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SPIES SENT TO CANAAN
As Israel drew nearer to Canaan, God instructed Moses to send a man from each of the 12 tribes to spy out the land Canaan (vs.1-2). If we compare this to Deuteronomy 1:22-23 we shall see that the children of Israel had first come to Moses, desiring that they should send men to search out the land and bring back advice as to what way Israel should take to enter the land and what cities should be their first object of attack. Notice in this scripture that there is no suggestion of deciding whether they should go in the land, but only which way. This pleased Moses well, and he appointed 12 men as spies. No doubt he made these appointments when God told him to, which would indicate God's approval of Israel's request.
The men sent were all heads in their particular tribes, and therefore should have been men of faith and courage. The names of these are given in verses 4 to 15. No doubt the meanings of the their names may have something do to with their character, but it is difficult to speak with certainty of their meanings.
They were told to go up from the south into the mountains. Supposing the mountains are more rugged and challenging than the plain, yet "His (God's) foundation is in the holy mountains" (Psalms 87:1), indicating that the Lord does not pamper our desire for easy circumstances, but expects us to face adversity with full confidence in His upholding grace and faithfulness.
The spies were to take full account of all that they saw, what the land was like, whether the people were strong or weak, few or many, whether the land was good or bad, whether the cities were like camps or strongholds, whether the land was rich or poor, and whether there were forests (vs.18-20). Certainly Moses did not intend that any of these things should influence the question of Israel's going into the land. Rather, just as today we should be aware of what we are called upon to face, so Israel would be aware and prepared to meet whatever circumstances that faced them. Moses told the men to be of good courage and to bring back some of the fruit of the land. The time was the season of first-ripe grapes.
The spies took plenty of time to pass through the land. Hebron is the first name mentioned, a city of great antiquity. Its name means "communion," a fact that should have attracted Israel to take possession of it, just as we should allow no enemy to hinder our possession of vital, real communion with our Lord. They saw that the opposition was formidable, with Sheshai and Talmai, descendants of the giant Anak there (v.22).
Coming to the Valley of Eshcol, they found such fruitfulness that one cluster of grapes required two men to carry it on a pole. Pomegranates and figs were also include in the fruits they carried back to the camp of Israel after having taken 40 days to spy out the land. Number 40 is the number of testing and they had taken plenty of time to prove everything about the land and its produce. What God had said about the land was proven perfectly true. This was the land that God had promised them. It was of course true that the inhabitants of the land were strong, but this was no barrier to the ability of Israel to overcome them.
THE REPORT GOOD, BUT NOT MIXED WITH FAITH
Returning to the camp, the spies showed the people the fruits of the land, confirming fully what God had told Israel, that the land flowed with milk and honey (v.27). Thus they fully vindicated the Word of God. He had told them the truth as to the land to which He was leading them.
"Nevertheless," they add, "the people who dwell in the land are strong, the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the children of Anak there" (v.28). If they had simply left out the word "nevertheless" here, then after telling of the strength of the enemy, had said, "Nevertheless, God is greater and stronger than they," how much more encouraging and strengthening this would have been. But instead they speak only of the formidable appearance of their enemies as though they were organized into a force totally indestructible (v.29).
Caleb (the "wholehearted" one) spoke out positively with words that for the moment quiet the people, urging that they should immediately go into the land, or he says, "We are well able to overcome it." If he had only had the concurrence of the other spies, how different the results would have been. But all of these except Joshua declare that Israel is not able to overcome the enemy. Why? Because the enemy was stronger than they (v.31). They have simply forgotten the living God, and give way to their own unbelieving fears.
Thus they gave what God calls "a bad report of the land," saying the land would "devour its inhabitants," for the men were of great stature, some giants who dwarfed the spies as though they had been grasshoppers. God had before emphasized the productivity of the land: the spies saw this to be true, but emphasized the strength of the enemy, as though God had not taken this into account!
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Numbers 13". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29