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sin they had committed, begged pardon, and solicited him to intercede with God in behalf of his sister, that the leprosy might be removed, and her former health restored.
Moses, who was naturally of a meek disposition, and ever ready to pardon an injury offered to himself, made no hesitation at complying with Aaron's request. His intercession had the desired effect: the Almighty was pleased to promise that the evil should be removed; but as the offence was of a public nature, he ordered her to be turned out of the camp for seven days, in the manner of a common leper, in order to deter others from committing the like seditious practices.
Soon after Miriam's return to the camp, the Israelites removed to the desert of Paran; whence, after several encampments, they reached Kadesh-Barnea, situated on the frontiers of the land of Canaan.
On their arrival at this place, Moses, by the divine command, selected twelve men, one from each tribe, whoin he ordered to go as spies into the promised land, to take a view of the country. He charged them to make a diligent examination into the strength of its cities and inhabitants, the nature and fertility of its soil, and the principal articles it produced, some of the latter of which he told them to bring with them on their return.
With these instructions the twelve spies set forward on their journey, and proceeded from the entrance of the country on the north, to its extremity on the south. In their way back they passed through a valley remarkable for its fertility in vines, and therefore called the valley of Eschol, which signifies a cluster of grapes. Attracted by the beauty of the fruit, ihey determined to preserve some and carry it to the camp. They cut down a branch, on which was only one cluster of grapes, but of such an inimoderate size, that they were obliged to lay it on a pole, and carry it between two of them. Nor was this the only product of this happy soil : the golden fig and beautiful pomegranate adomed the trees, and a variety of other fruits (of which they took samples with them) loaded the luxuriant branches.
The spies having, in the conspass of forty days, taken a view of the whole country of Canaan, returned to the camp of the Israelites; and, after showing them the fruiis of the land, gave them an account of the observations they had made in the course of their journey. “We have been,” said they, “ in the country to which you sent us. It is a fertile and plentiful land; but the inhabitants of it are powerful. There are great cities with strong walls. We have seen those men of the race of Anak, warlike men, and of a gigantic stature. The Amalekites inhabit the south part of the land; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites, the mountains; and the Canaanites, the banks of the river Jordan."
The people were highly pleased with that part of the account relative to the fercility of the country ; but when they reflected on its strength, with the size and number of its inhabitants, they were greatly alarmed, and expressed their fears at being brought to a place where they were in the most imminent danger. But Caleb and Joshua (two of the twelve who were sent to view the country) endeavored to remove their fears, by saying, Let us make ourselves masters of the country, for we are strong enough to conquer the inhabitants."
This had the desired effect, and might have produced happy consequences, had it not been for the cowardly disposition of the other ten, who, perceiving that the account given by Caleb and Joshua had fired the people with a design of becoming the possessors of the country by a speedy conquest, began to retract from their former accounts, to paint matters in the worst light, and to represent it as a thing iinpossible, both by reason of the strength of its fortified towns, and the valor and gigantic stature of the inhabitants.
This cowardly representation defeated all the arguments used by Caleb and Joshua in favor of the enterprise. The Israelites, one and all, cried out they could never hope to overcome such powerful nations, in comparison of which they looked on themselves as mere grasshoppers and reptiles. In short, their murmurings grew to such a height by the next morning, that a return to Egypt was thought more advisable than to face such an enemy; and they went so far as to deliberate on a proper person who should reconduct them into the land of their former thraldom.
This perverseness of the people greatly afilicted Moses, who, finding them bent on their own ruin, and fearsul thai some dreadful consequence would follow, prostrated himself on the ground (as did also his brother Aaron) in the presence of the whole
assembly, and besought of God that he would be merciful in his judgments on the people for their sin and ingratitude.
Caleb and Joshua expressed their grief by rending their clothes; and endeavored, in the most forcible manner, to convince the people that their fears were ill founded, and that they might, by putting their trust in God, overpower their enemies, and make themselves masters of the promised land. “The land” (said they) “ that we pass through is indeed a rich and fertile land, abounding with all things necessary for life. If we please the Lord he will bring us into this land, and give it us. Do not, iherefore, by rebelling against him, forfeit his promise and protection. Nor be afraid of the people of the land, whom we shall as surely conquer as we eat our food, and with as much ease. The Lord is with us, and we have nothing to fear."
But so far was this speech from making any impression on the perverse and obstinate Israelites, that, in a tumultuous manner, they called out to stune Caleb and Joshua; and which they would certainly have done, had not the glory of God at that instant visibly appeared before all the people, in the tabernacle of the congregation.
As soon as Moses saw this he prostrated himself before the Lord, who, being highly incensed against the Israelites for their perverse conduct, threatened to send a pestilence that should totally extirpate them, and at the same time told Moses that he would make him a prince of a more numerous and powerful nation.
The pious Moses (as he had several times done before) became again an intercessor for the people. He in the most earnest manner solicited the Almighty to pardon their offences, and represented the consequences that might follow should be totally destroy them: the substance of his solicitations and observations was in words to this effect: “O thou everlasting Jehovah, who appearedst to Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob, and who wast graciously pleased to promise that their children should inherit the land of Canaan, look in mercy on this people, whom neither promises will encourage, nor threatenings deter from disobeying thee. O Lord, turn away. thy fierce anger, for thou art a God of mercy, and I will irust in thee to spare this wicked, this rebellious people."
These arguments and expostulations in some measure averted the divine vengeance, the Almighty promising Moses not to put his first design into execution. Kui as the ingratitude and infidelity of the people had become intolerable (notwithstanding God's constant care in providing against their wants, screening them from their enemies, and preserving them from all dangers), he declared that not one of those who had murmured, from twenty years old and upward, should ever enter the promised land; but that they should wander with their children about the wilderness for the space of forty years, in which time they should all pay the debt of nature, and that their children should have those possessions which, had they not been so disobedient, they might have enjoyed themselves.
As for the ten false spies, who were the immediate authors of this defection, they were all destroyed by a sudden death, and became the first ins ances of the punishment denounced against the body of the people.
Caleb and Joshua, who had not only done their duty in giving a faithful account of their observations, but also endeavored to remove the ill-concerted intentions of the people, were preserved. For this their conduct they received the divine approbation, as also a promise that they should live to enter and inherit the promised land.
When Moses related these particulars to the people their tempers were greatly altered, and they expressed their uneasiness for the offence they had committed by putting on the deepest mourning. Supposing that their forwardness now would make some atonement for their former cowardice, they assembled themselves together the next morning, and offered to go on the conquest. “We are ready,” said they, "to go to the place whereof the Lord has spoken to us."
But this offer, instead of arising from any natural courage, took place only from a presumptuous rashness. This Moses well knew, and therefore endeavored all he could to dissuade them from so ill judged an enterprise. He told them it was contrary to God's express command, and therefore could not prosper; that by their late undutiful behavior they had forfeited his assistance and protection, without which it was impossible for thein to succeed; and that, as the Amalekites and Canaanites had gained the passes of the mountains before them, every attempt must prove abortive.
But all t?is admonition had no words rith the obstinate Israelites. No:wiihsanding the ark of the covenant was not with them; notwithstanding Moses, their general, was not at the head of them; yet out they marched to the top of the mouniains, where, the enemy surprising them, they were immediately thrown into the greatest disorder, prodigious numbers were slain, and the rest obliged to save themselves by flight; nor did they stop till they came to a place called Hormah. Though it was bui eleven days' journey hence to Kadesh-barnea, yet, for their disobedience, th?y were so interrupted as to be nearly two years in getting to the place whence they came.
Many remarkable circumstances occurred during the stay of the Israelites in the wilderness. The first recorded by the sacred hisiorian is an instance of the divine severity on a man who, by a post-fact law, was adjudged to be stoned to death for violating the sabbath, by gathering sticks on that day. Though a particular injunctiou had been laid on the people to keep this commandment in the strictest manner, yet no penalty had been annexed io the violation of it. The people, therefore, who broughi the offender before W ses, were ordered to keep him in custody till he should know the divine pleasure concerning sabbath-breakers. The Almighty was pleased to return for answer, that such iransgressors should be stoned to deach ; upon which the offender was immediately conducted out of the camp, and the sentence executed.
The next material circumstance that occurred was a violent rebellion raised by Korah, great-grandson of Levi, and cousequently one of the heads of that tribe. This ambitious person, having long envied Aaron, on account of him and his family being raised to the highest office in the priesthood, and in which he thought himself had an equal title, was always caballing against him, till at length he had brought over two hundred and fifty emiaent persons to his interesi, among whom were Dathan and Abiram, two of the chiefs of the tribe of Reuben.
As soon as Korah thought matters properly ripe for an open rupture, he appeared at the head of the faction, and publicly upbraided Moses and Aaron with an unjust ambition, in usurping that power to themselves of which he thought himself entiiled to a part; and that the arbitrary measures they pursued were injurious to the people, by depriving them of their just and natural liberties.
This strange and unexpected address so surprised Moses, that he immediately prostrated himself on the ground, in which situation he lay for some time. At length he arose, and, with great steadiness and magnanimiiy, informed them that the next day the Lord would decide the controversy, and would make it appear who were his servants, who were holy, and who the proper persons to be admitted into his divine presence. He then, with his usual calmness and serenity of mind, argued the matter with them, and, in the most mild manner, rebuked them for the impropriety of their conduct. He was raiher more severe on Korah (who was the author of the defection) than the rest; and concluded with addressing them conjunctively in words to this effect: “ Hear me" (says he), “ ye sons of Levi. Is it a matter of so light concern, that the God of Israel hath distinguished you from the rest of Israel, to admit you to the more immediate service of the tabernacle, and to stand before the congregation and minister to them? Is not this an honor sufficient to satisfy your ambitious spirit, but that ye must aim at the priesthood too? This is the cause of your clamors; and for this ye have moved the people to sedition. But, be assured, whatever ye may pretend against Aaron, this insuli is against the Lord, as it is against his dispensations that ye murmur and conspire.”
Dathan and Abiram were at some distance when Moses thus talked with the rest of the conspirators; and therefore, supposing they had been drawn into the plot at the instigation of Korah, he sent for them privately, with a design of arguing the matter with them in the mildest terms. But instead of a civil answer, he received the following haughty message: "Is it” (said they) “a matter of so small moment, that thou hast brought us out of a land which flowed with plenty, to kill us in the desert? Thou affectest dominion, and wouldst make thyself prince over us also. Notwithstanding thy fair promises, thou hast not brought us into a land that flows with milk and honey, nor given us any inheritance of fields and vineyards; but when we were ready to take possession of the promised land, thou didst turn us back into this barren desert, to repeat the fatigues and hardships we had before undergone. We will not come."
* It is very reasonable to imagine, that Moses (who was well acquainted with the gracious and ready assistance of God in time of need) was, during the time of his being on the ground, applying himself to the Lord for protection against this mutinous body of people. And it is likewise reasonable to imagine, that while he lay in this huinble posure God appeared to him, and gave him comfortable advice in what manner he should conduct himself ; 'as he s'on alter spoke to them with great courago, and to vindicate himself, put the matter between him and them upon trial the next day.
These unjust reproaches highly provoked Moses, but, instead of returning any ill language to them, he addressed himself to God, saying: "Respeci not thou their ofiering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.” He then summoned Korah and all his companions to meet him and Aaron the next day at the tabernacle, and to bring with them their censers ready prepared with incense to appear before the Lord.
Accordingly, early the next morning, Moses and Aaron went to the tabernacle, whither Korah also repaired at the head of his party, with each man a censer in his hand, and attended by a prodigious multitude of people, who, in all probability, went as spectators of this singular contest.
The first thing that attracted their attention was the amazing splendor that issued from the cloud over the tabernacle, from which God called to Moses and Aaron, ordering them to withdraw, that he might inflict that punishment on the rebellious crew they justly deserved.
Moses and Aaron, knowing that the multitude who attended on this occasion did it only to gratify their curiosity, and at the same time lamenting that they should equally suffer with the wicked Korah and his party, prostrated themselves before God, and interceded for their protection. “O God” (said they), “ thou God of the spirit of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be angry with all ?" Their prayers were no sooner offered thay heard; and the Almighty, being pleased to listen to their solicitation, commanded them to tell the people to withdraw. Frightened at the amazing splendor that issued from the cloud, they readily obeyed this order, and retired at some distance from the tents of Korah and his two principal associates, Dathan and Abiram, who stood in a daring manner near their own tents, attended by their wives and families.
As soon as the multitude had re:ired to a proper distance, Moses addressed them in words to this effect: By this” (said he) “you shall know that the Lord has commissioned me to do what I have done, and that I have undertaken nothing of my own head. If these men” (meaning Korah and his party)“ die the common way of nature, or be visited as other men, then take it for granied the Lord hath not sent me; but if he deal with them after a strange and unusual manner, and the earth, opening her mouth, swallow then up alive, then shall ye understand that these men have provoked the Lord.”
No sooner had Moses spoken these words than the earth was suddenly convulsed, and the surface of it opening, Korah and his two adherents, Daihan and Abiran, together with their families and substance, were all swallowed up alive, and, ihe ground closing on them, they perished. When the people who stood round them saw their dismal fate they were greatly frightened, and cried out, “Let us fly, lest the earth swallow us up also.”
In the mean time God, to punish the rest of these rebellious people, who had profanely attempted to offer incense contrary to the law, sent down fire from heaven, and destroyed the whole iwo hundred and fifty men that had joined with Korah.
To perpetuate the memory of this judgment, as well as to deter, for the future, any but the sons of Aaron from presuming to burn incense before the Lord, Moses, by the divine command, ordered Eleazar, Aaron's son, to gather up the censers of the dead, and to have them beat into broad plates as a covering for ihe altar, assigning this as a reason: "That it might be for a memorial to the children of Israel, ihai no stranger, or any that was not of Aaron's family, should presume to offer incense lefore the Lord, lest he died the death of Korah and his company.”
It might have been supposed that so dreadful a punishment would, at least fur some time, have kept the Israelites within the bounds of their obedience; but no sooner were they recovered from their fright than they again began 10 murmur, and to accuse Moses and Aaron with having (as they called the late mutineers) murdered “the people of the Lord.”
Moses and Aaron, well knowing ihe turbulent temper of the people, and fearing they might proceed to some violent «utrage, took sanctuary in the tabernacle, which they had no sooner entered than the Almighty commanded them to withdraw froin the rest of the congregation, for thai in a shori time he would destroy them.