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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 13

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) And the Lord spake unto Moses . . . —There is no inconsistency between this statement and that which is contained in Deuteronomy 1:22, where the sending of the spies is represented as having originated with the people. It is there said that the saying pleased Moses well; but it would be wholly inconsistent with the character and conduct of Moses to suppose that in a matter of such importance he should have acted in a accordance with the suggestion of the people, or upon his own judgment, without seeking direction from God. The command which was given to Moses must not be regarded as implying of necessity that the expedition of the spies was, in the first instance, ordained by God, any more than the command which was afterwards given to Balaam to accompany the messengers of Balak was any indication that God originally commanded, or approved of his journey.

Verse 2

(2) Every one a ruler among them.—Or, a prince among them, as in Numbers 1:16. A comparison of the names which follow with those which are given in Numbers 1:5-15 will show that the persons selected were not the tribal princes who are mentioned in connection with the census. The tribe of Levi, as in the former case, is not represented, as the Levites were to have no inheritance in the land, and the number of twelve, as in Numbers 1:0, is. made up by the division of the tribe of Joseph into the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

Verse 3

(3) And Moses, by the commandment of the Lord, sent them, &c.—Better, And Moses sent them, from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command (literally, the mouth) of the Lord, i.e., as appears from Deuteronomy 1:19. from Kadesh-barnea.

Verse 6

(6) Caleb the son of Jephunneh.—In three places—viz., in Numbers 32:12; and in Joshua 14:6; Joshua 14:14—Caleb is described as the Kenezite (or rather, the Kenizzite). Now in Genesis 15:19 the Kenizzites are mentioned as one of the Canaanite tribes, and in Genesis 36:11; Genesis 36:15, Kenaz occurs as an Edomite name. It has been conjectured from these facts, but, as it should seem, on insufficient grounds, that Caleb was of foreign origin, and that he had been incorporated into the tribe of Judah.

Verse 8

(8) Of the tribe of Ephraim.—It has been supposed that there is some displacement of the text in this verse. Thus far the order of the tribes is the same as in Numbers 1:5-8. After Issachar, Zebulun (the sixth son of Leah) would naturally follow, as in Numbers 1:9, and Ephraim and Manasseh would naturally be connected, as in Numbers 1:10. This supposition is supported by the occurrence of the name of Joseph in Numbers 13:7; Numbers 13:11. The order of the remaining four tribes is the same as in Numbers 1:0, except that the tribe of Naphtali is placed before, instead of after, that of Gad.

Verse 16

(16) And Moses called Oshea . . . —It is not distinctly stated that the change of name took place at this time. It may have taken place at an earlier period, and have been confirmed on the present occasion, as in the case of Israel (Genesis 32:28; Genesis 35:10), and of Bethel (Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:15). On the other hand, it is quite possible that the name may have been proleptically adopted in Exodus 17:9; Exodus 17:13; Exodus 24:13; Exodus 32:17; Exodus 33:11, and Numbers 11:28. The original name Hoshea means help, or salvation. The name Joshua, or Jehoshua, means Jehovah is help, or salvation.

Verse 17

(17) Get you up this way southward.—Rather, by the Negeb, or south country (comp. Numbers 13:22). The southern part of Palestine was known by the name of the Negeb. It formed the transition from the desert to the more highly cultivated land, and was more fitted for grazing than for agricultural purposes. (See Wilton’s The Negeb.)

Into the mountain.—The word which is here used commonly denotes the hill country, i.e., the mountainous part of Palestine, which was inhabited by the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites. It is called “the mount of the Amorites” in Deuteronomy 1:7, inasmuch as the Amorites were the strongest of the Canaanite tribes. The same word is rendered “the mountains” in Numbers 13:29. The reference here, however, may be to the particular mountain which was nearest to the encampment of the Israelites (see Numbers 14:40).

Verse 18

(18) And see the land.—Or, inspect the land. The same word is used of the inspection of the leper by the priest in Leviticus 13:3; Leviticus 13:5-6; Leviticus 13:10; Leviticus 13:13, &c.

Verse 19

(19) Whether in tents.—Better, in camps, i.e., in open villages and hamlets, as contrasted with strongholds or fortified places.

Verse 20

(20) Now the time . . . —The first grapes ripen in Palestine as early as August, or even July, although the vintage does not take place until September or October.

Verse 21

(21) From the wilderness of Zin.—The name of the wilderness of Zin, in which Kadesh was situated, appears to have been given to the northern or northeastern part of the wilderness of Paran. Comp. Numbers 20:1; Numbers 27:14; Numbers 33:36; Numbers 34:3-4; Deuteronomy 32:51; Joshua 15:1; Joshua 15:3.

Unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath.—Or, unto Rehob, at the entrance of Hamath. Rehob is supposed to be identical with the Beth-rehob of Judges 18:28, in the tribe of Naphtali, which was near Dan-Laish. “The entrance of Hamath” formed the northern boundary of the land assigned to the Israelites (Numbers 34:8).

Verse 22

(22) And they ascended by the south, and came.—The latter verb is in the singular number in the Hebrew text: he came. It is quite possible that the twelve spies may not always have been together, and that one only may have gone to Hebron.

Animan, Sheshai, and Talmai.—Some suppose these to be the names of tribes, not of individuals. It is quite possible, however, that the same individuals may have been still alive when the city of Hebron was assigned to Caleb, about fifty years later, and when he drove out these three sons of Anak (Joshua 15:14).

The children of Anak.—Better, the children of the Anakim. (Comp. Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:2.) When Anak, as an individual, is mentioned, as in Numbers 13:33, the article is omitted.

Before Zoan in Egypt.—Zoan, or Tanis, on the eastern bank of the Tanitic arm of the Nile, appears to have been the residence of Pharaoh in the days of Moses (Psalms 78:12). Hebron was in existence in the days of Abraham (Genesis 13:18; Genesis 23:2, &c.).

Verse 23

(23) The brook of Eshcol.—This is commonly identified with the valley of Hebron. Ritter says that the reputation of the grapes of Hebron is so great throughout all Palestine that there is no difficulty in believing that the valley of Eshcol was that which is directly north of the city of Hebron. The valley may have derived its name originally from Eshcol, the brother of Mamre the Amorite (Genesis 14:13). In like manner the name of Mamre appears to have been transferred to the tree, or grove, of Mamre, which was opposite to the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23:17); and in this manner Eshcol is closely connected with Hebron in Genesis 23:19 as it is in the present chapter.

Upon a staff.—The majority of travellers concur in estimating the weight of the largest clusters commonly produced in Palestine at about ten or twelve pounds. Kitto, however, mentions an instance of a bunch of Syrian grapes produced in our own country weighing nineteen pounds, which was sent by the Duke of Portland to the Marquis of Rockingham, and which was carried more than twenty miles by four labourers, two of whom bore it by rotation upon a staff. The greatest diameter of this cluster was nineteen inches and a half (Pictorial Bible, in loc., 1855). The arrangement referred to in the text was probably made, not because the weight was too great for one person to carry, but in order to prevent the grapes from being crushed. The pomegranates and figs, which are still some of the most important fruits of Hebron (see The Land and the Book, p. 583), were probably carried on the same pole. The words may be rendered thus: “And they bare it between two upon a staff; also some of the pomegranates and of the figs.” This incident has obvious reference to the homeward journey of the spies. As the grapes of Eshcol were to the Israelites both a pledge and a specimen of the fruits of Canaan, so the communion which believers have with God on earth is a pledge as well as a foretaste of the blessedness of heaven.

Verse 24

(24) The place was called . . . —This verse states the reason why the valley was so called by the Israelites, but does not determine the question whether it originally derived its name from Eshcol or not.

Verse 25

(25) After forty days.—This time allowed a full and careful exploration of the land.

Verse 26

(26) To Kadesh.—Robinson and others identify Kadeeh with Ain-el-Weibeh, which is in the Arabah, about ten miles north of the place in which Mount Hor abuts on that valley. On the other hand, Mr. Wilton, in The Negeb (pp. 79, 80), and Mr. Palmer in the Desert of the Exodus (Numbers 25:0), maintain the identity of Kadesh with el-Ain, which is about sixty miles west of Mount Hor, and about fifty miles west of Ain-el-Weibeh. The former of these views is maintained in a very elaborate note on this verse in The Bible Commentary.

Verse 28

(28) Nevertheless the people be strong . . . —The spies adopted the words of Exodus 3:8, “flowing with milk and honey,” as descriptive of the fertility of the land of Canaan, but at the same time they discouraged the hearts of their brethren by their description of the strength of the fortified cities and the gigantic stature of the inhabitants.

The children of Anak.—Better, of the Anakim. (See Numbers 13:22, and Note.)

Verse 29

(29) The land of the south.—Better, of the south country, or the Negeb. See Genesis 36:12, and also Numbers 13:17 of this Num. and Note.

The mountains.—See Genesis 10:15-16, and Numbers 13:17 of this Num. and Note.

The Canaanites.—See Genesis 10:15-18; Genesis 13:7, and Notes.

Verse 30

(30) And Caleb stilled the people.—The fact that Caleb alone is mentioned in this place is by no means inconsistent with the statement which is contained in Numbers 14:6-9, from which it appears that Joshua and Caleb concurred in exhorting the people to go up and take possession of the land of promise. It appears, moreover, from Deuteronomy 1:29, &c., that Moses also remonstrated earnestly with the people, and yet neither here nor in the following chapter is mention made of that remonstrance.

Verse 32

(32) A land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof.—Some understand by this phrase a land of scarcity, unable to support its inhabitants; others understand it as denoting an unhealthy land, in which sense it appears to be still used in the East. (See Roberts’ Oriental Illustrations, p. 101, 8vo, 1844.) It seems more probable, however, that the allusion is to the strife and discord which prevailed amongst the various tribes who contended for its possession. (Comp. Leviticus 26:38.)

Men of great stature.—Literally, men of measures (comp. Isaiah 45:14), where the word middah, measure, occurs in the singular number, “men of stature.” Such persons did undoubtedly exist in the land of Canaan, but there is no evidence that the inhabitants generally were of extraordinary size.

Verse 33

(33) And there we saw the giants.—The same word, nephilim. is here used which is found in Genesis 6:4. See Note in loc.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Numbers 13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/numbers-13.html. 1905.
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