I received the following question about Israel’s 40 years wandering in the wilderness:

If it’s 40 yrs from leaving Egypt to entering the promised land, the spies in Numbers 13 and 14 had to happen right away to complete the probation (40 years) right?  I can’t figure out the time in between, but wasn’t it a punishment for not trusting God that they were to wander 40 years before entering starting at that point and not before they rebelled, the time from leaving Egypt to the rebellion?

No, the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness actually did start from the time they left Egypt, not from the time when they rebelled, and God decided not to allow them to enter the Promised Land, but instead made all that wicked generation die off in the wilderness. It does seem like the forty years should have started from the rebellion, but…

1. They did wander forty years in the wilderness. Even though part of the first two years might have happened anyway, it was still two years of wandering.

2. God was gracious. Starting the forty years from the time they left Egypt cut the punishment shorter than it might have been.

3. A major point of the forty years was so that all that rebellious generation could fall in the wilderness. At the end of forty years after they left Egypt, all that generation was dead and gone. There would have been no point in making the next and favored generation wander for two more years in the wilderness. They were not the ones under God’s wrath.