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From Kadesh Barnea Moses sent twelve men, one of every tribe, “ to search the land.” They returned at the end of forty days, and reported that the land flowed with milk and honey; and they produced pomegranates, figs, and grapes, as specimens of its fruit: but ten out of these twelve spies gave so, formidable an account of its inhabitants, and of the strength of its cities, that the Israelites refused to undertake the conquest of it, and murmured not only against Moses and Aaron, but also against God himself. This ungrateful, disobedient, and distrustful conduct of the Israelites brought upon them just, though heavy, punishment. God commanded that they should turn back, and wander in the wilderness forty years, until all who were at that time above twenty years of age, being in number 603,550, were dead, except Joshua and Caleb. These men were two of the twelve who had been sent into Canaan, and having, in opposition to the other ten, given a faithful account, and encouraged the Israelites to attempt its conquest, they were rewarded with the distinguished honour and privilege of being permitted to go into the promised land, and to dwell there many years before they died.
While the Israelites were in the sandy deserts of Kadesh, they murmured because they wanted
water. Upon this occasion Moses and Aaron seem not only to have partaken of the general impatience and distrust, but to have endeavoured to give themselves honour in the eyes of the people, by assuming, in some degree, the power of granting them a supply: “ And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels! Must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice.” God had expressly commanded them to speak only unto the rock; and it appears as if the first attempt to perform the miracle in their own manner had failed, as a striking mark of his displeasure, though he vouchsafed to allow the second to succeed. “And the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them (m)." Thus were they punished for this complicated offence by a prohibition, which, while it was in a peculiar manner mortifying to them as leaders of
the (m) Num, C. 20. y, 9, 10, 11, and 13.
the people, afforded an exemplary lesson to all Israel, of the necessity of implicit obedience, of constant faith, and perfect humility, to secure the favour of God.
The children of Israel were forty years in the ; wilderness; but Moses has recorded the transac
tions of only three years, namely, the first two and the last. He has, however, in the thirtythird chapter of Numbers, mentioned all the places where they pitched their tents during the whole time they were in the wilderness. Their march was conducted with the utmost regularity and order, according to the rules prescribed by God to Moses. A pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of cloud by day, directed their journey from Egypt to the land of Canaan. Whenever a cloud appeared upon the tabernacle they stopped, and remained stationary, whether it were for a single night, or for several years. When the cloud disappeared, and was succeeded by fire, they put themselves in motion, and continued their inarch till the cloud appeared again upon the tabernacle. The Israelites were directed to ask permission to pass through those countries, which lay in their way to Canaan, of the several kings who reigned over them; if granted, they were to go through peaceably; if refused, they “ were to go up against” these
their enemies, to conquer, and sometimes to destroy them, according to circumstances, of which God alone could be the judge: but '" their brethren,” the children of Edom, and the Moabites, and the Ammonites, the descendants of Lot, were not to be disturbed in their possessions, whatever provocation they might give. After the Israelites had conquered Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, who refused them a passage through their countries, the king of Moab was alarmed at their power, and sent for Balaam, a prophet, or diviner, as he is called, “ to curse him this people in the name of the Lord,” as the only defence against their power. Balaam was. brother to Bela, the first king of Edom, and the son of Beor, the fourth in descent from Esau, and dwelt at Pethor, in Mesopotamia, the antient residence of the patriarchs; and the land of Moab was near Edom, and the country of the Ishmaelites; we cannot therefore be surprised to find the knowledge of God retained, and his worship still preserved, though probably not unadulterated by idolatry, in these countries ; for in these early ages the worship of God and the worship of idols seem to have been often blended together. Balaam was commanded by God “ to bless instead of curse” his people;
and he prophesied concerning their future greatness, and the coming of the Messiah (n).
Aaron died on the first day of the fifth month, in the 40th year after the departure from Egypt. In the eleventh month of that year, Moses began to repeat to the Israelites the principal laws which he had before delivered ; and this was the more requisite, as many of the present Israelites were either not born, or were incapable of understanding the Law when it was first promulgated. After this summary repetition of the law, of the terms of the covenant, of the grounds of the promises, and of the miracles which they and their fathers had witnessed, from the time of their departure out of Egypt, Moses proceeded to set before the people the certain consequences of their obedience or disobedience to the commands of God; and these prophetic denunciations of wrath, and promises of blessings, most accurately relate the history of this people from the time of Moses to the present hour, and point to their future restoration to the favour of God. Being informed by God of his approaching death, Moses de posited the Law, which he had written, in the tabernacle, by the side of the ark, under the care of the priests, and commanded that it.
should (n) Numb. c. 22, &c.