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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 13

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verses 1-2

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men - (cf. Deuteronomy 1:22), whence it appears, that while the proposal of delegating confidential men from each tribe to explore the land of Canaan emanated from the people who petitioned for it, the measure received the special unction of God, who granted their request at once as a trial and a punishment of their distrust.

Verse 3

And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.

Those men were heads - not the princes who are named, Numbers 10:1-36, but chiefs, leading men, though not of the first rank.

Verses 4-15

And these were their names: of the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua.

Oshea - i:e., a desire of salvation. Jehoshua, by prefixing the name of Yahweh, means 'divinely appointed,' 'head of salvation,' 'Saviour,' the same as Jesus. The Septuagint applies the last name to Joshua [kai ekpoonomase Moousees ton Ausee huion Nauee Ieesoun (G2424)].

Verse 17

And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:

Get you up this way southward, [ ba-Negeb (H5045), into the Negeb], and go up into the mountain-into the highland country, the southern extremity of the promised land.

Verses 18-19

And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many;

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 20

And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.

The time ... of the first-ripe grapes. This was in August, when the first clusters are gathered, the Second in September, and the third in October. The spies' absence for a period of 40 days. determine the grapes they brought from Eshcol to have been of the second period. Thus 'the Israelites were in the Arabah, or great Arabian desert, at the most trying period of the year. Their journey to this point from Sinai might have been accomplished by easy marches in eighteen 'days. But probably they rested for some time at Akabah, and hence, five months were consumed with it. They sent forward the spies for the purpose of examining the character and state of the country, particularly of ascertaining the most practicable line of access into the promised land; and for 40 days they looked wistfully for the return of these messengers, because they were anxious to move out of the oppressive, stifling heat of the Arabah, on to the healthier as well as more abundant region, which was there above them, and which they already regarded as their own possession' (Drew's 'Scripture Lands,' p. 77).

Verses 21-24

So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath.

So they ... searched the land - they advanced from south to north, reconnoitring the whole land.

The wilderness of Zin - a long level plain, or deep valley of sand, the monotony of which is relieved by a few tamarisk and rethem trees, and which, under the names of el-Ghor and el-Arabah, forms the continuation of the Jordan valley, extending from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akabah.

Rehob - or Beth-rehob, was a city and district situated, according to some, eastward of Sidon, and, according to others, is the same as el-Hule, an extensive and fertile champaign country, at the foot of Antilibanus, a few leagues below Peneas.

As men come to Hamath - or, "the entering in of Hamath" (2 Kings 14:25), now the valley of Baalbek, a mountain-pass or opening in the northern frontier, which formed the extreme limit in that direction of the inheritance of Israel. The existence of Hamath is proved from the hieratic papyri of the period ('Cambridge Essays,' 1858, p. 268). From the mention of these places, the route of the scouts appears to have been along the course of the Jordan in their advance, and their return was by the western border, through the territories of the Sidonians and Philistines.

Verse 22. And came unto Hebron, [ wayaabo' (H935)] - and he came, namely, Caleb (cf. Joshua 14:9; Joshua 14:12; Joshua 14:14). For the spies seem to have divided the labour of surveying the land, or perhaps to have gone in pairs. This district was explored by Caleb. Hebron was situated in the heart of the mountains of Judah, in the southern extremity of Palestine The town of Hebron consists of number of sheikhdoms distinct from each other, standing at the foot of one of those hills that form a bowl round and enclose it. "The children of Anak," mentioned in this verse, seem to have been also chiefs of townships; and this coincidence of polity, existing in ages so distant from each other, is remarkable (Vere Monro).

Ahiman - brother of a gift (Gesenius).

Sheshai - referring to his stature, which measured six cubits (Bochart, 'Geog, Sac.,' p. 362).

Talmai - full of furrows (Gesenius).

The children of Anak. The name Phoenicians was only a softened pronunciation of Beni-Anak, according to Bochart, who makes many interesting conjectures as to the import of the names given to the three sons mentioned here. [ Haa-`Anaaq (H6061) means long-necked.] According to Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 5:, ch.

ii., sec. 3), human bones of a gigantic size were occasionally dug up in the neighhourhood of Hebron, even in his day. Mr. Bonomi, at a meeting of the Syro-Egyptian Society, May, 1856, gave a design from the interior of the great temple of Abu Simbel, representing the king contending with two men of large stature, light complexion, scanty beard, and having a remarkable load of hair pendant from the side of the head; as also other representations of the same people met with st the royal tombs of Biban-el-Moluk, at Medina Tabu, at Karnak, and in the picture of the royal tomb opened by Belzoni, and which he read as signifying 'Tanmahu,' or, by elision, "Talmai," the name given to one of the tribes of the children of Anak.

Hebron (Kirjath-arba, Genesis 23:2; Genesis 35:27) was one of the oldest cities in the world. Zoan (the Tanis of the Greeks) was situated on one of the eastern branches of the Nile, near the lake Menzala, and the early royal residence of the Pharaohs, and boasted a higher antiquity than any other city in Egypt. Its name, which signifies flat and level, is descriptive of its situation in the low grounds of the Delta. It is called also Avaris; the ancient Egyptian was Ha-awar, of which the Hebrew or Semitic name Zoan is a literal translation. The date of its foundation has not been ascertained by the researches of any Egyptologer among the ancient monuments; and until such a discovery shall be made, there is no means of determining the precise antiquity of Hebron but this succinct notice.

Verse 23. The brook of Eshcol - i:e., 'the torrent of the cluster.' Its situation was a little to the southwest of Hebron. The valley and its sloping hills are still covered with vineyards, the character of whose fruit corresponds to its ancient celebrity.

One cluster of grapes. The grapes reared in this locality are still as magnificent as formerly: they are said by one to be equal in size to prunes, and compares by another to a man's thumb. One cluster sometimes weight ten or twelve pounds. The mode of carrying the cluster cut down by the spies, though lent necessary from its weight, was evidently adopted to preserve it entire, as a specimen of the productions of the promised land; and the impression made by the sight of it would be all the greater that the Israelites were familiar only with the scanty vines and small grapes of Egypt.

Verse 25

And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 26

And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.

They ... came ... to Kadesh [ Qaadeeshaah (H6946); Septuagint, Kadees] - an important encampment of the Israelites, after having marched up the Arabah, the fearful desert of sand that extends from the head of the Elanitic Gulf to the Dead Sea. But its exact situation is not certainly known, nor is it determined whether it is the same or a different place from Kadesh-barnea. It is supposed to be identical with Ain-el-Weibeh, a famous spring on the eastern side of the desert (Robinson), and also with Petra (Stanley). A different site, however, has, with so high a degree of probability as amounts almost to certainty that it is the true one, been assigned to Kadesh by Mr. Rowlands, who places it at Ain-el-Kadeis, near the southern extremity of the Negeb, 'lying to the east of the highest part of Jebel Halal, toward its northern extremity, about twelve miles to the East-southeast of Moilahhi (Hagar's well), or, more exactly, near the point at which the longitude of Khulasah intersects the latitude of Ain-el-Weibeh' (Williams' 'Holy City,' p. 488; Kurtz, 'History of the Old Covenant,' vol. 3:, p. 217; 'Jour. Sac. Lit.,' July, 1848, pp. 90-96; Winer's 'Real Worterbuch;' Drew's 'Scripture Lands,' p. 76, note).

Verse 27

And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.

They told him, and said. The report was given publicly in the audience of the people; and it was artfully arranged to begin their narrative with commendations of the natural fertility of the country, in order that their subsequent slanders might the more readily receive credit.

Verse 28

Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.

We saw the children of Anak there. Accustomed to the Egyptians, who, as may be inferred from their mummies, were slight and short of stature, rather puny, the tall muscular appearance of the mountaineers of Hebron must, to the Israelites, have formed a striking contrast. No wonder that they inspired terror; because, combined with an extraordinary stature, they were a fierce, wild, wicked race, engaged in continual warfare. Their gigantic appearance arose from their being distinguished by unusually long necks, like the Patagonians of South America; who are noted for their personal deformity-the upper part of their bodies being of disproportionate length.

Verse 29

The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.

The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south. Their territory lay between the Dead and Red Seas, skirting the borders of Canaan. It embraced what is now called Wady Murreh, 'a comparatively fertile expanse of country somewhere between Kadesh and Engedi; and this agrees with the physical peculiarities of the extensive tract, partly arable, partly pastoral, which begins a little to the northwest of Ain-el-Kadeis, and sweeps round, in a northeasterly direction, past Bir-es-Seba and Tell 'Arad, to the neighbourhood of Kurmul and' Ain- Jidy' ('Negeb,' p. 8).

Hittites ... dwell in the mountains. Their settlements were in the southern and mountainous part of Palestine (Genesis 23:7).

The Canaanites dwell by the sea. The remnant of the original inhabitants, who had been dispossessed by the Philistines, were divided into two nomadic hordes; one settled eastward near the Jordan, the other westward by the Mediterranean.

Verses 30-31

And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 32

And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, 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.

A land that eateth up the inhabitants - i:e., an unhealthy climate and country. Jewish writers say that in the course of their travels the spies saw a great many funerals, vast numbers of the Canaanites being cut off at that time, in the providence of God, by a plague, or the hornet (Joshua 24:12).

Men of a great stature. This was evidently a false and exaggerated report, representing, from timidity or malicious artifice, what was true of a few as descriptive of the people generally.

Verse 33

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.

Giants, the sons of Anak. The name is derived from the son of Arba, a great man among the Arabians (Joshua 15:14), who probably obtained his appellation from his long neck, as the word imports. The epithet, "the giants" [ ha-Nªpiyliym (H5303)], evidently refers here to stature (see the note at Genesis 6:4).

In our own sight as grasshoppers - a strong Orientalism, by which the treacherous spies gave an exaggerated report of the physical strength of the people of Canaan.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/numbers-13.html. 1871-8.
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