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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Numbers 13

A.M. 2514. B.C. 1490.

The sending of the spies into Canaan, Numbers 13:1-17 . The instructions given them, Numbers 13:18-20 . Their journey and return, Numbers 13:21-25 . Their report, Numbers 13:26-33 .

Verses 1-2

Numbers 13:1-2. The Israelites being now come to the borders of Canaan, Moses commanded them, in the name of God, to go up and possess it, reminding them of his promise to give them the possession of it, and exhorting them not to fear nor be discouraged, Deuteronomy 1:21. But the unbelieving and distrustful multitude, forgetting the power and faithfulness of God, were afraid to venture on this hazardous undertaking, as they thought it, till some persons were sent to examine and bring them information what sort of country it was, and what kind of people they should have to contend with. We will send men before us, said they, and they shall search out the land, and bring us word again, Deuteronomy 1:22. Moses, therefore, in compliance with their request, is directed by God to send proper persons, chosen from all the tribes, for this purpose. Every one a ruler among them Not those called princes of the tribes, in the first chapter of this book, but men of wisdom and authority, and rulers or officers of an inferior kind.

Verse 8

Numbers 13:8. Oshea Called also Joshua, Numbers 13:16.

Verse 11

Numbers 13:11. Of Joseph The name of Joseph is elsewhere appropriated to Ephraim, here to Manasseh; possibly to aggravate the sin of the ruler of this tribe, who did so basely degenerate from his noble ancestor.

Verse 16

Numbers 13:16. Jehoshua Oshea denotes a desire of salvation, signifying, Save, we pray thee; but Jehoshua, or Joshua, includes a promise of salvation, He will save. So this was a prophecy of his succession to Moses in the government, and of the success of his arms. Joshua is the same name with Jesus, of whom Joshua was a type. He was the Saviour of God’s people from the powers of Canaan, Christ from the powers of hell.

Verses 17-18

Numbers 13:17-18. Southward Into the southern part of Canaan, which was the nearest part, and the worst too, being dry and desert, and therefore fit for them to enter and pass through with less observation. Into the mountain Into the mountainous country, and thence into the valleys, and so take a survey of the whole land. What it is Both for largeness, and for nature and quality.

Verses 19-20

Numbers 13:19-20. In tents As the Arabians did; or in unwalled villages, which, like tents, are exposed to an enemy. Fat Rich and fertile.

Verse 21

Numbers 13:21. Zin In the south of Canaan, differing from the wilderness of Sin, which was nigh unto Egypt. To Hamath From the south they passed through the whole land to the northern parts of it; Rehob was a city in the north-west part, Hamath a city in the north-east.

Verse 22

Numbers 13:22. By the south Moses having described their progress from south to north, more particularly relates some memorable places and passages. They came Hebrew, He came; namely, Caleb, as appears from Joshua 14:9; Joshua 14:12; Joshua 14:14. For the spies distributed their work among them, and went either severally, or by pairs; and it seems the survey of this part was left to Caleb. Anak A famous giant, whose children these are called, either more generally, as all giants sometimes were, or rather more specially because Arbah, from whom Hebron was called Kiriath-arbah, was the father of Anak, Joshua 15:13. And this circumstance is mentioned as an evidence of the goodness of that land, because the giants chose it for their habitation. Before Zoan This seems to be noted to confront the Egyptians, who vainly boasted of the antiquity of their city Zoan above all places.

Verses 23-24

Numbers 13:23-24. Upon a staff Either for the weight of it, considering the length of the way they were to carry it, or for the preservation of it whole and entire. In those eastern and southern countries there are vines and grapes of an extraordinary bigness, as Strabo and Pliny affirm. Eshcol That is, a cluster of grapes, as the word signifies.

Verse 25

Numbers 13:25. They returned after forty days It is a wonder the people had patience to stay forty days, when they were just ready to enter Canaan, under all the assurances of success they could have from the divine power, proved by a constant series of miracles, that had hitherto attended them. But they distrusted God, and chose to be held in suspense by their own counsels, rather than to rest upon God’s promise! How much do we stand in our own light by unbelief!

Verses 27-29

Numbers 13:27-29. They told him In the audience of the people. The Amalekites in the south Where we are to enter the land; and they who were so fierce against us that they came into the wilderness to fight with us, will, without doubt, oppose us when we come close by their land, the rather, to revenge themselves for their former loss. Therefore they mention them, though they were not Canaanites. In the mountains In the mountainous country, in the south-east part of the land, so that you cannot enter there without great difficulty, both because of the noted strength and valour of those people, and because of the advantage they have from the mountains. By the sea Not the mid-land sea, which is commonly understood by that expression, but the Salt or Dead sea; as appears, 1st, Because it is that sea which is next to Jordan; 2d, Because the Canaanites dwelt principally in those parts, and not near the mid-land sea. So these guard the entrance on the east side, as the others do on the south.

Verse 30

Numbers 13:30. Caleb Together with Joshua, as is manifest from chap. Numbers 14:6-7; Numbers 14:30; but Caleb alone is here mentioned, possibly because he spake first and most, which he might better do, because he might be presumed to be more impartial than Joshua, who, being Moses’s minister, might be thought to speak only what he knew his master would like. Stilled the people Which implies either that they had begun to murmur, or that by their looks and carriage, they discovered the anger which boiled in their breasts.

Before Moses Or, toward Moses, against whom they were incensed, as the man who had brought them into such sad circumstances. Let us go up and possess it. He does not say, Let us go up and conquer it. He looks on that to be as good as done already: but, Let us go up and possess it! There is nothing to be done but to enter without delay, and take the possession which our great Lord is now ready to give us! Thus difficulties that lie in the way of salvation, vanish away before a lively faith.

Verse 31

Numbers 13:31. The men All of them, Joshua excepted. Stronger Both in stature of body and numbers of people. Thus they question the power, and truth, and goodness of God, of all which they had such ample testimonies.

Verse 32

Numbers 13:32. Eateth up its inhabitants Not so much by civil wars, for that was likely to make their conquest more easy; but rather by the unwholesomeness of the air and place, which they guessed from the many funerals which, as some Hebrew writers, not without probability, affirm they observed in their travels through it; though that came to pass from another cause, even from the singular providence of God, which, to facilitate the Israelites’ conquest, cut off vast numbers of the Canaanites, either by a plague, or by the hornet sent before them, as is expressed Joshua 24:12. Le Clerc, indeed, explains this of their being liable to be destroyed, or eaten up, by the incursions of many neighbouring enemies, in which sense the same phrase is used Ezekiel 36:12. The Jews, however, take it to be meant of famine, by which the country was wont to consume its inhabitants, and which they suppose to have distressed it at that time.

But the spies had before acknowledged it to be a plentiful land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Many, therefore, understand the expression as denoting the number of the inhabitants, and would translate the original words, The land is meat for its inhabitants; that is, the inhabitants devour and eat up all the produce of the land.

Verse 33

Numbers 13:33. We were in our own sight as grasshoppers Thus their fear magnified these sons of Anak above measure, so that in comparison of them they thought themselves as weak and contemptible as insignificant insects. And so we were in their sight An hyperbole, signifying that the Anakims looked down upon them with the utmost contempt.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 13". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/numbers-13.html. 1857.