The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Numbers
So, that night, the whole multitude of the Israelites fell to weeping,
and were loud in their complaints against Moses and Aaron:
Better that we had died in Egypt, better we should meet our end in this waste desert, than march at the Lord’s bidding into such a land as that, where we shall fall at the sword’s point, and our wives and children be led off as captives! Were it not better to go back to Egypt?
A leader, they said to one another, let us set up a leader who will take us back to Egypt!
Moses and Aaron, on hearing it, cast themselves down to earth before the whole assembly of Israel;
meanwhile Josue the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephone, who had taken their part in surveying the country, tore their garments in dissent.
Nay, men of Israel, they cried, it was a land of great plenty we passed through.
The Lord, of his mercy, will find a way in for us, and it will be ours, a land that is all milk and honey!
Would you defy the Lord’s will, daunted by the Chanaanites? Why, they are bread for our eating; they may not hope to defend themselves. The Lord is on our side; never be afraid of them!
At this, all the people cried out, and were for stoning them. But suddenly, over the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord’s presence made itself known to the whole of Israel.
And the Lord said to Moses, Am I to be always slighted by this people of mine? Will they never learn to trust in me, for all the marvellous deeds of mine they have witnessed?
Enough; I will smite them with pestilence, and make an end of them; I will find a people greater and sturdier than this to march under thy leadership.
Good news, Lord, said Moses, for the Egyptians, from whose power thou didst once rescue thy people;
good news, too, for the inhabitants of this land. They know how thou dwellest among thy people, letting thyself be seen face to face, sheltering us with cloud, going before us in a pillar of cloud by day, of fire by night.
Are they to be told that thou hast annihilated, at a blow, all this host of thine?
Ah, they will say, he could find no means to grant his people their promised home, so he was fain to destroy them in the wilderness!
Nay, Lord, vindicate thy power; hast thou not said,
The Lord is slow to take vengeance, rich in kindness, pardoning the guilt of the wrong-doer? Though indeed thou holdest no man innocent, and wilt have the son make amends for the father’s guilt, to the third and fourth generation.
Forgive, I implore thee, this people of thine, as thou art ever abundantly merciful, as thou hast ever shewn favour to us while we made our way from Egypt to this spot.
Then the Lord said, At thy request, I forgive.
But as I am the living Lord, whose glory must spread wide as earth,
these men who have been witnesses of my greatness, of all the marvellous deeds I did, in Egypt and in the desert, yet must needs challenge my power half a score of times, and disobey my will,
these shall never see the land I promised to their fathers; it shall never be enjoyed by those who slighted me.
My servant Caleb was of another mind; he took my part, and I will allow him to enter the land which he surveyed, and leave his race an inheritance there.
The sons of Amalec and Chanaan may rest secure in their mountain glens; to-morrow you must move camp, and go back to the desert by the Red Sea.
Such was the Lord’s message to Moses and Aaron:
Will this thankless multitude never cease complaining; must I hear nothing but lament from the sons of Israel?
Tell them this, As I am living God, the Lord says, the very words you have used in my hearing shall come true;
your bones shall be left to lie in this desert. Of all you that were registered above the age of twenty years, you that have made complaint against me,
not a man shall enter the land in which I swore to make a home for you, except Caleb the son of Jephone and Josue the son of Nun.
These shall make their way in instead, these children of yours that were to be a prey, you thought, to the enemy; they shall have sight, instead, of the land their fathers belittled.
In the desert your bones shall lie;
and until the desert has swallowed them up, these sons of yours shall wander to and fro in it for forty years, doing penance for your unfaithfulness.
For forty days you surveyed the land, and for each day you shall have a year of penance for your sins, and feel my vengeance.
See if I do not make good the threats I have uttered against a thankless and rebellious people, leaving them to faint and die in the desert.
As for the men Moses had sent to survey the country, who returned to embitter the multitude against him by the ill report they brought with them,
they died of plague, there in the Lord’s presence;
of all that went on that errand, only Josue the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephone were left alive.
Meanwhile the people of Israel, upon hearing all this from Moses, were full of remorse;
and at dawn of day they were all up on the mountain heights, crying, We confess our fault; now we are ready to attack the land which the Lord has promised us.
What, said Moses, Would you go beyond the Lord’s word? You will gain nothing by it.
The Lord is not on your side; do not march to the attack, or you will be overthrown by your enemies.
The Lord will not take part with men who have refused him obedience; you will be met by Amalecite and Chanaanite, and their swords will lay you low.
Yet, in their blind confidence, they marched on into the hill country, though the ark of God, and Moses with it, remained there in the camp.
And the men who dwelt in the hill country, Amalecites and Chanaanites, fell on them from above, setting upon them and cutting them down till they had pursued them all the way to Horma.
The Holy Bible