Numbers 14
Pulpit Commentary
And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
Chapter 14:1. - And the people wept that night. As the spies repeated their dismal tidings, each to the leading men of his own tribe, and as the report was spread swiftly through the tents (cf. Deuteronomy 1:27) with ever-increasing exaggerations, the lamentation became universal.
And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
Verse 2. - Murmured against Moses and against Aaron; whom they probably suspected and accused of seeking their own personal ends. Here we may see the true reason why Joshua had not been put forward to advocate an immediate advance. The Septuagint has διεγόγγυζον (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:10). Would God we had died. לוּ־מָתְנוּ. Septuagint, ὄφελον ἀπεθάνομεν. The A.V. is unnecessarily strong.
And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
Verse 3. - Wherefore hath the Lord brought us. Rather, "wherefore doth the Lord bring us." מֵבִיא. Septuagint, εἰσάγει. They were not actually in the land yet, but only on the threshold.
And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
Verse 4. - Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. Although this was only proposed in the wildness of their distress, yet it was a height of rebellion to which they had never risen before. They had lamented that they had not died in Egypt, and they had wished themselves back in Egypt, but they had never proposed to take any overt steps towards returning thither. Nothing less than an entire and deliberate revolt was involved in the wish to elect a captain for themselves, for the angel of the covenant was the Captain of the Lord's host (Joshua 5:14, 15). The proposal to depose him, and to choose another in his place, marked the extremity of the despair, the unbelief, and the ingratitude of the people.
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
Verse 5. - Moses and Aaron fell on their faces. After making ineffectual efforts to reason with the people, or rather with their leaders (Deuteronomy 1:29-31). It was not, however, in this case an attitude of intercession, but the instinctive action of those who await in silent horror a catastrophe which they see to be inevitable; it testified to all who saw it that they were overwhelmed with shame and sorrow in view of the awful sin of the people, and of the terrible punishment which must follow.
And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:
Verse 6. - And Joshua. In a last hopeless effort to bring the people to a better mind, or at least to deliver their own souls, there was no reason why Joshua should hold back any more. Rent their clothes. Another token of grief and horrer practiced from patriarchal times (cf. Genesis 37:29, 34; Job 1:20).
And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
Verse 8. - If the Lord delight in us. An expression used by Moses himself (Deuteronomy 10:15). It did indeed place the whole matter in the only right light; all the doubt that could possibly exist was the doubt implied in that "if."
Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
Verse 9. - They are bread for us. "They are our food," i.e., we shall easily devour them (cf. Numbers 24:8; Psalm 14:4). Perhaps it has the further significance that their enemies would be an absolute advantage to them, because they would (however unwillingly) supply them with the necessaries of life. So apparently the Septuagint: μὴ φοβηθῆτε τὸν λαὸν τῆς γῆς ὅτι κατάβρωμα ὑμῖν ἐστιν. <ΒΤΤ·Ξομμενταρψ Ωορδ>Their defense is departed from them. Literally, "their shadow," that which shielded them for a while from the fierce blast of Divine wrath. This "shadow" was not positively the Divine protection (as in Psalm 91:1, and elsewhere), but negatively that Providence which left them a space wherein to walk in their own ways (cf. τὸ κατέχον of 2 Thessalonians 2:6).
But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.
Verse 10. - Bade stone them with stones. Angry people cannot endure the counsels of calm reason, and perhaps the hostility which they felt against Moses they were very ready to vent upon his "minister." The glory of the Lord appeared., before all the children of Israel. At the moment when they were about to proceed to violence, the Divine glory filled the tabernacle, and flashed forth with a brilliancy which compelled their awe. struck attention.
And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?
Verse 11. - And the Lord said unto Moses, who had, as we may suppose, risen and drawn nigh when the glory of the Lord appeared.
I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.
Verse 12. - And will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they. By electing Moses, in the place of Jacob, to be the founder and ancestor of the chosen race, God would still have made good his promises to Abraham, and would only have vindicated for himself the same freedom of choice which he had used in the case of Ishmael and of Esau. We cannot, however, regard this offer as embodying a deliberate intention, for we know that God did not really mean to cast off Israel; nor can we regard it as expressing the anger of the moment, for it is not of God to be hasty. We must understand it distinctly as intended to try the loyalty and charity of Moses, and to give him an opportunity of rising to the loftiest height of magnanimity, unselfishness, and courage. Moses would unquestionably have been less noble than he was if he had listened to the offer; it is therefore certain that the offer was only made in order that it might be refused (cf. Exodus 32:10).
And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)
Verse 13. - And Moses said unto the Lord. The words which follow are so confused, and the construction so dislocated, that they afford the strongest evidence that we have here the ipsissima verba of the mediator, disordered as they were in the moment of utterance by passionate earnestness and an agonizing fear. Had Moses been ever so eloquent, a facility of speech at such a moment would have been alike unnatural and unlovely. What we can see in the words is this: that Moses had no thought for himself, and that it never occurred to him to entertain the tempting offer made to him by God; that he knew God too well, and (if we may say so) cared for God too much, to let him so compromise his honour among the nations, and so thwart his own purposes, without making one effort (however audacious) to turn his wrath aside. We can see that it is (as in Exodus 32:11, 12, only much more boldly and abruptly) the thought of what the heathen would say which he wishes to thrust upon the Almighty; but we cannot be sure of the right translation of the words. The most literal rendering would seem to be, "Both the Egyptians have heard (וְשָׁמְעוּ) that thou broughtest out this people from among them with thy might, and they have told it (וְאָמְרוּ) to the inhabitants of this land; they have heard (שָׁמְעוּ, repeated) that thou, Lord, art amongst this people," &c. The Septuagint, however, translates the first verb by a future (καὶ ἀκούσεται Αἴγυπτος), and, as this gives a much clearer sense, it is followed by the Targum Palestine and most of the versions.
And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.
Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,
Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.
Verse 16. - Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land. Moral or religious difficulties could not be comprehended by those heathen nations as standing in the way of God's purposes. Physical hindrances were the only ones they could understand; and they would certainly infer that if he slew the Israelites in the wilderness, it could only be in order to cover his own defeat and failure before the rival deities of Palestine.
And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,
Verse 17. - And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great. Here the argument of Moses rises to a higher level; he ventures to put God in mind of what he had himself declared to Moses in the fullest revelation which he had ever made of his own unchangeable character, viz., that of all Divine prerogatives, the most Divine was that of forgiving sins and showing mercy. According as thou hast spoken. See on Exodus 34:6, 7. The words are not quoted exactly as there given, but are substantially the same.
The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
Verse 19. - From Egypt until now. From the first passion of despair in Egypt itself (Exodus 14:11, 12), through the murmurings in the wilderness of Sin, and the apostasy of Mount Sinai, to the last rebellion at Kibroth-Hattaavah.
And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:
Verse 20. - I have pardoned. Whatever necessary exceptions and qualifications might remain to be afterwards declared, the great fact that he forgave the nation, and that the nation should not die, is announced without delay and without reservation (cf. 2 Samuel 12:13). According to thy word. Such power had God been pleased to give unto man, that at the intercession of the mediator a whole nation is delivered from imminent death and destruction.
But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
Verse 21. - As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Rather, "as truly as I live, and the glory of the Lord shall fill all the earth." Both clauses are dependent on יְאוּלָם, and the second is but the necessary correlative of the first.
Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
Verse 22. - Because all those men. The particle כִּי is not to be rendered "because;" it simply introduces the substance of the oath: "As I live... all those men... shall not see." So the Septuagint. And have tempted me now these ten times. It is not in the least necessary to press this expression, borrowed from the vague usage of men, literally. It is the language of indignation, meaning that the full measure of provocation had been received (cf. Genesis 31:7; Job 19:3). The recorded instances of national "temptations" cannot be made to reach the number ten.
Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:
Verse 23. - Surely they shall not see. אִםאּיּרְאוּ, "if they shall see," according to the usual Hebrew idiom. Cf. Psalm 107:11 (Septuagint), Hebrews 4:3, ὡς ὤμοσα... εἰ εἰσελεύσονται.
But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.
Verse 24. - My servant Caleb. Caleb alone is mentioned here, as if he were the only exception to the sentence just passed upon the generation which came out of Egypt. Taken in connection with Numbers 13:30, and in contrast with Numbers 14:6, 30, 38, it has been supposed to point to the interweaving here of two narratives, from the one of which the name of Joshua was intentionally omitted (see the Introduction). The fact, however, is that Joshua is not the only, nor the most remarkable, exception to the general sentence which is not specified here. Moses and Aaron themselves were undoubtedly not included in that sentence at this time, although they afterwards came under the severity of it (see on Deuteronomy 1:37). Eleazar, the priest, was one of those who entered with Joshua (Joshua 14:1), and it is vain to argue that he might have been under twenty at the time of the numbering (cf. Numbers 4:16). There is, indeed, every reason to believe that the whole tribe of Levi were excepted from the punishment, because they were not compromised in the guilt. They had no representative among the spies, nor were they called upon to go up and fight; moreover, they had been steadily loyal to Moses since the matter of the golden calf. But if the exception of the Levites was taken for granted, and passed without mention, much more might the exception of Joshua. He did not stand by any means in the same position as Caleb and the other spies; he was the "minister" and lieutenant of Moses, whose fortunes were obviously bound up, not with those of his tribe, but with those of his master. If Moses had accepted the Divine offer to make him the head of a new chosen race, no doubt Joshua would have been given to him. His subsequent separation as leader, not of Ephraim, but of Israel, was already anticipated in the singularity, at least, of his position. Caleb, on the other hand, was merely a chieftain of the tribe of Judah, with nothing to distinguish him from the mass of the people but his own good conduct. There is, therefore, nothing perplexing in the fact that Caleb alone is mentioned in this place, and nothing to warrant the assumption of a double narrative. Another spirit. The spirit which possessed and prompted Caleb was no doubt the Holy Spirit, just as the spirit which moved the rebellion was an evil spirit (Ephesians 2:2); but how far any such personality is here attributed to the "spirit" is hard to determine. Hath followed me fully. Literally, "fulfilled to walk behind me." Caleb treasured up this testimony with natural pride (cf. Joshua 14:8). And his seed shall possess it, i.e., a portion of it and in it. No mention is made here of any special heritage, nor is it clear from Joshua 14:6-13 that Caleb received any definite promise of Hebron. He spoke indeed of a promise made him, probably at this time, by Moses; but that promise was a very general one. He asked for "this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day;" but he may only have referred to the Divine command first to explore and then to occupy "the mountain," as the nearest portion of the promised land.
(Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) To morrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.
Verse 25. - Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley. This parenthesis bears on the face of it several difficulties, both as to the meaning of the statement and as to its position in the text.

1. It has been stated just before (Numbers 13:29) that the "Canaanites" dwelt by the sea, and in the Ghor, and it has been proposed by some to understand under this name the Phoenicians, because "Sidon" was the first-born of Canaan, and because they are known to have occupied the coast. But if "Canaanite" means "Phoenician" in chapter Numbers 13:29, it is difficult to maintain that it is here equivalent to "Amorite." Again, if "Canaanite" be taken in this vaguer sense, yet it is clear that the Amorites dwelt in "the mountain" (cf. e.g., verse 45 with Deuteronomy 1:44), and not in the lowlands. This has been got over by supposing that עֵמֶק may mean an upland vale, or plateau, such as that to which the Israelites presently ascended. It is, however, a straining of the word to assign such a meaning to it. It is rightly translated by the Septuagint ἐν τῇ κοιλάδι. And even if one looking down from above might call an upland plain by this name, yet certainly one looking up from below would not. If the word stands rightly in this place, בָּעֵמֶק must mean "in the Wady Murreh," the broad sandy strait which bounded the "mountain of the Amorite" on the south. If so, we must conclude that not only the roving Amalekites, but also the Canaanites, or Amorites, had established themselves in some parts of the Wady.

2. It is scarcely credible that an observation of this sort, which would seem unusual and abrupt in any speech, should have formed a part of God's message to Moses. It has no apparent connection with the context. It does not (as often alleged) afford a reason for the command which follows; it was not at all because enemies were already in possession before them that the Israelites had to turn their backs upon the promised land, but because God had withdrawn for the time his promised aid. If the "valley" be the Rakhmah plateau, they had always known that hostile tribes held it, and that they would have to conquer them. That the words are an interpolation, as the A.V. represents them, seems as certain as internal evidence can make it; lint by whom made, and with what intent, is a question which will probably never be answered. It may be worth while to hazard a conjecture that the interpolated words are really connected with what goes before, viz., the promise of inheritance to Caleb. Now that promise was fulfilled in the gift of Hebron to Caleb and his seed (Joshua 14:14). But we have express mention in Genesis 37:14 of the "vale of Hebron," and the same word, עֵמֶק, is used in the Hebrew. Is it not possible that this parenthesis was originally the gloss of one who had a special interest in the heritage of Caleb, and wished to note that at the time it was given to him "the vale" was occupied by two hostile peoples? Into the wilderness, i.e., the Sinaitic peninsula, as distinguished from Palestine on the one hand, and from Egypt on the other. By the way of the Red Sea, i.e., towards the Red Sea; here apparently the Elanitic Gulf (cf. Numbers 11:31).
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
Verse 26. - And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron. This communication is clearly by way of continuation and amplification of the sentence briefly pronounced above. It is markedly distinguished from the latter, as being

(1) spoken to Aaron as well as to Moses;

(2) addressed through them to the people at large.

The one was the Divine answer to the effectual pleading of the mediator; the other the Divine reply to the rebellious cries of the people. The two are blended together in the narrative of Deuteronomy 1.
How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.
Verse 27. - How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? Literally, "How long this evil congregation, that they murmur against me." Septuagint, ἕως τίνος τὴν συναγωγὴν τὴν πονηρὰν ταύτην; The verb is supplied from the sense.
Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:
Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,
Verse 29. - All that were numbered of you... from twenty years old (cf. Numbers 1:18, 19, 47). All that had been enrolled as the soldiers of the Lord, to fight his battles and their own, but had refused, and had incurred the guilt of mutiny.
Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
Verse 30. - Sware. Literally, "lifted up my hand" (see on Genesis 14:22). And Joshua the son of Nun. The exception in favour of his "minister," Joshua, had been taken for granted in the brief answer of God to Moses; in the fuller announcement of his purposes to the congregation it was natural that he too should be mentioned by name.
But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.
But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.
And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.
Verse 33. - Your children shall wander. Literally, "shall pasture." רֹעִים. Septuagint, ἔσονται νεμόμενοι. It was not altogether a threat, for it implied that the Lord would be their Shepherd and would provide for their wants in their wanderings. Forty years. This period was made up by counting in the year and a half since the exodus. It was one of those many cases in which the word of God was fulfilled in the meaning and substance of it, but not in the letter. The delay which had already occurred was itself practically due to the same spirit of mutiny which had grown to a head at Kadesh; it was therefore strictly equitable to count it as part of the punishment inflicted (see on Deuteronomy 2:14). And bear your whoredoms. "Whoredom" had been already used (Exodus 34:16) as a synonym for idolatry in its aspect of spiritual unfaithfulness, and there is no reason to depart from that well-marked meaning here. That the Jews were guilty of idolatry in the wilderness is distinctly asserted (cf. Acts 7:42, 43); and these idolatrous practices, carried on no doubt in secret, must have been a sore trial to the generation which grew up amidst them (cf. Joshua 24:14, 23).
After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.
Verse 34. - After the number of the days... each day for a year. It is said, and truly, that the connection between the two periods was arbitrary, and that the apparent correspondence lay only upon the surface. Exactly for this reason it was the better fitted to fix itself in the mind of a nation incapable of following a deeper and more spiritual analogy of guilt and punishment. It served the purpose which God had in view, viz., to make them feel that the quantity as well as the quality of their punishment was entirely due to themselves; and it needed no other justification. If God assigns reasons at all, he assigns such as can be understood by those to whom he speaks. Ye shall know my breach of promise. תְּנוּאָתִי. The noun only occurs elsewhere in Job 33:10, but the verb is found in Numbers 32:7 in the sense of "discouraging," or "turning away" (Septuagint, ἰνατί διαστρέφετε). Here it must mean "my withdrawal," or "my turning aside, from you." They should know by sad experience that "with the froward" God will "show" himself "froward" (Psalm 18:26).
I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.
And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land,
Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD.
Verse 37. - Died by the plague before the Lord. Septuagint, ἐν τῇ πληγῇ. "Plague" has here its older signification of "stroke," or visitation of God. We are not told what death they died, but it was sudden and exceptional enough to mark it as the direct consequence of their sinful conduct.
But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still.
And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly.
And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned.
Verse 40. - Early in the morning. Wishing to anticipate the retrograde movement commanded by God (verse 25). Into the top of the mountain. What summit is here spoken of as the object of their enterprise is quite uncertain. Probably it was some ridge not far distant which seemed to them from below to be the height of land, but was itself commanded by loftier heights beyond. For we have sinned. The prospect of being taken at their own word, and being excluded from the land which lay so near, brought home to them a sense of their folly; but their repentance merely consisted in a frantic effort to avoid the punishment which their sin had incurred.
And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper.
Verse 41. - And Moses said, i.e., had said, before they left the camp (cf. verse 44, and Deuteronomy 1:42).
Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies.
For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.
But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp.
Verse 44. - They presumed to go up. This gives the sense very well: they were deaf to all persuasion or command to stay. Septuagint, διαβιασάμενοι ἀνέβησαν. Thus they added to an evil distrust in the power of God an almost more evil trust in their own power. It does not seem correct to say that "unbelief" was the real cause of both errors - unbelief, firstly in God's promises, and secondly in his threats. It was rather one of those many cases in which men seek to atone for a fault on one side by rushing into as great a fault on the other side. They spoke brave words about the "place which the Lord hath promised," as though it were indeed obedience and trust which spurred them on, instead of presumption and selfishness. The ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. The plainest possible token that the Lord was not with them. With Moses remained no doubt all the Levites, and the silver trumpets, and Joshua, and perhaps the bulk of the people.
Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.
Verse 45. - The Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites. See on Deuteronomy 1:44. They came down from the summit of the mountain country, and drove the Israelites off the saddle, or lower level, to which they had ascended. Discomfited them. Septuagint, κατέκοψαν αὐτούς, "cut them up." Unto Hormah. This mention of Hormah is extremely perplexing, especially when we find from Deuteronomy 1:44 that it was "in Serf" (בְּשֵׂעִיר), which is the ordinary name for the territory of the Edomites. The name Hormah meets us again in Numbers 21:3 (see the notes there), as having been bestowed by the Israelites upon the place where they destroyed the people of King Arad. If this be the same Hormah, it must be so named here by anticipation. It is, however, quite possible that it is another place altogether. Again, if the Seir of Deuteronomy 1:44 be the country usually so called, we must suppose that the Edomites had at this time occupied a part of the Azazimeh, contiguous to the Wady Murreh, and westwards of the Arabah. We should then represent the Israelites to ourselves as being driven off the mountain, and across the Wady Murreh, and cut down in the mountains beyond, as far as a place called Hormah, perhaps from this very slaughter. Others have found Hormah (or Zephath, Judges 1:17) and Seir among the multitudinous names of past or present habitation in the south of Palestine; the perplexing resemblances of which, coupled with the vagueness of the sacred narrative, lead to the rise of as many different theories as there are commentators. It must, however, be erroneous to represent this hasty incursion of the Israelites, without their leaders, and without their daily food from heaven, as a campaign in which they advanced for a considerable distance, and were only partially expelled at last. It is clear from this passage, and still more from the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 1, that the expedition was swiftly and ignominiously repelled and avenged. Compare the expression, "chased you as bees do." NOTE TO CHAPTERS XIII, XIV ON THE POSITION OF KADESH AND THE ROUTE TAKEN BY THE ISRAELITES. The old name of Kadesh was En-mishpat (Genesis 14:7), or the "Well of Judgment." Its later and more familiar name was equivalent to "the sanctuary" or "holy place" (compare the Arabic name for Jerusalem, "El Kuds"). It is possible that it received this name from the long sojourn of the tabernacle in its neighbourhood (Deuteronomy 1:46); but it is more likely that it possessed some character of sanctity from ancient times, a character which would very well harmonize with the fact that justice was administered there. It is evident that in order to obtain any clear and connected idea of the history of Israel between the departure from Sinai and the encampment upon the plains of Moab, it is above all necessary to fix approximately the position of this place, which for one generation was the most important place in the whole world. It was no doubt from the neighbourhood of Kadesh that the spies were sent, and it was certainly to Kadesh that they returned from searching the land (Numbers 13:26). From Kadesh the first disastrous attempt was made to invade the country, and from thence again the final journey began which led the nation round the coasts of Edom to the plains of Moab. Thus Kadesh was of all places, next to Mount Sinai, the one associated with the most momentous events of those momentous years, marking at once the terminus of their first journey (which should have been their last), the beginning of their tedious wanderings, and the starting point of their final march. So far, however, from there being any certainty or agreement as to the site of Kadesh, we find two sites proposed widely separated from one another, each maintained and each assailed by powerful arguments, which divide between them the suffrages of geographers and commentators; and besides these there are others less powerfully supported. The view adopted in the notes to this book is that of the travelers Rowland and Williams, and of the great majority of the German commentators: it is fully stated and minutely argued in Kurtz's 'History of the Old Covenant' (volume 3 in Clark's 'Foreign Theol. Lib.'). According to these authorities Kadesh is to be recognized in the plain and fountain of Kudes, just within the north-west corner of the mountains of the Azazimeh (see note on Numbers 10:12). This desert plain, some ten miles by six in extent, is screened from ordinary observation by the outer mountain walls of the Azazimat, which shut it off on the west from the desert road from Sinai to Hebron, on the north from the Wady Murreh. At the north-east of the plain is a bold and bare rock, a promontory of the northern mountain rampart, from the. foot of which issues a copious spring, which begins by falling in cascades into the bed of a torrent, and ends by losing itself in the sands. Amongst the Wadys which open into the plain is one which bears the name of Redemat (see note on Numbers 12:16). It is uncertain whether there is any easy communication between this plain and the Wady Murreh, but there are several passes on the western side which lead by a slight circuit to the southern table-lands of Palestine. The view adopted by the majority of English commentators is that of the traveler Robinson. According to these authorities Kadesh must be sought in the Arabah, the broad depression which runs northward from the head of the Elanitic Gulf until it meets the Ghor below the Dead Sea. By most of those who hold this view the site of Kadesh is placed at Ain-el-Weibeh, ten miles to the north of Mount Hor, and opposite the opening (from the east)of the Wady el Ghuweir, which affords the only easy passage through Edom to the north-west. Others, however, prefer Ain Hash, a few miles further north. The local peculiarities of either place are such as to satisfy the requirements of the narrative, although they would not by themselves have recalled the scenes with which Kadesh is associated. Of other theories none perhaps need to be considered here, because none can reasonably enter into competition with the two already mentioned; they avoid none of the difficulties with which these are beset, while they incur others of their own. If, indeed, Rabbinical tradition (followed in this case by Jerome) were worth anything, it would decide the question in favour of Petra, the Aramaic name of which (Rekem) uniformly takes the place of Kadesh in the Syriac and Chaldee, and in the Talmud. Kadesh-Barnea in the Targums is Rekem-Geiah. Petra itself (of which the ancient name apparently was Selah (2 Kings 14:7), the very word used in Numbers 20:10, 11) stands in a gorge famous for its giant cliffs, still called the Wady Musa, concerning which the local tradition is that it was cleft by the rod of Moses. But apart from these resemblances of name, which are so fallacious, and these legends, which are so worthless, there is absolutely nothing to connect Kadesh with Petra; on the contrary, the position of Petra, far away from Palestine, on the skirts of Mount Hor, and in the heart of Edom, distinguish it sharply from the Kadesh of the Bible story. The two can only be identified on the supposition that the sacred narrative, as it stands, is mistaken and misleading. In examining briefly the arguments by which the western and eastern sites respectively are maintained and assailed, it will be better to dismiss the evidence (such as it is) afforded by modern nomenclature, which is always open to grave suspicion, and is at best of very variable value. The Wady Retemat, e.g., is so named from the broom plant, which is very plentiful in the peninsula, and may have lent a similar name to many another place. In favour of the western site, that of the so-called plain of Kudes, we have the following arguments in addition to the marked natural features which suggested the identification.

1. Previous mentions of Kadesh would certainly dispose us (in the absence of any indication that there was more than one place of that name) to look for it to the south of Palestine, and rather to the south-west than to the southeast. In Genesis 14:7 it is mentioned in connection with the "country of the Amalekites," which was apparently between Canaan and Egypt. In the same region we may place with more confidence the well of Hagar (Genesis 16:14), which is placed between "Kadesh and Bered." It is difficult to think that this Kadesh could possibly have been in the Arabah. Gerar, again, which was certainly near to Beersheba, is placed (Genesis 20:1) "between Kadesh and Shut." These notices are indeed indefinite, but they certainly point to the western rather than to the eastern site.

2. Subsequent mentions of Kadesh point in the same direction. In chapter Numbers 34:4, 5 and Joshua 15:3, 4 the southern frontier of Judah, which was also that of Canaan, is traced from the scorpion cliffs at the head of the Ghor to the Mediterranean (see note on the first passage). On this frontier Kadesh occurs in such a way that we should look for it not at one extremity, but somewhere about the middle of the line. The same is still more clearly the case in Ezekiel 47:19, where only three points are given on the southern frontier, of which Kadesh is the middle one. It is, again: very difficult to imagine that this Kadesh could have been in the Arabah.

3. It is a weaker argument, but still of some moment, that Kadesh is pointedly said to have been in the "wilderness of Paran" (Numbers 12:16; Numbers 13:3), and also to have been in or near the wilderness of Zin (chapter 13:21; 20:1). But the eastern site of Kadesh far up the Arabah does not seem to answer to this double description near]y as well as the western. The plain of Kudes is strictly within the limits of that southern desert now called et-Tih, and yet it is quite close to the Wady Murreh, which with its sandy expansions towards the east may well have been the wilderness of Zin (see note on Numbers 13:21). In favour of the eastern site, the only argument of real weight is founded upon the repeated statement that Kadesh was close upon the territory of Edom. In Numbers 20:16, e.g., it is spoken of to the king of Edom as "a city in the uttermost of thy borders." But the only position in which the children of Israel would be at once on the borders of Canaan and on the borders of Edom as commonly understood, would be in the neighbourhood of Ain el-Weibeh, with the pass of es-Safah on their left, and the Wady Ghuweir on their right, as they looked northwards. With this agrees the statement that they came to Kadesh "by the way of Mount Seir" (Deuteronomy 1:2), and the fact that there is no station mentioned between Kadesh and Mount Her (Numbers 33:37), although the western site is seventy miles from that mountain. The necessity indeed of placing Kadesh on the border of Edom must be conclusive in favour of the eastern site, if the common assumption is correct that the name and territory of Edom were bounded westwards by the Arabah. It is, however, contended, with some show of reason, that the kings of Edom had extended their authority at this time over the country of the Azazimeh as far as the plain of Kudes. There is, at any rate, nothing improbable in this, because this great mountain fastness is almost as sharply severed from Canaan as from Mount Seir, properly so called; and in fact it never appears to have been in possession of the Canaanites. When, however, the southern boundary line is traced in detail (Numbers 34:3, 4; Joshua 15:1, 2, 21), it is said to have extended עַל־יְדֵי, "on the sides," or אֶל־גְּבוּל, "to the borders," of Edom, and this expression can hardly be satisfied by the single point of contact at the south-east corner of Judah, especially when we consider the long list of cities which were on or near this border (Joshua 15:21-32). Again, when the extreme southern and northern points of Joshua's conquest are mentioned (Joshua 11:17; Joshua 12:7), the former is "the bald mountain which goeth up Seir" - a natural feature which we look for in vain (for it cannot possibly be the low line of the scorpion cliffs), unless it be the northern rampart of the Azazimat. We have seen that the Hormah to which the Israelites were repelled on their first invasion is placed (Deuteronomy 1:44) "in Seir," which can hardly be Mount Seir in its ordinary restricted sense. If the name Seir has to be sought anywhere outside of Edom proper, it would seem more natural to find it in the northern part of the wilderness of Paran, where it is said to be still common, than anywhere else. And if this extension of Edom can be established, there appears to be no further objection of any moment to the western site. Mount Hor would still be on the coast or edge of the land of Edom, because it would be the meeting-point of the two boundaries, the one striking westwards across the Arabah, the other southwards down the Arabah. The absence of any name between Kadesh and Her is not conclusive, because the people certainly made journeys of several days without any regular halt (see note on chapter Numbers 10:33). Upon the whole the question may fairly be stated thus: -

1. The general tenor of the narrative would lead us to suppose that the host of Israel had marched from Sinai through the midst of the desert of Paran, by the route which led most directly to the extreme south of Palestine; and if they did this, they must have passed near to Rowland's Kadesh.

2. The natural features of this site, its position with regard to the desert of et-Tih and the Wady Murreh, its distance from Sinai (Deuteronomy 1:2), and its proximity to the Negeb and the plateau of Rakhmah, seem to harmonize better with all that we read about Kadesh than the corresponding characteristics of the rival site.

3. The general effect of the various mentions of Kadesh, both before and after, is undeniably, though not decidedly, in favour of the western site.

4. The minor arguments which are urged on one side or the other may be allowed to balance one another, for it is certain that neither is free from difficulty.

5. The difficulty with respect to Edom is a very serious one, and with many will be decisive against Rowland's Kadesh.

6. What must turn the scale one way or the other is the independent evidence that the border of Edom extended at this time across the Arabah, and included the northeast portion of the desert of Paran, viz., the mountain mass which fronted the southern edge of Canaan. There is some evidence that this was the case, and it cannot be met by the simple assertion that the territory of Edom consisted only of Mount Seir, and that Mount Seir lay wholly to the east of the Arabah. It is to be expected that travel and research in these regions now so inaccessible, and, after all said and written, so little known, will before long bring fresh and more decisive evidence to light. In the mean time that view is consistently maintained in these notes which, if it had apparently the greatest difficulty to surmount, yet receives the greatest amount of positive support from the general and incidental testimony of the Scripture record. One lesson emerges clearly from the obscurity involving this question, which appears to us so important to the understanding of God's holy word: the geography of the Bible must be of very small importance indeed as compared with its moral and religious teachings. These are not affected by any ignorance of localities and routes. The rebellion of Kadesh has exactly the same moral for us (Hebrews 3:19; Hebrews 4:11) whether Kadesh was in the Azazimat or the Arabah; and the very uncertainty in which its site is involved may be designed to remind us that it is very easy to exaggerate the value of these outward details to the neglect of those inward teachings which alone are in the highest sense important.

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