Numbers 13

1 The Lord said to Moses,
2 "Choose one of the leaders from each of the twelve tribes and send them as spies to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites."
3 Moses obeyed and from the wilderness of Paran he sent out leaders, as follows:
16 These are the spies Moses sent to explore the land. He changed the name of Hoshea son of Nun to Joshua.
17 When Moses sent them out, he said to them, "Go north from here into the southern part of the land of Canaan and then on into the hill country.
18 Find out what kind of country it is, how many people live there, and how strong they are.
19 Find out whether the land is good or bad and whether the people live in open towns or in fortified cities.
20 Find out whether the soil is fertile and whether the land is wooded. And be sure to bring back some of the fruit that grows there." (It was the season when grapes were beginning to ripen.)
21 So the men went north and explored the land from the wilderness of Zin in the south all the way to Rehob, near Hamath Pass in the north.
22 They went first into the southern part of the land and came to Hebron, where the clans of Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of a race of giants called the Anakim, lived. (Hebron was founded seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)
23 They came to Eshcol Valley, and there they cut off a branch which had one bunch of grapes on it so heavy that it took two men to carry it on a pole between them. They also brought back some pomegranates and figs
24 (That place was named Eshcol Valley because of the bunch of grapes the Israelites cut off there.)
25 After exploring the land for forty days, the spies returned
26 to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had brought.
27 They told Moses, "We explored the land and found it to be rich and fertile; and here is some of its fruit.
28 But the people who live there are powerful, and their cities are very large and well fortified. Even worse, we saw the descendants of the giants there.
29 Amalekites live in the southern part of the land; Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and Canaanites live by the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan River."
30 Caleb silenced the people who were complaining against Moses, and said, "We should attack now and take the land; we are strong enough to conquer it."
31 But the men who had gone with Caleb said, "No, we are not strong enough to attack them; the people there are more powerful than we are."
32 So they spread a false report among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, "That land doesn't even produce enough to feed the people who live there. Everyone we saw was very tall,
33 and we even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that is how we must have looked to them." 1

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 1

  • 1. 13.33Genesis 6.4.

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. eshcol: [This name in Hebrew means "bunch of grapes."]
  • [b]. complaining against; [or] gathered around.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 13

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