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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 13

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-33


The unbelief exhibited at Kadesh-barnea, and the divine comment on it invest the transaction with great significance. The people had faith to sprinkle the blood of atonement (Exodus 12:28 ), and to come out of Egypt (type of the world), but had not faith to enter their Canaan rest. Therefore, though redeemed, they “grieved” Jehovah for forty years. (Compare the chapters of this lesson with Deuteronomy 1:19-40 ; Deuteronomy 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 ; Hebrews 3:12-19 ; Hebrews 4:3-11 .)


In the lesson we have:

God’s command to Moses and his execution of it (Numbers 13:1-20 ) the work of the spies (Numbers 13:21-25 ) their report to Moses, Aaron and the congregation (Numbers 13:26-33 ) the effect on the congregation (Numbers 14:1-10 ) Jehovah’s threat (Numbers 14:11-12 ) Moses’ intercession (Numbers 14:13-19 ) Jehovah’s answer and decree of chastisement (Numbers 14:20-38 ) the presumption and punishment of the people (Numbers 14:39-45 ).

Matters to be Noted

By comparing Deuteronomy 1:23 , it will be seen that the proposition about the spies came from the people themselves, God granting their request both as a trial and punishment of their unbelief. Led by the pillar of fire and cloud they might have entered and conquered the land without any reconnaissance of it.

Kadesh (Numbers 13:26 ) is usually identified with Kadesh-barnea mentioned in Numbers 32:8 , and since the researches of Henry Clay Trumbull (1884) there has been little doubt about it.

According to Nehemiah 9:17 , the unbelief of the people actually went the length of nominating a “captain” to lead them back to Egypt, demonstrating the wisdom of the decree that debarred that generation from entering the promised land.

Remember the two witnesses for God (Numbers 14:6 ), often referred to afterwards, and reflect on the arguments they present (Numbers 14:7-9 ). If Jehovah’s word be true as to the land, may we not believe it as to His ability to bring us in? By what divine interposition only were the lives of these witnesses preserved (Numbers 14:10 )?

Moses’ intercession is another of the great prayers of the Bible. See the boldness of his faith in the arguments he employs. For whose honor is he most concerned (Numbers 14:13-16 )? What promise does he quote (Numbers 14:17-18 )? Where in previous lessons was this commented on? What precedent does Moses rely upon (Numbers 14:19 )?

Do not pass by the prophecy of Numbers 14:21 . How much of human hopes are wrapped up in these words! Primarily they mean that the report of God’s doings at that time would spread over all the land magnifying His name, but their ultimate application is to the millennium and beyond, as we shall see.

How perverse the conduct of the Israelites, who, shortly before, were afraid that, though God was with them, they could not get possession of the land; yet now they act still more foolishly in supposing that, though God were not with them, they could expel the inhabitants by their unaided efforts. The consequences were such as might have been anticipated.


1. Give the outline of this lesson by chapters.

2. With what other location is Kadesh identified, and on whose authority chiefly?

3. Have you read Nehemiah 9:17 ?

4. Name the two faithful witnesses for God, Numbers 14:6 .

5. Name two great prayers of the Bible.

6. How would you interpret the prophecy of Numbers 14:21 ?

7. What illustrates the foolishness of Israel at this crisis?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Numbers 13". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/numbers-13.html. 1897-1910.
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