Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Numbers
Book: Numbers
Chapter: 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)

1-4 Those who do not trust God, continually vex themselves. The
sorrow of the world worketh Death. The Israelites murmured
against Moses and Aaron, and in them reproached the Lord. They
look back with causeless discontent. See the Madness of
unbridled passions, which makes men prodigal of what nature
accounts most dear, Life itself. They wish rather to die
criminals under God's Justice, than to live conquerors in his
favour. At last they resolve, that, instead of going forward to
Canaan, they would go back to Egypt. Those who walk not in God's
counsels, seek their own ruin. Could they expect that God's
Cloud would lead them, or his Manna attend them? Suppose the
difficulties of conquering Canaan were as they imagined, those
of returning to Egypt were much greater. We complain of our
place and Lot, and we would change; but is there any place or
condition in this world, that has not something in it to make us
uneasy, if we are disposed to be So? The way to better our
condition, is to get our spirits in a better frame. See the
folly of turning from the ways of God. But men run On the
certain fatal consequences of a sinful course.

5-10 Moses and Aaron were astonished to see a people throw away
their own mercies. Caleb and Joshua assured the people of the
Goodness of the land. They made nothing of the difficulties in
the way of their gaining it. If men were convinced of the
desirableness of the gains of religion, they would not stick at
the services of it. Though the Canaanites Dwell in walled
cities, their defence was departed from them. The other Spies
took notice of their strength, but these of their wickedness. No
people can be safe, when they have provoked God to leave them.
Though Israel Dwell in tents, they are fortified. While we have
the presence of God with us, we need not fear the most powerful
force against us. Sinners are ruined By their own rebellion. But
those who, like Caleb and Joshua, faithfully expose themselves
for God, are sure to be taken under his special protection, and
shall be hid from the rage of men, either under Heaven or in

11-19 Moses made humble intercession for Israel. Herein he was
a Type of Christ, who prayed for those that despitefully used
him. The Pardon of a nation's Sin, is the turning away the
nation's Punishment; and for that Moses is here So Earnest.
Moses argued that, consistently with God's character, in his
abundant mercies, he could forgive them.

20-35 The Lord granted the Prayer of Moses So far as not at
once to destroy the Congregation. But disbelief of the promise
forbids the benefit. Those who despise the pleasant land shall
be shut out of it. The promise of God should be fulfilled to
their children. They wished to die in the Wilderness; God made
their Sin their ruin, took them at their Word, and their
carcases fell in the Wilderness. They were made to groan under
the Burden of their own Sin, which was too heavy for them to
Bear. Ye shall know my Breach of promise, both the causes of it,
that it is procured By your Sin, for God never leaves any till
they first leave him; and the consequences of it, that will
produce your ruin. But your little ones, now under twenty years
old, which ye, in your unbelief, said should be a prey, them
will I bring in. God will let them know that he can Put a
difference between the guilty and the innocent, and cut them off
without touching their children. Thus God would not utterly take
away his loving kindness.

36-39 Here is the sudden Death of the ten evil Spies. They
sinned in bringing a slander upon the land of promise. Those
greatly provoke God, who misrepresent religion, raise dislike in
men's minds toward it, or give opportunity to those to do So,
who seek occasion. Justly are murmurers made mourners. If they
had mourned for the Sin, when they were faithfully reproved, the
sentence had been prevented; but as they mourned for the
Judgment only, it did them No service. There is in Hell such
mourning as this; but tears will not quench the flames, nor cool
the tongue.

40-45 Some of the Israelites were now Earnest to go forward
toward Canaan. But it came too late. If men would but be as
Earnest for Heaven while their Day of Grace lasts, as they will
be when it is over, how Well would it be for them! That which
has been duty in its season, when mistimed, may be turned into
Sin. Those who are out of the way of their duty, are not under
God's protection, and go at their peril. God bade them go, and
they would not; he forbade them, and they would go. Thus is the
Carnal mind Enmity against God. They had distrusted God's
strength; they now presume upon their own without his. And the
expedition fails accordingly; now the sentence began to be
executed, that their carcases should fall in the Wilderness.
That affair can never End Well, which begins with Sin. The way
to obtain peace with our friends, and success against our
enemies, is, to have God, as our Friend, and to keep in his
Love. Let us take warning from the fate of Israel, lest we
perish after the same Example of unbelief. Let us go forth,
depending On God's Mercy, power, promise, and Truth; he will be
with us, and bring our souls to Everlasting Rest.