Numbers 14:4
And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Numbers 14:4. A captain — Instead of Moses, one who will be more faithful to our interest than he. Nehemiah tells us they actually appointed them a captain. Into Egypt — Stupendous madness, insolence, and ingratitude! Had not God both delivered them from Egypt by a train of unparalleled wonders, and followed them ever since with continued miracles of mercy? But whence should they have protection against the hazards, and provisions against all the wants of the wilderness? Could they expect either God’s cloud to cover and guide them, or manna from heaven to feed them? Who could conduct them over the Red sea? Or, if they went another way, who should defend them against those nations whose borders they were to pass? What entertainment could they expect from the Egyptians, whom they had deserted and brought to so much ruin?14:1-4 Those who do not trust God, continually vex themselves. The sorrow of the world worketh death. The Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron, and in them reproached the Lord. They look back with causeless discontent. See the madness of unbridled passions, which makes men prodigal of what nature accounts most dear, life itself. They wish rather to die criminals under God's justice, than to live conquerors in his favour. At last they resolve, that, instead of going forward to Canaan, they would go back to Egypt. Those who walk not in God's counsels, seek their own ruin. Could they expect that God's cloud would lead them, or his manna attend them? Suppose the difficulties of conquering Canaan were as they imagined, those of returning to Egypt were much greater. We complain of our place and lot, and we would change; but is there any place or condition in this world, that has not something in it to make us uneasy, if we are disposed to be so? The way to better our condition, is to get our spirits in a better frame. See the folly of turning from the ways of God. But men run on the certain fatal consequences of a sinful course.A land that eateth up ... - i. e. it is a land which from its position is exposed to incessant attacks from one quarter and another, and so its occupants must be always armed and watchful. 2-4. Would God that we had died in Egypt—Such insolence to their generous leaders, and such base ingratitude to God, show the deep degradation of the Israelites, and the absolute necessity of the decree that debarred that generation from entering the promised land [Nu 14:29-35]. They were punished by their wishes being granted to die in that wilderness [Heb 3:17; Jude 5]. A leader to reconduct them to Egypt is spoken of (Ne 9:17) as actually nominated. The sinfulness and insane folly of their conduct are almost incredible. Their conduct, however, is paralleled by too many among us, who shrink from the smallest difficulties and rather remain slaves to sin than resolutely try to surmount the obstacles that lie in their way to the Canaan above. A captain, instead of Moses, one who will be more faithful to our interest than he. This was but a purpose or desire, and yet it is imputed to them as if they had done it, Nehemiah 9:16,17, they appointed a captain, &c., even as Abraham’s purpose to offer up Isaac is reckoned for the deed, Hebrews 11:17.

Let us return into Egypt. Stupendous madness! Whence should they have protection against the many hazards, and provision against all the wants of the wilderness? Could they expect either God’s cloud to cover and guide them, or manna from Heaven to lead them? Who should conduct them over the Red Sea? or, if they went another way, who should defend them against those nations whose borders they were to pass? What entertainment could they expect if the Egyptians, whom they had deserted and brought to so much ruin? And they said one to another, let us make a captain,.... An head over them instead of Moses, who they knew would never take the government and care of them, should they resolve to return to Egypt as they proposed, and besides were now so disaffected to him, that they might not care he should. Captains they had over their several tribes, but they chose to have one chief commander and general over them all; Nehemiah says they did appoint one; which they either actually did, or this proposal was interpreted as if really put in execution, they being so desirous of it, and bent upon it; wherefore their will is taken for the deed, and so understood; see Nehemiah 9:17,

and let us return into Egypt: which was downright madness, as some interpreters have justly observed; they must not only expect to be deserted by Moses, through whose means so many miracles had been wrought for them, and who was so wise and faithful a governor of them; and by Aaron their priest, who offered their sacrifices, and prayed for them, and blessed them; and by such a valiant general as Joshua, who had fought for them against their enemies; but by the Lord himself, so that they could not expect the manna to be continued as food for them, nor the pillar of cloud and fire as a guide unto them, nor to be protected from their enemies, on the borders of whose countries they must pass; so that their destruction in the wilderness seemed inevitable; and if they could have surmounted these and other difficulties, what manner of reception could they expect to find in Egypt, on whose account all the firstborn of man and beast among them were slain, whom they had spoiled of their riches, and whose king and his army, and in it perhaps the, flower of the nation, were drowned in the Red sea, for their sakes? What therefore could they think of, if they had any sober thought at all, but utter ruin, should they return there again?

And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 4. - Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. Although this was only proposed in the wildness of their distress, yet it was a height of rebellion to which they had never risen before. They had lamented that they had not died in Egypt, and they had wished themselves back in Egypt, but they had never proposed to take any overt steps towards returning thither. Nothing less than an entire and deliberate revolt was involved in the wish to elect a captain for themselves, for the angel of the covenant was the Captain of the Lord's host (Joshua 5:14, 15). The proposal to depose him, and to choose another in his place, marked the extremity of the despair, the unbelief, and the ingratitude of the people. But his companions were of an opposite opinion, and declared that the people in Canaan were stronger than the Israelites, and therefore it was impossible to go up to it.
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