The Wilderness Wanderings

The Wandering in the Wilderness

Deuteronomy 2:7 - For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.

The Old Testament - A Brief Overview

The Wilderness Wanderings

From Sinai, God led the Israelites through "the great and terrible wilderness" to Kadesh (the border of the promised land). Moses sent 12 spies, one from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, into Canaan to explore the land. The spies returned with glowing reports of the fruitfulness of the land. They brought back samples of its figs and pomegranates and a cluster of grapes so large that it had to be carried between two men on a pole (Num. 13:1-25)

The majority of the spies, however, voted against the invasion of the land because of the huge inhabitants of Canaan, and fortified cities "walled to heaven". It was a report of doom. Yet two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, brought back a report full of faith and encouragement.

Num 13:30-33 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we." And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. "There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." . . . Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it."

But the people lost heart and rebelled, refusing to enter Canaan and crying for a new leader who would take them back to Egypt. To punish them for their lack of faith, God condemned all of that generation, except Caleb and Joshua, to perish in the wilderness for 40 years (Num. 14:26-38). All those 20 years old and up would indeed perish in the wilderness with the exception of Joshua and Caleb.

During these years of wandering in the wilderness, Moses' patience was continually tested by the murmurings, grumblings, and complaints of the people. At one point, Moses' patience reached its breaking point and he sinned against the Lord, in anger against the people. When the people again grumbled against Moses, saying they had no water, the Lord told Moses to speak to the rock and water would flow forth. Instead, Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. Apparently because he disobeyed the Lord in this act, Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land (Num. 20:1-13). That privilege would belong to his successor, Joshua.

After 40 years the sandglass ran out and Moses brought the tribes back to Kadesh. They camped on the plains of Moab where Moses spoke to them for the last time. Moses then turned his leadership over to Joshua. God led him to the top of Mount Nebo to see the land and there Moses died.