Numbers - 13:1-33

At Kadesh-the 12 Spies

      1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Send men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel. Of every tribe of their fathers, you shall send a man, every one a prince among them." 3 Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran according to the commandment of Yahweh: all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel. 4 These were their names: Of the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur. 5 Of the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori. 6 Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh. 7 Of the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph. 8 Of the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun. 9 Of the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu. 10 Of the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi. 11 Of the tribe of Joseph, (namely), of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi. 12 Of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli. 13 Of the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael. 14 Of the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi. 15 Of the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. 16 These are the names of the men who Moses sent to spy out the land. Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua. 17 Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, "Go up this way by the South, and go up into the hill country: 18 and see the land, what it is; and the people who dwell therein, whether they are strong or weak, whether they are few or many; 19 and what the land is that they dwell in, whether it is good or bad; and what cities they are that they dwell in, whether in camps, or in strongholds; 20 and what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is wood therein, or not. Be courageous, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first-ripe grapes." 21 So they went up, and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, to the entrance of Hamath. 22 They went up by the South, and came to Hebron; and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were there. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 They came to the valley of Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bore it on a staff between two; (they brought) also of the pomegranates, and of the figs. 24 That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the children of Israel cut down from there. 25 They returned from spying out the land at the end of forty days. 26 They went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, to the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word to them, and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They told him, and said, "We came to the land where you sent us; and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is its fruit. 28 However the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified, (and) very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. 29 Amalek dwells in the land of the South: and the Hittite, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite, dwell in the hill country; and the Canaanite dwells by the sea, and along by the side of the Jordan." 30 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." 31 But the men who went up with him said, "We aren't able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we." 32 They brought up an evil report of the land which they had spied out to the children of Israel, saying, "The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that eats up its inhabitants; and all the people who we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight."

Chapter In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of Numbers 13.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

Twelve men, one out of every tribe, are sent to examine the nature and state of the land of Canaan, Numbers 13:1-3. Their names, Numbers 13:4-16. Moses gives them particular directions, Numbers 13:17-20. They proceed on their journey, Numbers 13:21, Numbers 13:22. Come to Eshcol, and cut down a branch with a cluster of grapes, which they bear between two of them upon a staff, Numbers 13:23, Numbers 13:24. After forty days they return to Paran, from searching the land, and show to Moses and the people the fruit they had brought with them, Numbers 13:25, Numbers 13:26. Their report - they acknowledge that the land is good, but that the inhabitants are such as the Israelites cannot hope to conquer, Numbers 13:27-29. Caleb endeavors to do away the bad impression made, by the report of his fellows, upon the minds of the people, Numbers 13:30. But the others persist in their former statement, Numbers 13:31 : and greatly amplify the difficulties of conquest, Numbers 13:32, Numbers 13:33.

In this chapter an order is given by the Lord, to send twelve men into the land of Canaan, to search and spy it, and which was accordingly executed, Numbers 13:1; and the names of the twelve persons are given, Numbers 13:4; the instructions they received from Moses, what part of the land they should enter into first, and what observations they should make on it, Numbers 13:17; which they attended to, and on their return brought some of the fruit of the land with them, Numbers 13:21; and gave an account of it, that it was a very fruitful land, but the inhabitants mighty, and their cities walled, Numbers 13:27; which threw the people into confusion, but that they were stilled by Caleb, one of the spies, who encouraged them, Numbers 13:30; but all the rest, excepting Joshua, brought an ill report of it, as not to be subdued and conquered by them, Numbers 13:31.

(v. 1-20) Twelve men sent to search the land of Canaan, Their instructions.
(Numbers 13:21-25) Their proceedings.
(Numbers 13:26-33) Their account of the land.

Spies Sent Out. Murmuring of the People, and Their Punishment - Numbers 13 and 14
When they had arrived at Kadesh, in the desert of Paran (Numbers 13:26), Moses sent out spies by the command of God, and according to the wishes of the people, to explore the way by which they could enter into Canaan, and also the nature of the land, of its cities, and of its population (Numbers 13:1-20). The men who were sent out passed through the land, from the south to the northern frontier, and on their return reported that the land was no doubt one of pre-eminent goodness, but that it was inhabited by a strong people, who had giants among them, and were in possession of very large fortified towns (Numbers 13:21-29); whereupon Caleb declared that it was quite possible to conquer it, whilst the others despaired of overcoming the Canaanites, and spread an evil report among the people concerning the land (Numbers 13:30-33). The congregation then raised a loud lamentation, and went so far in their murmuring against Moses and Aaron, as to speak without reserve or secrecy of deposing Moses, and returning to Egypt under another leader: they even wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb, who tried to calm the excited multitude, and urged them to trust in the Lord. But suddenly the glory of the Lord interposed with a special manifestation of judgment (Numbers 14:1-10). Jehovah made known to Moses His resolution to destroy the rebellious nation, but suffered Himself to be moved by the intercession of Moses so far as to promise that He would preserve the nation, though He would exclude the murmuring multitude from the promised land (Numbers 14:11-25). He then directed Moses and Aaron to proclaim to the people the following punishment for their repeated rebellion: that they should bear their iniquity for forty years in the wilderness; that the whole nation that had come out of Egypt should die there, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua; and that only their children should enter the promised land (Numbers 14:26-39). The people were shocked at this announcement, and resolved to force a way into Canaan; but, as Moses predicted, they were beaten by the Canaanites and Amalekites, and driven back to Hormah (Numbers 14:40-45).
These events form a grand turning-point in the history of Israel, in which the whole of the future history of the covenant nation is typically reflected. The constantly repeated unfaithfulness of the nation could not destroy the faithfulness of God, or alter His purposes of salvation. In wrath Jehovah remembered mercy; through judgment He carried out His plan of salvation, that all the world might know that no flesh was righteous before Him, and that the unbelief and unfaithfulness of men could not overturn the truth of God.
(Note: According to Knobel, the account of these events arose from two or three documents interwoven with one another in the following manner: Numbers 13:1-17a, Numbers 13:21, Numbers 13:25-26, Numbers 13:32, and Numbers 14:2, Numbers 14:5-7, Numbers 14:10, Numbers 14:36-38, was written by the Elohist, the remainder by the Jehovist, - Numbers 13:22-24, Numbers 13:27-31; Numbers 14:1, Numbers 14:11-25, Numbers 14:39-45, being taken from his first document, and Numbers 13:17-20; Numbers 14:2-4, Numbers 14:8-10, Numbers 14:26-33, Numbers 14:35, from his second; whilst, lastly, Numbers 13:33, and the commencement of Numbers 14:1, were added from his own resources, because it contains contradictory statements. "According to the Elohist," says this critic, "the spies went through the whole land (Numbers 13:32; Numbers 14:7), and penetrated even to the north of the country (Numbers 13:21): they took forty days to this (Numbers 13:25; Numbers 14:34); they had among them Joshua, whose name was altered at that time (Joshua 13:16), and who behaved as bravely as Caleb (Numbers 13:8; Numbers 14:6, Numbers 14:38). According to the Jehovistic completion, the spies did not go through the whole land, but only entered into it (Numbers 13:27), merely going into the neighbourhood of Hebron, in the south country (Numbers 13:22-23); there they saw the gigantic Anakites (Numbers 13:22, Numbers 13:28, Numbers 13:33), cut off the large bunch of grapes in the valley of Eshcol (Numbers 13:23-24), and then came back to Moses. Caleb was the only one who showed himself courageous, and Joshua was not with them at all (Numbers 13:30; Numbers 14:24)." But these discrepancies do not exist in the biblical narrative; on the contrary, they have been introduced by the critic himself, by the forcible separation of passages from their context, and by arbitrary interpolations. The words of the spies in Numbers 13:27, "We came into the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey," do not imply that they only came into the southern portion of the land, any more than the fact that they brought a bunch of grapes from the neighbourhood of Hebron is a proof that they did not go beyond the valley of Eshcol. Moreover, it is not stated in Numbers 13:30 that Joshua was not found among the tribes. Again, the circumstance that in Numbers 14:11-25 and Numbers 14:26-35 the same thing is said twice over-the special instructions as to the survey of the land in Numbers 13:17-20, which were quite unnecessary for intelligent leaders, - the swearing of God (Numbers 14:16, Numbers 14:21, Numbers 14:23), - the forced explanation of the name Eshcol, in Numbers 13:24, and other things of the same kind, - are said to furnish further proofs of the interpolation of Jehovistic clauses into the Elohistic narrative; and lastly, a number of the words employed are supposed to place this beyond all doubt. Of these proofs, however, the first rests upon a simple misinterpretation of the passage in question, and a disregard of the peculiarities of Hebrew history; whilst the rest are either subjective conclusions, dictated by the taste of vulgar rationalism, or inferences and assumptions, of which the tenability and force need first of all to be established.)

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