And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had
searched unto the children of Israel
Before, they gave a good report of the land itself, as a very fruitful one, answering to their expectations and wishes; but now they change their language, and give a different account of it; which shows their want of integrity, and to what length an opposition carried them, to say things contrary to their real sentiments, and to what they themselves had said before:
saying, the land through which we have gone to search it, [is] a land
that eateth up the inhabitants thereof;
the meaning seems to be, that it was so barren and unfruitful that it did not produce food sufficient for the inhabitants of it, who were ready to starve, and many did starve through want, and so was the reverse of what they had before said; for which reason, Gussetius F15 thinks the sense is, that the land was the food and nourishment of its inhabitants, and that there was such plenty in it that it wanted not any foreign assistance in any respect whatever. Some think that it was continually embroiled in civil wars, in which they destroyed one another; but then this was no argument against, but for their going up against them, since through the divisions among themselves they might reasonably hope the better to succeed; or it ate them up with diseases, as the Targum of Jonathan adds, and so they would represent it, though a fruitful land, yet a very unhealthful one, in which the natives could not live, and much less strangers; and so Aben Ezra and Ben Gersom interpret it of the badness of the air of the country, as being very unwholesome and pernicious. Jarchi represents them as saying, that wherever they came they saw them burying their dead, as if there was a plague among them; and be it so that there was, which is not unlikely, since the Lord promised to send hornets before them, which some interpret of diseases sent, ( Exodus 23:28 ) ; and which was in their favour, since hereby the number of their enemies would be lessened, and they would be weakened, and in a bad condition to oppose them:
and all the people that we saw in it [are] men of a great stature;
or men of measures F16, of a large measure, above the common measure of men; but it may be justly questioned whether they spoke truth; for though they might see some that exceeded in height men in common, yet it is not credible that all they saw were of such a size; since they were not only at Hebron and saw the giants there who were such, but they went through the land, as in the preceding clause, and all they met with cannot be supposed to be of such a measure.
F15 Ebr. Comment. p. 40.
F16 (twdm yvna) "viri mensurarum", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius.