Numbers 13


‘The LORD said to Moses, “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.” So at the LORD’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. These are their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zakkur; from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori; from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh; from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph; from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun; from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu; from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi; from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe of Joseph), Gaddi son of Susi; from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli; from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael; from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi; from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki. These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)’ Numbers 13:1-16

Exploring Canaan

This chapter begins by God asking Moses to send some men to explore the Promised Land. Notice that one man was taken from each tribe in order to form the exploration party.

Ephraim and Manasseh represented the descendants of Joseph and because the Levites had been separated from the other tribes, they weren’t included.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Here at the outset the question arises as to ‘whose idea was it?’ that the children of Israel should spy out the land. Here, there is no mention of the people as being behind such a plan, but in Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 1:20-22, it is revealed that the people themselves were behind this proposal.’

There are two things to notice in this passage.

1. The lack of faith on the part of the people and 2. The compliance of God with their request, for the purpose of educating them and letting them ‘have their foolish way and taste its bitter results.’

‘When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 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? 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.) So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 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.) When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, 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. That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.’ Numbers 13:17-25

The Negev is called the South Country and is a well-defined area lying from Kadesh North to the vicinity of Hebron and covering the whole area between the Jordan and Dead Sea valley to the Mediterranean, Joshua 15:21-32.

Throughout the Bible, Hamath is repeatedly referred to as the North gateway to Palestine. Jeroboam restored the ancient Solomonic empire from the entrance of Hamath, etc. 2 Kings 14:25.

The normal requests for information was made by Moses in order to reassure the strength of the people of Canaan, as well as reconfirm their goal of dwelling in a land that flowed with milk and honey. All the requests were indications of Israel’s lack of faith in trusting God to take the land, as well as trusting in God’s promise of what was waiting for them when they possessed the land.

Remember, Moses didn’t need this information, he only asked the spies to bring the information back in order to reassure the people to go up and take the land immediately.

Report On The Exploration

‘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. 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. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 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.” 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.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 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. 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 13:26-33

When the spies came back, they confirmed that Canaan was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey, Exodus 3:8 / Exodus 13:5. However, these spies also thought that the land was filled with a strong people who lived in fortified cities. We can safely assume that not all the people were giants in the land, and we can safely assume that not all the land was desolate.

Those with the negative report obviously just focused on the points which they wanted to focus in order to give a discouraging report. And so, by being selective in what they reported, they discouraged the people. These guys were totally focused on all the negatives but totally refused to trust in God and His power.

It was Caleb who silenced the people and said, they need to go now, they need trust and obey God and to take the land, because God had made them able. He completely trusted God, Romans 3:4.

Notice that these spies, except for Caleb and Joshua compared themselves to grasshoppers, when they observed those living in the land. The Nephilim were known as giants, Genesis 6:4.

Go To Numbers 14


"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

1 Peter 5:7