And they came unto the brook of Eshcol
Or "valley of Eshcol" F21, which is here so called by anticipation from the following circumstance; and perhaps had not this name given it, until the children of Israel were possessed of the land, and then they called it so, in memory of what was done here at this time; it was not far from Hebron, as may be concluded from thence; and so Jerom, relating the travels of Paula in those parts, says F23, she came from Betzur to Eshcol, where having seen the little cells of Sarah, the cradle of Isaac, and the traces of the oak of Abraham, under which he saw the day of Christ, and was glad, rising up from thence, she went up to Hebron; which shows this Eshcol to be near Hebron, and to lie low, and was a valley; see ( Deuteronomy 1:24 ) ;
and cut down from thence a branch, with one cluster of grapes;
in this valley was a vineyard, or at least a vine tree, on which they observed one cluster, which perhaps was of an uncommon size, as it seems by what follows, and they cut down the branch, and that with it:
and they bare it between two upon a staff;
it was so big; and which was not done only for the ease of carrying it, but that it might not have any of its grapes squeezed, bruised, and broken off, but that they might carry it entire and whole for the Israelites to behold: these two men were probably Caleb and Joshua; though Jarchi says they carried nothing, which is more than he could say with certainty. Some historians report very surprising things of the size of vines, and the largeness of their clusters, which, when observed, this account will not at all seem incredible. Strabo says F24, it is reported, that in Hyrcania, a vine produced a firkin of wine, and, the trunk of a vine was so large, that it was as much as two men could grasp with both arms, and bore clusters of two cubits long F25; the same he says F26 of the size of vines in Mauritania, and of their clusters being a cubit long; and of others in Carmania being two cubits long, as before F1: it is reported of the Indian fig tree, that it sometimes has an hundred figs more or less on a branch, and all in a cluster like grapes; and some of the clusters are sometimes so large as to be carried by two men on a staff F2, as here; and some have thought, that it is the fruit here meant; but this is expressly called a cluster of grapes. About half a mile from Eshcol, as Adrichomius F3 says, was the brook or valley of Sorek, which was famous for vines; and it is affirmed by many writers and travellers, that to this day there are vines in that place, which produce clusters of twenty five pounds weight and more; and that in Lebanon, and other parts of Syria, the kernels of grapes are as big as a man's thumb F4. Leo Africanus speaks F5 of grapes in some parts of Africa somewhat red, which, from their size, are called hens' eggs: and the Talmudists F6 are extravagant, and beyond all belief, in the account they give of the vines in the land of Canaan, and of the clusters of them, and the quantity of wine they had from them; and of this cluster they suppose F7, that the "two" spoken of are not to be understood of men, but of bars or staves; and that this cluster was carried by eight, four at the four ends of the two staves, and that there were, besides, two staves or bars that went across, at the ends of which were four more men, who carried the cluster hanging in the middle; a figure of which Wagenseil F8 has given us: but Philo the Jew
F9 has given a better account of it, and more agreeable to the Scripture, as that it was put upon a staff, and hung at the middle of it, the ends of which were laid on the shoulders of two young men, who carried it; though he adds, that such was the weight of it, that these were relieved by others in succession:
and [they brought] of the pomegranates, and of the figs;
that is, others of them did; which seems to favour the notion that they were in a body, and that there were more than two together at this place; but even these two might be able to bring some of this sort of fruit along with them, as well as bear the cluster of grapes; besides, the text does not oblige us to understand it of the same persons in the same place.
F21 (lxn) "vallem", Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius.
F23 Epitaph. Paulae, fol. 59. G. H.
F24 Geograph. l. 2. p. 50.
F26 lbid. l. 17. p. 568.
F1 Ibid. l. 15. p. 500.
F2 Salmuth. in Pancirol. rer. memorab. par. 2. p. 55.
F3 Theatrum Terrae Sacr. p. 24.
F4 Huet. Alnetan. Quaest. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 22.
F5 Descript. Africae, l. 2. p. 204.
F6 T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 111. 2.
F7 T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 34. 1.
F8 Sotah, p. 707, 708.
F9 De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 638.