Numbers Chapter 14

In the previous chapter, the Lord commanded that Israelite spies be sent out to assess the land of promise and the people there. It was learned that there were mighty men with strong fortifications. Considering they were told by the Lord, that they would take the land, some concerns arose over the possibility to do it. This chapter continues the story as follows:

1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
3 And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
4 And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.

The people cried and murmured against the prophet, Moses, and his brother Aaron, the high priest. Some began to feel that they would have had better chances or a better life, if they had remained in Egypt rather then in the wilderness. Some wanted to leave and go back. Moses and Aaron fell down before the assembly. I wonder, if the Israelites had believed that God would deliver them, would they have entered the promised land then with the Lord going before them to open the land? They did not have that faith. Instead, they looked back to Egypt, forgetting all that the Lord had done to free them from bondage. How often are we freed from our own bondage of sin, and then when we realize that life is hard when we try to do what is right, we look back longingly at what life was before? Satan is so good at convincing us that being in bondage to him is the kind of life we want.

6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:
7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
8 If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
9 Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.
10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.

Joshua, the servant of Moses, and Caleb, the man who had suggested they go forward and take the land, rent their clothes. I think this was usually done when someone spoke against God, or were going through times of mourning. These two men knew that the people had turned against the Lord. They spoke to the people, telling them that the land of Canaan was a good land. They reminded the Israelites that God would help them, if He was pleased with them. They also reminded them that they should not rebel against the Lord. They did not need to fear those that were inhabiting the land of promise, because the Lord would protect the Israelites. The people did not want to listen to this chastisement, and decided to stone Joshua and Caleb. At that moment, the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle and all were able to witness it.

11 And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?
12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

The Lord asked Moses how long it would be before the people would finally believe and have faith in Him, when He had given them so many signs already. He threatened a plague of pestilence upon them, and to take away their promised blessings of inheritance. The Lord said he would make Moses a greater and mightier nation than them.

13 And Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)
14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou Lord art among this people, that thou Lord art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.

Moses responded, that the Egyptians would come to know of this, and they would spread the word across the land of what had happened, probably using it against the Lord. The Israelites were not unknown to other nations in the area. The Egyptians would not hesitate to bring them down in any way they could, even if it meant that they spread rumors of the God of Israel to stop others from believing.

15 Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,
16 Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.
17 And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,
18 The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
20 And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word:
21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.
22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:
24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.
25 (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) To morrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.

Moses said that if the Lord destroyed the Israelites, the other nations would say that the Lord did not have power to do as He promised His people. Moses pleaded in behalf of the Israelites. He asked the Lord to show his mercy, longsuffering, and forgiveness to his people. Not to clear those who were guilty of rebellion, but be forgiving as He had been up to this point. The Lord responds to Moses, that he had forgiven as Moses had asked of Him. The Lord turned away his wrath, in which He was prepared to destroy the host of Israel.

The Lord also said that the His glory would fill the earth because of the miracles He had done for the Israelites. This is happening today. The stories of the bible are read by people all over the world. They are believed by many, and the glory of the Lord is spread, because of the things that happened to the Israelites in ancient times. The Lord said they still would not hearken to Him, and that those who would not, the older generation and any others who rebelled, would not see the land of promise. Caleb was promised, that since he followed the Lord and was committed to His purposes, he would possess the land. Moses was told by the Lord, to take the people into the wilderness by the Red Sea.

26 And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.
28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:
29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,
30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.
32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.
33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.
34 After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.
35 I the Lord have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.
36 And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land,
37 Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord.
38 But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still.
39 And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly.

The Lord was angered over the rebellious portion of the Israelites. Moses and Aaron were told to tell the people that the Lord would do as He says. And what he said was that all who were over the age of twenty, which were the adults who had murmured against him, would die in the wilderness. The only exceptions would be Caleb and Joshua, and they would receive the land of promise along with the children of the Israelite families. Their children would come to know the land that they, the adults, did not have the faith to earn. The adults were promised that their families would wander and suffer in the wilderness for forty years because of the sins and faithlessness of their generations. Then they would know the promise of the Lord. I know it is true that we are more teachable when we are children. The children of the Israelites would witness the fulfillment of this promise to their fathers, and they would learn to have greater faith in the Lord.

Those who started the rebellion against the Lord, were then killed by a plague. The Lord does not allow men to destroy his work. I think that in order to preserve the younger generations, the rebellious leaders were removed from them. Joshua and Caleb were the only ones who were left of those who went to spy in the land of Canaan. The Israelites mourned over these promised words of the Lord. I think of the sadness that came to the early saints of the latter-days, when they were removed from the inheritance they had been promised in Missouri. The prophet Joseph Smith was told that this happened because of their disobedience to His word. In Doctrine and Covenants 101 we read of what the Lord said to them.

1 Verily I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted, and persecuted, and cast out from the land of their inheritance—
2 I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;
… 4 Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.
5 For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.
6 Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.
7 They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.
8 In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.
9 Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy.

The saints did not continue to live in the land of Zion, and suffered through a lot of hardships because they did not keep the faith. This causes me to reflect on the promises of the Lord in my own life, and how they will be taken from me if I am not faithful to Him. Being faithful is to place greater trust in Him and in His promises.

40 And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the Lord hath promised: for we have sinned.
41 And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the Lord? but it shall not prosper.
42 Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies.
43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the Lord, therefore the Lord will not be with you.
44 But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp.
45 Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.

Some tried to go against this promise. They woke and prepared to go into the land of promise. Moses told them that they would not prosper in doing this against the Lord. The Lord would not be with them, and they would be killed by the Amalekites and Canaanites. I am imagining these rebels saying, “what else have we got to lose?” They went ahead anyway, without Moses or those who went with the ark of the covenant (which I am assuming began to go the way the Lord had instructed), and they were killed just as Moses had said. In choosing to continue in rebellion against the Lord, they gave up the opportunity to repent and receive the greater reward in heaven. Sometimes we are made to suffer the consequences of our bad choices. It is often painful and incredibly hard at times, but in suffering we can learn life lessons. One of the greatest lessons from suffering is repentance. When we repent we can be forgiven. It doesn’t take away the choices we made, but it can make us right in the sight of God. No blessings come from trying to avoid the consequences of our wrong choices. If there was no hope of anything greater for these generations of Israelites, the Lord would not have caused them to wander for forty years, but would have destroyed them all at that time. I am glad that we have stories like this, to teach us the patience and mercy of the Lord with His children.

Challenge: Thinking of your own life, how can you show greater faith and trust in the Lord today? Is there a fear you can put aside? Is there some sin that you can give up? Is there a duty you can fulfill? Trust in the Lord. If He has asked something of you, He will help you to accomplish it.

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