Twelve men sent to search the land of Canaan, Their instructions. (1-20) Their proceedings. (21-25) Their account of the land. (26-33)
Verses 1-20 A memorable and melancholy history is related in this and the following chapter, of the turning back of Israel from the borders of Canaan, and the sentencing them to wander and perish in the wilderness, for their unbelief and murmuring. It appears, ( Deuteronomy 1:22 ) , that the motion to search out the land came from the people. They had a better opinion of their own policy than of God's wisdom. Thus we ruin ourselves by believing the reports and representations of sense rather than Divine revelation. We walk by sight not by faith. Moses gave the spies this charge, Be of good courage. It was not only a great undertaking they were put upon, which required good management and resolution; but a great trust was reposed in them, which required that they should be faithful. Courage in such circumstances can only spring from strong faith, which Caleb and Joshua alone possessed.
Verses 21-25 The searchers of the land brought a bunch of grapes with them, and other fruits, as proofs of the goodness of the country; which was to Israel both the earnest and the specimen of all the fruits of Canaan. Such are the present comforts we have in communion with God, foretastes of the fulness of joy we expect in the heavenly Canaan. We may see by them what heaven is.
Verses 26-33 We may wonder that the people of Israel staid forty days for the return of their spies, when they were ready to enter Canaan, under all the assurances of success they could have from the Divine power, and the miracles that had hitherto attended them. But they distrusted God's power and promise. How much we stand in our own light by our unbelief! At length the messengers returned; but the greater part discouraged the people from going forward to Canaan. Justly are the Israelites left to this temptation, for putting confidence in the judgment of men, when they had the word of God to trust in. Though they had found the land as good as God had said, yet they would not believe it to be as sure as he had said, but despaired of having it, though Eternal Truth had engaged it to them. This was the representation of the evil spies. Caleb, however, encouraged them to go forward, though seconded by Joshua only. He does not say, Let us go up and conquer it; but, Let us go and possess it. Difficulties that are in the way of salvation, dwindle and vanish before a lively, active faith in the power and promise of God. All things are possible, if they are promised, to him that believes; but carnal sense and carnal professors are not to be trusted. Unbelief overlooks the promises and power of God, magnifies every danger and difficulty, and fills the heart with discouragement. May the Lord help us to believe! we shall then find all things possible.
Numbers 13:1-33 . THE NAMES OF THE MEN WHO WERE SENT TO SEARCH THE LAND.
1, 2. The Lord spake unto Moses, Send thou men, that they may search the land, of Canaan--Compare Deuteronomy 1:22 , whence it appears, that while the proposal of delegating confidential men from each tribe to explore the land of Canaan emanated from the people who petitioned for it, the measure received the special sanction of God, who granted their request at once as a trial, and a punishment of their distrust.
3. those men were heads of the children of Israel--Not the princes who are named ( Numbers 10:14-16 Numbers 10:18-20 Numbers 10:22-27 ), but chiefs, leading men though not of the first rank.
16. Oshea--that is, "a desire of salvation." Jehoshua, by prefixing the name of God, means "divinely appointed," "head of salvation," "Saviour," the same as Jesus [ Matthew 1:21 , Margin].
17. Get you up this way . . . , and go up into the mountain--Mount Seir ( Deuteronomy 1:2 ), which lay directly from Sinai across the wilderness of Paran, in a northeasterly direction into the southern parts of the promised land.
20. Now the time was the time of the first grapes--This was in August, when the first clusters are gathered. The second are gathered in September, and the third in October. The spies' absence for a period of forty days determines the grapes they brought from Eshcol to have been of the second period.
21-24. So they . . . searched the land--They advanced from south to north, reconnoitering the whole land.
the wilderness of Zin--a long level plain, or deep valley of sand, the monotony of which is relieved by a few tamarisk and rethem trees. Under the names of El Ghor and El Araba, it forms the continuation of the Jordan valley, extending from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akaba.
Rehob--or, Beth-rehob, was a city and district situated, according to some, eastward of Sidon; and, according to others, it is the same as El Hule, an extensive and fertile champaign country, at the foot of Anti-libanus, a few leagues below Paneas.
as men come to Hamath--or, "the entering in of Hamath" ( 2 Kings 14:25 ), now the valley of Balbeck, a mountain pass or opening in the northern frontier, which formed the extreme limit in that direction of the inheritance of Israel. From the mention of these places, the route of the scouts appears to have been along the course of the Jordan in their advance; and their return was by the western border through the territories of the Sidonians and Philistines.
22. unto Hebron--situated in the heart of the mountains of Judah, in the southern extremity of Palestine. The town or "cities of Hebron," as it is expressed in the Hebrew, consists of a number of sheikdoms distinct from each other, standing at the foot of one of those hills that form a bowl round and enclose it. "The children of Anak" mentioned in this verse seem to have been also chiefs of townships; and this coincidence of polity, existing in ages so distant from each other, is remarkable [VERE MONRO]. Hebron (Kirjath Arba, Genesis 23:2 ) was one of the oldest cities in the world.
Zoan--(the Tunis of the Greeks) was situated on one of the eastern branches of the Nile, near the lake Menzala, and was the early royal residence of the Pharaohs. It boasted a higher antiquity than any other city in Egypt. Its name, which signifies flat and level, is descriptive of its situation in the low grounds of the Delta.
23. they came unto the brook of Eshcol--that is, "the torrent of the cluster." Its location was a little to the southwest of Hebron. The valley and its sloping hills are still covered with vineyards, the character of whose fruit corresponds to its ancient celebrity.
and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes--The grapes reared in this locality are still as magnificent as formerly--they are said by one to be equal in size to prunes, and compared by another to a man's thumb. One cluster sometimes weights ten or twelve pounds. The mode of carrying the cluster cut down by the spies, though not necessary from its weight, was evidently adopted to preserve it entire as a specimen of the productions of the promised land; and the impression made by the sight of it would be all the greater because the Israelites were familiar only with the scanty vines and small grapes of Egypt.
26. they came . . . to Kadesh--an important encampment of the Israelites. But its exact situation is not definitely known, nor is it determined whether it is the same or a different place from Kadesh-barnea. It is supposed to be identical with Ain-el-Weibeh, a famous spring on the eastern side of the desert [ROBINSON], or also with Petra [STANLEY].
27, 28. they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey--The report was given publicly in the audience of the people, and it was artfully arranged to begin their narrative with commendations of the natural fertility of the country in order that their subsequent slanders might the more readily receive credit.
29. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south--Their territory lay between the Dead and the Red Seas, skirting the borders of Canaan.
Hittites . . . dwell in the mountains--Their settlements were in the southern and mountainous part of Palestine ( Genesis 23:7 ).
the Canaanites dwell by the sea--The remnant of the original inhabitants, who had been dispossessed by the Philistines, were divided into two nomadic hordes--one settled eastward near the Jordan; the other westward, by the Mediterranean.
32. a land that eateth up the inhabitants--that is, an unhealthy climate and country. Jewish writers say that in the course of their travels they saw a great many funerals, vast numbers of the Canaanites being cut off at that time, in the providence of God, by a plague or the hornet ( Joshua 24:12 ).
men of a great stature--This was evidently a false and exaggerated report, representing, from timidity or malicious artifice, what was true of a few as descriptive of the people generally.
33. there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak--The name is derived from the son of Arba, a great man among the Arabians ( Joshua 15:14 ), who probably obtained his appellation from wearing a splendid collar or chain round his neck, as the word imports. The epithet "giant" evidently refers here to stature. probable the Anakims were a distinguished family, or perhaps a select body of warriors, chosen for their extraordinary size.
we were in our own sight as grasshoppers--a strong Orientalism, by which the treacherous spies gave an exaggerated report of the physical strength of the people of Canaan.