In Righteous Lot, Forgotten Hero, we covered many of the dramatic events leading up to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was there in Lot's day when a second Nephilim event occurred; i.e. when fallen angels had sex with human women producing supernatural offspring. (The first Nephilim event had begun some years before it's first mentioned in Gen. 6:1-7, and depicts man's participation in that supernatural, genetic sin as the cause for Noah's flood.)
Scripture never states exactly when the second event began, however it makes sense to see its start in the years prior to Abraham and Lot's first arrival in Canaan (Gen. 12:5-6). Consider, "In ch. 6 he [Satan] aimed at the whole human race. Now he aims at Abraham and his land. Here is the second explanation of the words "after that" in [Genesis] 6.4. He pre-occupies territory ready to dispute the advance. The Canaanite "was then" = "being already" there (cp. 13.7). The progeny of the later attempt to corrupt the race had to be destroyed by the sword of Israel, as those "in the days of Noah" had been by the Flood."--Bullinger's Companion Bible. This second event had begun prior to Abraham's and Lot's arrival in Canaan, meaning everyone involved should have known of the giants being there beforehand.
Scripture never stated that all of the neighboring giants were killed off in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Certainly any giants living within close proximity would have been immediately wiped out, yet it's famously known from the Bible that other giants lived on until at least the time of David (1Sam. 17:4-7). The fact that numerous giants resided in the Promised Land over these many years could not have been easily overlooked. It must have been a regular point of discussion that would have assuredly promoted fear in the congregation of Israel throughout the generations from Abraham to Moses.
So when Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, it's impossible to imagine that giants weren't also very much on the minds of the children of Israel. Of course by this time numerous stories about the giants in Canaan would have been very well known. Many centuries had elapsed since the days of Noah's flood, yet the history surrounding that event would have remained. From Moses' earliest years he would have heard of giants in the Land, and as we shall see, his fear of them is what caused disfavor with God, disallowing him entrance into the Promised Land!
Close to a year and a half after departing Egypt in the Exodus, Moses finds himself led by God to a place called Kadesh-Barnea. It was here where the children of Israel were first poised to enter the Promised Land (Deut. 1:19). Moses tells them, "Behold, 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."--Deut. 1:21; KJV. Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says, "discouraged = "to be broken down with fear, to be confounded."
What could possibly be the cause of their great fear, since they are now finally poised to leave the wilderness after many months of wandering? Why be fearful and terrified of a land that was supposed to flow with milk and honey compared to the desert wilderness they had been wandering in? According to Scripture, the only rationale for this is that there was already a great fear of the giants in the land, as previously mentioned.
After encouraging the children of Israel to faithfully follow his lead into the Land that God had promised them, Moses also said, "Then all of you approached me and said, 'Let us send men before us, that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up, and the cities which we shall enter.' And the thing pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe. And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the valley of Eschol, and spied it out."--Deut. 1:22-23; NASB. And, in another place Moses said, "And see what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many. And how is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are they like open camps or with fortifications."--Nu. 13:18-19; NASB. Right here begins their downfall. Had they merely followed God's previous instruction to enter the Land, then they wouldn't have had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years!
By following the desires of the people rather than God's command, Moses also stumbled for fear of the people in the land, and as a result, God said, "Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan..."--Nu. 13:2a; NASB. Consider, "Although sending scouts was by divine direction, it originated in the unbelief of the people (Deut. 1:22-23)...The scouting expedition would have been quite unnecessary for a people who truly believed what God had said."--Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament (M.F. Unger). It was not originally God's intent to send spies into the land. No, the idea began with the people, and then was favored by Moses above God's prior command to enter the Land. If Moses had merely followed God's initial instructions, then the congregation of Israel wouldn't have had to wander in the desert for 40 years. God already knew what the final outcome would be, and told Moses to send the spies into the land for himself; i.e. not for God.
Apparently to further provoke the situation, God ordered Moses to choose the spies from amongst the favorites of the people. Notice, "of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them."--Nu. 13:2b; KJV. And, "In contrast to the chieftains who were chosen by God (e.g., to conduct the census, 1:4-17, and to parcel the land, 34:16-29), the chieftains sent to scout the land were to be chosen by Moses--an indication that the Lord disapproved of the project from the start. Ramban also notes that no lot was used to select the scouts (cf. 1:5-15; 34:19-28), a further indication of the Lord's displeasure with the idea of sending scouts. Therefore, God, as it were, told Moses: If you want them, you must pick them...Thus the men were not ordinary military scouts...but distinguished leaders of each tribe..."--The Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary.
God ordered Moses to choose men according to their popular standing in each one's respective tribe, because He already knew the report of ten of the spies would be overwhelmingly terrifying to the Israelites. God wanted to make sure that the children of Israel learned a hard lesson in their rebellion. Ultimately the ten unfaithful spies died as a result of promoting the idea that God could not defeat the giants (Nu. 14:36-37)!
Cannibalism in the Land
According to the spies the Promised Land turned out to be exactly as the children of Israel had feared. Upon their return after 40 days, the report of many giants there terrified the people. Notice, "When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the assembly of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Thus they told him, and said, 'We went into the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there."--Nu. 13:25-28; NASB.
The first part of the report confirmed God's promise to provide the Israelites with a very fertile land that flowed with milk and honey, yet the spies also confirmed for Moses and the people that giants lived there as well. Bullinger's Companion Bible states, "children of Anak = "...These were the result of a second irruption of the fallen angels. See Gen. 6.4, "after that". These are called "Nephilim" in v. 33." The giant descendants of Anak were many in number, and large in stature (Deut. 2:10-11). And, it wasn't only the size and strength of the giants and their armies that terrified all of the congregation of Israel. As it turns out, a part of the spies' report stated that there were cannibals in the Land. This must have played large in fueling their worst fears!
Of the twelve spies sent, only two were faithful in defending Almighty God despite the strength and reputation of the giants and their armies. These two were Caleb and Joshua. Once the initial report from the ten unfaithful spies was heard, Caleb is the first to defend God's ability to conquer the giants. Notice, "Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, 'We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.' But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.' So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size."--Nu. 13:30-32; NASB. The varying giants living in the Land were cannibalistic, hence the meaning of, "a land that devours its inhabitants." This is the meaning the spies meant to convey, and neither Caleb nor Joshua are ever heard denying this claim.
Notice how the spies' report also said, "We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that's what they thought, too!"--Nu. 13:33; NLT. Did the twelve spies literally think they were proportionately the size of grasshoppers when compared to the size of the giants? Hardly. The spies were merely drawing on the fact that grasshoppers were the smallest creatures considered clean to eat according to the Biblical diet they had been taught to follow, and they thought the giants in the land looked on them as food to be eaten. Using a metaphor to describe themselves as grasshoppers when compared to the cannibalistic giants in this case could not have been better!
Consider the additional comments by Caleb and Joshua as further proof that cannibalism was most assuredly evident in the Land, "And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not."--Nu. 14:6-9; KJV. Could it be any plainer?
The words of Caleb and Joshua clearly agree with the grasshopper metaphor by saying the conquered giants would be bread for the Israelites. They certainly didn't mean that anyone would actually eat any of the giants by saying they would be bread for them. They were simply speaking bold sarcasm against the thinking of the ten unfaithful spies that the cannibal gaints in the Land couldn't be beaten by Almighty God. Their use of such figurative language was meant to encourage the people away from wanting to return to Egypt instead of taking the Land as God had commanded. It's undoubtedly apparent from the text that both Caleb and Joshua knew that cannibalistic giants dominated the Land!
Moses Stumbles Further
As we've already established, Moses' sin began when he agreed with the thinking of the people who wanted to send spies into the Land. Then things got worse after the people reacted to learning of the cannibalistic giants there. Notice, "Then all the people began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of complaint against Moses and Aaron. "We wish we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!" they wailed. "Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as slaves! Let's get out of here and return to Egypt!" Then they plotted against themselves, "Let's choose a leader and go back to Egypt!" Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the people of Israel."--Nu. 14:1-5; NLT. In a momentary lapse of faith, Moses and Aaron fell down in submission to the people of Israel instead of remaining loyal to God's prior instruction.
What a sight it must have been for Caleb and Joshua to see Moses and Aaron cowering prostrate on the ground before the children of Israel. Their response to the situation included the bold statements that the giants would be bread for the Israelites, and that victory was assured if everyone remained loyal to God. Falling down in submission to the people is where Moses made his situation much worse. He should have faithfully defended God's abilities in the eyes of the people, but didn't. Hence, a reminder of the cost of this sin, stated nearly 38 years later when God said, "...Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them."--Nu. 20:12; KJV. Many have wrongly taught that Moses' sin occurred at the rock-tapping event in Nu. 20 where the above statement is made, however that thinking makes God out to be quick to anger, which is not His character (Ps. 145:6-8).
After Caleb and Joshua defend God's ability to defeat the giants and their armies, the people were preparing to stone them when the glory of the Lord appeared in the Tabernacle. This would have jolted Moses and Aaron into action from their prostrate position on the ground in front of the congregation. Moses would have quickly made it to the Tabernacle and what followed was a very interesting conversation between him and God.
As strange as it may seem, God doesn't speak to what many think would be His most likely response here, especially in light of Moses' prostrate submission before the people. God said, "...How long will this people reject me? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation far greater and mightier than they are!"--Nu. 14:11-12; NLT. It's surprising to many that God doesn't immediately bring up to Moses how he had stumbled so severely here, but instead He berates the actions of the rest of the congregation. For this reason many have too easily overlooked Moses' actions in Nu. 13-14 as being where he sinned. God surely does chastise Moses in this ordeal, however His initial response concerned the rest of the people who wanted to return to Egypt. Time and again they had proven themselves to be stiffnecked and rebellious towards their God, whereas Moses had merely stumbled once in this very tough situation. He had already proven himself a faithful servant and God was not quick to be angry at him like many have made Him out to be (Ps. 103:6-8).
Moses pleads for the rest of the congregation upon hearing God's indictment against them. Then God pronounces His sentence. Notice, 13) "But what will the Egyptians think they hear about it?" Moses pleaded with the LORD. "They know full well the power you displayed in protecting these people from Egypt. 14) They will tell this to the inhabitants of this land, who are all well aware that you are with this people. They know, LORD, that you have appeared in full view of your people in the pillar of the cloud that hovers over them. They know that you go before them in the pillar of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. 15) Now if you slaughter all these people, the nations that have heard of your fame will say, 16) 'The LORD was not able to bring them into the land he swore to give them, so he killed them in the wilderness.' 17) Please, LORD, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed it to be. For you said, 18) 'The LORD is slow to anger and rich in unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. Even so he does not leave sin unpunished, but he punishes the children for the sins of their parents to the third and forth generations.' 19) Please pardon the sins of this people because of your magnificent, unfailing love, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt."
20) "Then the LORD said, "I will pardon them as you have requested. 21) But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord's glory, 22) not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have seen my glorious prescense and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they tested me by refusing to listen. 23) They will never even see the land I swore to give to their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will enter it. 24) But my servant Caleb [and Joshua] is different from the others. He has remained loyal to me, and I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will receive their full share of the land. 25) Now turn around and don't go toward the land where the Amalakites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea."
26) "Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 27) "How long will this wicked nation complain about me? I have heard everything the Israelites have been saying. 28) Now tell them this: 'As surely as I live, I will do to you the very things I heard you say. I, the LORD, have spoken! 29) You will all die here in this wilderness! Because you complained against me, none of you who are twenty years old or older and were counted in the census 30) will enter the land I swore to give you. The only exception will be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun." 31) "You said your children would be taken captive. Well, I will bring them safely into the land, and they will enjoy what you have despised. 32) But as for you, your dead bodies will fall in the wilderness. 33) And your children will be like shepherds, wandering in the wilderness for forty years. In this way, they will pay for your faithlessness, until the last of you lies dead in the wilderness."34) "Because the men who explored the land were there forty days, you must wander in the wilderness forty years--a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins. You will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.' 35) I, the LORD, have spoken! I will do these things to every member of the community who has conspired against me. They will all die here in this wilderness!"--Nu. 14:13-35; NLT.
When Moses wrote the Numbers account above he neglected to specifically address his own mistakes, but seems to have corrected that omission in what he wrote many years later in the book of Deuteronomy. What is written there can only be understood as supplementary to what he wrote much earlier in the book of Numbers. Again, in this later version from Deuteronomy we do see Moses mention God's displeasure with his performance.
After receiving the sentence God had passed against the congregation as told in the book of Numbers, we learn from the book of Deuteronomy how Moses and Aaron repeated it to the people. In Numbers Moses is told to tell the people, and in Deuteronomy (below) he tells them what he was told. Notice, 29) "Then I said to you, 'Do not be shocked, nor fear them. 30) The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31) and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries a son, in all the way in which you have walked, until you came to his place.' 32) But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, 33) who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.
34) "Then the LORD heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, 35) Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give to your fathers, 36) except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he has set foot, because he has followed the LORD fully. 37) The LORD was angry with me also on your account, saying, Not even you shall enter there. 38) Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter there; encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. 39) Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them, and they shall possess it. 40) But as for you, turn around and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea."--Deut. 1:29-40; NASB.
Undoubtedly, when Moses wrote the account in Deuteronomy he is reflecting back to the time of the spies at Numbers 13-14. He quotes God's displeasure, saying he also wouldn't be allowed to enter the Land; just like everyone else above age 20. It's impossible for us to see it any other way. Consider the following commentary for Deut. 1:37-38, "The position of the two verses in the midst of a continuous narrative of what happened at Kadesh in the second year of the Exodus. Moses' act of presumption, narrated in Nu. 20, took place in the 39th year of the Exodus, some 37 years after the incident of the spies; and though it is true, as Keil observes, that the object of the retrospect is not to teach the people chronology and history, still the order followed in it is chronological, v.39 carries on the thread of vv.35-36, and vv.37-38 are in no way marked, either by their form or by their contents, as parenthetical, or as referring to an occassion that took place 37 years subsequently; hence a strong presumption arises that they allude, like the context, to what occurred immediately after the return of the spies."--International Critical Commentary on Deuteronomy (S.R. Driver & C.A. Briggs). Unless Moses was totally confused about what he was talking about, then it is certain that the sin which disallowed him entrance into the Land occurred back with the spies!
Concerning the statement, "The LORD was angry with me also on your account," also helps to prove Moses wasn't in trouble for any alleged mistake made at Nu. 20. Consider Driver & Briggs further, "The expression "was angry with me on your account" ...is very insufficiently explained, if the allusion be to the incident narrated in Nu. 20:10-12. By those who suppose this to be the case, the expression is accounted for by the fact that the sin of Moses was occassioned by the unbelief of the people; but the terms used imply naturally that God's anger with Moses was an immediate consequence of the people's misbehaviour, not that it only resulted from it, accidently and indirectly, through the intervening cause of Moses' own sin." Again, Moses' sin happened near the return of the spies, and not at Nu. 20.
More commentary on Deut. 1:37-38, "...Joshua, is introduced here as Moses' successor, and it was by virtue of that office as well as his implied faithfulness as a spy along with Caleb that he was allowed to enter Canaan. In fact, it was partially because of Moses' own sin and consequent disqualification that Joshua found himself in this privileged position. The wording here seems to imply that Moses blamed his predicament on the people--"Because of you the LORD became angry with me" (v.37). This need not be the case at all, however, as other occurrences of the adverbial form 'biglal' ("because of") make clear. For example, Laban was aware that the Lord had blessed him because of Jacob, that is, Jacob was the occassion of blessing and not its cause (Gen. 30:27, 30). Likewise, Moses attributed his punishment to none other than his own disobedience,..."--The New American Century Commentary (E.H. Merril).
In this context it's extremely difficult to imagine God showing displeasure with Moses because of the offense of others. This cannot possibly be what "on your account" means. The phrase is an idiomatic expression that doesn't easily translate into our English. Simply put, God thought it a bad example for the congregation to see Moses seemingly go unpunished for the same offense as their own (Deut. 1:37; 3:26; 4:21). Nothing else makes sense. It should be noted that nowehere does the text say that Moses was to suffer because of the sins of others. However, it should also be noted that the phrase implies that had it not been for the onlooking congregation, God maybe would have changed His mind allowing Moses entrance into the Land. This reasoning fits much better in describing God's character as quick to forgive and slow to anger, compared to those who demand otherwise at Nu. 20.
The Two Rock-Tappings
A very large number of scholars claim that Moses' sin occurred at the Nu. 20 rock-tapping event in the 40th year after leaving Egypt. They claim he used his rod wrongly by tapping the rock instead of just speaking to it, and subsequently giving himself credit for bringing water out of the rock. As we shall see, a simple consideration of both rock-tapping events will help to prove this thinking to be wrong.
Consider the early rock-tapping event in the first few months after leaving Egypt, 1) "Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2) Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?" 3) But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, "Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" 4) So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me." 5) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6) "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7) And he named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us, or not?"--Ex. 17:1-7; NASB.
It seems nearly impossible that Moses would have walked up and tapped the rock at Ex. 17 without also speaking to the people, proclaiming to the congregation that it was the power of God that was bringing water from the rock. God spoke to Moses, and then Moses took God's message to the congregation. The context makes little sense unless God is speaking to Moses (and Aaron?) without others listening in. If this is correct, then couldn't one argue like the errant teachers do with Nu. 20 that Moses was taking up too much credit for himself, without giving credit to God by remaining silent? Certainly. Although some might want to oddly argue that way, it sounds just as strange to do so here as it would be to do so at Nu. 20. The point being that just because the text didn't specifically state that Moses remained totally silent in front of this first rock-tapping audience at Ex. 17, means very little as to whether or not he ever spoke there. And if he didn't speak while giving God credit for bringing water out of the rock, then many would think Moses more powerful than they should have. However this isn't the case as God blessed the situation and provided water. Had Moses not done and said what God had wanted, then why provide the water?
Again, this initial rock-tapping event from Exodus 17:1-7 occured in the first three months after leaving Egypt (Ex. 17:1; 19:1-2), and was at the same rock as in Nu. 20. That's right. Numbers 20 wasn't the first time the Israelites had grumbled and complained at this same exact rock, and for the same exact reason; i.e. for a lack of water. When discussing the decades later rock-tapping event from Numbers 20, Richards' Complete Bible Handbook (L.O. Richards) states, "On returning to Kadesh, Israel finds the springs dry. The same old complaints and grumbling are heard. God tells Moses to speak to the rock he struck years before to produce water (Exod. 17:7)."
The second rock-tapping event in Nu. 20 occured in the first month of the final year that Israel wandered in the wilderness. Consider, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (C.F. Pfeifer & E.F. Harrison), as it states: "Though the year is not mentioned, it must have been the end of the thirty-ninth year, or the fortieth year after the Exodus. For they proceeded from Kadesh to Mount Hor (20:22), where Aaron died; and 33:38 tells us that he died in the fortieth year." Undoubtedly, "in the first month" below, means in the beginning of the 39th year after Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt.
Notice, 1) "Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there. 2) And there was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. 3) The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, "If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! 4) "Why then have you brought the LORD'S assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here? 5) "And why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink." 6) Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them; 7) and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8) "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink." 9) So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him; 10) "and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, "listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" 11) Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank." 12) But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." 13) Those were the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with the LORD, and He proved Himself holy among them."--Numbers 20:1-13; NASB.
Many have questioned that if the sin of Moses occurred back with the spies at Nu. 13-14, then why would God tell him again here at Nu. 20 (several decades later) that he wouldn't be allowed to enter the Land? The simple answer is that God was only reaffirming to Moses, that he still wouldn't be allowed to enter the Land. Moses knew God to be forgiving and gracious, so it logically makes sense that he would have often asked the Almighty to change His mind. In this case, God did not sway from His earlier sentence. Nevertheless, Moses continued to ask God to change His mind, even after the rock-tapping of Nu. 20.
Soon after the rock-tapping at Nu. 20, Moses leads the congregation in defeating the giants, Sihon of Heshbon (Deut. 2:26-34), and Og of Bashan (Deut. 3:1-11). Then Moses again pleads with God to change His mind about letting him enter the Land. Notice, 23) "And I besought the LORD at that time, saying, 24) O LORD God, thou hast begun to show thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? 25) I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. 26) But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter."--Deut. 3:23-26; KJV. Consider, "God would not listen to Moses, that is, He would not grant his request. In fact the Hebrew sentence implies that Moses had kept on asking God for permission, and that God became furious..."--The Bible Knowledge Commentary (J.F. Walvoord & R.B. Zuck). If Moses had asked God many times to change His mind, then wouldn't it make sense to expect God to also answer back numerous times that he would not be allowed to enter the Land? Certainly! Hence, there's no need to assume that God first sentenced Moses from entering the Land because of what is stated at Nu. 20:12-13. Especially when the text proves otherwise--Deut. 1:37!
What is certain is that Moses' sin occurred at the very same time as the rest of the children of Israel's did in Nu. 13-14. They were all told above age 20 (except for Caleb & Joshua only) that they wouldn't be allowed to enter the Land; Moses & Aaron included. Any other way of looking at it forces the text to say something it clearly does not say, and makes God out to be quick to anger, which is not in His character.
Truth is much more easily found by always believing in God's steadfast nature, and then carefully studying the text as it's been preserved. Forcing the text to state something it plainly does not say is one of the most common mistakes made by many students of the Bible. We believe this is what has happened with those who mistakenly think Moses' sin occurred at Nu. 20!