New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


Num 14:1 All the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night-
This incident looks ahead to the bitter weeping of those rejected at the day of judgment (Mt. 8:12), at the borders of the Kingdom. But their weeping was self inflicted and unnecessary if they had had faith.

Num 14:2 All the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would that we had died in this wilderness!-
Israel continually "murmured" against Moses (Ex. 15:24; 16:2,7,8; 17:3; Num. 14:2,27,29 cp. Dt. 1:27; Ps. 106:25; 1 Cor. 10:10). Nearly all these murmurings were related to Israel's disbelief that Moses really could bring them into the land. Likewise Israel disbelieved that eating Christ's words (Jn. 6:63) really could lead them to salvation; and their temptation to murmur in this way is ours too, especially in the last days (1 Cor. 10:10-12).

They wished they had died in the desert, and this was to be their judgment. We see so clearly that the condemned are self condemned. "All who love His appearing" will be accepted, and those who think and act as if they don't want the Kingdom- won't have it.

Num 14:3 Why does Yahweh bring us to this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will be a prey: wouldn’t it be better for us to return into Egypt?-
They recognized the Lord had brought them out of Egypt. Their lack of faith was not the same as atheism, rather was it a lack of faith in the possibilities of the God they believed in. There should be no question amongst us, not in our deepest heart, about returning to the world / Egypt, the life we knew before our baptism (cp. the Red Sea crossing, 1 Cor. 10:1,2). If we do allow this question, then it will lead to actually doing this in practice (:4).

Dt. 1:27 adds: "And you murmured in your tents and said, Because Yahweh hated us He has brought us forth out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us". We marvel at how the passionate love of God for Israel at this time, falling in love with them and not beholding iniquity in Jacob, could be perceived now as hatred for Israel. It is a psychological classic, revealing the fickleness of the human mind when it is not firmly based in faith in God's stated words.

We notice their concern for their children and wives, implying this was the males who were speaking. But they want to return to Egypt, where their children had been killed at birth. And where they as males had been made to make bricks without straw and were beaten. Such is the nature of selective memory once a narrative is espoused. The psychological credibility of the record is very impressive. The plagues on Egypt and the Red Sea crossing were recent memories, and the provision of manna and Angelic guidance was ongoing. Miracle doesn't elicit faith. The power of believed narratives is overpowering; as we see in migrants risking all for the sake of a narrative about a certain country. Our dream destination is to be God's Kingdom, and that narrative is the only true one. All else will fade before it.

Num 14:4 They said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt-
Human beings so want human leadership. God through Moses was their captain, but they wanted a leader who would lead them where they wanted. The large number of human religions and religious leaders is proof enough of this desire for human leadership. Israel actually made a captain and set about to return to Egypt (Neh. 9:17). But this is omitted in the historical record; it simply says that this is what they thought of doing (Num. 14:4). The depth of their apostasy is graciously unrecorded. or perhaps this is another example of the thought being counted as the action.

Num 14:5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel-
We note Aaron had a part in this. We are to intercede for others on the basis of our experience of the Lord's intercession for us. Job prays for his friends, he mediates for them, after gratefully realizing that his own search for mediation with God in order to obtain forgiveness had somehow been answered, by grace (Job 42:6,8). After the same pattern, Aaron ought to have died for his flouting of the first commandment in making the golden calf; but Moses’ intercession alone saved him. And afterwards, deeply conscious of his experience, Aaron made successful intercession for the salvation of others (Num. 14:5; 16:22). The way he holds the censer with fire from the altar of incense, representing his prayers, and “stood between the dead and the living [as a mediator]” (Num. 16:48) is a fine picture of the height to which he rose.


Num 14:6 Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were of those who spied out the land, tore their clothes-
Dt. 1 records how Moses also pleaded with Israel at this time. Their grief was that of God, who millions of times sees people come to the brink of His Kingdom and turn away from it. And it should be a tragedy we too share.

Num 14:7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, The land which we passed through to spy it out is an extremely good land-
They reminded the people of God's simple statement that He was bringing them to a "good land" (Ex. 3:8 s.w.). But the land was "extremely good", better even than God had implied, over and above all they could ask or think. God's description of the land had been true. And so His promise that they could attain it was therefore likewise going to be true. That "good land" was to be given them not for the sake of their righteousness (Dt. 9:6), but simply so- by God's sovereign grace. But faith in grace has never come easy to men.

Num 14:8 Since Yahweh delights in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us-

The issue came down to faith in grace, and His desire to give us the Kingdom. So it is to this day. God not only forgives, but He delights in doing so (Is. 62:14; Mic. 7:18); the way He is spoken of as ‘delighting’ in spiritually weak Israel is part and parcel of Him lavishing grace as He does (Num. 14:8). It must be so awful to have such a wonderful spirit of lavishing grace and love, consciously giving out life and patient forgiveness to so many; and yet not be appreciated for it, to have puny humans shaking their fist at God because they die a brief moment of time sooner than they think they should, to have tiny people arrogantly questioning His love.

The Hebrew for "delights" is only elsewhere used in the Pentateuch of a man delighting in a woman to marry her (Gen. 34:19; Dt. 21:14; 25:7,8). And the prophets portray God as having fallen in love with Israel in the wilderness and entering into a marriage covenant with her at Sinai. Joshua and Caleb perceived this love of God. But Israel didn't. That such love should go unperceived, and that God at this point should be accused of hating Israel (Dt. 1:27), was tragic indeed. And His love so often goes unperceived and unrequited. This is the tragedy of God's relationship with His people. At least we have perceived it, and seek to respond.

The Lord spoke of us all as a little flock, fearing it is not the Father's pleasure / will to give us the Kingdom (Lk. 12:32). In doing so, He was as ever drawing on the language of the OT. Joshua-Jesus encouraged Israel that Yahweh delighted / willed that they should enter the land (Num. 14:8); but instead, they were too caught up with doubts... doubt about salvation, about what they could eat and drink day by day, and the giants in the land. This is the very context in which the Lord was speaking- fearing "the nations of the world", doubting where food and clothes would come from, just as Israel did (Lk. 12:22-29). Yet the pleasure / will of Yahweh is that we should share His Kingdom, and that pleasure / will prospered through the cross (Is. 53:10). 

A land which flows with milk and honey-
Israel came to describe the Egypt they had been called out from as the land flowing with milk and honey (Num. 16:12), and denied that they could experience this in the Kingdom of God. And so we have the same tendency to be deceived into thinking that the kingdoms of this world, the world around us, is effectively the Kingdom of God, the only thing worth striving after.

Num 14:9 Only don’t rebel against Yahweh, neither fear the people of the land; for they are bread for us. Their defence is removed from over them, and Yahweh is with us. Don’t fear them-
To fear and be faithless is to actively rebel against Yahweh. The word for "rebel" is nearly always used about rebelling against a king. They didn't want Him as their king, and so at this very time they made themselves another captain to return to Egypt (see on :4). To pull away from God's program to lead us to inherit His Kingdom is to reject Him as King, and to thereby rebel. To be in the shadow [s.w. "defence"] of someone was to be a subsidiary nation under the protectorate of a great empire (s.w. Ez. 31:6,12,17). The nations of Canaan had been under the protectorate of Egypt and the Philistines, but that had now been withdrawn. And they were terrified of the Israelites, as Rahab testified.

Num 14:10 But all the congregation threatened to stone them with stones. The glory of Yahweh appeared in the Tent of Meeting to all the children of Israel-
We now understand why the account of Num. 13,14 follows on from that of the rebellion of Miriam and Aaron in Num. 12. For this was exactly how He had acted at the time of that rebellion. Stoning with stones was usually for religious heresy. So we can imagine that the idolatrous people now turned to the gods they had carried with them out of Egypt (Ez. 20:6-8; Acts 7:43) and accused Joshua and Caleb of some kind of religious apostacy. But the basis of their anger was that they subconsciously knew that Joshua and Caleb were telling the truth, although it was not a truth they wished to hear.

In the surrounding cultures, stoning was a punishment for those who bore false witness. This is how the Israelites judged those who preached the good news of the Kingdom. They considered it a false Gospel. The language used of their rejection of that Gospel is quite severe. To disbelieve God is to "rebel" against Him (:9). The ruling principle of their lives was to be that they would inherit the Kingdom. To disbelieve our salvation is to "despise" God (:11). To reject the Gospel is to consider the preachers of it "false witnesses". Paul uses the same term when he tells the Corinthians he would be a "false witness" if the Lord had in fact not risen. Their desire to kill the messenger because they didn't accept the message is psychologically credible. The real desire was for a different leadership, who would lead them back to Egypt rather than out of it. 

The book of Numbers features the record of incidents whilst the people were "in the wilderness", and also the giving of extra laws. But those extra laws are to be related to the incidents recorded. Num. 15 will go on to talk about presumptuous sins. We can conclude that that legislation was given in the context of Israel's presumption in rejecting the Kingdom and calling God a liar. And the implication is that we can all in principle commit that same sin. It is unforgivable insofar as the sin itself means we refuse to believe in God's grace and salvation, and reject it as fake. Whilst that's our position, salvation is impossible- by our own choice. The issue of whether we believe we will be saved therefore assumes critical place in the psychology and worldview of all God's people, at all times.

Num 14:11 Yahweh said to Moses, How long will this people despise Me?-

"How long...?" could suggest 'Seeing they will never be otherwise, I will destroy them'. This could be a way of God asking Moses not to pray for more time, to as it were leave God alone to destroy Israel. He is saying that this situation cannot continue any longer. Just as He asked Moses in Ex. 32:10. But Moses knew God well enough to still intercede, and change the intention of God to disinherit the people at this time. See on :23. The idea of "provoke" is to scorn, to blaspheme, and this is what we do to God if we doubt we shall inherit the Kingdom. The language used about Israel's lack of faith is extreme. They "despised" the land (:32) even though it seems they didn't doubt it was a good land, they just doubted whether they could. They gathered together against God (:35). The language all shows that the most fatal error is to not believe we will be saved- this is far and more fundamentally worse than any sin of hot blood. See on Jn. 12:37.

And how long will they not believe in Me, for all the signs which I have worked among them?-
It’s not that the people were atheists. They speak about the existence of Yahweh quite freely (:3). But to not believe that He will give us the Kingdom, the promised land, is to effectively be in denial of Him. We too can be effective atheists when we doubt our salvation by grace.

Or we can read "How long...?" as a desperate hope for the time to more quickly come when the people would believe. The pain of God leads Him to hope, even desperate hope; and again that hope is expressed and felt in terms which are relative to our kind of time. Hence His many questions relating to 'How long?': "How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe me?" (Num. 14:11,27); "How long will it be till they are pure?" (Hos. 8:5; Jer. 4:14; 13:27). These aren't merely rhetorical questions. There's an element of literality about God's question- He doesn't know how long it will be, He can only imagine and hope- for Israel has free will, and will not turn to Him just when He says so. For He is in covenant relationship with them, He loves them, and as we've emphasized, that must involve each party allowing the other to function independently and to have their own time and free choice for returning. These questions, and other similar statements from God, are almost God's probing of possible paths into the future- the future which He could, of course, choose to know, but it seems He chooses not to fully know.

One wonders whether the questions God asks at times are in fact only merely rhetorical; perhaps some of them are genuine reflections of how He has restrained His foreknowledge in order to become vulnerably in love with His people. For example: “How long will these people treat me with contempt?” (Num. 14:11). I’m aware that by saying these things, I’m pushing a view of God that is quite different to that held by many believers. My comment is that the view of God widely held in Christianity has its roots in Plato’s philosophy that God is totally without emotion and unable to be touched by our situation on earth in a passionate manner. The very first clause of the 39 Articles of the Church of England reads: “God is without body, parts, and passions”. The Westminster Confession of Faith says the same- God is “without passions”. Frankly I find it incredible that this kind of thing can be said, when the Bible is so utterly full of examples of God’s passionate response to human grief upon earth. It seems clear enough to me that those churches founded upon such suppositions are simply flatly in contradiction to clear Bible teaching, and reflect their roots in pagan philosophy rather than God’s word. Rather than in any sense bringing God ‘down’, it seems to me that by assigning to Him the characteristics and possibilities which His own word so often speaks of, we are in fact elevating His awesomeness and wonder.


Num 14:12 I will strike them with the pestilence-
The "pestilence" which was the plague upon Egypt (Ex. 9:3) was to come upon a hard hearted Israel (s.w. Lev. 26:25; Num. 14:12; Dt. 28:21; Jer. 21:6). The plagues upon Egypt form the basis for the vials and seals of Revelation, which speak of judgment to come upon the land of Israel. It is a theme with God that His apostate people are "condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:32). If their hearts are really with Egypt / the world, then they will share the judgments of this world. The time for separation is now, just as the Egyptians had to identify with Israel if they wished to escape the plagues.

And disinherit them-
This is the same word translated "inherit" or "possess" in Num. 13:30 ; 14:24. The word also means 'to destroy'. We are God's inheritance- we are to be totally devoted to Him. If we don't want to be, then He will inherit / destroy us anyway. This is the logic of total devotion- we are devoted to Him, and must willingly go along with this or else He will destroy us. The idea is alluded to in Num. 14:22- because God's glory must fill the earth, therefore the sinners would be destroyed. And again in Num. 14:33,35 we read of the sinners being "consumed", a Hebrew word meaning to be perfected or even cleansed.

And will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they-
The same three words used of how God would make Abraham's seed a great and mighty nation (Gen. 18:18). God was alluding to that intention, but saying that He could cease fulfilling it the way He had been working on, and do it another way- through Moses. They would then have become as He intended- a nation of Levites. God's purposes are therefore open ended to some extent. 

And this wasn't the first time God had thought to do this, and Moses had persuaded Him otherwise (Ex. 32:10). The intimacy of Moses' intercession with God Almighty... is amazing. No wonder Judaism rightly respects Moses. The verbs "I will strike them... I will disinherit them" are cohortatives, and effectively can be translated "Let Me strike... let Me disinherit them". But Moses as it were doesn't give permission. Man is allowed to foil God Almighty. All that stood between Yahweh and the destruction of His people were words, the words of a fallible weak man, Moses, who comes to his climax in :19 with the simple request in one word: "Pardon". And God heard. And even this is but a dim shadow of the Lord's for us. Truly we have a great High Priest.

Num 14:13 Moses said to Yahweh, Then the Egyptians will hear it; for You brought up this people in Your might-
To have done this would’ve resulted in God changing His stated purpose with Israel. He is prepared to alter His intentions, according to human behaviour. And He shows Himself here open to dialogue, to persuasion, from His faithful children like Moses who reason according to a desire to see God’s glory rather than their own glory. It may be that it becomes clear that God intends to do something- perhaps to end a life, to relocate us geographically, to close one road and open another. Our prayers shouldn’t be simply asking Him to do or not do something. Rather should we reason with Him, giving our reasons as to why we wish Him to act in the way we are asking. This is for our benefit and reveals our motives to ourselves; and also deepens our faith that we are really asking according to God’s will as revealed in His word.

Moses seems to have shared the primitive idea that a god rose or fell according to the fortunes of his worshippers, when he asks God to not cut off Israel in case the nations mock Yahweh. Yahweh could have responded that this was far too primitive and limited a view. But no, He apparently listens to Moses and goes along with his request!

From among them-
"From their midst". It is stressed that Israel were taken out from the "midst of Egypt" (Dt. 4:34; 1 Kings 8:51). The plagues and wonders were done in "the midst of Egypt" (Ex. 3:20; Dt. 11:3). The midst of Egypt appears to be defined in Ps. 135:9; Is. 19:3; Ez. 29:3 as being Pharaoh and his servants. The narrative therefore stresses so much his response to the plagues. God's especial focus had been upon his conversion, and yet he refused. Israel were taken out right from under his nose, from the very heart of Egypt. Ez. 20:8 reveals what is not recorded in the historical record; that because the Israelites were so devoted to Egyptian idolatry still, His thought had been to destroy them "in the midst of the land of Egypt" (Ez. 20:8). But God's pole of grace overcame the pole of necessary judgment. He tolerated them and saved them, with enthusiasm, by the grace which comes from love- love taken to its ultimate, saving term. The whole narrative speaks as if the Hebrews were all at one place at one time and left "the midst of Egypt" together. Although unrecorded in the historical narrative, this would have meant that they gathered together "in the midst of Egypt" with Moses, who was not in Goshen but in the locality and presence of Pharaoh.   

Num 14:14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Yahweh, are in the middle of this people; for You, Yahweh, are seen face to face, and Your cloud stands over them and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night-
It was only Moses who saw Yahweh face to face. But his personal relationship with God had been shared not only with Israel, but somehow the Gentile world of Canaan had got to hear about it. If we have a close relationship with God, we will not need to boast of this to others, it will become apparent, and the knowledge of it will somehow spread widely.

God had 'gone before' Israel through the Angel which was to lead them through the desert (s.w. Ex. 23:23). But as with all religious but not spiritual people, they wanted a visible leader. And so when Moses apparently disappeared in the mountain, they demanded that gods be made to "go before us". It was only by grace that God responded that despite their apostacy, He would still "go before you" through the Angel (Ex. 32:34; 33:14). Even the Gentile world had more faith than Israel in this; they believed that Yahweh "went before" His people in an Angel (Num. 14:14). But Israel themselves at the time of the golden calf didn't believe that. Moses in his final speech therefore urges the people to believe that indeed the Angel was going before them (Dt. 1:30,33; 31:6,8).  

We see here God's sensitivity to how the Gentiles perceive Him, and this has big implications for how we act before them. For we are God's representatives, and how we represent Him before the world is so significant to Him. For effectively we are Him in this world, and it is our living example far more than our doctrinal explanations which will convert others to Him.  

Num 14:15 Now if You killed this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of You will speak, saying-
God could have given legitimate answers to each of Moses' objections; for there were indeed times when He did not turn from the fierceness of His wrath (Ex. 32:12)- such as Jer. 4:8; 2 Kings 23:26. He intended to fulfill the promises to Abraham, but through Moses. But such is His sensitivity and pure pity that He accepted Moses' pleas

Num 14:16 ‘Because Yahweh was not able to bring this people into the land which He swore to them, therefore He has slain them in the wilderness’-
Caleb and Joshua perceived that Israel were “well able” to overcome the tribes and inherit the land, seeing that the Angel-hornet had gone ahead and prepared the way; and yet due to Israel’s disabling of this possibility at the time, it was in some ways so that God Himself was “not able” to give them the inheritance, because they judged that they were “not able” to take it (Num. 13:30,31; 14:16).

The way Moses pleaded with God to change His mind and not destroy Israel for the sake of what the surrounding nations would say is indeed inspirational to us all. It surely inspired David to pray likewise- for “wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?” (Ps. 115:2).

Num 14:17 Now please let the power of the Lord be great, according as You have spoken, saying-
The power of God was understood by Moses as coming to its ultimate term in His grace and pity to hardened sinners. The awesome physical power we see in the natural creation is encouragement that His saving grace is of an even greater order. The same power which had done the miracles in Egypt was to be manifest in His forgiveness and salvation of His people from their sins (s.w. :13). This is why the book of Job concludes with manifestations of God's literal power- in order to persuade Job and the friends of His power to save sinners.    

Num 14:18 ‘Yahweh is slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and disobedience; and that will by no means justify the guilty-
Moses asked to know God deeper in Ex. 33 and 34, and was subsequently given an inspiring theophany in which the Name of Yahweh was declared. This wasn't just a piece of exquisite intellectual stimulation for Moses. He quoted that very theophany, the things he had there learned of the essentially merciful character of God, in his matchless prayer of Num. 14:17-19, where he pleads with God not to destroy Israel and not to glorify him as God had offered. All we learn of the Father, the richness of the vision we see in Christ, all this cannot remain within us, as jottings in our Bible margins, as notes of addresses, as dimly recollected ideas in brain cells. If we have really seen, there must, inevitably and naturally, be a giving out of the vision.

Visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and on the fourth generation’-
This is cited by Moses as a reflection of "the greatness of Your grace" (:19). Sadly, the words are often wrested by those who don't want to see God's grace. The grace in it is that the sins of a man are not necessarily visited upon him and his family- until the third generation. They have three generations to repent of what he did. And if the second and third generations don't repent, then the fourth generation reap the judgment for the sin of the ancestor, if they too don't repent. This is exactly relevant here. For Yahweh does agree to Moses' request and forgives on these terms (:20), but with the understanding that indeed He will visit the iniquity that had been done later on, if there was no real repentance.

Num 14:19 Please pardon the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your grace, and according as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now-
"According to the greatness of Your grace" is matched in :20 by "according to your word". The implication could be that it was Moses' vision of the extent of God's grace which enabled, prescribed and defined the realization of His grace in practice. David perceived this when he asked in Ps. 33:22 "Let Your grace be on us, Yahweh, according as we have hope in You". Likewise if Abraham had continued bargaining with God about Sodom and asked for it to be saved if only one righteous were to be found there, then we can assume God would have heard him. But he failed to hope for grace as far as he might have done, and so it didn't happen.

Num 14:20 Yahweh said, I have pardoned according to your word-
See on :18,19. Others can be forgiven because of our intercession (see too Mk. 2:5,6). This has huge implications; for in this case we should be praying constantly for others, if the prayers of a third party can have such power in another’s life. Thanks to Solomon’s prayer, and if he had been obedient, all Israel would have been blessed and experienced Yahweh dwelling amongst them (1 Kings 6:12,13). Moses prayed for God to forgive Israel; and He responded: “I have pardoned, according to your word” (Num. 14:20) rather than according to their repentance and prayer. Indeed it would seem from Heb. 11:28 that Israel were delivered from the Egyptians due to Moses’ faith in the Christ whom the sprinkled Passover blood pointed forward to.

This "pardon" didn't remove the consequence of not entering the land (:23). They were forgiven- and not merely saved from immediate destruction, nor simply experiencing the delay of their destruction by some years. Seeing they died some years later than originally decreed, in what then was the significance of their "pardon"? Surely forgiveness involves some restoration of previous relationship, and not merely deferral of judgment? What cash value does this "pardon" have it meant merely the delay of condemnation by a few years? Although they are seen in the New Testament as representative of the rejected at the last day, we could think that they were forgiven even that, saved from condemnation personally, thanks to Moses' intercession. In which case we marvel that His intercession saved even from condemnation, and did not merely achieve a deferral of their judgment by up to 38 years. Perhaps we are to conclude that although that generation were to die in the wilderness, they would die pardoned and could therefore look forward to future eternal inheritance of the Kingdom. But they despised even that. They wanted it right away, and tried to enter it immediately. And for that they really were condemned. We marvel at how men could be condemned, saved from it by amazing intercession- and still prefer condemnation. We are to accept that will rightly die in the desert, have some sand kicked over us and the rest move on, following the Angel to the same end. But we have that priceless pardon, and the sure hope of resurrection and eternal inheritance of the land. And that is wonderful by me. But they were so immediate that they wanted the Kingdom right now, or no deal. And so they got nothing. In his autobiography in Deuteronomy, Moses makes no mention of his successful intercession at this point. Because it was a redemption refused, a salvation spurned, a great intercession wasted.

Num 14:21 but in very deed, as I live-
To doubt God’s word in practice is to belie His very Name and being. This is why God assures us of the certainty of both His salvation and also His judgment of sin by saying that "As I live, says Yahweh…" (Ez. 20:31,33; Is. 49:18; Num. 14:21). As surely as He who is, really is, so surely His words of promise and judgment will be fulfilled. His Name therefore confirms the reality of His words. LXX "But as I live and my name is living". The Name of Yahweh is not therefore simply a title or lexical item, a mere word. God's personality and characteristics are expressed in His Name, and all His constant action in the world and in human hearts is in order to articulate that Name. Thus it becomes a living Name.

And as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh-
The glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle when it was erected (Ex. 40:34), as it would later fill the temple (2 Chron. 7:1). But it was God's intention that His glory should fill all the earth; the same words are used in Num. 14:21. The apparently intense manifestation of Himself in a specific place was only a foretaste of what He wished to bring about in "all the earth". And yet Judaism misread this as meaning that His glory was there alone in a specific holy place. They failed to perceive that it was merely a localized foretaste of His intention to make this a universal experience, and the tearing down of the veil at the Lord's death was evidence enough of the progression of this plan. When exiled from the sanctuary, David in his Psalms often perceives that God's glory fills and shall fill all the earth (Ps. 72:19; Hab. 2:14). 

The surrounding verses are all using eretz ("earth") specifically about the land promised to Abraham, not the whole planet (:2,3,6,7,9,14,16,23,24,30,31). God’s foremost intention was to fill His land with His glory, and through this, secondarily, the whole planet.

If God had let that generation enter the land, then the earth / land would not have been full of His glory. For they had seen His glory (:22) but not reflected it back as intended. But their pardon meant they would in the Kingdom. But they refused even that.

Num 14:22 because all those men who have seen My glory and My signs which I worked in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted Me these ten times, and have not listened to My voice-
"Ten times" may not be a literal number, as in Gen. 31:7; Lev. 26:26; Job 19:3. Or we could calculate the ten times as twice at the Red sea, twice concerning the manna, twice concerning the quail, twice concerning lack of water, once with the golden calf and once in this refusal to enter the land. 

Num 14:23 surely they shall not see the land which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any of those who despised Me see it-
Time and again in the Biblical record, Abraham is held up as a very real example, in whose steps all God's people are to tread. For example, as Abraham was bidden leave Ur and go and "see" the "land" of promise which God would "give" him (Gen. 13:15), so the spies were told to go and "see" the "land" which God had "given" them (Num. 13:18; 32:8,9- the same three words as in the promises to Abraham)- yet they lacked the faith of Abraham to believe that really, they could possess that land. They did "see" the land, yet they were punished by being told that they would not now "see the land" (Num. 14:23; Dt. 1:35). They saw it, but they didn't "see" it with the eyes of Abraham. And so it can be with our vision of God's Kingdom. Remember that Moses was the author of both Genesis and Numbers- such connections aren't incidental. Moses wished the people to see themselves as going forward in the spirit of Abraham- and hence he wrote up the Genesis record for Israel's benefit an inspiration.

"Despised" as in Num. 14:11 is s.w. provoke or blaspheme. It is specifically associated with turning to other gods (Dt. 31:20; 32:19; Is. 1:4). And that appears to be the context. The Israelites decided not to enter the land and instead to follow the gods of Egypt back to Egypt (Num. 14:11,23).

Num 14:24 But My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed Me faithfully, him will I bring into the land into which he went; and his seed shall possess it-
Caleb was head of a household within the tribe of Judah. It could be argued that he was directly related to Judah through Hezron and Pharez (1 Chron. 2:5,18,25). But "Kenizzite" (also Num. 32:12) could refer to the Gentile tribe of Gen. 15:19; or to a man called Kenaz, memorialized by Caleb naming his son with that same name (1 Chron. 4:15). And Jud. 1:13 could mean that Caleb's father was called Kenaz. ‘Caleb’ means ‘dog’ in Hebrew, and God alludes to this in describing Caleb as His faithful follower. The intimacy between a man and his dog can be seen between God and His man. The genealogies are constructed in such a way that they don't preclude Caleb having been a Gentile who was fully accepted into the tribe of Judah.  

We must consider at this point Caleb's words of Josh. 14:12 "Now therefore give me this hill country, of which Yahweh spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and great and fortified cities". Although not recorded in Num. 14:24, it appears Caleb was specifically promised Hebron at that time. Caleb had explored that area as a spy (Num. 13:22) and taken a special liking to it. We see therefore his spiritual ambition; 'this shall one day be mine'. And we can do the same, as we in this life spy out our future inheritance. 

Joshua allowed the leaders of Israel to lead him into wrong decisions about the initial attack on Ai, and also into being deceived by the Gibeonites. And yet as a younger man, he had boldly stood up to the peer pressure of the princes of Israel in faithfully declaring that Israel could and should go up into Canaan; when the other princes must have put huge pressure upon him to agree with them. He is described as maintaining “another spirit” to theirs (Num. 14:24). The resolution of youth seems to have been somewhat lost as he grew older.

Joshua and Caleb were characterized by the comment that they “wholly followed the Lord” when they went to spy out Canaan (Num. 14:24; 32:11,12; Dt. 1:36; Josh. 14:8,9,14), and urged Israel to go up and inherit it. This refers to the way that the Angel had gone ahead of them, and they faithfully followed where the Angel had gone, and believed that Israel could follow that Angel wherever it led. When Israel finally did go into the land, they were told that Joshua would ‘go before’ them, and they were to follow him and thereby inherit the land (Dt. 31:3). From this we see that circumstances repeat in our lives. As Joshua had been told to be strong good courage in order to take the land, so he had to tell others (Josh. 10:25). As God charged him to be courageous and obedient to the book of the Law, so Joshua on his deathbed charged his people (Josh. 1:7,8 cp. 23:6).

Caleb had a spirit "with him". This helps us understand the sense in which the word or logos of Jesus was "with God" without implying personal pre-existence. We must not read the New Testament through Greek / Western eyes, but rather try to understand it against its original Jewish / Hebrew background of thought. It's a failure to do this which has given rise to trinitarianism and its associated misconceptions. Thus when we read of Jesus being "with" God, the Greek / Western mind can assume this means sitting literally together with Him. But time and again in the Hebrew Bible, the idea of being "with" someone means [according to the Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, p. 768] to "be in one's consciousness, whether of knowledge, memory or purpose". Thus Job speaks of how what God plans to do to him is "with God", i.e. in His purpose (Job 23:14); David is spoken of as having the idea about building a temple "with" him (1 Kings 8:17; 2 Chron. 6:7)- and there are multiple other examples (Num. 14:24; 1 Kings 11:11; 1 Chron. 28:12; Job 10:13; 15:9; 23:10; 27:11; Ps. 50:11; 73:23). It is this refusal to read the Bible within its own Hebraic context which has led to so much misunderstanding, and adopting of doctrines and positions which simply don't stand up to closer Biblical scrutiny.

Num 14:25 Now the Amalekite and the Canaanite dwell in the valley. Tomorrow, turn and go into the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea-
They were getting what they wanted. They wanted to turn away from their enemies, and so God turned them away. This is the significance of the statement that the Canaanite lived in the valley, and they were told to turn away from them. We get what we really want. This looks ahead to the terrible sending away of the rejected from the judgment seat at the last day. "Turn" is s.w. "turn away". They had turned away from God in their time of opportunity, and often wished to return to Egypt. And so it was appropriate for them to be told to return / turn away from the Kingdom. Condemnation is really self chosen, and will be a living out of the decisions already taken by the condemned. Truly "we make the answer now"; the essence of judgment is now.

Num 14:26 Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying-
It was as if God needed someone to talk with, to share His feelings of frustration...

Num 14:27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, that murmur against Me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against Me-
For "how long...?", see on :11. The Hebrew for "murmur" is the word for "stop", and is usually translated in that way. The idea is that they didn't want to go further on the journey; they wanted to return to Egypt. Despite the wonder of the Red Sea deliverance. Their hearts truly were in Egypt. This sense of not wanting to go onwards towards the Kingdom, to put a brake on God's saving process, is the same temptation which in essence afflicts all God's people who have started the journey with Him.

An example of the Lord’s perhaps unconscious usage of His Father’s words is to be found in His exasperated comment: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?” (Mt. 17:17). Of course the Lord would have spoken those words and expressed those ideas in Aramaic- but the similarity is striking with His Father’s Hebrew words of Num. 14:27: “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation…?”. As a son comes out with phrases and word usages which ‘Could be his father speaking!’, so the Lord Jesus did the same thing. What I am saying is that the Lord was not merely quoting or alluding to the Father’s Old Testament words, in the way that, say, Paul or Peter did. As the Father’s Son, He was speaking in the same way as His Father, no doubt saturated with the written record of the Father’s words, but all the same, there were those similarities of wording and underlying thinking which are only seen between fathers and sons. And His words of Mt. 17:17 = Num. 14:27 seem to me to be an example of this.

Num 14:28 Tell them, ‘As I live, says Yahweh, surely as you have spoken in My ears, so will I do to you-
But the people thought they were only quietly murmuring (:27). God hears our inaudible grumblings and faithless doubts, just as He did Sarah's. We have here an example of where those who are condemned have in fact desired that and chosen that outcome. God is more concerned with saving people than condemning them, and any condemnation is essentially self inflicted rather than inflicted by God.

Num 14:29 Your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness; and all who were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against Me-
The idea of carcasses falling suggests they were already carcasses. They were the living dead. Robert Roberts rightly described the generation that was under twenty years old on leaving Egypt as the most faithful of all Israel's generations. The faithful element with whom God so 'fell in love' was not just comprised of the 'under 20s'. Joshua and Caleb also featured amongst them, as did the Levites (who the curse of destruction in the wilderness did not apply to: Num. 14:29 cp. 1:49). Numerically, the largest of these three groups who constituted the 'faithful element' was the under 20s. It is fitting, therefore, that this faithful remnant are personified as a young person. Thus God reflected to Hosea: "When Israel was a child (s.w. "young man" ), then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt" (Hos. 11:1).

Num 14:30 surely you shall not come into the land, concerning which I swore that I would make you dwell therein, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun-
This promise was solemnly made, with uplifted hand as it were, to that generation who left Egypt (Ex. 6:8). But they did not enter the land, as Num. 14:30 makes clear. This was because Israel broke their side of the covenant, and did not in fact want to enter the land; and continued serving the idols of Egypt, which they took with them through the Red Sea (Ez. 20:8; Acts 7:43). But that promise was guaranteed by the fact that "I will bring you into the land... I am Yahweh" (Ex. 6:8). The very essence of Yahweh, that 'I will' save, as surely as 'I will be who I will be', a saviour God, was fought against by Israel's idolatry and unfaithfulness to the covenant. And because 'Yahweh' involves His character, which includes His judgment of sin and not turning a blind eye to it (Ex. 34:4-6), human intransigence and faithlessness was allowed to as it were even counteract His most essential 'being' a saviour God for His beloved people.    

Num 14:31 But your little ones, that you said should be for a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which you have rejected-
In the end, God gives us our dominant desire. Israel in the wilderness “despised the land of desire, they believed not his word” of promise, that they would enter it (Ps. 106:24 AVmg.). They didn’t really desire the land, so they didn’t receive it. Israel both despised the land, and they despised their God (Num. 14:11,23,31 RV). They rejected the land and so were rejected from it; just as all the condemned are actually receiving that which they themselves really want. Our attitude as to whether or not we want to be in the Kingdom is essentially our attitude to God. This has far reaching implications. Ps. 107:30 likewise speaks of how the faithful are brought to the haven of their desire (RVmg.). All those who truly love the Lord’s appearing- with all that implies in practical life and belief- will be accepted (2 Tim. 4:8). And yet Israel didn’t have the dominant desire to be in the Kingdom, as Joshua and Caleb had. Why didn’t they? It is vital that we understand the reasons for their failure – such an understanding will be a safeguard to help prevent us from making the same mistake (Rom. 15:4).

The whole people of Israel would have been left in the wilderness and now allowed to enter the land, if Gad and Reuben refused to cross the Jordan river (Num. 32:15). But this would have broken the Divine promise of Num. 14:31 that all those under 20 would enter the land. Even that promise, therefore, had unstated conditions attached to it. And yet God had yet another option- if they refused to go over Jordan, then they would forfeit their land and receive a different inheritance (Num. 32:30). The complexities of these conditions are of course beyond us, because we are seeing only a part of the working of God’s infinite mind. The point is, there are conditions attached to God’s promises which aren’t always made apparent to us.

Num 14:32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness-
We must consider the tone of voice in which God said this, and His feelings as He did. For God grieved over the carcasses of those wretched men whom He slew in the wilderness for their thankless rebellions against Him their saviour (Heb. 3:17). The apostle makes the point: "With whom was He grieved?". Answer: with the wicked whom He slew! A human God or a proud God would never grieve over His victory over His enemies.  

Num 14:33 Your children shall be wanderers in the wilderness forty years, and shall bear your prostitution, until your dead bodies be consumed in the wilderness-
Their desire was to make them a captain and return to Egypt, and Neh. 9 says they did make a captain, to replace Moses. So their judgment was to wander, shepherdless, in the desert. Their concern about their children being killed by the Canaanites was only an excuse- their children ended up bearing their sins, i.e. bearing the consequence of them. The figure of 'carrying iniquity' means 'carrying the consequence of sin'; which is what the Lord did on the cross. Others suffer the consequence of our sin; and the consequence of sin can be carried by Jesus.

To disbelieve we will enter the promised land of God’s Kingdom is effectively prostitution against God. The Bible often describes unfaithfulness in terms which are startling to us, but this is to show how serious is unbelief. LXX "And they shall bear your fornication", which usually refers to idolatry. This implies idolatry as the underlying reason why they refused to enter Canaan and wanted to return to Egypt, the land of their gods. For they had taken the gods of Egypt with them (Ez. 20:6-8; Acts 7:43). Likewise Num. 14:43 LXX "because ye have disobeyed the Lord and turned aside"; and turning aside is usually turning aside from God unto idols.

Num 14:34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, even forty days, for every day a year, you will bear your iniquities, even forty years-
The Lord Jesus on the cross was a sin bearer (Is. 53:11); and the idea of sin bearing was almost an idiom for being personally guilty and sinful (Num. 14:34; Ex. 28:43). The Lord was our sin bearer and yet personally guiltless.

And you will know the altering of My purpose’-
That God can change His mind is an indication of the extreme sensitivity He has to human behaviour. The only thing in which He is unchanging is His patience with sinners (Mal. 3:6). He had promised to bring Israel in to the promised land. But He destroyed that generation- "and ye shall know my breach of promise" (AV), or, "the altering of my purpose" (RVmg.). God's purpose can change. Because God can change His mind. He says so Himself. Such is His desire to save. The only element in which he does not change is in not consuming the sons of Jacob, by grace alone. There is a gap between Yahweh's prophetic pronouncements, and their fulfillment. And in that gap there is the possibility for repentance. This is what gives intensity to our prayers and repentance, knowing we too live in such a gap.

Num 14:35 I Yahweh have spoken, surely this will I do to all this evil congregation, who are gathered together against Me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die-
Heb. 3:11 says that "I swore in My anger: They shall not enter into My rest". God has emotion. The generation that were promised the rest, permanence and stability of the promised land were not given it, because in their hearts they wandered. And this, as noted on Heb. 3:10, was reflected in their wandering in the wilderness. This implies that God changed His mind about letting Israel enter the land; for He had promised that generation "rest" in that He promised them the land (Josh. 1:15). Or as Num. 14:34 (A.V. mg. ) says: "Ye shall bear your iniquity, even forty years, and ye shall know the altering of My purpose". These were the words of the Angel to Moses. The apparent change of plans could be seen as more appropriate if it concerned the Angel which led them; and yet the Angel all the same was manifesting God. This oath they would not "enter into My rest" was solely because they did not believe (Heb. 3:18) in their hearts (Heb. 3:12. The immorality, idolatry etc. were relatively incidental to the essential issue- that they did not believe He would give them rest in the promised land. And therefore He did not give it to them. The context of all this is Paul's appeal for confident hope in our future salvation (Heb. 3:6). It is unbelief and a constant demand for 'proof' which was their problem which cost them salvation. 

Num 14:36 The men, whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation to murmur against Him, by bringing up an evil report against the land-
Had they believed in the power of God, then whatever ‘adversary’ was in the land, in whatever form, was ultimately of no real power (Num. 13:32; 14:36; Dt. 1:25). And yet it was not God’s way to specifically tell the people that there was no such dragon lurking in the land of Canaan – instead He worked with them according to their fears, by making the earth literally open and swallow up the apostate amongst them (Num. 16:30) – emphasizing that by doing this, He was doing “a new thing”, something that had never been done before – for there was no dragon lurking in any land able to swallow up people. And throughout the prophets it is emphasized that God and not any dragon swallowed up people – “The Lord [and not any dragon] was as an enemy; He has swallowed up Israel” (Lam. 2:5 and frequently in the prophets). The people of Israel who left Egypt actually failed to inherit Canaan because they believed that it was a land who swallowed up the inhabitants of the land (Num. 13:32), relating this to the presence of giants in the land (Num. 13:33). As Joshua and Caleb pleaded with them, they needed to believe that whatever myths there were going around, God was greater than whatever mythical beast was there. And because they would not believe that, they failed to enter the land, which in type symbolized those who fail to attain that great salvation which God has prepared.

The Hebrew seems to mean that the unfaithful spies now again bring up an evil report upon the land. This verse appears unnecessary until we get the sequence of events:

The people wanted to return to Egypt and not enter Canaan

God condemned them to instant death and destruction as a nation

Moses intercedes and God pardons them

The "pardon" meant that although they would die in the desert, they would rise again to eternally inherit the land

The ten spies then made another attempt to persuade the people of how bad the land was and were condemned

The people weren't interested in future eternal inheritance, and wanted to enter the land immediately

They were therefore punished with absolute condemnation; Moses' amazing intercession and achievement was refused by them.

Num 14:37 even those men who brought up an evil report about the land, died by the plague before Yahweh-
Their "evil report about the land" is twice stressed (:36). They had agreed that the land was indeed a good land. The evil report was in their false claims about the apparently invincible inhabitants, and the implication that the people therefore should return to Egypt. To 'bring up an evil report' is to slander, and the word is always elsewhere used about the slander of persons. It is a strange term to use about a land. But effectively "the land" is being put for God's promise about entering the land. It was God whom they were slandering. And so do we if we refuse to believe we shall enter His Kingdom.

Num 14:38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land-
The implication is that the twelve men were standing "before Yahweh" (:37) and ten of them were struck down dead, and only Joshua and Caleb were left standing.

Num 14:39 Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly-
This incident looks ahead to the bitter weeping of those rejected at the day of judgment (Mt. 8:12), at the borders of the Kingdom. But their weeping was self inflicted and unnecessary if they had had faith. 

Num 14:40 They rose up early in the morning, and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, Behold, we are here, and will go up to the place which Yahweh has promised; for we have sinned-
These Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea (cp. our baptism) and were now rejected from God’s Kingdom, because they themselves had said they didn’t want to inherit it, now wanted more than anything else to be there. This is a major Biblical theme- that the rejected will desperately ask to be allowed in to God’s kingdom; the foolish virgins will knock on the closed door begging for it to be opened (Mt. 25:11; Lk. 13:25). Our ultimate destiny is to stand before the Lord wanting to enter His Kingdom with every fiber in our being. But this must be our attitude now, for then it will be too late to change anything.

We note how one moment they were talking of returning to Egypt, and then in a moment they change and want to desperately enter Canaan. This instability was what reflected their lack of any deep faith or conviction, neither towards Yahweh nor their Egyptian gods. Hence the misery of the uncommitted, wandering to their deaths.

Num 14:41 Moses said, Why now do you disobey the commandment of Yahweh, since disobedience shall not prosper?-
Those rejected by God at His judgment still desperately want to enter His Kingdom (Mt. 25:11). In that day of final judgment, all present will desperately want only one thing- to enter the Kingdom. Nothing else will matter. We should have that spirit with us now. This was the sin of presumption (Dt. 1:43) which Num. 15:30 will now go on to condemn.

Num 14:42 Don’t go up, for Yahweh isn’t among you; that you not be struck down before your enemies-
"Go not up, for the Lord is not among you... but they presumed to go up... nevertheless, the ark of the covenant of the Lord (which the Angel had made with them) departed not" (:42-44)- as if to imply that the Lord (the Angel) was in the ark, and therefore did not go up with them because the ark did not. See on Ps. 78:60.


Num 14:43 There the Amalekite and the Canaanite are before you, and you shall fall by the sword, because you are turned back from following Yahweh; therefore Yahweh will not be with you-
The comment of :33 LXX "And they shall bear your fornication" implies that the refusal to enter the land was connected with idolatry. For "fornication" in a national sense usually refers to idolatry. This implies idolatry as the underlying reason why they refused to enter Canaan and wanted to return to Egypt, the land of their gods. For they had taken the gods of Egypt with them (Ez. 20:6-8; Acts 7:43). Likewise Num. 14:43 LXX "because ye have disobeyed the Lord and turned aside"; and turning aside is usually turning aside from God unto idols. Yahweh would not be with them because they had chosen not to have Yahweh with them.

Num 14:44 But they presumed to go up to the top of the mountain; nevertheless the ark of the covenant of Yahweh and Moses didn’t depart out of the camp-
David's bringing up / going up / ascending of the ark (2 Sam. 6:2) recalls how the ark did not go up into Canaan in Num. 14:44 (s.w.); for the land was not to be given to Israel. But when the time came, the ark was brought up into Canaan (Josh. 4:16,18 s.w.). And so now, the land was being given to them again. David felt as if he was as Joshua reconquering Canaan in fulfilment of the promises. This may explain why Paul in Acts 13:21 parallels the 40 years wandering of Israel with the 40 year reign of Saul; and he may speak of Saul reigning 40 years because of this, even if it was not literally true. It creates big chronological problems if we read that 40 year reign of Saul literally.

Num 14:45 Then the Amalekite came down, and the Canaanite who lived in that mountain, and struck them and beat them down, even to Hormah-
Dt. 1:44 "The Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you, as bees do, and beat you down in Seir, even to Hormah". It was as if the Israelites had knocked the bee hive, and provoked the bees to attack them; hence the Amorites chased Israel "as bees do" (Dt. 1:44). The hornet had been sent ahead of Israel to as it were chase out the Amorites; but now it was as if this was reversed, and they chased the Israelites. For in their hearts they were no better than the Amorites.