Moses intercedes for the people

A heavy wagon was being dragged along a country lane by a team of oxen. The axles groaned and creaked terribly, when the oxen turned around and spoke to the wheels, “Hey there, why do you make so much noise? We bear all the labor, and we-not you-ought to cry out!” Those … More


The Jews had a long record of complaining against the Lord and their leaders. Their murmuring began on the night of the Exodus when they were sure Pharaoh’s Army was going to kill them (Ex. 14:10-14). As Israel entered the wilderness of Shur, they complained because they didn’t have water to drink (Ex. 15:22-27), and then they murmured because they missed the special meals they had back in Egypt (Ex. 16). At Rephidim, the people were ready to stone Moses because they had no water (Ex. 17:1-7), and at Taberah some of the people complained and were killed by fire (Num. 11:1-3). Because of all of this Moses became so discouraged he wanted to die (Num. 11:11-15).

More than once, Israel in her pride tempted God in the wilderness and He had to punish them (Deut. 6:16). But like a stubborn child, the Jews didn’t seem to learn their lesson. Instead of pleasing the Lord who had done so much for them, they provoked Him to anger and sort of dared Him to act. When God was about to pronounce judgment Moses reasoned with God not to destroy them:

  1. He argued first of all that His glory would be tarnished if Israel were destroyed (vv. 13-15).
  2. His second argument was based on the covenant God had made with the patriarchs years before (that He would give them the land} (v. 16).
  3. His third argument pointed to the character of God and quoted what God Himself had declared to him on Mount Sinai (vv. 17,18).
  4. His final argument was the fact that the Lord had forgiven His people many times before (v. 19).


By my complaining I am saying that I know more than God does about what is best for me. “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Phil. 2:14).

Numbers 14:11-25 (English Standard Version)

And the LORD said to Moses, "How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they." But Moses said to the LORD, "Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them, and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people. For you, O LORD, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, 'It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness.' And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, 'The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.' Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now." Then the LORD said, "I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. Now, since the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valleys, turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea."

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »