In Numbers 14:20-25, God changes his mind again, and then gives a lecture to the Israelites about why he’s pardoning them. Naturally, they deserve horrible fiery death for eternity for doubting him, but golly he’s such a nice guy, he’s just going to make them wander around in the desert until they die. God explains that this is because the Israelites have tempted him to murder them ten times now.
I didn’t know there was going to be a test, so I haven’t been keeping count at the number of times the Israelites’ faith has wavered. The bible doesn’t bother to tell us which specific actions count toward these ten, but thankfully biblical commentators have perused the bible and given us the answer to this question, but as usual, nobody can agree. In fact, when you combine the various answers they give for the ten faith fails, you get more than ten!
- The Israelites complain that Moses gave them extra work.
- They’re afraid when Pharaoh’s men approached them at the Red Sea.
- With only contaminated water to drink, they beg for clean water.
- Starving to death, they beg for food.
- Fearing further starvation, they gather more food than they’re told.
- Dehydrated and dying again, they beg for more water.
- Believing God deserted them and Moses dead, they create a new god.
- Aaron’s sons break protocol.
- The Israelites complain, and are executed.
- Sick of eating manna, they ask for meat.
- They actually eat the meat God provides.
- Aaron and Miriam are jealous that God plays favorites with Moses.
- Refusing to invade Canaan for fear of being slaughtered.
And this is me leaving out some of the more dubious results commentators have suggested like include multiple doubts for the same crime because the author wrote the same thing twice, a few sentences apart. You can also consider any of the places where the Israelites aren’t entirely happy with being treated like crap as possible results, giving you far more than the 13 listed here.
Either way, when you look at this list, you can easily see why they were grumbling. Is it really so wrong to beg for food when you’re starving in the wilderness? Do you deserve to be punished for cowering when an entire army is riding down on you? If someone were dying in the desert and pleaded with you for a sip of water, would you execute them? According to God, the answer to all three of these questions is, a resounding YES!
And to prove how fair and just he is, God tells them that now nobody here will make it to the Promised Land. Only Caleb will be allowed since he was willing to fight for God. Joshua, again isn’t mentioned just yet. And all 3,000,000 of them are then told to head back to the Red Sea.