Numbers 13

Exploring Canaan

1 The LORD said to Moses,
2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
3 So at the LORD’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites.
4 These are their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zakkur;
5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori;
6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;
7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph;
8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun;
9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu;
10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi;
11 from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe of Joseph), Gaddi son of Susi;
12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli;
13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael;
14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi;
15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki.
16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on 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 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified?
20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath.
22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)
23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.
24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there.
25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

Report on the Exploration

26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land.
27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.
28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.
29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”
32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.
33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked 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.

Cross References 51

  • 1. ver 16; Deuteronomy 1:22
  • 2. S Leviticus 14:34
  • 3. Joshua 1:3
  • 4. S Leviticus 24:11
  • 5. Numbers 1:16
  • 6. ver 30; Numbers 14:6,24; Numbers 34:19; Deuteronomy 1:36; Judges 1:12-15
  • 7. S Numbers 11:28
  • 8. S ver 2
  • 9. ver 8
  • 10. Deuteronomy 32:44
  • 11. ver 2; Joshua 14:7
  • 12. S Genesis 12:9
  • 13. Deuteronomy 1:7; Joshua 9:1; Judges 1:9
  • 14. Deuteronomy 1:25
  • 15. S Leviticus 25:5
  • 16. Numbers 20:1; Numbers 27:14; Numbers 33:36; Deuteronomy 32:51; Joshua 15:1
  • 17. Joshua 19:28; Judges 1:31; Judges 18:28; 2 Samuel 10:6; 1 Chronicles 6:75
  • 18. Numbers 34:8; Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25; 1 Chronicles 13:5; 2 Chronicles 7:8; Jeremiah 52:9; Ezekiel 47:16,20; Amos 6:14
  • 19. S Genesis 13:18; S Genesis 23:19
  • 20. Joshua 15:14; Judges 1:10
  • 21. ver 28; Deuteronomy 2:10; Deuteronomy 9:2; Joshua 11:21; Joshua 15:13; Judges 1:20
  • 22. Psalms 78:12,43; Isaiah 19:11,13; Isaiah 30:4; Ezekiel 30:14
  • 23. S Genesis 14:13
  • 24. S Exodus 28:33
  • 25. Genesis 3:7; Numbers 20:5; Deuteronomy 8:8; 2 Kings 18:31; Nehemiah 13:15
  • 26. S Genesis 7:4
  • 27. Numbers 14:34
  • 28. S Genesis 14:7
  • 29. S Genesis 14:6
  • 30. Numbers 32:8
  • 31. Deuteronomy 1:25
  • 32. S Exodus 3:8
  • 33. Deuteronomy 1:25; Jeremiah 2:7
  • 34. Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:1,2
  • 35. S ver 22
  • 36. Joshua 14:12
  • 37. S Genesis 14:7
  • 38. S Genesis 10:15; Deuteronomy 7:1; Deuteronomy 20:17; 1 Kings 9:20; 1 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 7:6
  • 39. S Exodus 3:8
  • 40. S Genesis 10:16
  • 41. ver 17
  • 42. Genesis 10:18
  • 43. S Genesis 13:10; Numbers 22:1; Numbers 32:5; Deuteronomy 1:1; Joshua 1:2; Judges 3:28; Psalms 42:6
  • 44. S ver 6
  • 45. Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:1; Joshua 14:8
  • 46. Numbers 14:36,37
  • 47. Ezekiel 36:13,14
  • 48. Deuteronomy 1:28; Amos 2:9
  • 49. Genesis 6:4
  • 50. ver 28; Deuteronomy 1:28; Joshua 11:22; Joshua 14:12
  • 51. Ecclesiastes 12:5; Isaiah 40:22

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. "Eshkol" means "cluster" ; also in verse 24.

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