The People Rebel
1 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. 3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel.6 Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. 7 They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! 8 And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”
10 But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle.[a] 11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? 12 I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!”
Moses Intercedes for the People
13 But Moses objected. “What will the Egyptians think when they hear about it?” he asked the Lord. “They know full well the power you displayed in rescuing your people from Egypt.14 Now if you destroy them, the Egyptians will send a report to the inhabitants of this land, who have already heard that you live among your people. They know, Lord, that you have appeared to your people face to face and that your pillar of cloud hovers over them. They know that you go before them in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.15 Now if you slaughter all these people with a single blow, the nations that have heard of your fame will say, 16 ‘The Lord was not able to bring them into the land he swore to give them, so he killed them in the wilderness.’
17 “Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’ 19 In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.”
20 Then the Lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. 21 But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, 22 not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. 23 They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land. 25 Now turn around, and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.[b]”
The Lord Punishes the Israelites
26 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 27 “How long must I put up with this wicked community and its complaints about me? Yes, I have heard the complaints the Israelites are making against me. 28 Now tell them this: ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say. 29 You will all drop dead in this wilderness! Because you complained against me, every one of you who is twenty years old or older and was included in the registration will die. 30 You will not enter and occupy the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
31 “‘You said your children would be carried off as plunder. Well, I will bring them safely into the land, and they will enjoy what you have despised. 32 But as for you, you will drop dead in this wilderness. 33 And your children will be like shepherds, wandering in the wilderness for forty years. In this way, they will pay for your faithlessness, until the last of you lies dead in the wilderness.
34 “‘Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years—a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins. Then you will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.’ 35 I, the Lord, have spoken! I will certainly do these things to every member of the community who has conspired against me. They will be destroyed here in this wilderness, and here they will die!”
36 The ten men Moses had sent to explore the land—the ones who incited rebellion against the Lord with their bad report— 37 were struck dead with a plague before the Lord. 38 Of the twelve who had explored the land, only Joshua and Caleb remained alive.
39 When Moses reported the Lord’s words to all the Israelites, the people were filled with grief. 40 Then they got up early the next morning and went to the top of the range of hills. “Let’s go,” they said. “We realize that we have sinned, but now we are ready to enter the land the Lord has promised us.”
41 But Moses said, “Why are you now disobeying the Lord’s orders to return to the wilderness? It won’t work. 42 Do not go up into the land now. You will only be crushed by your enemies because the Lord is not with you. 43 When you face the Amalekites and Canaanites in battle, you will be slaughtered. The Lord will abandon you because you have abandoned the Lord.”
44 But the people defiantly pushed ahead toward the hill country, even though neither Moses nor the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant left the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in those hills came down and attacked them and chased them back as far as Hormah.