Congregation  in  the  Wilderness


Kadesh  Barnea  -  a  Place  of  Stagnancy


The Congregation of Israel stayed in the Wilderness of Sinai for a year and moved on to Kadesh Barnea in the Wilderness of Paran which is on the border of the Promised Land (Num. 10:11-13; 34:4). 


It is important for us to locate Kadesh Barnea. “So we departed from Horeb, and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the mountains of the Amorites, as the LORD our God had commanded us. Then we came to Kadesh Barnea. And I said to you, ‘You have come to the mountains of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us.” (Deut. 1:19-20) The land of the Amorites extends from east of the Jordan valley to the “Sea of the Arabah which is the present day Dead Sea (Deut. 4:44-49; 3:17).


“It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea.” (Deut. 1:2) Assuming the Children of Israel journey at a steady pace of 10 miles (16 km.) each day, the distance between Horeb to Kadesh Barnea is about 110 miles (176 km.).



Good  and  Bad  Things  happened  at  Kadesh  Barnea


·       The people longed for the food in Egypt. God sent them quails but they were punished for their sins of murmuring and complaining (Num. 11:4-35).  


·       Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses’ authority and Miriam was stricken with leprosy as punishment (Num. 12:1-16).


·       Twelve spies were sent out from Kadesh-Barnea. They were gone for 40 days. They brought back a report that Canaan was a “land flowing with milk and honey.” (Num. 13:27) However, ten of the twelve spies feared the people of the land. They lacked faith in God to give them the land. Only Joshua and Caleb gave positive reports. The people followed the faithless spies. Because the people lacked faith, they were sentenced to wander in the desert for forty years. Of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land (Num. 13:1-33; 14:1-38).


·       The Congregation of Israel were presumptuous in winning the battle and did not heed Moses’ warning, and they were defeated by their enemies (Num. 14:39-45).


·       Korah led a group rebellion against Moses and Aaron.  God caused the earth to open up and buried the rebels alive, and also many others were killed by a plague (Num. 16:1-50).


·       Miriam died and was buried in Kadesh. 


·       There was no water and the people contended with Moses.  “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together.  Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” (Num. 20:7-8) 

Moses did not follow God’s instructions to speak to the rock. 
“Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.  Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” (Num. 20:9-12)


·       Moses twice requested passage to the Promised Land going through the territory of Edom but was denied access on both occasions (Num. 20:14-21).



The  Congregation's  Journey  was  again  Impeded



·       “Then the Children of Israel, the whole congregation journeyed from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor," and it was there that Aaron died and was buried. (Num. 20:22-29)



·       “And the people spoke against God and against Moses, . . . . So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.”  God told Moses to make a “bronze serpent”on a pole and anyone who was bitten by a serpent and looked at it would live (Num. 21:4-9). 

“bronze serpent” symbolizes the crucifixion of the sin-bearer who is the Savior Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:14-15; 2 Cor. 5:21; Jn. 8:28; 12:32-34) 


·       “Then Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods." (Num. 25:1-2) God was very angry with Israel and commanded those guilty of harlotry and adultery to be slain. "And those who died in the plague were twenty four thousand. (Num. 25:3-15).  


When the Children of Israel came to Kadesh Barnea they were actually on the border of the Promised Land, but God did not allow them to enter it because of unbelief, disobedience, disunity and rebellion.  The congregation stayed in Kadesh Barnea and wandered around in other areas of the wilderness for at least 37 years. They were so near and yet so far from the Promised Land.



Moses  saw  the  Promised  Land  but  could  not  enter  it


Moses is one of the greatest prophets, leaders and teachers that Israel had ever known and yet he was not perfect. Like any other man he had his flaws and his moments of weakness, and the Bible faithfully records these shortcomings. It is difficult to understand how Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land because he did not follow God’s instruction (Deut. 32:48-52). Moses was told to speak to a rock to get water from it, but instead he struck the rock twice with a rod, showing improper anger and a lack of faith (Num. 20:7-13). The penalty imposed on Moses may seem harsh to some people, but it serves as a warning and lesson for us to learn how to heed God’s instructions and not to get angry with the brethren at any time.



The satellite photograph on the right shows the terrain of present-day Israel and Jordan. A mountain range divides the two countries. The Children of Israel journeyed north from Kadesh Barnea towards Mount Nebo.

The territory where Israel had been wandering for many years had very hostile environment. The land is not only arid and parched but there were also enemies to fight. Living condition was difficult. On the western side of the mountain range is "a land which flows with milk and honey" (Num. 14:8).  



This photograph is taken from the eastern side of the mountain range (Jordanian side). Mount Nebo is the highest point on this mountain. There is not much vegetation on this side of the mountain slope. Moses must have climbed up these slopes to Mount Nebo to have his first and last view of the Promised Land before he died. 



This photograph is taken on top of Mount Nebo facing east towards present-day Jordan. It shows the wilderness land that Moses and the Children of Israel have been wandering and struggling for many years. They must have felt glad to leave this land and enter the Promised Land on the other side of the mountain range.  



This spectacular view of the Promised Land "which flows with milk and honey" is what Moses must have seen before his departure from this earth. What a great contrast to the land on the other side of the mountain range. This photograph is taken from the viewing terrace of the Memorial Church of Moses. This site has been a place of Christian pilgrimage for centuries.


Conclusion  of  the  Congregation  in  the  Wilderness


n         Place all your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

n         Keep God’s Commandments.

n         Be obedient and patient. Do not complain or get angry.

n         The earth that we live is only a temporary place.

n         God has prepared for us a very beautiful place in Heaven.


May God bless you





A sermon based on this article was preached by Paul Wong

to a Congregation in Houston, Texas on January 14, 2006


For comments please write first to The ARK Forum:


Paul Wong is a Christian minister and the President of ARK International.
His ministry also serves as an architectural service company in Houston.
The ARK Forum on the Internet is international and non-denominational.


Click here to this Website

Write to:
ARK International
P.O. Box 19707, Houston,
Texas, 77224-9707, U.S.A.
Tel. No. (713) 467-1462


Hosted by