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Nu 14:1-45. THE PEOPLE MURMUR AT THE SPIES' REPORT.
1. all the congregation lifted up their voice and cried--Not literally all, for there were some exceptions.
2-4. Would God that we had died in Egypt--Such insolence to their generous leaders, and such base ingratitude to God, show the deep degradation of the Israelites, and the absolute necessity of the decree that debarred that generation from entering the promised land [Nu 14:29-35]. They were punished by their wishes being granted to die in that wilderness [Heb 3:17; Jude 5]. A leader to reconduct them to Egypt is spoken of (Ne 9:17) as actually nominated. The sinfulness and insane folly of their conduct are almost incredible. Their conduct, however, is paralleled by too many among us, who shrink from the smallest difficulties and rather remain slaves to sin than resolutely try to surmount the obstacles that lie in their way to the Canaan above.
5. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces--as humble and earnest suppliants--either to the people, entreating them to desist from so perverse a design; or rather, to God, as the usual and only refuge from the violence of that tumultuous and stiff-necked rabble--a hopeful means of softening and impressing their hearts.
6. Joshua . . . and Caleb, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes--The two honest spies testified their grief and horror, in the strongest manner, at the mutiny against Moses and the blasphemy against God; while at the same time they endeavored, by a truthful statement, to persuade the people of the ease with which they might obtain possession of so desirable a country, provided they did not, by their rebellion and ingratitude, provoke God to abandon them.
9. their defence is departed--Hebrew, "their shadow." The Sultan of Turkey and the Shah of Persia are called "the shadow of God," "the refuge of the world." So that the meaning of the clause, "their defence is departed from them," is, that the favor of God was now lost to those whose iniquities were full (Ge 15:16), and transferred to the Israelites.
10. the glory of the Lord appeared--It was seasonably manifested on this great emergency to rescue His ambassadors from their perilous situation.
12. the Lord said, . . . I will smite them with the pestilence--not a final decree, but a threatening, suspended, as appeared from the issue, on the intercession of Moses and the repentance of Israel.
17. let the power of my Lord be great--be magnified.
21. all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord--This promise, in its full acceptation, remains to be verified by the eventual and universal prevalence of Christianity in the world. But the terms were used restrictively in respect to the occasion, to the report which would spread over all the land of the "terrible things in righteousness" [Ps 65:5] which God would do in the infliction of the doom described, to which that rebellious race was now consigned.
22. ten times--very frequently.
24. my servant Caleb--Joshua was also excepted, but he is not named
because he was no longer in the ranks of the people, being a constant
attendant on Moses.
25. (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley)--that is, on the other side of the Idumean mountain, at whose base they were then encamped. Those nomad tribes had at that time occupied it with a determination to oppose the further progress of the Hebrew people. Hence God gave the command that they seek a safe and timely retreat into the desert, to escape the pursuit of those resolute enemies, to whom, with their wives and children, they would fall a helpless prey because they had forfeited the presence and protection of God. This verse forms an important part of the narrative and should be freed from the parenthetical form which our English translators have given it.
30. save Caleb . . . and Joshua--These are specially mentioned, as honorable exceptions to the rest of the scouts, and also as the future leaders of the people. But it appears that some of the old generation did not join in the mutinous murmuring, including in that number the whole order of the priests (Jos 14:1).
34. ye shall know my breach of promise--that is, in consequence of your violation of the covenant betwixt you and Me, by breaking the terms of it, it shall be null and void on My part, as I shall withhold the blessings I promised in that covenant to confer on you on condition of your obedience.
36-38. those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord--Ten of the spies struck dead on the spot--either by the pestilence or some other judgment. This great and appalling mortality clearly betokened the hand of the Lord.
40-45. they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top
of the mountain--Notwithstanding the tidings that Moses communicated
and which diffused a general feeling of melancholy and grief throughout
the camp, the impression was of very brief continuance. They rushed
from one extreme of rashness and perversity to another, and the
obstinacy of their rebellious spirit was evinced by their active
preparations to ascend the hill, notwithstanding the divine warning
they had received not to undertake that enterprise.