Pardon and punishment (Num 14:20-14:38)

“Then Yahweh said, ‘I do forgive, just as you have asked.  Nevertheless as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh, none of the people who have seen my glory and the signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have tested me these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall not see the land that I swore to give to their ancestors.  None of those who despised me shall see it.  But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land into which he went.  His descendants shall possess it.  Now, since the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.”

Moses is successful once again as he changed God’s mind. Yahweh is going to forgive them because Moses asked for it.  All seems well, but there is a caveat.  None of the people who tested and disobeyed Yahweh will see the Promised Land.   In fact, Yahweh is going to kill them.  The one exception is Caleb, because he followed Yahweh wholeheartedly.  He will go into the Promised Land with his descendants.

“Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron.  ‘How long shall this wicked congregation complain against me?  I have heard the complaints of the Israelites, which they complain against me.’   Say to them, ‘As I live’ says Yahweh, ‘I will do to you the very things I heard you say.  Your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness.  Of all your number, included in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, not one of you shall come into the land, where I swore to settle you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.  But your little ones, who you said would become booty, I will bring in.  They shall know the land which you have despised.  But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness.  Your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years.  They shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.  According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year.  You shall bear you iniquity forty years.  You shall know my displeasure.  I, Yahweh, have spoken.  Surely I will do thus to this entire wicked congregation gathered together against me.  In this wilderness they shall come to a full end.  There they shall die.’”

There is a recounting of this in the priestly tradition which has more detail. In this story, Yahweh asks how long they were going to complain against him.  He heard their complaints.  In a more vivid description, Yahweh said that their dead bodies would fall in the wilderness.  Anyone over 20 years old that was in the wilderness census will die.  All their children would not become booty, but shepherds in the wilderness for 40 years until the last of their dead bodies would lie in the wilderness.  However, there are 2 exceptions, Caleb and Joshua.    The 40 years is actually based on the 40 days that the spying expedition force spent in Canaan, not the other way around.  I am not sure about that.  Anyway, the 40 years in the desert is a punishment, not a reward.

“The men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report about the land,  the men who brought up an unfavorable report of the land, died by plague before Yahweh.   But Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh remained alive.  They were the only two who lived of those men who went to spy out the land.”

The ten guys who gave the unfavorable report and made the whole congregation complain, died by the plague.  On the other hand, Joshua and Caleb lived.  The moral is don’t come back with bad news, or you the messenger will die.  Be aggressive and you will live.

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