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The Sending of the Spies
v. 1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
v. 2. Send thou men that they may search the land of Canaan, explore and inspect it from every angle, which I give unto the children of Israel; of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. The men were not to be identical with the princes of the tribes, as named Numbers 1:5-16, but they were, nevertheless, to be notable for ability and leadership.
v. 3. And Moses, by the commandment of the Lord, sent them from the Wilderness of Paran; for their camp at that time was on the southern border of the Land of Promise. All those men were heads of the children of Israel, chosen from the officers-of the tribes, since they seemed especially endowed for the work of this mission.
v. 4. And these were their names: of the tribe of Reuben, Shammua, the son of Zaccur.
v. 5. of the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat, the son of Hori.
v. 6. of the tribe of Judah, Caleb, the son of Jephunneh.
v. 7. of the tribe of Issachar, Igal, the son of Joseph.
v. 8. of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea, the son of Nun.
v. 9. of the tribe of Benjamin, Paiti, the son of Baphu.
v. 10. of the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel, the son of Sodi.
v. 11. of the tribe of Joseph, namely, of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi, the son of Susi.
v. 12. of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel, the son of Gemalli.
v. 13. of the tribe of Asher, Sethus, the son of Michael.
v. 14. of the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi, the son of Vophsi.
v. 15. of the tribe of Gad, Geuel, the son of Machi.
v. 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, the change being from the simple word "help" to the more complete and comforting "help of Jehovah," "he whose help is Jehovah. " This fact is recorded in this connection, since the incidents here narrated were of such vital importance in the life of the future leader of Israel; but the actual change of name probably took place long before this.
v. 17. And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, to get all the information possible regarding the land, the products, the cities, the industries, the inhabitants, and whatever other matters they might find interesting, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain; they were to begin their work in the southern district of Canaan, which represented the stage of transition from the state of wilderness to that of a highly cultivated country, and were then to make their way northward into the more mountainous districts;
v. 18. and see the land, what it is, in what condition as to soil and cultivation it was; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they he strong, valiant and courageous, or weak, timid and faint-hearted, few or many;
v. 19. and what the land is that they dwell in, also in regard to climate, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents or in strongholds, in open camps or in permanent, fortified towns and cities;
v. 20. and what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, namely, so far as fertility of the soil was concerned, whether there be wood therein, or not; for the forests of a land are a very important item in its material prosperity. And be ye of good courage, they should attend to the work entrusted to them with all brave diligence, and bring of the fruit of the land, as a sample of its productivity. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes, late summer or the beginning of autumn. This charge of Moses was intended to give them the valiant, undaunted hearts which they needed for the discharge of their difficult mission.
The Exploration of the Spies and Their Report
v. 21. So they went up and searched the land from the Wilderness of Zin, as the northern end of the Wilderness of Paran was called, unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath, in the extreme northern part of Canaan, not far from Laish, which was later known as Dan. After this general statement a more detailed account is given.
v. 22. And they ascended by the south, after leaving the camp of the Israelites, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. ) These three princes of the Anakim were descendants of Arbah, the founder of Hebron, for its original name was Kiriath-arbah. This was a very old city, as Moses indicates by comparing its age with that of Zoan in Egypt, which the children of Israel knew so well.
v. 23. And they came unto the brook, or valley, of Eshcol, north of Hebron, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes (this was undoubtedly an incident of their return trip), and they bare it between two upon a staff, for its great weight made this necessary; and they brought of the pomegranates and of the figs, for the valley was known, even at a later period, for the extraordinary richness and excellence of its fruits.
v. 24. The place was called the brook, or valley, Eshcol (grape-cluster), because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.
v. 25. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.
v. 26. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, to whom they officially reported their return, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, who assembled when the news of their return was spread, unto the Wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh, where the encampment of the Israelites was, and brought back word unto them and unto all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. They were the returned heroes, and the people very likely surged about them and plied them with questions, a process which is apt to destroy the balance even of men with humble tendencies.
v. 27. And they told him, Moses, in their official report, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, a clever phrase by which the responsibility is placed upon Moses, and surely it floweth with milk and honey, Exodus 3:8; and this is the fruit of it, they had visible evidence of the extraordinary fruitfulness of the soil of Canaan.
v. 28. Nevertheless, and here the glowing report is rapidly tempered by the element of personal feelings which the majority of the spies introduced, the people be strong that dwell in the land, both in numbers and in courage, not to speak of physical strength, and the cities are walled and very great, mighty, fortified, and inaccessible; and, moreover, we saw the children of Anak there, people known for their great power.
v. 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. Cf Genesis 36:12; Genesis 10:15-16; Genesis 13:7. No sooner, however, had this majority report been made than a very emphatic minority report was presented.
v. 30. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, for the form and the tendency of the spies' report naturally produced great excitement, and said, Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. Thus Caleb voiced the opinion of himself and Joshua.
v. 31. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. Their cowardly hearts measured outward numbers only, seeing nothing but obstacles on every hand, forgetting entirely the almighty power of the Lord and His gracious promises.
v. 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, its position and its fertility made it so desirable as a possession that the inhabitants, in endless feuds, were grinding one another to pieces; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature, men whose great size reminded them of the dreadful giants that lived before the Flood, Genesis 6:4.
v. 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. Thus the exaggerations of the cowards rose to a climax in this last extravagant statement, their purpose being to fill the hearts of all the people with the same senseless fear which possessed their own hearts. "Truly an expressive type of the lying fear with which worldly-mindedness has ever depicted the difficult approaches to the kingdom of God. " Matters have reached an unfortunate stage in the Church when the men who are called to be the leaders of the congregations lose courage and dread the battle with the powers of darkness. But God always has some witnesses and servants that encourage His people and promise certain victory by the help of the Lord.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Numbers 13". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26