From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 13

The objective was to get to the Promised Land. Yahweh had been giving Israel lessons in living and working together so they could reach their common target. In order to reach their goal they would have had to learn to work alongside each other – to collaborate. They would all have to be willing to own the outcome if they were to achieve their objective.

Yahweh instructed Moses to send men out to scout out the country of Canaan that he was giving to his chosen people. Yahweh already knew what was in the land of Canaan. He chose Israel to be his ambassadors to reflect his character to the rest of the world and draw them back to their Maker. Yahweh’s goal was for all the families of the earth to be blessed through Abraham’s descendants – Israel[1]. If Israel was to be a blessing to the other nations they would have to learn to live in community, working together for the common desire of being a blessing to the world. Therefore, he told Moses to send out a man from each ancestral tribe to scout out the land.

The narrator listed the twelve names of the men that Moses sent out to scout, including Caleb from the tribe of Judah and Joseph – whose name he changed[2] from Hoshea – from the tribe of Ephraim. He instructed the scouts to go through the Negev which is a desert and semi desert region of what is now southern Israel. From there they were to go up into the hill country. The Promised Land was in sight. However, Israel was still in training so the twelve spies had to go through the desert without Moses. Their walk through the desert would assess whether they could walk humbly with their God, Yahweh. If they could, their trust in him and what he was doing would have grown with each step they took. It is in the wastelands of life that our needs force us to stop trusting in our own strength and reach out to Yahweh. When we understand our own weakness we are able to appreciate his strength at work in our lives. When we walk humbly with Yahweh we are aware of our personal limitation and his immeasurable strength and power. When we comprehend that his omnipotent capacity is accompanied by attributes of love and mercy we can trust him completely. If the twelve spies had walked humbly with their God, Yahweh, they would have trusted him to not only be able to do what he said he would, but to accomplish it.

Moses told them that when they got to the hill country to look the land over and see what it was like. Yahweh had told them it was a good land. Moses told them to agree with their God. He told them to evaluate the people and calculate their strength. Yahweh had told them that the people were evil and he would chase them from the land. Moses asked the scouts to concur. Moses told the spies to survey the land and report to him whether it was pleasant or harsh, fertile or barren. He told them to let him know if there were forests. Yahweh had said it was a pleasant land. Moses asked the twelve to agree. He told the twelve to bring back a description of the towns and the condition of their defense mechanisms. In addition to that Moses asked them to try to bring back a sample of the produce that grew there as it was the season for the first ripe grapes.

Rashi’s commentary says that the twelve walked along the length and width of the land along the side which was the southern border, from the eastern corner to the western corner, as Moses had directed them: “Go up this way in the south”-by way of the southeastern border until the sea, for the sea was its western border. From there they turned and walked along the entire western border, which is the coast, until the entrance to Hamath, which is near Mount Hor, in the northwestern corner.[3]

The narrator wrote that they scouted out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob toward Lebo Hamath. Their route went through the Negev Desert to the town of Hebron. He said that the descendants of the giant Anak lived there. Crawford Howell Toy, Kaufmann Kohler says the Anakim were a pre-Canaanite tribe, dwelling in the hill country of Judah and in the Philistine plain The Anakim are called a branch of the Rephaim[4] and are sometimes classed with the Nephilim[5]. According to rabbinical tradition, the Anakim are of the same Titanic race as the Rephaim, Nephilim, Gibborim, Zamzummim, and Emim. … Of the three sons of Anak who filled the spies with awe and fear by their gigantic stature, … the first is represented … . as challenging passers-by, saying: “Whose brother will fight with me?” …  the second stood there stolid as a block of marble … and the third made deep furrows … in the soil with every step. … And when the spies saw these men towering up to the sky and looking as if piercing the sun, they were afraid and said: “We are not able to go up against these people, for they are stronger than He []; that is, stronger than even the Lord Himself!”

The narrator wrote that Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. Archaeological excavations reveal traces of strong fortifications dated to the Early Bronze Age, This older Hebron was originally a Canaanite royal city Abrahamic legend associates the city with the Hittites. The story of Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs from the Hittites constitutes a seminal element in what was to become the Jewish attachment to the land in that it signified the first “real estate” of Israel long before the conquest under Joshua. In settling here, Abraham is described as making his first covenant, an alliance with two local Amorite clans who became his ba’alei brit or masters of the covenant. [6] If it be true that the Pharaoh of the exodus had his royal residence at Zoan, Moses may have had access to the archives of the city, or he may have learnt the date of its foundation from the priests who gave him his Egyptian education. That there was any real connection between the two places is extremely problematical, nor is it possible to give any reason for the abrupt insertion here of a fragment of history so minute and, in itself, so unimportant. There is, however, no one but Moses to whom the statement can with any sort of likelihood be traced; a later writer could have had no authority for making the statement, and no possible reason for inventing it.[7]

The narrator wrote that when they arrived at the Eshcol Valley they cut off a branch with a single cluster of grapes—it took two men to carry it—slung on a pole. They also picked some pomegranates and figs. They named the place Eshcol Valley (Grape-Cluster-Valley) because of the huge cluster of grapes they had cut down there.

After forty days of scouting out the land, they returned home. 40 days points to the fact that their work was completely done, and the land thoroughly explored.[8]

They had seen the land and found that it was everything that Yahweh had said it would be. It was indeed flowing with milk and honey. The spies returned to Moses and the rest of Yahweh’s people and showed them the fruit of the land they had brought back to the desert with them. They related the story of their trip with the attention of the nation and their report was given according to human perspective. They said, “We went to the land to which you sent us and, oh! It does flow with milk and honey! Just look at this fruit! The only thing is that the people who live there are fierce, their cities are huge and well-fortified. Worse yet, we saw descendants of the giant Anak. Amalekites are spread out in the Negev; Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites hold the hill country; and the Canaanites are established on the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan.” [9] as a whole, the spies failed their test.

Paul told the Thessalonians to speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.[10] Israel was a people living in the same community with the same goal and should have been encouraging one another and building each other up. Therefore, Caleb interrupted the discouraging report and called for silence. He encouraged Israel to go take the land and assured them that they could do it. He was demonstrating that he knew what Paul said to the Romans. “Do you think their faithlessness cancels out his [Yahweh’s] faithfulness? Not on your life! Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Scripture says the same: Your words stand fast and true; Rejection doesn’t faze you.”[11]

There were ten men who had been there that were determined to spread their distrust and discouragement through the whole nation. They insisted that the people were too strong and would swallow Israel whole. They left their God, Yahweh, out of their calculations and concentrated on the enemy. The Canaanites grew in stature as they talked and they became smaller in their own eyes. They weren’t walking humbly with Yahweh so the perception of their inability and the ability of the enemy were exaggerated and fear consumed them. The accepted the evil report – slander – of the enemy of their soul.

 

Summary of chapter 13

Moses sent twelve men– on a reconnaissance mission; to observe the land of Canaan and bring back a report to the nation. They were a group of Israelite chieftains, one from each of the twelve tribes – in Hebrew: שנים עשר המרגליםon (the twelve spies). Yahweh had promised Abraham that there would be a Promised Land for the nations to come out of his son, Isaac. The land of Canaan which the spies were to explore was that Promised Land. Moses asked for an assessment of the geographical features of the land, the strength and numbers of the population, the agricultural potential and actual performance of the land, civic organization (whether their cities were like camps or strongholds), and forestry conditions. He also asked them to be positive in their outlook and to return with samples of local produce. When ten of the twelve spies showed little faith in the doom and gloom report they gave about the land, they were slandering what Yahweh had promised them. They did not believe that their God could help them, and the people as a whole were persuaded that it was not possible to take the land.[12]

 

Prayer: Lord, I am part of your chosen generation so I will live for you. You called me out of darkness into your light so I will live for you. I will run the race you have set before me with passion in the glorious liberty of all of your children. You have broken all the chains and you are my steadfast tower of strength. Because of your steadfast strength I will not be moved. Because I know that you will never be shaken I can run and not be weary, or walk and not faint. I will be faithful and obedient in the energy of your power. You are the joy of my life and the song in my heart. Open my eyes so I will see the needs of others; open my ears so I will hear their cries; open my heart so that and give me wisdom to know how to help. Give me courage to defend the weak in the face of the angry strong, and to defend the poor in spite of the anger of the rich. Show me where love and hope and faith are needed, and use me to bring them to those places. Open my eyes and my ears and my heart that this coming day I will be able to do some work of peace for you.[13]

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Do you think Yahweh was aware the Israel wasn’t ready to go into the Promised Land?
  2. Why do you think Yahweh told Moses to send out the twelve to scout out the land of Canaan?
  3. Why were there twelve scouts?
  4. Why did the narrator list all twelve names and I only mentioned the names of Caleb and Joshua?
  5. What was it about the land that agreed with what Yahweh had told Israel about it?
  6. What frightened the scouts? Did they have reason to fear? Did they have any reason not to be afraid?[14]

 

 

[1] Genesis 12:3; 17;:8; 22:18; 26:3; Exodus 23:31

[2] From Salvation to Yahweh saves

[3] http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9941/jewish/Chapter-13.htm#showrashi=true

[4] In the Hebrew Bible and other non-Jewish ancient texts from the region, the North-West Semitic term Rephaite (Heb. plural רפאים, Rephaim; Phoenician: rpʼm) refers either to a people group of greater-than-average height and stature (possibly giants), or to dead ancestors who are residents of the Netherworld. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rephaite

[5]The Nephilim (Hebrew: נפלים, Nefilīm) were a race that came to dominate the antediluvian (pre-flood) world, and are referred to in the Bible as the heroes of old, men of renown. They were reportedly the children born to the “Sons of God” by the “daughters of men“, and are described as giants. It is also most important to note that they are mentioned almost simultaneous to God’s statement that He would destroy the earth by flood, and it seems from this association that their effect upon mankind was one of the primary justifications that brought the destruction. http://nwcreation.net/nephilim.html

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebron

[7] http://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/numbers/13.htm

[8] http://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/numbers/13.htm

[9] Verses 27-29

[10] I Thessalonians 5:11

[11] Romans 3:4

[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Spies

[13] From a prayer by Alan Payton, South Africa

[14] Psalm 56:3,4

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