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The Israelite's unwillingness to obey the Lord and conquer the land of Canaan was "the last straw". God was fed up with their unfaithfulness and disobedience. He was ready to send a plague to kill them all and start over with Moses (which reminds us of Noah). Moses pleaded with the Lord to pardon the people and God responds: "The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it" (Numbers 14:20-24). Another important reason for God's anger with his people is the cosmic battle between good and evil. Satan and his demonic hordes have always been trying to destroy everything good that God created and to thwart God's plan to use his chosen people to bring justice, righteousness, love and faithfulness (God's kingdom) back into his created world. We see this clearly in the references to the Nephilim in Numbers 13:28-29 and 13:31-33. The Nephilim are first mentioned in Genesis 5:1-8 when the Sons of God (evil angels) became human beings and mated with the Daughters of Men (human women) to produce a race of giants that would fill the earth with evil and wickedness. God dealt with this proliferation of evil by wiping out the entire human race and starting over with Noah and his family. But the DNA of evil had already corrupted the genes of Noah's family. The Nephilim appeared again after the flood through two human leaders, Anak (the Anakites) and Rapha (the Raphaites). The land of Canaan was the best land on planet earth and these men corrupted that land with evil and wickedness. The spies understood that the descendants of Anak and Rapha lived in these lands. They were human giants, over 9 feet tall, and incredibly strong. Remember the story of David and Goliath - Goliath was over 9 feet tall and as strong as 3 men. He and his brother were descendents of Rapha. Og, king of Bashan was also over 9 feet tall, a descendant of Anak, whom Joshua later defeated. The description of the spies shows the fear produced by this race of wicked giants. "But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there" (Numbers 13:28). "We can't attack these people, they are stronger than we are (Numbers 13:31). "They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:32-33). When the people of Israel returned to Canaan 40 years later led by Joshua, the Lord commanded them to destroy every living thing from the entire land of Canaan. The only exceptions were the Moabites (descendants of Lot), the Edomites (descendants of Esau) and the Ammonites (tricked Joshua into a peace treaty). Have you ever wondered why God was dealing so harshly with "ALL" the people living in the vast land of Canaan? It was because of the proliferation of evil and wickedness seeded by the Anakites and Raphaites, the descendants of the Nephilim. God was determined to wipe out every trace of this evil, but the Israelites were again unfaithful and intermingled with these races. That led to their own corruption and decay, and eventually, their 70 year exile from the land. The message of this story is clear. Our faithfulness to God is vital to his work of purging the effects of evil and wickedness from every part of our lives and world. We, too, wander and suffer in the wilderness of our world when we are unfaithful to God. But God even used the wandering to "harden" his people for the battles to claim the promised land.
The children of Israel were condemned by God to wander for forty years in the wilderness of Sinai after their exodus from their prior slavery in Egypt (instead of entering the "promised land" of Canaan immediately), because of their lack of faith in God. After the exodus and the giving of the Law by God to Israel at Mount Sinai, God had told Moses to send spies into Canaan to scout it out, and then bring a report of it back to the people. Twelve spies were sent (one from each Israelite tribe). They scouted out the land for forty days, and then returned. Ten of the twelve spies confirmed that the land was indeed a bountiful "land of milk and honey", but said that the cities and inhabitants of it were too strong for the Israelites to capture or defeat. Only two of the spies (Joshua and Caleb) encouraged the people to immediately advance into the land, and to have faith that God would be with them (as He had just shown repeatedly in their exodus from Egypt), and would assure their victory. The people believed the report of the ten spies, and decided to choose a leader to take them back to Egypt (even though they had been slaves there before). At that point, God punished the people for their lack of faith by first killing the ten spies who had advised the people against proceeding, and then instructing Moses to have the people to turn back into the wilderness, where they would be condemned to wander for forty years (one year for each day that the spies had scouted out the land) until all the adult Israelites who had rebelled and had refused to enter Canaan would be dead. Only their children would be allowed to enter the Promised Land (in addition to Joshua and Caleb because of the faith in God that they had shown). All these events are recounted in Numbers 13-14.
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