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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Numbers 14

Verses 1-5

NUMBERS - FOURTEEN

Verses 1-5:

The report of the spies passed swiftly throughout Israel’s camp. It likely was exaggerated as it passed along, after the manner of all evil reports. The lament became universal. The evil report demoralized the people. For the first time, there was talk of an open revolt against the leadership of Moses and Aaron, by choosing another leader. This was in reality a revolt against Jehovah Himself.

Moses and Aaron attempted to reason with the leaders of the revolt, De 1:29-31. Their efforts were futile. They then publicly fell on their faces before the Lord in utter humility and helplessness.

Verses 6-10

Verses 6-10:

Joshua and Caleb joined Moses and Aaron in a vain attempt to convince the people to change their minds, and to invade the Land.

They "rent their clothes," a token of grief and horror dating back to patriarchal times, Ge 37:29, 34.

"If" (verse 8) implies that the only reason they could fail to conquer the inhabitants of the Land and possess it would be that Jehovah would not "delight," chaphets, in them. The cloud which overshadowed the Tabernacle was a constant reminder that Jehovah was indeed with Israel, that He did indeed delight in them. This was His guarantee of success in their conquest of the Land.

The ten fearful spies warned that the Land would "eat up" those who would attempt to take it. Joshua and Caleb assured Israel that instead of this, the people of Palestine would become Israel’s "bread" (food). They would supply the necessities of life for Israel, although unwillingly, through the spoils of conquest.

Fearful unbelief is unreasoning. It blinds its victims to spiritual realities. The people were unwilling to listen to the counsel of Joshua and Caleb. They began to speak of stoning them, and were arrested in their purpose by the sudden manifestation of the glory of Jehovah emanating from the Tabernacle.

It is true today that people often vent their unreasoning anger upon those who attempt to lead them in the right way.

Verses 11-12

Verses 11, 12:

God spoke to Moses from the glory which filled the Tabernacle. He expressed His displeasure with Israel’s unbelief. He stated His intention to disinherit the nation as a whole, and to make of Moses’ descendants a nation greater and more powerful than the nation of Israel. This would still have been in keeping with His original Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for Moses was of their lineage.

This was a test of Moses’ faith and leadership. A man of lesser character would have responded to this test by standing aside quietly to let Divine judgment fall upon an ungrateful people. This would mean that his own name would be exalted as the faithful progenitor of God’s people. His own reputation would thus be greatly enhanced.

God may allow the character of His child today to be tested, in like manner. Moses’ response to this test is an example of how to meet and pass this trial of faith.

Verses 13-19

Verses 13-19:

Moses’ reply demonstrated the spirit of humility. He did not entertain any personal ambition. His primary concern was for the reputation of Jehovah among the heathen. He feared that if God destroyed the people of Israel, the Egyptians would mock Him, by spreading the word that Jehovah brought the people into the wilderness in order to kill them; that even though He brought them out of Egypt He was unable to bring them into the Land He had promised them.

Moses then reminded God of His own nature, of mercy and compassion and forgiveness. He referred to God’s own words, spoken a few months earlier at Sinai, see Ex 20:5, 6; 34:6, 7.

This is an example of prevailing intercession, for God’s child to follow today.

Verses 20-25

Verses 20-25:

This text illustrates the power of intercessory prayer, from the heart of a truly humble mediator, see Jas 5:16. God pardoned Israel at Moses’ request, 2Co 1:3, 4.

Verse 21 could read, "As truly as I live, and (as truly as) the glory of the Lord shall fill all the earth."

"Because," biy, a particle which introduces the substance of God’s oath, "As I live. . .all those men ...shall not see the land." This refers to those regarded as mature men who witnessed the miracles in Egypt, Israel’s deliverance, and the wilderness miracles up to the arrival at Kadesh.

Caleb alone is mentioned as exempt from the oath of Divine judgment pronounced upon Israel’s men. Joshua’s name was likely omitted because he was already recognized as Moses; heir­apparent. He and Caleb were the two of the twelve spies who urged immediate occupation of the Land of Promise.

No specific allotment was promised to Caleb at this time.

This text illustrates the sure reward for faithfulness, and the certain judgment for unfaithfulness.

God’s command: "tomorrow," the next day, Israel was to resume their march, this time back-tracking into the Sinai peninsula, in the direction of the Red Sea and away from the Land of Promise. They temporarily forfeited their inheritance, which God had assured them, by their unbelief.

Verses 26-35

Verses 26-35:

The census taken earlier numbered 603,550 adult males, twenty years old and upward. Divine judgment decreed that all these were to die in the wilderness, as the result of their unbelief and rebellion. Only Caleb and Joshua were exempt.

The tribe of Levi is not included in this number. Eleazar the priest accompanied Joshua into Canaan, Jos 14:1, and he was over twenty at this time, see Nu 4:16. Levi had no representative in the spy mission. Also the Levites were exempt from battle. In addition, the tribe of Levi had remained loyal to Moses and Jehovah, ever since the golden calf incident, Ex 32:26, 27.

Israel was sentenced to wander in the arid Sinai Peninsula for a total of forty years, one year for each day of the spying expedition. Two years were already passed, so the years of wandering from this point were thirty-eight.

Verses 36-39

Verses 36-39:

The "slander," dibbah, "evil report," of the ten spies (Nu 13:3-16) caused the people to murmur against Moses and to rebel against the leadership of Jehovah. These ten died from an unnamed plague. The language implies this was a sudden, dramatic death which occurred on that very day. This illustrates the inexorable "law of the harvest," Ga 6:7, 8, which guarantees that one sows as he reaps

Verses 40-45

Verses 40-45:

The sudden death of the ten spies brought home to the people the enormity of what they had done. Early the next morning, they gathered on a nearby hilltop, and set out on an expedition to take the Land in spite of God’s command.

"Presume, aphal, "to lift self up." They tried to go in their own strength what they refused to do in the strength of Jehovah.

Moses warned of the certain failure of their attempt. He refused to accompany them, and did not permit the Ark of the Covenant to lead them.

Israel suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Amalekites, and the Canaanites who lived in that region.

"Hormah," possibly the modern Tell es-Sheriah, about midway between Gaza and Beer-sheba. This name occurs again in Nu 21:1-3; Jos 12:14; 15:20; 19:4; Jg 1:17; 1Sa 30:26-30; 1Ch 4:30. Since it was not uncommon for different cities to be known by the same name, it is uncertain that all these references are to the one in the present text.

Other references to this incident: Ps 78:40-54; 1Co 10:5; Heb 3:7-19.

Israel’s failure at Kadesh-barnea is a picture of the results of unbelief in the child of God today. It typifies the loss of blessing, not the loss of salvation.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 14". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-14.html. 1985.