The story begins in chapter 13 where Moses sends out 12 scouts (one from each of the tribes of Israel) to check out the land of Canaan.
Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan ... And see the land, what it is, and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many. Numbers 13:17-18So the twelve spies go and do that.
When they get back, Caleb says
Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. Numbers 13:30But the other ten (the Bible doesn't say what Joshua said) disagree.
The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. Numbers 13:32-33So Caleb (and Joshua?) say it would be easy to take over the land of Canaan, while the other ten say it would be hard, since the people that live there are giants. (The scouts were like grasshoppers in comparison to them.)
When the people heard the reports, they believed the giant story and were a bit discouraged. So they decided to elect a new leader and go back to Egypt.
And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! ... And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. Numbers 14:1-4Joshua and Caleb try to talk them out of it.
And Joshua ... and Caleb ... rent their clothes ... 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 us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Numbers 14:6-8But the people weren't buying it. They didn't want to fight any damned giants. So they decide to stone Joshua and Caleb (with stones).
All the congregation bade stone them with stones. Numbers 14:10And then God gets involved. He tells Moses that he's sick of their whining, so he's going to kill them all. He'll smite them with the pestilence and then make some better people to replace them. People who wouldn't whine so God damned much.
And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? ... I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they. Numbers 14:11-12But Moses talks him out of it. He says the Egyptians will hear about it and say that God couldn't get the people to obey him so he had to kill them all. How would that look to the neighbors?
And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it ... And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land ... Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness. Numbers 14:13-16So God decided not to kill everyone. Not yet, anyway. But he says that he'll make sure that all their carcasses rot in the wilderness (at least all those that are over 20 years old).
Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me ... But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years ... the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die. Numbers 14:29-35And that would have been the end of the story, except that God was still pissed off about those ten scouts, even though they were just doing their jobs ("To spy out the land of Canaan ... And see the land, what it is, and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many."). So he killed them in a plague.
And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. Numbers 14:36-37But God isn't quite finished yet. To further punish the Israelites for whining and plotting against Moses, God will send the Amelekites and Canaanites to smite them.
Ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD ... Then the Amalekites ... and the Canaanites ... smote them. 14:43-45(Since the Bible doesn't say how many Israelites were killed by the Amalekites and Canaanites, I'll just add another 100 to God's total -- along with the ten honest spies -- for a total of 110.)
This killing is highlighted in the Poverty and Justice Bible. Here's how they put it.
Ten of the men sent to explore the land had brought back bad news and had made the people complain against the Lord. So he sent a deadly disease that killed those men, but he let Joshua and Caleb live.This verse was highlighted because it shows God's justice. If you bring back bad news, God will kill you with a deadly disease.
God's next killing: A man gathering sticks on the Sabbath