December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- At this, the whole community broke out with loud cries, and even in the night the people wailed.
- All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, the whole community saying to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt, or that here in the desert we were dead!
- Why is the LORD bringing us into this land only to have us fall by the sword? Our wives and little ones will be taken as booty. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?"
- So they said to one another, "Let us appoint a leader and go back to Egypt."
- But Moses and Aaron fell prostrate before the whole assembled community of the Israelites;
- while Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb, son of Jephunneh, who had been in the party that scouted the land, tore their garments
- and said to the whole community of the Israelites, "The country which we went through and explored is a fine, rich land.
- If the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us in and give us that land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
- 1 But do not rebel against the LORD! You need not be afraid of the people of that land; they are but food for us! Their defense has left them, but the LORD is with us. Therefore, do not be afraid of them."
- In answer, the whole community threatened to stone them. But then the glory of the LORD appeared at the meeting tent to all the Israelites.
- And the LORD said to Moses, "How long will this people spurn me? How long will they refuse to believe in me, despite all the signs I have performed among them?
- I will strike them with pestilence and wipe them out. Then I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they."
- But Moses said to the LORD: "Are the Egyptians to hear of this? For by your power you brought out this people from among them.
- And are they to tell of it to the inhabitants of this land? It has been heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people; you, LORD, who plainly reveal yourself! Your cloud stands over them, and you go before them by day in a column of cloud and by night in a column of fire.
- If now you slay this whole people, the nations who have heard such reports of you will say,
- 'The LORD was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them; that is why he slaughtered them in the desert.'
- Now then, let the power of my Lord be displayed in its greatness, even as you have said,
- 'The LORD is slow to anger and rich in kindness, forgiving wickedness and crime; yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but punishing children to the third and fourth generation for their fathers' wickedness.'
- Pardon, then, the wickedness of this people in keeping with your great kindness, even as you have forgiven them from Egypt until now."
- The LORD answered: "I pardon them as you have asked.
- Yet, by my life and the LORD'S glory that fills the whole earth,
- of all the men who have seen my glory and the signs I worked in Egypt and in the desert, and who nevertheless have put me to the test ten times already and have failed to heed my voice,
- not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their fathers. None of these who have spurned me shall see it.
- But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me unreservedly, I will bring him into the land where he has just been, and his descendants shall possess it.
- 2 But now, since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn away tomorrow and set out in the desert on the Red Sea road."
- The LORD also said to Moses and Aaron:
- "How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the Israelites against me.
- 3 Tell them: By my life, says the LORD, I will do to you just what I have heard you say.
- Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall. Of all your men of twenty years or more, registered in the census, who grumbled against me,
- not one shall enter the land where I solemnly swore to settle you, except Caleb, son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, son of Nun.
- Your little ones, however, who you said would be taken as booty, I will bring in, and they shall appreciate the land you spurned.
- But as for you, your bodies shall fall here in the desert,
- here where your children must wander for forty years, suffering for your faithlessness, till the last of you lies dead in the desert.
- Forty days you spent in scouting the land; forty years shall you suffer for your crimes: one year for each day. Thus you will realize what it means to oppose me.
- I, the LORD, have sworn to do this to all this wicked community that conspired against me: here in the desert they shall die to the last man."
- And so it happened to the men whom Moses had sent to reconnoiter the land and who on returning had set the whole community grumbling against him by spreading discouraging reports about the land;
- these men who had given out the bad report about the land were struck down by the LORD and died.
- Of all the men who had gone to reconnoiter the land, only Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb, son of Jephunneh, survived.
- When Moses repeated these words to all the Israelites, the people felt great remorse.
- Early the next morning they started up into the foothills, saying, "Here we are, ready to go up to the place that the LORD spoke of: for we were indeed doing wrong."
- But Moses said, "Why are you again disobeying the LORD'S orders? This cannot succeed.
- Do not go up, because the LORD is not in your midst; if you go, you will be beaten down before your enemies.
- For there the Amalekites and Canaanites face you, and you will fall by the sword. You have turned back from following the LORD; therefore the LORD will not be with you."
- Yet they dared to go up into the foothills, even though neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses left the camp.
- 4 And the Amalekites and Canaanites who dwelt in that hill country came down and defeated them, beating them back as far as Hormah.
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1  They are but food for us: that is, "we can easily consume and destroy them." This is the answer to the pessimistic report that this land "consumes its inhabitants" (Numbers 13:32).
2  The valleys: the low-lying plains in the Negeb and along the seacoast and in the Jordan depression, as well as the higher valleys in the mountains farther north: cf Numbers 14:45.
3 [28-29] God punished the malcontents by giving them their wish; cf Numbers 14:2. Their lack of faith and of confidence in God is cited in 1 Cor 10:10, and Hebrews 3:12-18, as a warning for Christians.
4  Hormah: one of the Canaanite royal cities in southern Judea (Joshua 12:14), known at this time as "Zephath"; the origin of the later name is told in 21:3; Judges 1:17.
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