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and Joshua the son of Nun. 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. But as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, (each day for a year,) shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. I the Lord have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die." Numbers xiv, 26-35.

The condition of the Israelites was now deplorable indeed. The irrevocable decree had gone forth. They stood upon the borders of the land for which they had long sighed, to which all their thoughts had turned, in dreams and in wakeful hours, for many ages, as to their future home and resting place; and now, as the long-deferred hope was about to be realized, as the cup of happiness was about to be placed to their lips, it is suddenly dashed away and broken, and the gloomy horrors of a hopeless desert-life opened up before them. Even this reprieve of forty years was a mercy. Their wickedness had been great, and of this they became at length conscious, when the tumult of passion had subsided. The thoughts of going back to wander and die in the frightful deserts of Arabia Petrea, were appaling. They even preferred to face their Canaanitish enemies, notwithstanding their disparaging odds of numbers and strength; and if they had been disobedient in the first instance in refusing to go forward and possess the land, they are equally so now in resolving, contrary to the Divine sentence, to advance, and attack their foes. The mountains north of the Israelitish camp were the most inaccessible for an army, or a caravan, of any in Arabia. They could be threaded only by three notable and very difficult passes, which were at this time strongly guarded by the hostile Canaanites, whose troops were hovering around at prudent distances from the Hebrew camp. Contrary to the stern remonstrance of Moses, the Israelites now attempt to force these passes, and open their way into the land of Canaan. As Moses had forewarned them, they were defeated

and driven back. Spiritless and sad, with a bold, insulting enemy hanging upon their rear, they now relinquish all hopes of entering the goodly land, and take up their retrograde march into the recesses of the desert. Nothing now remains for them but the certainties of a life of privation and suffering, profitless and vain: cut off prematurely, on account of sin, they can truthfully say,

"All our days are passed away in thy wrath;
We spend our years as a tale that is told."

It was under these circumstances that Moses is reputed to have written the ninetieth Psalm. Read Numbers xii, 16; xiii; xiv.



Moses speaketh of God's providence, 1; of his eternal Godhead, 2; and complaineth of human fragility, 3-6; and of the Divine chastisements, 7-9; and of the brevity of human life, 10, 11; he prayeth for the knowledge and sensible experience of God's good providence, 12-17.

T'A Prayer of 'Moses the man of God.

1 Lord! thou hast been our dwelling-place 'in all



2 Before the mountains were brought forth,

Or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. 3 Thou turnest man to destruction;

And sayest, Return ye children of men.

4 For da thousand years in thy sight Are but as yesterday when it is past, And as a watch in the night.

1 Or, A Prayer, being a Psalm of Moses.

2 De. 88. 1.

De. 83. 27. Ez. 11. 16.

Heb. in generation and generation.

b Pr. 8. 25, 26.

Ge. 8. 19. Ec. 12. 7.

d 2 Pe. 8. 8.

4 Or, when he hath passed them.

5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood;


They are as a sleep:

In the morning 'they are like grass which 'groweth up,

6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; In the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

7 For we are consumed by thine anger,

And by thy wrath are we troubled.

8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee,
Our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
9 For all our days are 'passed away in thy wrath:
We spend our years 'as a tale that is told.

10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; And if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, Yet is their strength labour and sorrow;

For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger?

Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. 12 So teach us to number our days,

That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. 13 Return, O Lord! how long?

And let it 'repent thee concerning thy servants. 14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy!


That we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us,

And the years wherein we have seen evil.

16 Let "thy work appear unto thy servants,

And thy glory unto their children.

17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And Pestablish thou the work of our hands upon us;

Yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

• Ps. 73. 20.

f Ps. 103. 15. Is. 40. 6. Or, is changed.

Ps. 92. 7. Job 14. 2.

h Ps. 50. 21. Je. 16. 17. i Pa. 19. 12.

• Heb. turned away.

? Or, as a meditation.

Heb. As for the days of our
years, in them are seventy

Ps. 89. 4.

Heb. cause to come.

1 De. 82, 86.

m Ps. 85. 6.

n Hab. 8. 2.

• Ps. 27.4
PIs. 26. 12.



In the preceding Introduction we have seen the Israelites driven back from the borders of Canaan into the wilderness, to wander up and down until all that generation, from twenty years old and upward, should die. Their wanderings were mostly confined to Arabia Petrea. If they went south of this, and east of the Red Sea, we have no knowledge of the fact. Several of the encampments, set down in Numbers xxxiii, are identified as belonging to the district of Arabia Petrea, and none have as yet been ascertained to be beyond that limit. That they did not go beyond this desert, on the east, appears further evident from the fact that after the expiration of their thirty-eight years of wandering they found themselves a second time at Kadesh, the memorable place where they had formerly rebelled; a place situated west of the mountains of Edom, which they now desired permission to pass, in order to approach the promised land on the southeast.

The character of the desert over which they wandered for thirty-eight years, is described by travellers as particularly gloomy and inhospitable. It is generally mountainous, with but here and there a valley, a dell, a water course, or a fountain, with herbs, or grass, or shrubs, or perhaps a scanty growth of palm. The central part of this desert is a plateau of elevated land, traversed by rugged, barren hills of limestone rock, with a superficial covering of flint. In the southern part only, at the apex of the peninsula of mount Sinai, appear the lofty and sublime granite mountains of Sinai and Horeb, rising from the awful solitudes of the desert in cheerless and sterile grandeur. None but Arabs and the hardy animals of the desert can subsist in these regions, and these only sparsely.

Among the perils of the desert life must be reckoned the exposure to venomous serpents and reptiles, with which Arabia Petrea is infested. On the east of this desert, and at the southern limit of Canaan, is a hill, or a chain of hills, called in Scripture the "ascent of Acrabbim," or hill of scorpions. It is probably the same as the northern section of the mountains of

Arabah. It was in this region that the Israelites were bitten by serpents, and died as a judgment for their murmurings and impieties. Numbers xxi, 4-9. The miracle did not consist in creating the serpents for the occasion, but in causing them to come forth from their dens at that particular time and in such vast numbers. Moses afterward warns the people not to forget God, "who," says he, "led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water." Deuteronomy viii, 15. This seems alluded to in Psalm xci, 13.

The younger generation of the Israelites, who were under twenty years, whom God had promised to bring into the land, had witnessed the divine judgments upon the rebellious Israelites at Sinai, (Exodus xxxii, 28; Numbers iii, 4;) at Taberah, (Numbers xi, 1-3;) at Kibroth-hattaavah, (Numbers xi, 33, 34;) at Kadesh-barnea, (Numbers xvi, 24-35;) and still later in the valley of Arabah, near mount Hor, (Numbers xxi, 4–8;) and after the sentence had been passed upon that evil congregation, to return from their station at Kadesh, and wander and die in the desert, it would be but natural for the excepted junior portion to yield to the influence of fear, and, together with their sires, to despair of ever reaching the goodly land. The impressions of dread and terror at what they had witnessed, might tempt them to give up their trust in Divine Providence. The diseases, the plagues, the miraculous agencies, the venomous serpents, the fatigues and privations which had cut off so many, and were appointed to waste and destroy the entire adult portion of the people, would appal all hearts, and might lead the unwary and ignorant to suppose that God was evilly disposed, and would make no distinction between the good and the bad.

"As the ninetieth Psalm," says Mr. Peters, a respectable Biblical scholar of the last century, "appears calculated for those who were to die in the wilderness, so the ninety-first Psalm seems evidently designed for those who were to survive his threatened devastation, and whom, therefore, he arms against the fear of death by a religious trust in God; with the promise of a miraculous protection to such as trusted in him. Both Psalms seem to have been composed soon after the irrevocable decree was passed, (Numbers xiv,) which condemned one part of them, 'all who were numbered from twenty years old and

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