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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 13

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-16



After the seven days of Miriam’s separation, Israel resumed their march to the Land. They came almost to its boundary, making camp at Kadesh-Barnea, verse 26; De 1:19. There an event occurred which was to have profound effect upon Israel’s future.

Kadesh is the modern ’Ain Gadis, in the northeast plateau of Parna. Just to the north begins the Negeb (Negev), the "south country" of Palestine. The region is ideal for pasturage, and just to the north may be found vineyards.

The proposal to send spies to scout the Land originally came from the people, De 1:22. Moses agreed, indicating his own desire to walk by sight. The Lord permitted what the people and Moses desired, and gave direction for the mission. However, it appears God was not pleased with this evidence of their lack of faith. He had already promised to be with Israel, and to give them the Land. And He had prepared the way for victory by implanting in the hearts of the Canaanites a terror of Israel and her God, Jos 2:9-11.

God may allow what He does not directly approve. It is always in man’s best interest to choose God’s direct will, and not settle for second best. Victory already belonged to Israel; they merely needed to claim it.

The twelve spies chosen were from among the rulers of the tribes, but they were not the chieftains previously selected, Nu 1:5-16, et.al.

Only two of these men are mentioned by name after this incident: they are Caleb and Oshea. Moses had previously changed the name of Oshua (Help) to Joshua (Jehovah is help). He was Moses’ chief lieutenant.

Verses 17-20

Verses 17-20:

Moses gave specific, detailed instructions to the twelve spies, to guide them in their mission. They left the encampment at "the time of the first ripe grapes," or about the last of July. They were to go up from "southward," or the Nebeb, to the mountainous region which formed the backbone of Palestine. Their mission was to take them from the Wadi Murreh on the south, to the Plain of Esdraelon on the north.

The spies were to take special note of:

(1) The topography of the Land;

(2) The inhabitants of the Land: their military strengths and weaknesses.

(3) The cities: whether or not they were fortified.

(4) The productivity of the Land. As evidence, they were to bring back samples of the crops

Verses 21-25

Verses 21-25:

The Israeli spies headed east, then north, through the territory of western Syria. "Rehob" is Beth-rehob, near the later site of Dan-Laish (Jg 18:28). It was on the route to Hamath, and was at one time a city of some importance to Syria, 2Sa 10:6.

"Hamath" is now Hamah. It was in Greek times known as Epiphaneia, and was on the Orontes River. Its southern entrance lay between the mountain ranges of Libanus and Anti-libanus.

From the northern limit of their tour, the spies turned westward, then southward. This strategy allowed them to approach the Canaanites’ land from the north, without arousing suspicion. They came to Hebron, following the caravan route from there to the Negev. Hebron was an ancient city, already established by the lifetime of Abraham.

Hebron was apparently the home of the progeny of Anak (Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 2:10). This was a tribe of people with huge warriors. Their legendary ancestory was Anak the son of Arba, Jos 14:15.

The reference to Zoan, a city of Egypt, argues eloquently for the authorship of Numbers by Moses. He was doubtless familiar with the history of both Egypt and Palestine, due to his education in Egypt’s royal palace.

The region through which the spies traveled was a fertile one, producing rich harvests of grapes. The "brook of Eschol" is in reality the "valley of Eschol," probably between Hebron and Jerusalem.

The spies cut a cluster of grapes in this fertile valley, and carried it back to their camp on a pole carried between two of them. This was not due so much to the size of the cluster, as to their desire not to spoil it.

The spying mission required forty days.

Verses 26-33

Verses 26-33:

The report of the spies, and the evidence they brought, fully confirmed the Divine promise God made to Israel, Ex 3:8. But they also brought with the good, an evil report. Although it was true that the Land was all God had said, the inhabitants were too strong, too entrenched in their well-fortified cities, for Israel to conquer. The fierce, war-like tribes of the Hittites, Amorites, Jebusites, and Amalekites lived in the mountainous region of the Land. The Canaanites lived by the seacoast.

The spies’ report produced immediate terror in Israel. Caleb tried to quiet their fears, but to no avail. Ten of the twelve spies played on the fears of the people. They emphasized the size of the gigantic warriors in the Land. Israel’s bravest and strongest were no match for them.

The Land was one "that eateth up the inhabitants thereof," not through famine or lack of productivity, but through the constant warfare which raged between the various tribes. If Israel were to enter the Land, they would face immediate danger from these gigantic veteran warriors.

Israel’s response was similar to the response of many today who are on the threshold of great blessings from God, but who choose to look at the obstacles and not to the One who overcomes all obstacles, 1Co 15:58; Ga 6:9.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-13.html. 1985.
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