Vv 1-4: The people reject Moses and desire to return to Egypt.
This was perhaps the bitterest hour in Moses' life. They had proposed to elect a
captain before, but it was when he was away. This proposal was made before his
face. The people whom he had loved with passionate devotion, whose very
existence was due to his intercession on the Mount when they were on the point
of being destroyed, had forgotten all he had done. They actually proposed to
supersede his authority and -- if he would not go with them under their new-made
captain -- they were going to leave him to his own devices there. He fell on his
face before all the assembly of the congregation (v 5). What unutterable agony
stormed in his heart! Not only that he should be thus set aside, but that the
anger of God should be thus provoked by the people He loved!
As he lay there, did he not feel a great sorrow as the vision
of going into the land and the great prospects of his hopes started to crumble?
What joyful anticipation he must have had of going into the land to which God
had promised... and then suddenly the people revolt and God says, "Turn back
tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea" (Num
13 murmurings: Exo 5:21; 14:10; 15:24; 16:2; 17:2; 32:1; Num
11:1,4; 12:2; 14:2; 16:3; 20:2; 21:5. Cp Joh 6:41-43. Those who murmur without
cause are soon given cause to murmur.
IF ONLY WE HAD DIED IN EGYPT!: Spiritually, they did
"die in Egypt", for they never completely left. Physically, they died in the
wilderness, short of the Promised Land: vv 28,29.
AND GO BACK TO EGYPT: Egypt was the symbol of sin and
bondage (Joh 8:34; Rom 6:16; Tit 3:3; 2Pe 2:19). It had held their fathers in
bondage, until death, and now although this generation was "free" of Egypt --
physically -- it still held their souls, their minds, and their hearts in
bondage; and they would never really escape!
Vv 10,11: "One bold push forward, and their feet would tread
on their inheritance. But, as is so often the case, courage oozed out at the
decisive moment, and cowardice, disguised as prudence, called for 'further
information,' that cuckoo-cry of the fainthearted" (JSB 1:179).
BUT I WILL MAKE YOU INTO A NATION GREATER AND STRONGER THAN
THEY: Christ the antitypical Moses: Through Christ God did disinherit
Israel, after which He made of Christ a great nation!
'THE LORD WAS NOT ABLE TO BRING THESE PEOPLE INTO THE LAND
HE PROMISED THEM ON OATH; SO HE SLAUGHTERED THEM IN THE DESERT': There are
few grander passages in the Bible than that in which Moses puts away the testing
suggestion as impossible. Moses pleaded with God that He would pardon the people
according to the greatness of His mercy as He had been doing from the first of
leaving Egypt until now. In other words, Moses would not have the rest he longed
for at the sacrifice of a ray of God's glory or of the people with whom his life
was linked, though they had sadly plagued and disowned him.
And so he turned away from the open gate into this Paradise,
and again chose rather to suffer with the people in their afflictions than to
enjoy the pleasures of Canaan alone. Let us ponder the lesson: when a longed-for
delight is within our reach, yet it will be more for the glory of God and the
good of others to turn from it, let us ask grace to take the rugged path of the
wilderness -- even though it may mean a lonely life for forty years and a death
before the promised land may be reached.
EARTH: "Eretz": sw "land" in vv 23, 24.
NOT ONE OF THEM WILL EVER SEE THE LAND: Only 2 of 40
years have passed. The other 38 years would have been unnecessary if Israel had
EVERY ONE OF YOU... WHO WAS COUNTED IN THE CENSUS: But
the Levites were exempted from this judgment, because they were not numbered in
the census (Num 26:62).