The People Rebel
1Then all the congregation [of Israel] raised their voices and cried out, and the people wept that night. 2All the Israelites murmured [in discontent] against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Oh that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or that we had died in this wilderness! 3Why is the Lord bringing us to this land [of Canaan], to fall by the sword? Our wives and children will become plunder. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4So they said one to another, “Let us appoint a [new] leader and return to Egypt.”
5Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the Israelites. 6Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes [as a sign of grief], 7and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land through which we passed as spies is an exceedingly good land. 8If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. 9Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” 10But all the congregation said to stone Joshua and Caleb with stones. But the glory and brilliance of the Lord appeared at the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle) before all the sons of Israel.
Moses Pleads for the People
11The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me disrespectfully and reject Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the [miraculous] signs which I have performed among them? 12I will strike them with the pestilence (plague) and dispossess them, and will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.”
13But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up these people from among them, 14and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people [of Israel], that You, Lord, are seen face to face, while Your cloud stands over them; and that You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations (Gentiles) that have heard of Your fame will say, 16‘Because the Lord was not able to bring these people into the land which He promised to give them, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17But now, please, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, saying, 18‘The Lord is slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving wickedness and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting (avenging) the wickedness and guilt of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers].’ 19Please pardon the wickedness and guilt of these people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You have forgiven these people, from Egypt even until now.”
The Lord Pardons and Rebukes
20So the Lord said, “I have pardoned them according to your word; 21but indeed as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord. 22Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My [miraculous] signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, 23will by no means see the land which I swore to [give to] their fathers; nor will any who treated me disrespectfully and rejected Me see it. 24But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land into which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it. 25Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valley; tomorrow turn and set out for the wilderness by way of the Red Sea.”
26The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27“How long shall I put up with this evil congregation who murmur [in discontent] against Me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites, which they are making against Me. 28Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just what you have spoken in My hearing I will most certainly do to you; 29your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness, even all who were numbered of you, your entire number from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against Me. 30Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, not one of you shall enter the land in which I swore [an oath] to settle you. 31But your children whom you said would become plunder, I will bring in, and they will know the land which you have despised and rejected. 32But as for you, your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33Your sons shall be wanderers and shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness (spiritual infidelity), until your corpses are consumed in the wilderness. 34According to the number of days in which you spied out the land [of Canaan], forty days, for each day, you shall bear and suffer a year for your sins and guilt, for forty years, and you shall know My displeasure [the revoking of My promise and My estrangement because of your sin]. 35I, the Lord, have spoken. I will most certainly do this to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed [by war, disease, and plagues], and here they shall die.’ ”
36As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, and who returned and made all the congregation murmur and complain against him by bringing back a bad report concerning the land, 37even those [ten] men who brought back the very bad report of the land died by a plague before the Lord. 38But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land.
39Moses spoke the Lord’s words to all the Israelites, and the people mourned greatly. 40They got up early in the morning and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, “Look, here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised.” 41But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the Lord, when it will not succeed? 42Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. 43For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, because you have turned away from following the Lord; therefore the Lord will not be with you.” 44But [in their arrogance] they dared to go up to the ridge of the hill country; however, neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses left the camp. 45Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and struck the Israelites and scattered them as far as Hormah.