the sons of Anak; whose names are given, Numbers 13:22; and there were but three of them:
which came of the giants; they, were of the race of giants; for not only Anak their father, but Arba their grandfather was one; Joshua 14:15,
and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers; little diminutive creatures in comparison of them; an hyperbolical exaggeration of the greatness of the giants, and of their own littleness:
and so we were in their sight; but this they could not be so certain of, and could only make conjectures by their neglect or supercilious treatment of them. Jarchi makes them to speak of them more diminutively still, as that they heard those giants saying one to another,"there are ants in the vineyards like men.''
INTRODUCTION TO Numbers 14
This chapter treats or the murmurings of the children of Israel upon the evil report of the spies, which greatly distressed Moses and Aaron, Numbers 14:1; and of the endeavours of Joshua and Caleb to quiet the minds of the people with a good account of the land, and of the easy conquest of it, but to no purpose, Numbers 14:6; and of the Lord's threatening to destroy the people with the pestilence, Numbers 14:11; and of the intercession of Moses for them, which so far succeeded as to prevent their immediate destruction, Numbers 14:13; nevertheless they are assured again and again, in the strongest terms, that none of them but Joshua and Caleb should enter into the land, but their carcasses should fall in the wilderness, even all the murmurers of twenty years old and upwards, Numbers 14:21; and the ten men that brought the evil report of the good land died of a plague immediately, but the other two lived, Numbers 14:36; and the body of the people that attempted to go up the mountain and enter the land were smitten and discomfited by their enemies, after they had with concern heard what the Lord threatened them with, Numbers 14:39.
and the people wept that night: perhaps throughout the night; could get no sleep nor rest all the night, but spent it in weeping and crying, at the thought of their condition and circumstances, and the disappointments they had met with, as they conceived, of entering into and possessing the land.
and the whole congregation said unto them; some of them, the rest assenting to it by their cries and tears and gestures:
would God we had died in the land of Egypt; and then what they left behind they thought might have come into the hands of their children or relations; but now they concluded it would become a prey to the Canaanites:
or would God we had died in this wilderness; the wilderness of Paran, at Taberah, where many of them had been destroyed by fire, Numbers 11:1, and now they wish they had perished with them.
to fall by the sword: the sword of the Canaanites, as the Targum of Jonathan adds:
that our wives and our children shall be a prey? to the same people; they supposed they should be killed, their wives abused, and their children made slaves of:
were it not better for us to return into Egypt? and so escape the hands of the inhabitants of Canaan, of whom they had terrible apprehensions from the report made of them.
and let us return into Egypt: which was downright madness, as some interpreters have justly observed; they must not only expect to be deserted by Moses, through whose means so many miracles had been wrought for them, and who was so wise and faithful a governor of them; and by Aaron their priest, who offered their sacrifices, and prayed for them, and blessed them; and by such a valiant general as Joshua, who had fought for them against their enemies; but by the Lord himself, so that they could not expect the manna to be continued as food for them, nor the pillar of cloud and fire as a guide unto them, nor to be protected from their enemies, on the borders of whose countries they must pass; so that their destruction in the wilderness seemed inevitable; and if they could have surmounted these and other difficulties, what manner of reception could they expect to find in Egypt, on whose account all the firstborn of man and beast among them were slain, whom they had spoiled of their riches, and whose king and his army, and in it perhaps the, flower of the nation, were drowned in the Red sea, for their sakes? What therefore could they think of, if they had any sober thought at all, but utter ruin, should they return there again?
before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel; to affect them the more with a sense of their sin and danger.
which were of them that searched the land; they were two of that number, and were the more concerned to hear such a false account given, and distressed to observe the mutiny of the people, and therefore judged themselves in duty bound to do all they could to stop it:
rent their clothes; in token of sorrow for the sins of the people; and at their blasphemy and ingratitude against God, and in dread of his wrath and fury breaking forth upon them.
saying, the land which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land; they observe that they were of the number of the spies that were appointed and sent to search the land of Canaan, and they had searched it, and therefore could give an account of it from their own knowledge; and they had not only entered into it, or just looked at a part of it, but they had gone through it, and taken a general survey of it; and they could not but in truth and justice say of it, that it was a good land, delightful, healthful, and fruitful; yea, "very, very good" (q), exceeding, exceeding good, superlatively good, good beyond expression; they were not able with words to set forth the goodness of it; this they reported, in opposition to the ill report the other spies had given of it.
(q) "bona terra, valde valde", Montanus, Vatablus.
then he will bring us into this land, and give it us, as he has promised:
a land which floweth with milk and honey; as the Lord himself hath described it, and as the unbelieving spies themselves had owned it; Numbers 13:27.
neither fear ye the people the land; on account of their number, strength, the walled cities they dwell in; they had nothing to fear from them, so be it they feared the Lord, and were not disobedient to him:
for they are bread for us; as easy to be cut to pieces, and to be devoured, consumed, and destroyed as thoroughly, as bread is when eaten; and their fields, vineyards, all they have without and within, even all their substance, will be a prey to us, and furnish out sufficient provision for us, on which we may pleasantly and plentifully live, as on bread: see Psalm 14:4,
their defence is departed from them; they had no heart nor spirit left in them; no courage to defend themselves, and therefore the strength of their bodies and their walled towns would be of no avail unto them; see Joshua 2:9; or "their shadow" (r), which covered and protected them, the providence of God which was over them, and continued them in the land, and quiet possession of it, until the measure of their iniquity was filled up, and the time come for his people Israel to inhabit it; but now it was departed:
and the Lord is with us; as was evident by the cloud upon the tabernacle, and by the manna being spread around their camp every morning: the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan are,"the Word of the Lord is for our help:"
fear them not; the Canaanites, notwithstanding the strength of their bodies, or of their cities, the Lord is mightier than they.
(r) "umbra eorum", Montanus, Tigurine version, Fagius, Vatablus; so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
and the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation, before all the children of Israel; the Shechinah, or divine Majesty, which dwelt between the cherubim in the most holy place, came into the court of the tabernacle; for neither in the holy nor in the most holy place could the people see it, or the token of it: in Deuteronomy 31:15 it is said, "the pillar of cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle"; and Noldius (s) renders it here, "and the glory of the Lord appeared above the tabernacle of the congregation"; with which agree the Targum of Jonathan and the Vulgate Latin and Septuagint versions; and so Jarchi says, the cloud descended there, and from thence very probably some coruscations, or flashes of lightning came forth, which plainly showed the Lord was there; and this was done to terrify the people, and restrain them from their evil, purposes; and to encourage the servants of the Lord, who hereby might expect the divine protection.
(s) Concord. Ebr. Part. p. 164. No. 737.
how long will this people provoke me? which suggests that they had often provoked him, and had done it long ago, and still continued to do so; and he had long bore their provocations; but it was not reasonable, nor could it be expected by Moses or any other, that he would bear them much longer:
and how long will it be ere they believe me; unbelief was a sin they had often and long been guilty of, and which greatly prevailed among them, and was the root of all their murmurings, mutiny, and rebellion; and what was highly provoking to the Lord, since they ought to have believed him, and that he was able to make good, and would make good his promises to them:
for all the signs which I have showed among them; the wonders and miracles he had wrought in Egypt, at the Red sea, and in the wilderness, and in their sight; on account of which they should have given credit to his word, and which were strong aggravations of their unbelief; and is the true reason why they entered not into the good land, Hebrews 3:18.
and will make of thee a greater nation, and mightier than they: this anticipates an objection that might be made, should the people of Israel be cut off by the plague, and so disinherited of the land of Canaan, what will become of the oath of God made to their fathers? to which the answer is, it would be fulfilled in making the posterity of Moses as great or a greater and more powerful nation than Israel now was, and by introducing them into the land of Canaan, who would be of the seed of the fathers of Israel, as Jarchi observes, as those people were; and this was said to prove Moses, and try his affection to the people of Israel; and give him an opportunity of showing his public and disinterested spirit.
then the Egyptians shall hear it; that the Lord had smitten the Israelites with the pestilence; the Targum of Jonathan interprets it of the children of the Egyptians who were suffocated in the sea:
for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them; they were once sojourners among them, and slaves unto them, and they were delivered from them by the mighty hand of the Lord upon the Egyptians, destroying their firstborn; and therefore when they shall hear that the Israelites were all destroyed at once by a pestilence in the wilderness, it will be a pleasure to them, as follows.
they have heard that thou Lord art among this people; in the tabernacle that was in the midst of them, in the most holy place of it:
that thou Lord art seen face to face: as he was by Moses, who was at the head of them:
and that thy cloud standeth over them; and sheltered and protected them from the heat of the sun in the daytime, when it rested upon them in their encampment:
and that thou goest before them, by daytime in a pillar of a cloud,
and in a pillar of fire by night; in their journeys; they will tell of those favours thou hast shown Israel; and yet, after all, will observe that thou hast destroyed them, which will not redound to thine honour and glory.
(t) "et dicent", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius, &c.
then the nations which have heard the fame of thee; the Egyptians, Canaanites, and others, as Aben Ezra observes; who had heard the report of the wonderful things done by him for Israel, and of the great favours he had bestowed upon them, and so of his power, and goodness, and other perfections displayed therein, which made him appear to be preferable to all the gods of the Gentiles:
will speak, saying; as follows.
therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness; because he could not fulfil his word, and so made short work of it, destroying them all together, which Moses suggests would greatly reflect dishonour on him; and in this he shows, that he was more concerned for the glory of God than for his own.
according as thou hast spoken, saying; as in Exodus 34:6; and is as follows.
(u) Baal Hatturim in loc. & Buxtorf. Tiberias, c. 14. p. 38.
and of great mercy, being abundant in goodness, and keeping mercy for thousands:
forgiving iniquity and transgression, all sorts of sin:
and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation; which may seem to make against the plea of Moses for mercy and forgiveness; but the reason of these words being expressed seems to be, because they go along with the others in the passage referred to, and are no contradiction to the forgiving mercy of God in a way of justice; nor did Moses request to have the guilty cleared from punishment altogether, but that God would show mercy, at least to such a degree as not to cut off the whole nation, and leave no posterity to inherit the land; which is supposed in visiting the sin of the fathers to the third or fourth generation.
according unto the greatness of thy mercy,.... Intimating, that though the sin of this people was great, the mercy of God to pardon was greater; and therefore he entreats that God would deal with them, not according to the greatness of their sins, and the strictness of justice, but according to the greatness of his mercy, who would, and does, abundantly pardon:
and as thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt even until now; which shows both that these people had been continually sinning against the Lord, ever since they came out of Egypt, notwithstanding the great goodness of God unto them, and that he had as constantly pardoned; and therefore it was hoped and entreated that he would still continue to pardon them, he being the same he ever was, and whose mercy and goodness endure for ever: he had pardoned already sins of the like kind since their coming out of Egypt, as their murmurings for bread in the wilderness of Sin, Exodus 16:1, and for water at Rephidim, Exodus 17:1, and even a greater sin than these, idolatry, or the worship of the calf, Exodus 32:1.
all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord; this is not the thing sworn unto or confirmed, but that by which the oath is made and confirmed; and the sense is, that as sure as the earth "had been" filled with the glory of the Lord, as it may be rendered, as it had been with the fame of what he had done in Egypt, and at the Red sea; or as it "should be" filled with it in later times, especially in the kingdom of the Messiah in the latter day; see Isaiah 6:3; so sure the men that had provoked him should not see the land of Canaan.
and my miracles which I did in Egypt; by the hand of Moses, both before them, when he was sent to them, as a proof of his divine mission, and before Pharaoh and all his court, Exodus 7:10, inflicting plagues upon him and his people, Exodus 7:20,
and in the wilderness; in raining manna from heaven about their tents, Exodus 16:14; sending them quails, Exodus 16:13; and giving them water out of the rock, Exodus 17:6,
and have tempted me now these ten times; which the Jews understand precisely and exactly of such a number, and which they reckon thus (w); twice at the sea, Exodus 14:11; twice concerning water, Exodus 15:23; twice about manna, Exodus 16:2; twice about quails, Exodus 16:12; once by the calf, Exodus 32:1; and once in the wilderness of Paran, Numbers 14:1, which last and tenth was the present temptation: these are reckoned a little otherwise elsewhere (x); but perhaps it may be better, with Aben Ezra, to interpret it of many times, a certain number being put for an uncertain, they having frequently tempted the Lord:
and have not hearkened to my voice; neither to his word of promise, nor to his word of command, and particularly his late order to go up and possess the land, Deuteronomy 1:21.
(w) T. Bab. Eracin, fol. 15. 1. Bartenora in Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 4. Jarchi in loc. (x) Maimon. in Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 4.
neither shall any of them that provoked me see it; that provoked him by the ill report they had brought of the land, by their unbelief, by their murmurings, and mutiny.
because he had another spirit with him; different from that of the rest of the spies, excepting Joshua; a spirit of faith, and of the fear of the Lord, of might and courage, of truth and faithfulness; believing in the promise of God, which the spies distrusted, being persuaded the land might easily be conquered, which they feared; and bringing a true report of the land, the reverse of the ill and false one they brought. For this is to be understood not of the Holy Spirit of God, nor of his work upon the hearts of good men, which is different from the spirit of the world, though Caleb was possessed of that also:
and hath followed me fully; with full purpose of heart whithersoever he led him, or directed him, in every path of duty, and in the exercise of every grace; or "hath fulfilled after me" (y); obeyed his word of command, fulfilled his mind and will, by going after him, and acting according to the rules and directions he gave him:
him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; the land of Canaan he went into to spy and search:
and his seed shall possess it; not the whole land, but Hebron, and the parts about it, where he particularly went, and which he and his posterity afterwards enjoyed, see Numbers 13:22. The Targum of Onkelos is, "shall expel it"; the inhabitants of it; for the word signifies both to inherit and disinherit; and so Jarchi interprets it, shall disinherit the Anakim, and the people that are in it, that is, drive them out of it, as Caleb did, Joshua 15:13.
(y) "et implevit post me", Montanus, Tigurine version, Fagius, Drusius.
tomorrow turn you; do not go forward, lest ye fall into their ambushment, but turn about, and go the contrary way; return in the way, or towards the parts from whence ye came: this they are bid to do tomorrow, but did not till some time after; for, contrary to the command of God, they went up the mount, where they were defeated by the Amalekites and Canaanites, after which they stayed in Kadesh some days, Deuteronomy 1:44,
and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea; or in the way towards it; and so they would be in the way to Egypt, where the people were desirous of returning again; but as they were always a rebellious and disobedient people, and acted contrary to God, so in this case; for when he bid them go back towards the Red sea again, then they were for going forward, and entering into the land of Canaan, Numbers 14:40; though when he bid them go up, and possess it, then they were for returning to Egypt, Numbers 14:4.
(z) "sedet", Drusius, Piscator.
saying: as follows.
I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me; for their murmurings were not only against Moses and Aaron, but against the Lord himself, Numbers 14:2.
as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you; what they had wished for, and expressed in the hearing of the Lord, he threatens them should be their case.
and all that were numbered of you: but a few months before this time, when their number was 603,550, Numbers 1:46,
according to your number from twenty years old and upward; which is observed, as Jarchi thinks, to except the Levites, for they were not numbered with the other tribes; and when they were numbered by themselves, their number was taken from a month old and upwards; wherefore it need not be wondered at, if we find that there were of them who did not fall in the wilderness, but entered into the land of Canaan, as it is certain Eleazar the priest, the son of Aaron, did, Numbers 34:17,
which have murmured against me; which shows, that not the spies only, who caused the people to murmur, but the people themselves who murmured, and had been numbered, from twenty years old and upward, are the evil congregation the Lord thus threatened with death.
concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein; not them personally, but the people and nation of which they were, and to which they belonged, the seed and posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom the oath was made:
save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun; who brought a good report of the land. Caleb is mentioned first, as Aben Ezra thinks, because he first appeased and quieted the people; but in Numbers 14:38 Joshua stands first, so that nothing is to be inferred from hence; these were the only two of the spies that went into the land of Canaan, Numbers 13:4; and the only two of the Israelites that were numbered, from twenty years old and upwards, Numbers 14:29; those of the tribe of Levi, not being in that account, must be remembered to be excepted also.
(a) "si vos ingressi fueritis", Pagninus, Montanus.
them will I bring in; into the land of Canaan, and so fulfil the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for the unbelief of this congregation did not make the faith, or faithfulness of God, of none effect:
and they shall know the land which ye have despised; shall know what a good land it is by experience, and shall possess and enjoy it with approbation, delight, and pleasure, which they, believing the spies, rejected with, loathing and disdain.
they shall fall in this wilderness: which is repeated for the confirmation and certainty it, and an emphasis is laid on the words, this which are pronounced with an accent, to put them in mind of their wish, Numbers 14:2.
and bear your whoredoms; the punishment of their idolatries, which are frequently signified by this phrase, and particularly of the idolatry of the calf, which God threatened to punish whenever he visited for sin, Exodus 32:34; and of other sins, as their murmurings, &c. for it was on account of them their children wandered so long in the wilderness, and were kept out of the possession of the land of Canaan:
until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness; everyone of them be consumed by death, save those before excepted, Numbers 14:30.
(b) "erunt pascentes", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius, Junius & Tremellius; "pascent", Tigurine version, Piscator.
even forty days,.... For so long they were searching it, Numbers 13:25,
each day for a year; reckoning each day for a year, forty days for forty years, as in Ezekiel 4:6,
shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years: which number is given, being a round one, otherwise it was but thirty eight years and a half ere they were all cut off, and their children entered the land:
and ye shall know my breach of promise; God never makes any breach of promise; his covenant he will not break, nor alter what is gone out of his lips; men break their promises, and transgress the covenant they have made with him, but he never breaks his, Psalm 89:34; this should rather be rendered only, "ye shall know my breach"; experience a breach made upon them by him, upon their persons and families by consuming them in the wilderness: the Targum of Jonathan is,"and ye shall know what ye have murmured against me;''this same word is used in the plural in Job 33:10, and is by the Targum rendered "murmurings" or "complaints"; and so the sense is, ye shall know by sad experience the evil of complaining and murmuring against me. The Vulgate Latin version is,"ye shall know my vengeance;''and so the Septuagint,"ye shall know the fury of my anger''which give the sense, though not a literal version of the words.
I will surely do it to all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me; against his ministers, Moses the chief magistrate, and Aaron the high priest; and this is interpreted gathering, conspiring, and rebelling against the Lord himself, on account of which they might be truly called an evil congregation, and therefore it was a determined point with him to destroy them:
in this wilderness they shall be consumed; by wasting diseases:
and there they shall die; as they wished they might, Numbers 14:22; with respect to which this was so often repeated, Exodus 16:3; and which the Jews interpret not only of a corporeal death, but of an eternal one; for they say (c)"the generation of the wilderness (of those that died there) have no part in the world to come, nor shall stand in judgment, as it is said, "in this wilderness", &c. Numbers 14:35.''
(c) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 3.
who returned; as they all did, who were sent to search it:
and made all the congregation to murmur against him; against, Moses that sent them; they murmured themselves, and made others murmur:
by bringing up a slander upon the land; that it ate up its inhabitants, and that the inhabitants of it were of such a stature, and so gigantic and strong, and dwelt in such walled cities, Numbers 13:28, that there was no probability of subduing them, Numbers 13:31.
died by the plague before the Lord; either by the pestilence immediately sent upon them by the Lord, or by a flash of lightning from him, or in some other way; however, by the immediate hand of God, and in his presence, being in the tabernacle of the congregation, Numbers 14:10; though the Jews differently relate the manner of their death; some say worms came out of their navels, and up to their jaws, and ate them and their tongues; and others that they came out of their tongues, and entered their navels, which they take to be a just retaliation for sinning with their tongues: and the time of their death they differ about; some say, as the Targum of Jonathan, that it was upon the seventh, and others that it was on the seventeenth of Elul or August they died (d).
(d) Schulchan Aruch, par. 1. c. 580. sect. 2. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 7. 2.
which were of the men that went to search the land; were two of the spies, and were for the tribes of Judah and Ephraim, Numbers 13:6,
lived still; were not stricken with death, when the other spies were; though perhaps upon the very spot, and in the same place, and among them, when they were struck dead; but these remained alive, and continued many years after, and entered the good land, and possessed it.
and the people mourned greatly; because of their unhappy case, that they should be cut off by death in the wilderness, and be deprived of the enjoyment of the good land; their sorrow seems to have been not a godly sorrow, or true repentance for sin committed, but a worldly sorrow that works death; it was not on account of the evil of sin, the pardon of which they did not seem to seek after, but on account of the evil that was likely to come to them by it.
and gat them up into the top of the mountain; which was the way the spies went into the land of Canaan, Numbers 13:17; this they did not actually ascend, as appears from Numbers 14:44; but they determined upon it, and got themselves ready for it:
saying, lo, we be here; this they said either to one another, animating each other to engage in the enterprise; or to Moses and Joshua, signifying that they were ready to go up and possess the land, if they would put themselves at the head of them, and take the command and direction of them:
and will go up unto the place which the Lord hath promised: the land of Canaan:
for we have sinned; in not going up to possess it, when they were bid to go, and in listening to the spies that brought an ill report of it, and by murmuring against Moses and Aaron, and the Lord himself, and proposing to make them a captain and return to Egypt, Numbers 14:2, but this acknowledgment and repentance were not very sincere, by what follows.
but it shall not prosper; their attempt to enter into it.
that ye be not smitten before your enemies; of which they would be in great danger should they attempt to go up the hill, and the Lord not with them.
and ye shall fall by the sword: by the sword of the Amalekites and Canaanites:
because ye are turned away from the Lord: from the word of the Lord, from hearkening to and obeying his command:
therefore the Lord will not be with you; the consequence of which must be bad for them.
nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp; the cloud not being taken up, but abiding on the tabernacle, which was the signal for resting, both for the ark, and for the camp, the Kohathites did not move with the ark: the Jews (e) have a notion, that there were two arks which went with Israel in the wilderness, one in which the law was put, and another in which the broken pieces of the tables were left; that in which the law was, was placed in the tabernacle of the congregation, and of this it is written, "the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not", &c. but that in which the broken pieces of the tables were, went in and out with them: but this does not clearly appear; and it is highly probable no ark went with them at this time; nor did Moses, the leader and commander of the people, stir from the camp of the Levites; wherefore it was a bold and hazardous undertaking the other camps engaged in without God going with them, and their general before them, or Joshua his minister; for if one did not go, the same may be concluded of the other.
(e) T. Hieros. Sotah, fol. 22. 2.