Immediately The Israelites Are Punished for Complaining!


In my last blog post, we talked about how Moses intercedes for the Israelites. Moses pleads with God to pardon the iniquity of this people. Let’s continue!




In verse 34 the Lord explains why it is that the Israelites will wander a total of 40 years in the Wilderness; 40 years represents one year of wandering for each day the scouts were gone scouting out the land (they were gone for 40 days). What is demonstrated here is the principle of measure for measure: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Proportional and symbolic justice.


But, God had a special punishment for those scouts who came back with the bad report, and convinced the people of Israel to go with their way of thinking and to rebel against God; they died immediately from a divine plague. Exactly what that plague was, we’re not told.


You would think that the enormity of the tragedy of this situation, along with all its consequences, would have convinced the people of Israel that God is Almighty, He is sovereign, and He means what He says. But, let’s read the last few verses of this chapter, which showed just how the people reacted to God’s judgment upon them.




Amazing. The peoples’ response to all this is that they’re going to continue to ignore what God has determined, and go ahead and do, now, what they should have done before is a march on Canaan.


But, there’s a problem. God didn’t give them a choice A, B, or C. God didn’t provide them with the possibility of realizing their mistake, and being able to get out of the consequences He has pronounced, by NOW going ahead into the Promised Land. Moses knew full well this was not to be.


So, Moses told the people not to do this. And, he said, you’re certainly not taking the Ark of the Covenant with you, and neither am I going with you. The effect of neither the Ark nor Moses leading them meant that neither God’s presence nor His Mediator would be with those who planned to march on Canaan.


The people said, who cares. And, then ignored Moses, and they ignored God, and they lit out for Canaan on their own. The result was that the Amalekites and the Canaanites attacked this ill-prepared group of Israelites, crushing them.


Wow, what a lesson. Our parents, or our bosses or those in authority may pronounce a punishment upon us for our offenses against them, and we just might sweet-talk our way around it. We just might agree to go ahead and do what we should have done in the first place after we found out just how uncomfortable the consequences were going to be, and then everything will be okay. In fact, within families, and organizations, even in our justice system, we’ll see that very thing happen. But, it doesn’t work that way with God.


He is not a man that He should change. It’s one thing to go forward with God’s blessing, in His timing, to attack a noble task. It’s quite another to approach that same work when God has deemed that its time has passed, and He no longer is behind it or has turned the task over to someone else for whatever reason.


God gives us windows of opportunity, and then they close. The timing is always His, not ours. How often we say, yes God, but not right now how about later? Right now isn’t right for me. It is foolishness to try and pry that window open at a later date, even though we might achieve what appears to be some small measure of success. More than likely, though, we will be utterly defeated, as were these Israelites who would not submit to God. Israelites who still had not learned to take God seriously. And, they paid a terrible price for it.


God guided Israel to view and take the land, but their fear replaced their faith and smothered their spirit.



  • God wants his people to walk by faith and in obedience to His Word.
  • God provides above and beyond what we could ever dream.
  • Unbelief will prevent us from enjoying God’s blessing in our lives.
  • God can see past our excuses to the reality of our unbelief or lack of faith.



Lord, may you grant me the courage to claim your promises. May you give me strength to move in the direction you are leading. And may you give me the faith to take each day one step at a time in thanking you for promises fulfilled in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ! Amen.


Holman Old Testament Commentary



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