Numbers 13

Scouting Out Canaan

1 The Lord spoke to Moses:
2 "Send men to scout out the land of Canaan[a] I am giving to the Israelites. Send one man who is a leader among them from each of their ancestral tribes."
3 Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran at the Lord's command. All the men were leaders in Israel.[b]
4 These were their names: Shammua son of Zaccur from the tribe of Reuben;
5 Shaphat son of Hori from the tribe of Simeon;
6 Caleb[c] son of Jephunneh from the tribe of Judah;
7 Igal son of Joseph from the tribe of Issachar;
8 Hoshea son of Nun[d] from the tribe of Ephraim;
9 Palti son of Raphu from the tribe of Benjamin;
10 Gaddiel son of Sodi from the tribe of Zebulun;
11 Gaddi son of Susi from the tribe of Manasseh (from the tribe of Joseph);
12 Ammiel son of Gemalli from the tribe of Dan;
13 Sethur son of Michael from the tribe of Asher;
14 Nahbi son of Vophsi from the tribe of Naphtali;
15 Geuel son of Machi from the tribe of Gad.
16 These were the names of the men Moses sent to scout out the land, and Moses renamed Hoshea son of Nun, Joshua.
17 When Moses sent them to scout out the land of Canaan, he told them, "Go up this way to the Negev, then go up into the hill country.
18 See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.
19 Is the land they live in good[e] or bad? Are the cities they live in encampments or fortifications?[f]
20 Is the land fertile or unproductive?[g] Are there trees in it or not? Be courageous. Bring back some fruit from the land." It was the season for the first ripe grapes.[h]
21 So they went up and scouted out the land from the Wilderness of Zin[i] as far as Rehob[j] near the entrance to Hamath.[k]
22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak,[l] were living. Hebron was built seven years before Zoan[m] in Egypt.
23 When they came to the Valley of Eshcol,[n] they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes, which was carried on a pole by two men. [They] also [took] some pomegranates and figs.[o]
24 That place was called the Valley of Eshcol[p] because of the cluster [of grapes] the Israelites cut there.
25 At the end of 40 days[q] they returned from scouting out the land.

Report about Canaan

26 The men went back to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They brought back a report for them and the whole community, and they showed them the fruit of the land.[r]
27 They reported to Moses: "We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey,[s] and here is some of its fruit.
28 However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified.[t] We also saw the descendants of Anak[u] there.
29 The Amalekites[v] are living in the land of the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan."
30 Then Caleb[w] quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, "We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!"
31 But the men who had gone up with him responded, "We can't go up against the people because they are stronger than we are!"
32 So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: "The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size.
33 We even saw the Nephilim[x] there." (The offspring of Anak were descended from the Nephilim.[y]) "To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them."

Numbers 13 Commentary

Chapter 13

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.

Footnotes 25

  • [a]. Dt 1:22-26
  • [b]. Ex 18:25-26; Dt 1:13-18
  • [c]. Nm 14:6,24,30,38; 26:65
  • [d]. Nm 14:30,38; 27:18-23; Ex 33:11
  • [e]. Nm 14:7; Dt 1:25
  • [f]. Dt 1:28; 3:5; 9:1; Jos 14:12
  • [g]. Neh 9:25,35; Isa 30:23; Ezk 34:14,20
  • [h]. Nm 13:23
  • [i]. Southern border of the promised land
  • [j]. Northern border of the promised land
  • [k]. Or near Lebo-hamath
  • [l]. Nm 13:28,33; Dt 1:28; 2:10-11,21
  • [m]. Ps 78:12; Isa 19:11; 30:4; Ezk 30:14
  • [n]. Nm 32:9; Dt 1:24
  • [o]. Nm 20:5; Dt 8:8
  • [p]. cluster
  • [q]. Nm 14:33-34; 32:13; Ps 95:10
  • [r]. Nm 32:9; Dt 1:24-25
  • [s]. Nm 14:8; 16:13-14; Ex 3:8; Lv 20:24
  • [t]. Dt 1:28; 3:5; 9:1; Jos 14:12
  • [u]. Nm 13:33; Dt 1:28; 2:10-11,21
  • [v]. Nm 14:25,43,45; Ex 17:8-16; Dt 25:17-19
  • [w]. Nm 14:6,24,30,38; 26:65
  • [x]. Possibly means "fallen ones"; traditionally, giants; Gn 6:4
  • [y]. Dt 2:10-11,20-21

Chapter Summary


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, Nu 13:1-3; and the names of the twelve persons are given, Nu 13:4-16; the instructions they received from Moses, what part of the land they should enter into first, and what observations they should make on it, Nu 13:17-20; which they attended to, and on their return brought some of the fruit of the land with them, Nu 13:21-26; and gave an account of it, that it was a very fruitful land, but the inhabitants mighty, and their cities walled, Nu 13:27-29; which threw the people into confusion, but that they were stilled by Caleb, one of the spies, who encouraged them, Nu 13:30; but all the rest, excepting Joshua, brought an ill report of it, as not to be subdued and conquered by them, Nu 13:31-33.

Numbers 13 Commentaries

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