The first census of all of the Hebrew men over twenty years old was taken two years after they had left Egypt, with the total being 603,550, excluding the Levites' 22,273 who were designated to take care of the Tabernacle. Only Aaron and his sons were designated for priesthood. The people of Israel had a special blessing designed for them to be given by Aaron and his sons (given in Numbers 6:24-26): "May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace." The people were constantly griping about eating manna and their situation in the desert. Moses sent 12 "spies," one from each tribe, into the land of Canaan, where they stayed for forty days. They reported that the Promised Land was magnificent but with powerful people there, including giants. Two of the "spies" (one originally named Hoshea [meaning "salvation"] and later named Joshua [meaning "Jehovah is salvation"]; one named Caleb ) said that the land could be taken by the Hebrews, for God was with them. The others did not agree. God was not pleased and stated (Numbers 14: 29) that no-one over twenty at the time of the census would ever enter the Promised Land, other than Joshua and Caleb. God also stated (Numbers 14:34) that the Hebrews must wander in the desert for forty years because of their rejection of Him. At one point in their wanderings, the people were rebelling against Moses and Aaron (as they had done many times) and had no water. God told Moses (Numbers 20: 8) to use Aaron's staff and to summon the people and talk to a rock and tell it to pour out water. Instead, Moses (Numbers 20:11) "struck the rock twice" with the staff, and water gushed out. Because of Moses' disobeying God at that place called Meribah (meaning "quarreling" or "Rebel Waters"), God said that Moses would not bring the people into the Promised Land.
Finally, a new census was ordered for men of twenty or older, with the number being 601,730, not including the Levites with their number of 23,000; however, none of the men over twenty were in the first census except Joshua and Caleb. God told Moses (Numbers 27: 12-14) that he could look from the Abarim mountains and see the Promised Land but could not go there and was to die in those mountains, with Joshua being his replacement as leader. Aaron died on Mount Hor (Numbers 33: 38-39) at the age of 123. God explained to Moses the setting up of the "Cities of Refuge" (Numbers 35:6) where one can be safe if he killed someone by accident.