Numbers 14:40
And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned.
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(40) Into the top of the mountain.—Or, towards the top of the mountain. This appears to have been the same route as that by which the spies had gone into the south country of Judæa. (See Numbers 13:17.) It seems to be implied in w. 44, 45 that the people did not actually ascend the top of the adjoining mountain.

14:40-45 Some of the Israelites were now earnest to go forward toward Canaan. But it came too late. If men would but be as earnest for heaven while their day of grace lasts, as they will be when it is over, how well would it be for them! That which has been duty in its season, when mistimed, may be turned into sin. Those who are out of the way of their duty, are not under God's protection, and go at their peril. God bade them go, and they would not; he forbade them, and they would go. Thus is the carnal mind enmity against God. They had distrusted God's strength; they now presume upon their own without his. And the expedition fails accordingly; now the sentence began to be executed, that their carcases should fall in the wilderness. That affair can never end well, which begins with sin. The way to obtain peace with our friends, and success against our enemies, is, to have God, as our Friend, and to keep in his love. Let us take warning from the fate of Israel, lest we perish after the same example of unbelief. Let us go forth, depending on God's mercy, power, promise, and truth; he will be with us, and bring our souls to everlasting rest.My breach of promise - In the original, a word, found elsewhere only in Job 30:10, and meaning "my withdrawals" "my turning away." See the margin. 40-45. they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain—Notwithstanding the tidings that Moses communicated and which diffused a general feeling of melancholy and grief throughout the camp, the impression was of very brief continuance. They rushed from one extreme of rashness and perversity to another, and the obstinacy of their rebellious spirit was evinced by their active preparations to ascend the hill, notwithstanding the divine warning they had received not to undertake that enterprise.

for we have sinned—that is, realizing our sin, we now repent of it, and are eager to do as Caleb and Joshua exhorted us—or, as some render it, though we have sinned, we trust God will yet give us the land of promise. The entreaties of their prudent and pious leader, who represented to them that their enemies, scaling the other side of the valley, would post themselves on the top of the hill before them, were disregarded. How strangely perverse the conduct of the Israelites, who, shortly before, were afraid that, though their Almighty King was with them, they could not get possession of the land; and yet now they act still more foolishly in supposing that, though God were not with them, they could expel the inhabitants by their unaided efforts. The consequences were such as might have been anticipated. The Amalekites and Canaanites, who had been lying in ambuscade expecting their movement, rushed down upon them from the heights and became the instruments of punishing their guilty rebellion.

Gat them up, i.e. designed, or attempted, or prepared themselves to go up; for that they were not yet actually gone up, plainly appears from Numbers 14:42,44, and from Deu 1:41. Things designed or endeavoured in Scripture phrase are oft said to be done. See on Genesis 37:21,22 Exo 8:18.

And they rose up early in the morning,.... The next morning after they had heard the bad news of their consumption in the wilderness; not being able, perhaps, to sleep that night with the thoughts of it, and being now in a great haste to go up and possess the land of Canaan, as they were before to return to Egypt:

and gat them up into the top of the mountain; which was the way the spies went into the land of Canaan, Numbers 13:17; this they did not actually ascend, as appears from Numbers 14:44; but they determined upon it, and got themselves ready for it:

saying, lo, we be here; this they said either to one another, animating each other to engage in the enterprise; or to Moses and Joshua, signifying that they were ready to go up and possess the land, if they would put themselves at the head of them, and take the command and direction of them:

and will go up unto the place which the Lord hath promised: the land of Canaan:

for we have sinned; in not going up to possess it, when they were bid to go, and in listening to the spies that brought an ill report of it, and by murmuring against Moses and Aaron, and the Lord himself, and proposing to make them a captain and return to Egypt, Numbers 14:2, but this acknowledgment and repentance were not very sincere, by what follows.

And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have {q} sinned.

(q) They confessed their sin in rebelling against God, but did not consider their offence in going up without God's commandment.

40. the top of the mountain] Perhaps a particular hill in the south of the Negeb, close to Kadesh: but it may denote more generally ‘the high ground of the hill country.’

Verse 40. - Early in the morning. Wishing to anticipate the retrograde movement commanded by God (verse 25). Into the top of the mountain. What summit is here spoken of as the object of their enterprise is quite uncertain. Probably it was some ridge not far distant which seemed to them from below to be the height of land, but was itself commanded by loftier heights beyond. For we have sinned. The prospect of being taken at their own word, and being excluded from the land which lay so near, brought home to them a sense of their folly; but their repentance merely consisted in a frantic effort to avoid the punishment which their sin had incurred. Numbers 14:40(cf. Deuteronomy 1:41-44). The announcement of the sentence plunged the people into deep mourning. But instead of bending penitentially under the judgment of God, they resolved to atone for their error, by preparing the next morning to go to the top of the mountain and press forward into Canaan. And they would not even suffer themselves to be dissuaded from their enterprise by the entreaties of Moses, who denounced it as a transgression of the word of God which could not succeed, and predicted their overthrow before their enemies, but went presumptuously (לעלות יעפּלוּ) up without the ark of the covenant and without Moses, who did not depart out of the midst of the camp, and were smitten by the Amalekites and Canaanites, who drove them back as far as Hormah. Whereas at first they had refused to enter upon the conflict with the Canaanites, through their unbelief in the might of the promise of God, now, through unbelief in the severity of the judgment of God, they resolved to engage in this conflict by their own power, and without the help of God, and to cancel the old sin of unbelieving despair through the new sin of presumptuous self-confidence, - an attempt which could never succeed, but was sure to plunge deeper and deeper into misery. Where "the top (or height) of the mountain" to which the Israelites advanced was, cannot be precisely determined, as we have no minute information concerning the nature of the ground in the neighbourhood of Kadesh. No doubt the allusion is to some plateau on the northern border of the valley mentioned in Numbers 14:25, viz., the Wady Murreh, which formed the southernmost spur of the mountains of the Amorites, from which the Canaanites and Amalekites came against them, and drove them back. In Deuteronomy 1:44, Moses mentions the Amorites instead of the Amalekites and Canaanites, using the name in a broader sense for all the Canaanites, and contenting himself with naming the leading foes with whom the Amalekites who wandered about in the Negeb had allied themselves, as Bedouins thirsting for booty. These tribes came down (Numbers 14:45) from the height of the mountain to the lower plateau or saddle, which the Israelites had ascended, and smote them and יכּתוּם (from כּתת, with the reduplication of the second radical anticipated in the first: see Ewald, 193, c.), "discomfited them, as far as Hormah," or as Moses expressed it in Deuteronomy 1:44, They "chased you, as bees do" (which pursue with great ferocity any one who attacks or disturbs them), "and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah." There is not sufficient ground for altering "in Seir" into "from Seir," as the lxx, Syriac, and Vulgate have done. But בּשׂעיר might signify "into Seir, as far as Hormah." As the Edomites had extended their territory at that time across the Arabah towards the west, and taken possession of a portion of the mountainous country which bounded the desert of Paran towards the north (see at Numbers 34:3), the Israelites, when driven back by them, might easily be chased into the territory of the Edomites. Hormah (i.e., the ban-place) is used here proleptically (see at Numbers 21:3).
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