G-d gives Moshe permission to send spies to scout the land of Canaan. Moshe sends the twelve most distinguished men, one from each tribe. One of the spies is Hoshea bin Nun, whom Moshe renames Yehoshua. The spy from the tribe of Yehuda is Calev. The spies are instructed to investigate the land, and bring back a report of the strength of its inhabitants and its fertility. When the spies return, ten of them report that the Jews will not be able to conquer the land because its inhabitants are too strong for them. Despite Calev's protestations that they should obey G-d's command to enter the land, national hysteria ensues.
The Children of Israel weep throughout the entire night, they question why G-d brought them out of Egypt, and contemplate returning to captivity there. The nation is about to stone Moshe and Aharon, along with Yehoshua and Calev, when G-d's presence appears in the Ohel Mo'ed. G-d tells Moshe that He wants to destroy the entire nation, and begin anew with Moshe's descendants. Moshe pleads on behalf of the Children of Israel, and G-d agrees to forgive the nation. However, all of the generation who left Egypt will not enter the Land of Israel. Only after they have died will G-d bring their children into Israel. Meanwhile they must spend forty years wandering in the desert. The ten spies who came back with the bad report perish immediately in a plague.
When Moshe tells this decree to the nation they begin to mourn again. They rise early the next morning and attempt to enter the Land of Israel by force, in defiance of G-d's decree, but are severely defeated by the Amalekites and the Canaanites.
G-d instructs Moshe about the libations that must accompany the animal sacrifices. He also instructs the Jews to set aside Challa, a portion from every dough to be given to the Cohanim. G-d instructs the nation about sacrifices they must bring if the entire nation unintentionally worships idols, or if an individual unintentionally commits idolatry. Someone who purposely worships idols will receive the punishment of karet (spiritual excision).
The Jews find a man gathering wood, defiantly breaking Shabbat. They bring him to Moshe, who asks G-d what his punishment should be. G-d explains that he must be put to death by stoning, which the Children of Israel then do.
G-d instructs Moshe to tell the nation to make tzitzit (tassels) on the four corners of all garments. One of the strings should be dyed with techeilet (blue dye derived from a variety of sea snail). The tzitzit will be an eternal reminder of all the commandments.