Moses described the tragic mistake Israel made at Kadesh-Barnea (see Numbers 13-14). It happened shortly after the Red Sea crossing. God had commanded Israel to go boldly into Canaan and He had given them this powerful word of assurance:
“The Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. . . . Dread not, neither be afraid of them. The Lord our God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes” (Deuteronomy 1:21, 29-30). What an incredible promise. None of their enemies would be able to stand up to them (see 7:24).
But Israel staggered at God’s promise. Instead of taking Him at His Word, they insisted on sending spies into Canaan. And those spies brought back an “evil report,” full of unbelief. They spoke of giant men and high, walled cities, and the people believed their report: “Ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 1:26). Now Moses is telling the younger generation, “They should have moved instantly on God’s Word to them. The Lord had said He would fight for them—but they rebelled.”
Can you see what happened to the older generation? Sending those spies into Canaan was an act of unbelief. And while the spies were there, they were influenced by Satan. They were subject to the enemy’s lies, because they had not believed God.
After hearing the evil report, the people shook their fists at God, accusing, “You’ve abandoned us, God. You brought us here to die.” Just months before, these same people had been set apart by God, made special in His eyes, and miraculously delivered. But now the whole camp was in confusion. They wondered aloud to each other, “Is God even with us anymore?” Soon they were weeping over their children, crying, “Our kids will starve to death in this wilderness. God hates us!”
Moses reminded the younger Israelites of their parents’ accusations: “Ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the Lord hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us” (1:27).