilderness.’”

36-38 Then the ten spies who had incited the rebellion against Jehovah by striking fear into the hearts of the people were struck dead before the Lord. Of all the spies, only Joshua and Caleb remained alive. 39 What sorrow there was throughout the camp when Moses reported God’s words to the people!

40 They were up early the next morning and started toward the Promised Land.

“Here we are!” they said. “We realize that we have sinned, but now we are ready to go on into the land the Lord has promised us.”

41 But Moses said, “It’s too late. Now you are disobeying the Lord’s orders to return to the wilderness. 42 Don’t go ahead with your plan or you will be crushed by your enemies, for the Lord is not with you. 43 Don’t you remember? The Amalekites and the Canaanites are there! You have deserted the Lord, and now he will desert you.”

44 But they went ahead into the hill country, despite the fact that neither the Ark nor Moses left the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in the hills came down and attacked them and chased them to Hormah.


  1. Numbers 14:17 of your patience, implied.

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