Numbers 13

Listen to Numbers 13

Spies Sent into Canaan

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 1"Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them."
3 So Moses sent them from 2the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel.
4 And these were their names: From the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur;
5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori;
6 3from the tribe of Judah, 4Caleb the son of Jephunneh;
7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph;
8 from the tribe of Ephraim, 5Hoshea the son of Nun;
9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu;
10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi;
11 from the tribe of Joseph (that is, from the tribe of Manasseh), Gaddi the son of Susi;
12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli;
13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael;
14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi;
15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.
16 These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called 6Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua.
17 Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan and said to them, "Go up into 7the Negeb and go up into 8the hill country,
18 and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many,
19 and whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds,
20 and whether the land is 9rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. 10Be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land." Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.
21 So they went up and spied out the land 11from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, 12near Lebo-hamath.
22 They went up into 13the Negeb and came to 14Hebron. 15Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the 16descendants of Anak, were there. (17Hebron was built seven years before 18Zoan in Egypt.)
23 And 19they came to the Valley of Eshcol and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they also brought some pomegranates and figs.
24 That place was called the Valley of Eshcol,[a] because of the cluster that the people of Israel cut down from there.

Report of the Spies

25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land.
26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at 20Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.
27 And they told him, "We came to the land to which you sent us. It 21flows with milk and honey, 22and this is its fruit.
28 23However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.
29 24The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. 25And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan."
30 But 26Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, "Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it."
31 27Then the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are."
32 So 28they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, "The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and 29all the people that we saw in it are of great height.
33 And there we saw the 30Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the 31Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves 32like grasshoppers, and so we seemed 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.

Cross References 32

  • 1. Numbers 32:8; See Deuteronomy 1:22-25
  • 2. ver. 26; Numbers 12:16; Numbers 32:8; Deuteronomy 1:19; Deuteronomy 9:23
  • 3. Numbers 34:19; 1 Chronicles 4:15
  • 4. ver. 30; Numbers 14:6, 30; Numbers 26:65; Numbers 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; See Joshua 14:6-15; Joshua 15:13-18; Judges 1:12-15
  • 5. ver. 16; Numbers 11:28; Numbers 14:6, 30, 38; Exodus 24:13; Deuteronomy 32:44; [Nehemiah 8:17]
  • 6. [See ver. 8 above]
  • 7. ver. 22, 29; Numbers 21:1; Joshua 15:19; Judges 1:15
  • 8. ver. 29; Judges 1:9, 19
  • 9. Nehemiah 9:25, 35; Ezekiel 34:14
  • 10. Deut. 31:6, 7, 23
  • 11. Numbers 20:1; Numbers 33:36; Numbers 34:3; Joshua 15:1
  • 12. Numbers 34:8
  • 13. [See ver. 17 above]
  • 14. See Joshua 14:15
  • 15. Joshua 15:14; Judges 1:10
  • 16. ver. 33; Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 2:10; Deuteronomy 9:2; Joshua 11:21, 22
  • 17. Psalms 78:12, 43; Isaiah 19:11, 13; Isaiah 30:4; Ezekiel 30:14
  • 18. Psalms 78:12, 43; Isaiah 19:11, 13; Isaiah 30:4; Ezekiel 30:14
  • 19. Numbers 32:9; Deuteronomy 1:24, 25
  • 20. Numbers 20:1, 16; Numbers 32:8; Numbers 33:36; Deuteronomy 1:19; Joshua 14:6, 7
  • 21. See Exodus 3:8
  • 22. Deuteronomy 1:25
  • 23. Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:1, 2
  • 24. Numbers 14:43; Exodus 17:8
  • 25. [Numbers 14:25]
  • 26. [Numbers 14:6, 24]
  • 27. Numbers 32:9; Deuteronomy 1:28; Joshua 14:8
  • 28. Numbers 14:36, 37
  • 29. [Amos 2:9]
  • 30. Genesis 6:4
  • 31. Genesis 6:4
  • 32. Isaiah 40:22

Footnotes 1

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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