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Numbers: Chapter 13

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1The LORD said to Moses, 2“Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites; from each of their ancestral tribes you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.” 3So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the LORD, all of them leading men among the Israelites. 4These were their names: From the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zaccur; 5from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori; 6from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh; 7from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph; 8from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun; 9from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu; 10from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi; 11from the tribe of Joseph (that is, from the tribe of Manasseh), Gaddi son of Susi; 12from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli; 13from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael; 14from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi; 15from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Machi. 16These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses changed the name of Hoshea son of Nun to Joshua.

17Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up there into the Negeb, and go up into the hill country, 18and see what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, 19and whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the towns that they live in are unwalled or fortified, 20and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. Be bold, and bring some of the fruit of the land. Now it was the season of the first ripe grapes.

21So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, near Lebo‐hamath. 22They went up into the Negeb, and came to Hebron; and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the Anakites, were there. (Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23And they came to the Wadi 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. 24That place was called the Wadi Eshcol, a Cn: Heb and they confronted Moses, and two hundred fifty men … well‐known men because of the cluster that the Israelites cut down from there.

25At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29The Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

30But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we.” 32So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. 33There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”


a Cn: Heb and they confronted Moses, and two hundred fifty men … well‐known men

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

18.1–32 : Priesthood and Levitical duties and dues.

This builds on chs 16–17 .

1–7 :

For the duties outlined here, see 3.5–10,14–39; 4.1–49 .

3,4,5 :

Perform duties, perform guard duty.

6 :

Perform service, do the work of transporting the tabernacle (also vv. 21,23,31 ).

8–20 :

The priests receive offerings (pre‐bends) for their work.

8–10 :

The priests eat the portions of the most holy offerings (see Lev 2.3n. ) in the sanctuary court (Lev 6.16,26; 7.6; 10.13,17; 24.9 ).

11–20 :

The whole priestly family, including females, may eat of lesser holy offerings 10.14–15; 22.10–14 ). This may be done outside the sanctuary, but must be done in a state of ritual purity.

11 :

Gifts of all the elevation offerings, rather, “gifts including all the elevation offerings.” Elevation, done in the sanctuary, specially consecrates portions of offerings (Ex 29.27–28; Lev 7.30; 10.14–15; 23.17–20; Num 6.19–20 ). Gifts include these and other items dedicated outside the sanctuary.

12–13 :

For first produce and first fruits, cf. Ex 23.19; Lev 2.12; 19.24; Num 15.17–20; Deut 18.4 .

14 :

Devoted thing, see Lev 27.28n.

15–18 :

Firstborn animals, cf. Lev 27.26; Num 1.11–13 .

16 :

Shekel, see 3.47n.

17 :

Pleasing odor, see 15.3n.

19 :

Covenant of salt, see Lev 2.13n.

21–32 :

The Levites receive the produce tithe (cf. vv. 27,30; cf. Neh 10.38–39 ). This amends Lev 27.30–33 , where produce and animal tithes appear to go to the priests.

25–32 :

Even Levites are not exempt from supporting the priests. The tenth of the Levitical tithe that goes to the priests is holy (vv. 28–29 ) while the remaining nine‐tenths is not (vv. 31–32 ).

13.1–14.45 : Scouting the land of Canaan.

This story is incorporated here as a long complaint narrative. This complaint arrative about conquering the land of Canaan exhibits two layers, as may be seen in tension concerning the extent of the trip, and the roles of Caleb and Joshua. In an earlier (JE) version of the story, scouts are sent only to the southern half of the land, and only Caleb urges its conquest ( 13.17b–20,22–24,26b–31; 14.1b,4,11–25,26–45 ). This was augmented with elements (some attributed to P, others hard to identify) telling about a larger scouting expedition covering the entire land of Canaan. In this, Joshua adds an affirmative voice 13.1–3,4–17a,21,25–26a,32–14.1a,2–3,5–10,26–38 ). The earlier version is reflected in Josh 14.6–9 . The combined account is reflected in Num 26.64–65; 32.8–13; Deut 1.19–46 (cf. also Ps 95.10–11; 106.24–26; Neh 9.21 ).

13 :

2 :

Spy out, better, “scout out,” since the mission is not strictly military or covert. For similar episodes, cf. 21.32; Josh 2.1–22; 7.2–3; Judg 1.23; 18.1–30 .

3 :

Wilderness of Paran, in the south central Sinai (see color Map at end of book).

4–15 :

Most of the individuals named here do not occur elsewhere.

6 :

In other places (e.g., 32.12 ), Caleb is considered a Kenizzite, a group eventually incorporated into Judah.

17 :

The Negeb, the southern region of Israel.

20 :

Grapes ripen in late summer.

21 :

Wilderness of Zin, just north of Paran (v. 3 ). For Lebo‐hamath, in the North, see 34.8n. and color Map 6.

22 :

Hebron, a major city in the southern part of the land (see Map on p. 28 HB). For the Anakites, see v. 33n. (cf. Josh 15.13–14).

23 :

Wadi Eshcol, near Hebron. Eshcol means “grape cluster.”

26 :

Kadesh(barnea), an oasis between the wildernesses of Paran and Zin (see color Map 2), where the Israelites will stay until 20.22 .

27 :

Flows with milk and honey, a description with mythological overtones. The honey was probably a thick syrup made from grapes or dates.

29 :

Amalekites, a widespread semi‐nomadic group often at war with Israel; see Gen 14.9; Ex 17.8–16; Judg 6.3; 1 Sam 15.2–8 . The other groups in this verse form part of a traditional list of the inhabitants of the land; see Gen 10.16n–18n.; 15.19–21; Ex 3.8; Josh 3.10n.

33 :

Nephilim, cf. Gen 6.1–4 . Like the Anakites (v. 22 ), their size and strength were legendary (cf. Deut 1.28 ).

14.1–10 :

The negative reports of the scouts 13.28–29,31–33 ) lead to the people's complaint.

5–6 :

Fell on their faces, in order to beseech the people. Joshua and Caleb tear their clothing in distress (Gen 37.29 ) and deliver a positive report (cf. Caleb already in 13.30 ).

9 :

Bread for us, cf. Ps 14.4 .

10 :

Stoning may be legal ( 15.36 ) or extra‐legal (Ex 17.4 ), as here. The glory of the Lord was the visible manifestation of the divine presence; see Ex 16.6n–7n.

12 :

God was ready to make Moses’ posterity his chosen people also in Ex 32.10 (Deut 9.14).

13–19 :

Moses defends the people in two ways: He says that God's reputation will suffer if he destroys them (vv. 13–16 ) and that God has before promised to be patient and forgiving (vv. 17–19; cf. Ex 34.5–8 ). The first argument had been used previously with success in Ex 32.12 . On the cloud, see 9.15n–23n.

20–45 :

God imposes lesser punishments, some of which are ironic: The people will die in the wilderness as they wished ( 14.2,28–32 ), yet their children will enter the land contrary to their fear ( 14.3, 31 ); the people will be allowed to journey in the direction of Egypt (the way to the Red Sea) as they wished, but only to die on the way ( 14.4,25,28–29 ); some die by the sword as they feared ( 14.3,43 ); they seek to take the land but fail as they said they would 13.28–29,31–33; 14.40–45 ).

34 :

Cf. Ezek 4.6 .

36–37 :

The scouts who gave a discouraging report are killed in a plague, though the people in general are spared (cf. 14.12 ).

39–45 :

The people cannot escape punishment by performing the original command, since God is not with them.

44 :

On the ark representing God in battle, see 10.25n–26n.

45 :

Hormah, a city in the Negeb near Beer‐sheba; see 21.2n–3n.

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