THE REBELLION AT KADESH-BARNEA
Sojourn at Horeb
The long sojourn at Mount Horeb was to enable the Israelites to learn the needed lessons taught by the law, and by the sanctuary and its services by which was revealed to them the whole plan of salvation. During these months they also perfected their organization for the remainder of the journey and for entrance into the promised land. "Nearly a year was spent in the encampment at Sinai. Here their worship had taken more definite form, the laws had been given for the government of the nation, and a more efficient organization had been effected preparatory to their entrance into the land of Canaan. The government of Israel was characterized by the most thorough organization, wonderful alike for its completeness and its simplicity." —P.P. 374.
Heaven-sent Message Deuteronomy 1:6-8
The Lord never intended that His people should settle down content on what light and experience they have. They must ever move forward. The time had come for Israel to leave the Mount of the Law and enter the promised land. The cheering message that they were to leave their desert camp and go directly into the promised land brought great rejoicing to the hosts of Israel. Many had complained because of the long delay and were impatient to be on their way to "the land flowing with milk and honey." The distance from Mount Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea near the borders of Canaan was less than 150 miles, or only an "eleven days journey." Deuteronomy 1:2. During this journey they learned many valuable lessons.
A Desolate Country
This journey took the Israelites through a desolate country, a "no man's land', but the bright prospects ahead cheered them on. "A distance of only eleven days' journey lay between Sinai and Kadesh, on the borders of Canaan; and it was with the prospect of speedily entering the goodly land that the hosts of Israel resumed their march, when the cloud at last gave the signal for an onward movement. … As they advanced the way become more difficult. Their route lay through stony ravine and barren waste. All around them was the great wilderness,—'a land of deserts and of pits,' 'a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt.' The rocky gorges, far and near, were thronged with men, women, and children, with beasts and wagons, and long lines of flocks and herds. Their progress was necessarily slow and toilsome."—P.P. 376,377.
Under the severe trials and difficulties men and women reveal their true characters. This experience was doubtless necessary to disclose to view and sift out the mixed multitude in order that the movement could soon triumph. "After three days' journey, open complaints were heard. These originated with the mixed multitude, many of whom were not fully united with Israel, and were continually watching for some cause of censure. The complainers were not pleased with the direction of the march, and they were continually finding fault with the way in which Moses was leading them, though they well knew that he, as well as they, were following the guiding cloud. Dissatisfaction is contagious, and it soon spread in the encampment." Id.377.
It was during this experience that the Israelites were given further lessons in health reform, another necessary preparation for the promised land. The open complaining, which started with the mixed multitude, included expressed dissatisfaction with the diet the Lord had prescribed for them. "Again they began to clamor for flesh to eat. Though abundantly supplied with manna, they were not satisfied." —Id. The Lord sent them quail and because of their gluttony a plague destroyed thousands of the leaders in the disaffection and "sent leanness" to the souls of all who manifested a rebellious and lustful spirit. This was a very striking and impressive lesson of the danger of lusting for flesh and complaining of the divinely given diet. See Numbers 11.
Criticism of Leaders
Another lesson given to Israel during this journey was in regard to the danger of criticizing God's appointed leaders. Miriam became jealous of the Ethiopian wife of Moses and Aaron joined in severely criticizing Moses. Their complaints against his marriage led them to also criticize and even question his divine appointment as a prophet and a leader. The terrible judgment visited upon Miriam demonstrated the Lord's displeasure with those who unjustly criticize His appointed and anointed leaders. "God had chosen Moses, and had put His Spirit upon him; and Miriam and Aaron by their murmurings were guilty of disloyalty, not only to the their appointed leader, but to God Himself. … The manifestation if the Lord's displeasure was designed to be a warning to all Israel, to check the growing spirit of discontent and insubordination."—P.P. 384, 385. See Num. 12. This experience delayed the progress of the march towards Kadesh for seven days.
Kadesh-Barnea. Deuteronomy 1:19-21
The book of Deuteronomy was written on the banks of the Jordan and the marginal dates reveal the time of the writing instead of when the recorded events took place. The marginal date in Numbers for the encampment at Kadesh is 1490 B.C. This was less then two years after the Israelites had left Egypt. They were now on the very borders of the Promised Land with Kadesh-Barnea as the gateway. It is evident that the Lord's purpose was to lead them directly into their promised inheritance. "They were now in sight of the hills of Canaan. A few days' march would bring them to the borders of the promised land. They were but a little distance from Edom, which belonged to the descendants of Esau, and through which lay the appointed route to Canaan." -P.P. 413, 414.
The Twelve Spies
Instead of going directly in to possess the Land of promise under divine leadership, Israel's faith wavered, and they proposed that a committee be chosen and sent in to see if the land was really what the Lord had said it was, and to see if they were able to conquer and possess it. Deuteronomy 1:19-22. The request originated with the people and not with God.
"Eleven days after leaving Mount Horeb the Hebrew hosts encamped at Kadesh, in the wilderness of Paran, which was not far from the borders of the promised land. Here it was proposed by the people that spies be sent up to survey the country." —P.P. 387.
This very proposal was an evidence that the Israelites did not believe God nor trust His leadership through the gift of prophecy. The Lord gave them their request and a prince was chosen from each of the twelve tribes to make up the investigating committee. See Numbers 13.
A Glowing Report
The spies were gone forty days and returned with a glowing account of the promised land, and they brought back samples of its fruit. The committee was unanimous in their descriptions of the glories of the land, and they declared that it was all that the Lord had promised. It was "an exceeding good land." This report backed by the evidence of the samples of fruit filled the whole camp with joy and rejoicing. "The people rejoiced that they were to come into possession of so goodly a land, and they listened intently as the report was brought to Moses, and not a word escaped them. "We came into the land wither thou sentest us," the spies began, 'and surely it floweth with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it.' The people were enthusiastic; they would eagerly obey the voice of the Lord, and go up at once to possess the land."—Id. 387,388.
A Divided Report
But after describing the glories of the land, the committee divided in their estimation of the possibility of their being able to conquer and possess it. Ten of the twelve men began to describe the walled cities as impregnable fortresses, and the inhabitants of the land as giants, and declared that it would be impossible for the Israelites to conquer the country. They left God entirely out of their reckoning as if He was not their Leader. Caleb and Joshua tried to counteract the evil influence of this report and urged the people to go up at once and possess the land, saying; "for we are well able to overcome it." See Numbers 13:28-33.
Effect on Camp
The effect of the exaggerated report of the ten was to change the rejoicing into weeping. Numbers 14:1-10. "Now the scene changed. Hope and courage gave place to cowardly despair, as the spies uttered the sentiments of their unbelieving hearts, which were filled with discouragement prompted by Satan. Their unbelief cast a gloomy shadow over the congregation, and the mighty power of God, so often manifested in behalf of the chosen nation, was forgotten. … They left God out of the question, and acted as though they must depend solely on the power of arms. In their unbelief they limited the power of God, and distrusted the hand that had hitherto safely guided them."—Id. 389.
Caleb and Joshua
Caleb and Joshua made another desperate effort to turn the tide of unbelief and rebellion. Numbers 14:6-10. They said: "If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us." They begged them not to rebel, but their pleas made them so angry that they threatened to stone the two faithful spies. "The traitors had done their work. If only the two men had brought the evil report, and all the ten had encouraged them to possess the land in the name of the Lord, they would still have taken the advice of the two in preference to the ten, because of their wicked unbelief. But there were only two advocating the right, while ten were on the side of rebellion. The unfaithful spies were loud in denunciation of Caleb and Joshua, and the cry was raised to stone them."
Called a Rebellion. Deuteronomy 1:25-28
They sat around their firesides and in their tents and murmured and criticized. In their refusing to follow God's leadership through Moses, the Psalmist declared that they "despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word; but murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord. Therefore He lifted up His hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness." Psalm 106:24-26. The rebellious hosts of Israel did four things that brought on them the wrath of God according to this Scripture. Their murmuring brought a "a slander upon the land" of promise. Numbers 14:36. The appointing of a captain to head them back to Egypt was paramount to the rejection of God's leadership. They had rejected the messages of God's prophets and therefore the spirit of prophecy.
The Divine Sentence Deuteronomy 1:34-40; Numbers 14:22-29
They had expressed the wish that they might die in the wilderness and again the Lord gave them their request. As the rebels were in the act of stoning Caleb and Joshua for telling the truth, the Lord interposed in their behalf. "The glory of His presence, like a flaming light, illuminated the tabernacle. All the people beheld the signal of the Lord. A mightier one than they had revealed Himself, and none dared continue their resistance. The spies who brought the evil report, couched terror-stricken, and with bated breath sought their tents. … In their rebellion the people had exclaimed, 'Would God we had died in the wilderness.' Now their prayer was to be granted." —Id. 390,391. The Lord then sentences them to an additional forty years stay in the wilderness until their wish was fulfilled.
Sentence Rejected. Numbers 14:39-45; Deuteronomy 1:41-46
When Moses revealed to the rebels the sentence of God they expressed their dissatisfaction with it. Realizing what they had lost they decided that they would reject the sentence and fight their way into the promised land whether led by the Lord or not. Their utter defeat brought more discouragement than ever. "The night was spent in lamentation; but with the morning came a hope. They resolved to redeem their cowardice. When God had bidden them go up and take the land, they had refused; and now when He directed them to retreat, they were equally rebellious. They determined to seize upon the land and possess it; it might be the Lord would accept their work, and change His purpose toward them—'We have sinned against the Lord', they cried; 'We will go up and fight, according to all that the Lord our God commanded us.' So terribly blinded had they become by transgression. The Lord had never commanded them to 'go up and fight'. It was not His purpose that they should gain the land by warfare, but by strict obedience to His commands." —Id. 392.
God's Plan Altered. Numbers 14:32-34
"Altering of my purpose." —Margin. "Ye shall know my alienation." —R.V. "The revoking of my promise." -Margin. What was God's purpose that had to be altered, and His promise that had to be revoked because of the rebellion of Israel at Kadesh-Barnea? It was God's promise and purpose to lead them directly into the promised land from Mount Horeb through the gateway of Kadesh. That this was the Lord's purpose and plan there can be no question. That this was the Lord's purpose and plan there can be no question. See Hebrews 3:17-19. "God had made it their privilege and their duty to enter the land at the time of His appointment; but through their willful neglect that permission had been withdrawn. Satan had gained his object in preventing them from entering Canaan." —Id. 392.
Because of Unbelief. Hebrews 3:16-19
"It was not the will of God that Israel should wander forty years in the wilderness. He desired to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, happy people. But they could not enter in because of unbelief." —G.C. 458. After the forty years of wandering were over and the city of Jericho had miraculously fallen into their hands, of God's original purpose we read: "Long had God designed to give the city of Jericho to His favored people, and magnify His name among the nations of the earth. Forty years before, when He led Israel out of bondage, He had purposed to give them the land of Canaan."
A few unconsecrated leaders who depended on human strength and numbers instead of the Lord turned the Exodus Movement back into the wilderness for a forty year delay in reaching their goal. There were some who had faith enough to go directly in but they had to remain with the movement which was under divine leadership. Through no fault of their own Caleb and Joshua had to share the sentence of the rebellious and faithless hosts of Israel to wander forty years in a barren wilderness. However, they did not die in the wilderness as did the rebels.
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