King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Numbers 14

The people murmur at the account of the spies. (1-4) Joshua and Caleb labour to still the people. (5-10) The Divine threatenings, The intercession of Moses. (11-19) The murmurers forbidden to enter the promised land. (20-35) Death of the evil spies. (36-39) Defeat of the people, who now would invade the land. (40-45)

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The people murmur at the account of the spies

1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.

2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!

3 And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?

4 And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.

Joshua and Caleb labour to still the people

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.

6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:

7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.

8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.

10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.

The Divine threatenings, The intercession of Moses

11 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?

12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

13 And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)

14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.

15 Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,

16 Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.

17 And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,

18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.

The murmurers forbidden to enter the promised land

20 And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:

21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.

22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;

23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:

24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.

25 (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.

26 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,

27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.

28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:

29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me.

30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.

32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.

33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.

34 After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.

35 I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.

Death of the evil spies

36 And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land,

37 Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD.

38 But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still.

39 And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly.

Defeat of the people, who now would invade the land

40 And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned.

41 And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper.

42 Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies.

43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.

44 But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp.

45 Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 3. We may. The Latin MSS. and Bibles before Sixtus V. read “in Egypt, and not in this,” &c. But the present translation agrees with the Heb. Sept. and Chaldee. C. — They obtained what they said they wished for, v. 28 C. xiv. 29. xxvi. 64. W. — And that. Heb. &c. “and wherefore hath God brought us into this land, that we may fall,” &c. In a rage they attribute a malicious design to God. C. — Better. And who would have given them food in the wilderness? M.

Ver. 4. Captain, instead of Moses, whom they could not bring over to their criminal design, no more than Aaron, Josue, Caleb, &c. H. — Some imagine the rebels wanted to choose themselves a king, (C.) or even another god. Drusius. — Every community acknowledges the necessity of having one at the head. W.

Ver. 5. Israel; begging that God would not destroy them, as he had done their brethren. C. xi. M.

Ver. 6. Garments, in testimony of their disapprobation and zeal; to make these insolent people reflect upon the evils into which they are throwing themselves. C.

Ver. 9. To eat, or consume them, as easily as we devour a piece of bread. The expression is proverbial. Ps. xiii. 4. — All aid. Heb. “their shadow,” which is taken in the same sense. Sept. “their time or opportunity is gone.” The Rabbins refer this to holy Job, who, they say, died at this time. A. Lapide. — He dwelt near the Jordan. Pineda in Job. C. i. 1. and 27.

Ver. 10. Cried out, &c. Heb. “said stone them.”

Ver. 11. Detract. Heb. “despise, irritate, or blaspheme.” God is incapable of anger, says Origen; he only foretells what will come to pass.

Ver. 13. That the. The sentence is left imperfect, to signify the agitation and distress with which Moses was oppressed, as if he had said, Thou wilt thus afford a pretext, that the Egyptians and Chanaanites may say to one another, that thou couldst not perform what thou hadst promised; and therefore, that in vexation thou hadst destroyed thy people. H. — Heb. “Then the Egyptians shall hear it…and will tell it to the inhabitants of this land…because the Lord could not,” &c. v. 16. C. — Thus they will blaspheme thy holy name. M.

Ver. 15. One man. All at once, (C.) entirely, without sparing so much as one. Vatable.

Ver. 16. Sworn. God swore to give this land to the Hebrews, but not to this particular generation. His oath would be equally fulfilled by raising posterity to Moses, v. 13. But, at his entreaty, he spared the descendants of this people, and gave the land to their children under Josue. H.

Ver. 17. Lord, in overcoming all difficulties, raised either by the enemy, or by thy rebellious people.

Ver. 18. Mercy. Sept. “merciful and true,” as Exod. xxxiv. 6. 7. On that occasion, it is not written that God swore. H. — But equal credit is to be given to his word, as to an oath. M. — Clear, or, as S. Jerom expresses it in Exodus, and no man of himself is innocent before thee. C. — By these titles God will be addressed; and therefore Moses mentions them all, though some of them might seem to obstruct his petition of pardon. M. — He knew that none of God’s perfections were contrary to one another, or to his nature of consummate goodness; and he sued for the pardon of his people, with all due submission to the dictates of his justice. H.

Ver. 20. Forgiven the sins to those who repent; but the punishment due to them must be undergone, though not so soon as I had threatened, v. 12. 19. How happy is that nation, which has one like Moses to intercede for them! H.

Ver. 21. Lord. I will surely punish the guilty; and all the earth shall know that their own crimes, and not my imbecility, prevented their taking possession of Chanaan. My glory shall shine both in my long-suffering, and in the effects of my justice. Let me pass for a dead god, like the idols, if I do not perform what I say.

Ver. 22. The men, above twenty years of age, v. 29. — Majesty, manifested by the signs, &c. H. — Ten times; very often. It is not necessary to specify the number of the rebellions, as some have done, placing the first on the other side of the Red Sea, (Ex. xiv. 11,) and the tenth here. The expression is often used to express a great but indefinite number. Eccles. vii. 20. C.

Ver. 23. It. None of those who murmured ever entered the land of promise. Origen (hom. 27,) believes that the Levites behaved with fidelity, and were not comprised in the punishment. In effect, Eleazar certainly entered Chanaan. Jos. xiv. 1. Salmon also, who espoused Rahab, had seen the wonders of God, but had not joined with the rest; so that, when it is said (v. 2,) that all murmured, we must explain it by S. Jerom’s rule, of the greatest part; as, no doubt, many would abhor the conduct of the seditious. C. — Omnia non ad totum referenda esse sed ad partem maximam. S. Jer. ep. 146. ad Dam.)

Ver. 24. Spirit. The spirit of obedience and of courage. M. — Followed me, as a guide, and hath fulfilled all my desires. Vatab. — This he was enabled to do by God’s free grace. But his co-operation merited a reward. See S. Aug. de Grat. &. Lib. iv. W.

Ver. 25. For. Heb. “Now,” &c. The enemy is ready to attack you in the defiles, and I will not expose you at present to their fury, as you shall not enter the land for many years. Wherefore to-morrow, &c. H. — It seems they complied reluctantly, for they probably encamped in that neighbourhood about a year. C.

Ver. 30. Hand, the posture of one taking an oath. Gen. xv. 18.

Ver. 33. Years. Within five days from the departure out of Egypt, (M.) and above 38 from this time. Heb. “they shall be shepherds,” without any fixed dwelling, like the shepherds of that country. — Consumed. They had complained that Chanaan consumed and devoured its inhabitants. C. — Their children underwent a temporal, but salutary, punishment for their sin. S. Aug. ep. 75. W.

Ver. 34. Revenge. Heb. “my breach of promise, or if my threats be vain,” &c. Sept. “you shall know the fury of my anger.” C. — I will convince you by the severity with which I shall execute this sentence, that you had no reason to distrust my former promises. S. Jerom (in Ezec. xx.) entertains hopes of the eternal salvation of many of these Hebrews, who had time to do penance for their sins.

Ver. 37. Lord, by pestilence, (ver. 12; Philo) or by the exterminating angel, 1 Cor. x. 10. They were burnt to death before the tabernacle, or at least died suddenly. Jans. The Jews have appointed a fast on the 7th of the 6th month, to bewail this event. C. v. 39.

Ver. 41. Which conduct shall not, &c. They had been ordered to return: now they will advance, and, though admonished that the Lord will not assist them, they depend upon their own efforts, being ever full of themselves, and distrustful of God, the two sources of all spiritual misfortunes. H.

Ver. 44. Blinded, with presumption, as the Heb. yahpilu, insinuates. “Their heart was puffed up with pride, and they ascended.” Deut. i. 43. C. — The enemy was ready to receive them, and easily routed this rabble, abandoned by God, and by Moses, Aaron and his sons, Josue, and other men of virtue and sense. They who before lay lurking in the valleys, (v. 25,) assume fresh courage, when they become the executioners of God’s vengeance, and come pouring down from their mountains, with irresistible fury; nor do they stop till they had made a dreadful carnage of the Hebrews. The same place was again deluged with blood, (C. xxi. 3,) and was called Horma, or “the Curse.” The Sam. and Sept. add, and they returned into the camp, Thus, by their own woeful experience, they began to feel that God would keep his word in punishing the common people, as well as the leaders, v. 37. H.