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Israel’s refusal to enter Canaan (14:1-45)
Only a year earlier the Israelites had experienced the power of God in giving them victory over the mighty Egyptians, but now they had no faith to believe that he would lead them to victory over the less powerful Canaanites. They rebelled against God and his leaders by deciding to appoint a new leader instead of Moses and go back to Egypt. God therefore told Moses that he would destroy Israel and build a new nation for himself through Moses (14:1-12).
Again the humility of Moses showed itself. He asked God not to destroy his rebellious people, lest other nations mock him, saying he was weak, unable to finish what he began. Moses appealed to God to be merciful to his people and forgive them as he had done in the past (13-19).
God answered Moses’ prayer and did not destroy the people, but neither did he ignore their rebellion. Although they had experienced God’s mighty power in the past, they now said they would rather die in the wilderness than trust him for victory over the Canaanites. God’s punishment was that they would have their wish: they would die in the wilderness (20-25; see v. 2).
The people had complained that they were concerned about the future of their children (v. 3). God assured them he would look after the children and bring them into Canaan, but the rebellious adults would die in the wilderness. All who were at that time twenty years of age or over (except Joshua and Caleb) would die during the next forty years. Only when they were dead and a new generation had grown up would Israel enter the promised land. The ten rebellious spies died immediately (26-38).
Because the people feared the enemy and refused to enter the promised land, God turned them back into the wilderness (v. 25). But on hearing of their punishment, they then tried to attack the enemies whom previously they feared. This again was a rebellion against God. They had lost their opportunity to enter Canaan, and God’s will for them now was to remain in the wilderness for the next forty years. But the people stubbornly persisted. Earlier they refused to go into Canaan with God; now they tried to conquer the land without him. They were defeated, as they themselves had forecast when they heard the spies’ report. With God there would be victory, without him defeat (39-45; cf. 13:31-33).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Numbers 14". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany