« PreviousContinue »
require that it should be carried on a staff between two men, to keep it from trailing on the ground. The account which they gave of the productiveness of the country was most satisfactory; but what they said of its military capabilities was entirely the reverse. Of the land, they said “it surely 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 moreover, we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south : and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.”
There was a great commotion throughout all this great host. Among such multitudes the timid are always more numerous than the brave; and fear is always more contagious than courage. The report about the giants, children of Anak,—such men as the company had never yet seenand about the walled cities, appalled the people. The brave Caleb, and doubtless also Joshua, stood up before them with a different aspect, and a courageous cry; “Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” He was overborne by the testimony of the other ten. Terror had taken possession of these, and was now heightened by the general spread of fear. “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,” was repeated by the ten dismayed spies.
Through all the night there was weeping everywhere in
1 The author of this work has himself purchased at Jaffa a cluster two feet long: on mentioning this to other officers of the same ship (the U. S. ship Delaware), they said that they had seen clusters still longer. The grapes on it were not large or thickly clustered, but this cluster would require to be carried in the manner here specified, in order to keep it from being injured in transportation, or greatly wearying the person carrying it.
the camp. Those Eastern nations are always a demonstrative people; and the Israelites on this occasion felt that there was no reason for restraint, but the contrary. Darkness, too, is always suggestive of increased causes of alarm; and terrors which in daylight men can brace themselves up to meet, at night take proportions before which the bravest sometimes shrink. By morning, the terror heightened by this general weeping had the complete mastery over the multitudes. When Moses and Aaron attempted to withstand it, they were met by a universal cry, “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt !” « Would God that we had died in this wilderness!”—for a quiet death in the wilderness seemed to them less terrific than by violence from these giants.
The feeling in the camp was beginning to be dangerous to the two leaders themselves. As they stood there, firmly opposing the general alarm, they saw people's eyes either turned from them as unwilling to meet theirs, or flashing back an angry or a defiant expression. Looks were scowling, and soon became fierce, and then were knit into expressions of set purposes of resistance.
There was clearly a mutiny! and finally it spoke out, boldly in determined words. There had always been bad men in the camp, jealous of Moses, envious, plotting, and mischievous, whenever there was opportunity for mischief. There always will be such in society, and they are as cunning as mischievous. Among the Israelites, such men had been ever busy with insinuations and evil designs; but they had been kept down hitherto by the general sentiment in favor of the leaders. The poison from their words had, however, worked in men's hearts; and now, aided by new efforts from the malcontents, it showed its effects openly. The whole camp broke out in one mutinous cry, “ 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.”
Moses and Aaron felt that there was, indeed, no help now, but from on high. They fell on their faces before God, in the sight of the people; a mute appeal to heaven and a sign of shame that those men could utter such words.
Joshua and Caleb rent their clothes in grief and anger. They tried a remonstrance: “The land which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fean 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."
Alas! the faith of the Israelites that God was with them had been dimmed! They had so often shown themselves perverse and distrustful, that perversity and distrust had grown almost into an irksomeness of God's presence. They were in a turmoil of passions now,—of fear, of regrets, of longing for Egypt, of resentment against Moses and Aaron, of doubts about God himself. Any appeal to their faith was only adding fresh irritations: even reason employed in argument stung them only into more furious rage. In the same degree with which they had previously respected Joshua and Caleb as brave men, they hated them now as the abettors of Moses and Aaron: passion and fury ruled in the demonstrative multitude: a universal shout arose to stone Joshua and Caleb !
But suddenly a deep silence fell upon all the multitudes. They were arrested midway in their murderous attempt: faces changed in an instant from the fierceness of anger into an expression of awe; hands raised, or clenching deadly missiles, fell as if palsied and incapable; cold fear and a horror took the place of the burning rage just now firing the hosts. All eyes had been drawn suddenly to manifestations of the peculiar presence of God in the Tabernacle, which his glory was now filling, and from which it was beaming forth. God was there strikingly and emphatically manifesting himself. The people were caught in the very act of mutinous and insane deeds of deadly intent, and they felt like detected culprits, which they knew themselves actually to be.
Moses hastened to the Tabernacle; and he there had a revelation that filled his great heart with dismay. God said, “ How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed them? I will smite them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.” Moses answered, “ Then the Egyptians shall hear it;" and he added that all adjoining nations would rejoice at the destruction of God's favored people, and at the apparent inability of God to protect and help them. He ended with the prayer, “Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt even until now.”
The prayer was granted to a certain extent. It was, indeed, made too clearly evident, even to human perception, that these people were not of such character and disposition as to do credit to any divine cause with which they might be connected. So abject had they become in that slavery for which they were even now longing again on account of its few meagre sensual comforts, so dulled in intellect and so brutalized, that nothing short of a miracle upon the mind seemed capable of elevating them to the sphere which it was intended that they should occupy. They were turbulent, ill-tempered, seditious ; easily acted upon by trifling circumstances or by mischievous people; and altogether wanting in steadiness of purpose or in firm principle of action or in steady faith. God had tried to elevate them, but his strong efforts and the great providences necessary to this had only produced in them presumption, and sometimes insolence; and now they had broken into open mutiny. They were clearly not the people fit to go in and possess the Promised Land, even though the way to such possession should be made clear by divine interposition : nor would they honor God's cause after such possession.
The divine declaration was now made to Moses in the Tabernacle, that a part of the burden of their prayer, namely, “would God that we had died in this wilderness," should, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua and all under twenty years of age, be granted ; and for the rest, it was emphatically declared, “ As ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: your carcases 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. . . . . But 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."
The multitudes were standing without the Tabernacle in trepidation. They knew that they were guilty, and that they had been caught in the very act of rebellion against God. The glory in the Tabernacle was filling them with awe. They knew the power of Jehovah, for they had seen it against their enemies at the Red Sea :—was it now about to overwhelm themselves? They knew there could be no escape from it: they stood silently in fear or they slunk away to their tents, everywhere meeting, however, only looks of alarm and of self-condemnation.
Moses came out, and the divine decision was promulgated. Part of it met with a speedy fulfilment; for the recreant ten out of the twelve sent to examine the land were seized immediately by disease in the form of plague, and perished, -the first of the immense multitude that were to die off