From Eternity Past


Chapter 36—Forty Years of Wandering in the Wilderness

For nearly forty years the children of Israel were lost to view in the obscurity of the desert. In the rebellion at Kadesh they had rejected God, and God had for the time rejected them. Since they had proved 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 shown them to be unworthy of freedom; and the Passover, instituted to commemorate deliverance from bondage, was not to be observed. EP 285.1

Yet the continuance of the tabernacle service testified that God had not utterly forsaken His people. And His providence still supplied their wants. “The Lord thy God ... knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the Lord thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.” Deuteronomy 2:7. God cared for Israel even during these years of banishment: “Thou gavest also Thy good Spirit to instruct them... . In the wilderness ... their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.” Nehemiah 9:20, 21. EP 285.2

The wilderness was to serve as a discipline for the rising generation, preparatory to their entrance into the Promised Land. Moses declared, “As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee,” “to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no. And He ... suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” Deuteronomy 8:5, 2, 3. EP 285.3

“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 bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah 63:9. EP 286.1

The revolt of Korah had resulted in the destruction of fourteen thousand of Israel. And isolated cases showed the same spirit of contempt for divine authority. EP 286.2

On one occasion one of the mixed multitude that had come up with Israel from Egypt left his own part of the camp, and entering that of the Israelites, claimed the right to pitch his tent there. A dispute arose between him and an Israelite, and the matter being referred to the judges was decided against the offender. EP 286.3

Enraged at this decision, he cursed the judge and blasphemed the name of God. He was immediately brought before Moses. The man was placed in ward until the will of God could be ascertained. 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 afterward joined in executing the sentence. [See Leviticus 24:14; Deuteronomy 17:7.] EP 286.4