Threats of Revolt. 1At this, the whole community broke out with loud cries, and the people wept into the night. 2a All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, the whole community saying to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt,” or “If only we would die here in the wilderness! 3Why is the LORD bringing us into this land only to have us fall by the sword? Our wives and little ones will be taken as spoil. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.”
5But Moses and Aaron fell prostrate before the whole assembled community of the Israelites; 6while Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb, son of Jephunneh, who had been among those that reconnoitered the land, tore their garments 7and said to the whole community of the Israelites,b “The land which we went through and reconnoitered is an exceedingly good land. 8If the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us in to this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. 9c Only do not rebel against the LORD! You need not be afraid of the people of the land, for they are but food for us!* Their protection has left them, but the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”
The Lord’s Sentence. 10The whole community threatened to stone them. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. 11And the LORD said to Moses: How long will this people spurn me? How long will they not trust me, despite all the signs I have performed among them?d 12I will strike them with pestilence and disown them. Then I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.e
13f But Moses said to the LORD: “The Egyptians will hear of this, for by your power you brought out this people from among them. 14They will tell the inhabitants of this land, who have heard that you, LORD, are in the midst of this people; you, LORD, who directly revealed yourself! Your cloud stands over them, and you go before them by day in a column of cloud and by night in a column of fire.g 15If now you slay this people all at once, the nations who have heard such reports of you will say, 16‘The LORD was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them; that is why he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’h 17Now then, may my Lord’s forbearance be great, even as you have said, 18i ‘The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in kindness, forgiving iniquity and rebellion; yet certainly not declaring the guilty guiltless, but punishing children to the third and fourth generation for their parents’ iniquity.’ 19Pardon, then, the iniquity of this people in keeping with your great kindness, even as you have forgiven them from Egypt until now.”j
20The LORD answered: I pardon them as you have asked. 21Yet, by my life and the LORD’s glory that fills the whole earth, 22of all the people who have seen my glory and the signs I did in Egypt and in the wilderness,k and who nevertheless have put me to the test ten times already and have not obeyed me, 23not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their ancestors. None of those who have spurned me shall see it. 24But as for my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and follows me unreservedly,l I will bring him into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall possess it. 25But now, since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys,* turn away tomorrow and set out into the wilderness by way of the Red Sea road.
26The LORD also said to Moses and Aaron: 27How long will this wicked community grumble against me?m I have heard the grumblings of the Israelites against me. 28Tell them:* “By my life”—oracle of the LORD—“I will do to you just what I have heard you say. 29Here in the wildernessn your dead bodies shall fall. Of all your men of twenty years or more, enrolled in your registration, who grumbled against me, 30not one of you shall enter the land where I solemnly swore to settle you, except Caleb, son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, son of Nun. 31Your little ones, however, who you said would be taken as spoil, I will bring in, and they shall know the land you rejected.o 32But as for you, your bodies shall fall here in the wilderness, 33while your children will wander for forty years, suffering for your infidelity, till the last of you lies dead in the wilderness.p 34Corresponding to the number of days you spent reconnoitering the land—forty days—you shall bear your punishment one year for each day: forty years. Thus you will realize what it means to oppose me. 35I, the LORD, have spoken; and I will surely do this to this entire wicked community that conspired against me: here in the wilderness they shall come to their end and there they will die.”
36And the men whom Moses had sent to reconnoiter the landq and who on returning had set the whole community grumbling against him by spreading discouraging reports about the land— 37these men who had spread discouraging reports about the land were struck down by the LORD and died. 38Only Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb, son of Jephunneh, survived of all the men who had gone to reconnoiter the land.r
Unsuccessful Invasion. 39When Moses repeated these words to all the Israelites, the people mourned greatly. 40Early the next morning they started up high into the hill country, saying, “Here we are, ready to go up to the place that the LORD spoke of:s for we did wrong.” 41But Moses said, “Why are you now transgressing the LORD’s order? This cannot succeed. 42Do not go up, because the LORD is not in your midst; do not allow yourself to be struck down by your enemies.t 43For there the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you, and you will fall by the sword. You have turned back from following the LORD; therefore the LORD will not be with you.”
44Yet they dared to go up high into the hill country,u even though neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses left the camp. 45And the Amalekites and Canaanites who dwelt in that hill country came down and defeated them, beating them back as far as Hormah.*
* [14:9] They are but food for us: lit., “for they are our bread.” “Bread” (Heb. lechem) is here used in the sense of “prey, spoils” to be consumed by an invader. This is the answer to the pessimistic report that this land “consumes its inhabitants” (13:32).
* [14:25] The valleys: the low-lying plains in the Negeb and along the seacoast and in the Jordan depression, as well as the higher valleys in the mountains farther north: cf. v. 45.
* [14:28–29] God punished the grumblers by giving them their wish; cf. v. 2. Their lack of trust in God is cited in 1 Cor 10:10 and Heb 3:12–18 as a warning for Christians.
* [14:45] Hormah: one of the Canaanite royal cities in southern Judah, according to the tradition attested in Jos 12:14, although Nm 21:1–3 gives it as the new name for the city of Arad when it was destroyed by Israel. According to the list of conquered cities preserved in Jgs 1, the earlier name for the city of Hormah was Zephath. The precise location is unknown.
f. [14:13–16] Ex 32:12; Dt 9:26–29; Ps 106:23.
g. [14:14] Ex 13:21; Jos 2:9–10.
i. [14:18] Ex 20:5; 34:6–7; Ps 103:8; 145:8.
p. [14:33–34] Nm 13:26; 32:13; Ps 95:10; Ez 4:6.
q. [14:36–37] Nm 13:17, 32–33; 1 Cor 10:10.