The current manual runs through several episodes of Israelite “murmuring” against the Lord and against Moses, and ends with the account of the call for the Israelites to life their eyes to the brass serpent on the pole, as a foreshadowing of lifting eyes to Jesus Christ on the cross – the lesson’s stated purpose is to encourage class members to look to the Savior and the prophets for guidance. Earlier manuals took a more narrative approach, less moral driven (except when the moral was “don’t complain.”
The two lessons below covering the same ground come from a 1937 seminary text for high school students: J.A. Washburn, Story of the Old Testament (Salt Lake City: LDS Department of Education, 1937).
From Sinai to Kadesh
Note: A year had passed since the Israelites arrifed at Sinai. many things had been accomplished. The camps were well organized; the Ten commandments had been given; the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant were completed. when the people started again, they went in military order. The tribe of Judah was first and Benjamin last. the tabernacle, now taken apart, and the ark were carried by members of the tribe of Levi. In this lap of the journey, Sinai to Kadesh, not many incidents are mentioned, and strangely enough, they are only those which record complains and rebellions. surely, more cheerful things occurred.
Incidents Along the Way.
a. The Start from Sinai (Num. 10:11-12, 33-34). And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony. And the children of Israel took their journey out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. … And they departed from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went of the camp.”
b. Complaint about the Food: Ungratefulness. (Num. 11:4-6, 13, 18, 20, 31-33). And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions and the garlic; but now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, besides this manna, before our eyes … And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not. … Say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to-morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; but even a whole month, until it … be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathereth least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.
c. Complaints against Moses, the Lord’s Anointed (Num. 12). (Retold Story). Miriam and Aaron complained against the authority of Moses, saying, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only to Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?” “And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth … And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he waid, ‘Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall be beheld; wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses’.”
Miriam was stricken with leprosy, but through the prayers and pleadings of Moses she was healed though she had to remain outside the camp seven days according to the ceremonial law of Israel.
d. The Spies – Scouts Sent to Learn about the Land of Canaan (Num. 13:1-2, 17-21, 25-28, 30-33; 14:1-10, 26-33).
1. What the Spies Were to Look For. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.
And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them: Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain, and see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; and what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strongholds; and what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and brine of the fruit of the land.’ Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.
“So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob.” (20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.)
2. The Return and Report. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh, and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said: ‘We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land and the cities are walled, and very great, (and they cried out against Moses).
And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said: Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. but the men that went up with him said: We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying: The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof, and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
3. The Rebellion. And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 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 the wilderness! 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/ And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children in Israel.
4. Heroism of Joshua and Caleb. and Joshua … and Caleb, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes; and they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, the land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceedingly good land. if the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into that land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and money. Oh rebel not yet 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. But all the congregation bade stone them with stones.
5. Punishment for Their Rebellion. And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, … I have heard the murmuring of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. Say to them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in my ears, so will I do to you; your carcasses 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, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb … and Joshua … Bur 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 (rejected) And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years. It was a year for each day the spies were gone.
Comments and Sidelights.
1. Game was scarce in the wilderness. There would be little or no grains or vegetables available for food, and the Israelites could not eat their domestic animals. They were comparatively few and were needed to stock their new homes in Canaan. No doubt the people did get tired of manna, but it was well adapted to their particular needs. They “lusted” for meat. Lust is an unnatural desire or craving. The whole incident suggests ingratitude or unthankfulness. In 1848 the Utah Pioneers had less than manna to eat, but there was no complaining.
Appreciation is a gem
which wisdom’s voice will not condemn
As prized as emeralds or pearls:
Adorn, and wear both boys and girls.
Quails walk more than they fly. When migrating, they fly low near the ground. Being tired when they alighted, and in great numbers, they are easily caught. Note the greed suggested in this incident. The people must have eaten ravenously, stuffed themselves. they not only were unthankful, they lacked self-control and judgment. It is little wonder they were stricken with a plague.
2. David is called “A man after God’s own heart” because he refused to harm or speak evil of the “Lord’s anointed,” or his superior officer. Miriam and Aaron were not so careful. The Lord doesn’t strike us with leprosy or other physical plagues now when we find fault with those in authority, but no one can retain a strong spiritual vigor and health who does speak ill of the Lord’s anointed.
3. Turn to the map now, and note that kadesh was very near the border of Canaan. It was not far from Beersheba and Hebron, the old homes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. they were within a “stone’s throw,” as it were, of the end of their journey.
At Kadesh, Moses might have established headquarters and governed the tribes as they scattered over the country in search of pasture. the tabernacle would have remained there, and perhaps at regular periods all the tribes would assemble there. It is evident that they remained in Kadesh a long time.
Moses had been familiar with the desert and its people from Egypt to Kadesh, but he knew nothing of the country beyond. Sending the spies was indeed a wise thing. how else could they have known the nature of Canaan and its peoples? So did Brigham Young, a great modern leader and pioneer, in 1847.
The spies traveled the entire length of the land of Canaan. they returned with evidence of its fertility. The cluster of grapes was evidently a vine, or large branch. The report included what all agreed on, what the majority said (a false statement), and the true report of Joshua and Caleb.
They no doubt could have entered Canaan then and taken the land. But they were a nation of doubters. they had to remain in the desert forty years and all these doubters died off and a new generation had taken their place. It seems strange to us in these days of rapid travel that they could spend forty years in the wilderness. Considered any way, they could not have gone more than 500 or 600 miles, the distance from Salt Lake City to Denver. Of course they did not travel all the time. they remained at Kadesh and other steps many years at a time.
Questions and Exercises.
1. On the map, measure the distance from (a) Sinai to Kadesh, (b) Kadesh to Jerusalem, the way the spies went, (c) from Sinai to Jerusalem, the way the people finally traveled. give the number of miles in each case.
2. Pick out and read the expression in the text that shows ingratitude on the part of the people.
3. What in this lesson suggests that the people lacked self-control, self direction?
4. On what did all the spies agree? What exaggerations did the ten make? What did Joshua and Caleb say about it?
5. In the statement of the punishment, just who would and who would not get into the land of Canaan?
6. Why was the second generation better prepared than the older one to enter Canaan?
7. How may this forty years in the desert be called the “University of the Desert”?
8. what are the dangers that may come to one who speaks against those in authority over us?
The easy roads are filled with men
Who seek the smoothest ways:
A few there are who now and then
Are shown the rough road pays.
The heights are gained by those who climb
O’er crags and swim the streams;
A victory will come in time
Through work, but not through dreams.
From Kadesh to Jordan: Death of the Leaders
Note: The Israelites seem to have remained for years at Kadesh, on the very borders of Canaan. As stated before, only the discouraging incidents are recorded, the rebellions, deaths, wars, etc. There must have been occasions of rejoicing, socials, games, feasts. Otherwise, how could they have endured the heat and monotony of the desert? The Western Pioneers found relief in song, music, dancing, and religious gatherings.
From Kadesh they decided to go by way of the east side of the Dead Sea. This route was through the countries of the Edomites and the Moabites. They passed around the Edomites, but contacted the Moabites and other Bedouin people on their way.
Incidents from Kadesh to Jordan.
a. Water from the Rocks (Num. 20:1-2, 5, 7-8, 10-12). Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month; and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.
And there was no water for the congregation; and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people spake, saying: And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. … And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. …
And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice; and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.
And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because he believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
b. Edomitees Refuse to Let Israel Pass (Num. 20:14-21). And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom: Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that has befallen us: how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we too dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers: and when we cried unto the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of thy wells: we will go by the king’s highway, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. And Edom said unto him: Thou shalt not pass b me, lest I come up against thee with the sword. And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the highway: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet. and he said: Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passing through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.
c. Death of Aaron. (Num. 20:22-29). And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because he rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor: and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there. And Moses did as the Lord commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount; and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount. and when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even the house of Israel.
d. The Brazen Serpent (Num. 21:4-9). And they journeyed from mount hor by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.
And the people spake against God and against Moses: Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our souls loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses: Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. and Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”
After passing around the Edomites they journeyed through the land of Moab, east of the Dead Sea. While they were encamped in the land of moab, Balak, king of the Moabites, was greatly afraid because of the multitude of the Israelites and sent to the land of the Euphrates for Baalam, a strange prophet, to come and curse Israel (Num. 22-24_. But in spite of Balak’s attempts to stop them the Israelites, like a mountain of drifting sand, pushed on to the Jordan River, north of the Dead Sea. Here Moses left them.
e. Death of Moses (Deut. 31:1-3, 6-8; 34:1-5, 7-8). And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel, And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the Lord hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan. The Lord thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath said … Be strong and of a good courage; fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah that is over against Jericho. And the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar. And the Lord said unto him: This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.’ So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord …
And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.
Comments and Sidelights.
1. In all the long life of Moses we have found nothing to criticize. We marvel at his patience to endure the murmurings and rebellions without complaint. A hundred times we fear we should have said, “Here now, ye rebels”; but Moses tried it only once. What seems a punishment here, after allo, must have been a blessing. Moses was old, and no doubt he was tired and weary from years of trials in the wilderness. It would have been no satisfaction for him to lead Israel across Jordan. And he said unto them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in; also the Lord hath said unto me, ‘Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.’” (Deut. 31:2).
2. Now look at your map, and note the change of direction on the journey. For lack of faith and loyalty they did not go straight not but Canaan. But even round east of the Dead Sea was not so far. But alas! the Sodomites were descended from Esau and the Israelites from Jacob. They were really distant cousins and they remembered the mess of pottage. The detour back by the Red Sea was indeed a trial. The terrible desert with its hot sands and poisonous serpents caused another rebellion. What an opportunity these people had to develop courage, self-control, and determination! There must have been some among them who were loyal to Moses and the Lord.
3. This is a strange funeral, don’t you think? Criminals often knowingly walk to their death. But Aaron was a righteous man. It was all done in order as directed by the Lord. it was a case of a good man going to receive his reward for a life of service. There were no fears, no regrets, only happy expectations.
Those who have fainted in the glare of heat
Shall be at rest beside some cooling stream:
those who in darkness grasped their aching feet
Shall know the dawn-flush and sun’s warm beam.
Born in a moment, at the heart’s last beat,
To realms more perfect than they are to dream.
4. The brazen serpent is referred to by Jesus as a symbol of the cross. He said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son o man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15.) This strange object was kept until the days of King Hezekiah, 705 B.C. He destroyed it because people were worshiping it as an idol. (II Kings 18:4.)
5. What a strange and fascinating story! From the time water flowed from the rock Moses knew he could not enter Canaan. “Ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them,” the Lord said to Moses. Now the time had come for him to leave his people. For forty years he had led them, endured their complaints, carried their burdens, but loved them still.
The multitude assembled to hear his last instructions – his farewell: “I can no more go out or come in,” he said, “but the Lord and Joshua will go over before you. Fear not, be strong and of good courage. The Lord will not fail thee; neither forsake thee.” then he reviewed their journey from Egypt to Jordan, reminding them of the Lord’s mercies in their deliverance.
“If thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments, … he will set thee on high above all nations of the earth,” he promised. Everything a nation or people could desire was in their reach if only they would serve the Lord (Deut. 28).
Then he climbed alone to the top of mount Pisgah and saw with undimmed eyes the land of Canaan from Beersheba to Dan. to the north were the plains of Jordan which lot had chosen because they were well watered. Beyond Moab were the waters of the Dead Sea, and still further, in the upland, Salem, the home of Melchizedek, and Mount Moriah where Abraham had offered Isaac as a sacrifice. To the south were Hebron and Beersheba, the old homes of the patriarchs. Northward were Mounts Tabor, Gilboa, and Carmel, the valley of the Kishon, and Galilee where Jesus later stilled the tempest. At these places and a hundred others made sacred in the later struggles of Israel he saw.
“‘This is the and,’ the Lord said, ‘which I swear unto Abraham unto Isaac and unto Jacob.’ And Moses saw it all but did not enter Canaan, for he died there and was buried by the Lord in the valley of Moab, and “no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.”
Questions and Exercises.
1. Trace on the map the travels of Israel from Kadesh to Jordan.
2. Locate mount Nebo and other places mentioned in the lesson.
3. Give a two-minute talk on the value and development of patience, using Moses’ experience as a basis of your discussion. (Special assignment.)
4. Give a two-minute talk on the value and development of self-control, using incidents in the life of Moses to illustrate. (Special assignment.)
5. Name evils that come to a person as the result of impatience.
6. Just what was the purpose of the brazen serpent?
7. Compare deaths of Moses and Aaron.
8. Turn to Deuteronomy 28 and pick out some blessings promised Israel for obedience.