In reply or response to the people of Israel complaining that they'd rather go back to Egypt and not go into the promised land because they had seen that the inhabitants were bigger than they were, Caleb and Joshua told them to have courage, to not be afraid, also saying that God would certainly deliver them, bringing them into that land. Then we read:

But all the congregation bade stone them with stones (Numbers 14:10; KJV)

If the assumption is correct that the 'they' refers to Caleb and Joshua, what law did these two men break for stoning to be called for? Or did stoning happen more often outside of breaking some kind of law?

(editing on the verbal tenses is greatly appreciated, English is not my first language)

2 Answers 2


The mob call for stoning Joshua and Caleb had nothing whatever to do with law breaking. Indeed, stone was reserved only for very serious crimes.

In Num 14:10 it was an expression of mob violence resulting from a mixture of anger and frustration - an extremely dangerous mixture as many leaders discovered on other occasions. In this mob-anger context, stoning is completely illegal, unethical and immoral!

Note the comments of Ellicott -

Under the Jewish law stoning was the ordinary, and, as some think, the only prescribed mode of death, and was inflicted as the punishment for crimes such as adultery (Deuteronomy 22:22; Deuteronomy 22:24), idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:10), witchcraft (Leviticus 20:27), sabbath-breaking (Numbers 15:35), and blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16). Moses had apprehended the same outbreak of popular violence on a former occasion (Exodus 17:4), and, at a later period, David was threatened in a similar manner (1Samuel 30:6).

The Cambridge commentary correctly calls this act, "mutiny". It might also be called, sedition or treason. Because this also involved disobeying the word of the LORD, it could also be labelled "blasphemy" as well.

Note the comments of the Pulpit Commentary

Verse 10. - Bade stone them with stones. Angry people cannot endure the counsels of calm reason, and perhaps the hostility which they felt against Moses they were very ready to vent upon his "minister."

Thus, the mob wanted to stone the leaders, NOT because the leaders had broken any law, BUT because they we about to commit treason and thus, break the law themselves.


What law was broken to have stoning called upon in Numbers 14:10?

Joshua and Caleb had broken no law. On the contrary, they were faithful to God's promise. The mob mentality in Numbers was repeated in the time of Jesus.

John 10:

29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”

31Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Then and now, people are prone to use the name of God to justify their illegal acts as prophecied in John 16:2

They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.

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