Beginning of the End


Forty Years of Wandering in the Wilderness

For nearly forty years the people of Israel were lost to view in the vast, out-of-the-way desert. In the rebellion at Kadesh they had rejected God, and for the time God had rejected them. Since they had been unfaithful to His covenant, they were not to receive the sign of the covenant, the rite of circumcision. Their desire to return to the land of slavery had proved they were unworthy of freedom, and the Passover, instituted to remember and celebrate their deliverance from slavery, was not to be observed. BOE 200.1

But the tabernacle service continued, showing that God had not completely left His people. And His divine care still supplied their wants. “The Lord your God ... knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing” (Deuteronomy 2:7). God cared for Israel even during these years of banishment: “You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them. ... In the wilderness ... their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell” (Nehemiah 9:20, 21). BOE 200.2

The wilderness was to provide discipline for the rising generation as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. Moses declared, “As a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you,” “to humble you, and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He ... allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:5, 2, 3). BOE 200.3

“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9). BOE 200.4

The rebellion of Korah had resulted in the death of fourteen thousand Israelites, and certain cases of rebellion showed the same spirit of disrespect for God’s authority. BOE 200.5

In one case, one of the mixed multitude that had come up with Israel from Egypt left his own part of the camp and entered that of the Israelites, claiming the right to pitch his tent there. A quarrel developed between him and an Israelite, and the matter was referred to the judges. They decided against the offender. BOE 200.6

Very angry at this decision, he cursed the judge and blasphemed the name of God. He was immediately brought before Moses. The man was placed under guard until the will of God could be known. God Himself pronounced sentence—by divine direction the blasphemer was conducted outside the camp and stoned to death. Those who had been witnesses to the sin placed their hands upon his head, thus solemnly testifying to the truth of the charge against him. Then they threw the first stones, and the people who stood by then joined in executing the sentence. [See Leviticus 24:14; Deuteronomy 17:7.] BOE 201.1