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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
Numbers 13

 

 

Verse 1

NUMBERS CHAPTER 13

God commandeth Moses to send spies to search out the land of Canaan, Numbers 13:1-3. Their names, Numbers 13:4-16. Moses’s commandment where to go, and what to do, Numbers 13:17-20. Their return with the fruits of the land, and their report, Numbers 13:23-29. They are encouraged by Caleb, Numbers 13:30; but ten others dishearten them by their false report, Numbers 13:31-33.

In answer to the people’s petition about it, as is evident from Deuteronomy 1:22. And it is probable from the following story, that the people desired it out of diffidence of God’s promise and providence, though Moses liked of it as a prudent course to learn where or how to make the first invasion. And God granted their desire for their trial and punishment, as well knowing from what root it came.


Verse 2

Do as the people press thee to do.

Of every tribe of their fathers, i.e. which comes from their several parents or patriarchs.

A ruler; a person of wisdom and authority, which might make his witness more considerable with the people.


Verse 11

i.e. Of that part of the tribe of Joseph which is peculiarly called

the tribe of Manasseh, as the other part of it was called the tribe of Ephraim, Numbers 13:8. The name of Joseph is elsewhere appropriated to Ephraim, as Ezekiel 37:16,19 Re 7:8; here to Manasseh; possibly to aggravate the sin of the ruler of this tribe, who did so basely degenerate from his noble ancestor, Joseph.


Verse 16

Oshea notes a desire of salvation, signifying, Save, we pray thee, but Jehoshua, or Joshua, includes a promise of salvation, that he should save, or that God by his hands should save the people. So this was a prophecy of his succession to Moses in the government, and of the success of his arms.


Verse 17

Southward, i.e. into the southern part of Canaan, which was the nearest part, and the worst too, being dry and desert, Joshua 15:1,3 Jud 1:15 Psalms 126:4, and therefore fittest for them to enter and pass through with less observation.

Into the mountain, i.e. into the mountainous country, and thence into the valleys, and so take an exact survey of the whole land.


Verse 18

What it is, both for largeness, and for nature and quality; as is more particularly expressed, Numbers 13:19,20.


Verse 19

Good or bad, healthful or unwholesome, fruitful or barren.

In tents, as the Arabians did; or in unwalled villages, which, like tents, are exposed to an enemy.


Verse 20

Fat; rich and fertile.

Be ye of good courage; doubt not but God will preserve you in this dangerous journey, and be not dismayed nor discouraged if you find the people numerous, potent, and well fortified.


Verse 21

The wilderness of Zin, in the south of Canaan, Numbers 34:3 Joshua 15:3; differing from the wilderness of Sin, which was nigh unto Egypt, Exodus 16:1.

To Hamath; i.e. from the south they passed through the whole land even to the northern parts of it,

Rehob, a city in the northwest part, Joshua 19:28 Jude 1:31; and Hamath, a city in the north-east part, Joshua 19:35 Ezekiel 47:17. And that they might more expeditiously and securely perform this office, it is probable that they divided themselves into several shall parties, and informed themselves not only by their eye, but also by their ear, and the information of persons, of whom they inquired about the nature and condition of their land.


Verse 22

Here Moses having generally described their process and course from south to north, now returns more particularly to relate some memorable places and passages, as that having entered the land in the southern parts, they travelled then till they came to

Hebron. Came, Heb. he came, to wit, Caleb, as appears from Joshua 14:9,12,14; for, as was now intimated, 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 so called, whose children these are called, either more generally, as all giants sometimes were, or rather more specially, because Arba, from whom Hebron was called Kirjath-arba, was the father of Anak, Joshua 15:13. And this circumstance is mentioned as an evidence of the goodness of that land and soil, because the giants chose it for their habitation.

Before Zoan in Egypt: this seems to be noted to confront the Egyptians, who vainly boasted of the antiquity of their city Zoan above all places.


Verse 23

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.


Verse 26

Kadesh; so called by way of abbreviation, which is frequent in Hebrew names, for Kadesh-barnea, Deuteronomy 1:19, which some rashly confound with Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, Numbers 20:1 27:14 33:36; into which they came not till the fortieth year after their coming out of Egypt, as appears from Numbers 33:37,38 whereas they were in this Kadesh in the second year, and before they received the sentence of their forty years’ abode in the wilderness.


Verse 27

They told him in the audience of the people, as appears from Numbers 13:30. They craftily begin their relation with commendations, that their following slanders might be more easily believed.


Verse 28

Strong; potent for the strength of their body, and the valour of their minds.


Verse 29

The south, where we are to enter the land; and they who were so eager and 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, and are about to settle in their neighbourhood, the rather, to revenge themselves for their former loss and shame received by us. Therefore they mention them, though they were no Canaanites.

In the mountains, i.e. 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 midland sea, which is commonly understood by that expression, but the Salt or Dead Sea, as appears,

1. Because it is that sea which is next to Jordan, as here follows.

2. Because the Canaanites dwelt principally in those parts, and not near the midland sea. So these guard the entrance on the east side, as the others do on the south.


Verse 30

Caleb, together with Joshua, as is manifest from Numbers 14:6,7,30; 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 began to murmur, or that by their looks and carriages they discovered that grief and 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.

We are well able; partly in moral probability, because we are one people united under one head, whereas they are divided into several nations, and governments of differing counsels, and interests, and inclinations; and principally because of the assistance of the Almighty God.


Verse 31

The men that went up with him; all of them, Joshua excepted.

They are stronger than we, both in stature of body and numbers of people. Thus they wickedly question the power, and truth, and goodness of God, of all which they had such ample testimonies.


Verse 32

They brought up, Heb. brought forth, to wit, out of their mouths; they uttered a reproach, or reproachful words.

Of the land i.e. against it, or concerning the land. It is the genitive case of the object, as Matthew 10:1 14:1.

Eateth up the inhabitants; not so much by civil wars, as most think, for that was likely to make their conquest more easy; nor by the barrenness of the soil, which consumed the people with the excessive pains it required to make it fruitful, as others think, for they confessed the excellency of the land, Numbers 13:27; 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, or some other way.


Verse 33

i.e. Small and contemptible.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 13:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/numbers-13.html. 1685.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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