4 Apr. Numbers 13:1-33

4 Apr. Moses sends spies to explore Canaan

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Send men to explore the land of Canaan, which I will give to the Israelites. Send one leader from each tribe.’ So Moses obeyed the LORD’s command and sent the Israelite leaders out from the Desert of Paran.”

“These are their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zaccur,… from the tribe of Judah, Caleb, son of Jephunneh,… from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea, son of Nun… These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the new name Joshua.)”

“Moses sent them to explore Canaan and said, ‘Go through southern Canaan and then into the mountains. See what the land looks like. Are the people who live there strong or weak? Are there a few or many? What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What about the towns they live in – are they open like camps, or do they have walls? What about the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees there? Try to bring back some of the fruit from that land.' (It was the season for the first grapes.)”

“So they went up and explored the land, from the desert of Zin all the way to Rehob by Lebo Hammath. They went through the southern area to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak lived. (The city of Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)”

“In the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch of a grapevine that had one bunch of grapes on it and carried that branch on a pole between two of them. They also got some pomegranites and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshcol (meaning ’bunch’) because the Israelites cut off the bunch of grapes there... After 40 days of exploring the land, the men returned to the camp. They came back to Moses and Aaron and all the Israelites at Kadesh, in the Desert of Paran.”

“The men reported to them and showed everybody the fruit from the land. They told Moses, ‘We went to the land where you sent us, and it is a fertile land! Here is some of its fruit. But the people who live there are strong. Their cities are walled and very large. We even saw some Anakites [giants] there. The Amalekites live in the southern area; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the mountains; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan River.’”

“Then Caleb told the people, ‘We should certainly go up and take the land for ourselves. We can certainly do it.’ But the men who had gone with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’”

“And those men gave the Israelites a bad report about the land they explored saying, ‘The land that we explored is too large to conquer. All the people we saw are very tall. We saw the Nephilim people there. (The Anakites [giants] come from the Nephilim people.) We felt like grasshoppers to them,’”

          (Numbers 13:1-33)



In c.1445BC, the Israelites reached Kadesh Barnea, an oasis in the Desert of Paran (see 4 on the map on 2 April). Following God’s command, Moses selected one man from each of the twelve tribes to go and explore the ‘promised land’ of Canaan.

Before deciding how to mount a military campaign against the existing inhabitants of Canaan, Moses needed accurate and up-to-date information about the settlements and their fortifications. To gain this vital intelligence, he sent a dozen ‘undercover agents’ on a six-week mission to secure details about the defences of the towns and cities that could become future military targets.

Moses sent the twelve spies, including Joshua and Caleb, to explore the whole land of Canaan, from Beersheba and Hebron in the south to Dan and Damascus 150 miles / 240 km to the north (see 5 on the map).

The spies travelled north, secretly, for three weeks from the Desert of Zin in the south, beyond Beersheba (where Isaac had settled some three hundred years earlier in c.1730BC) (see Genesis 26:23) and on past Shechem (where Jacob had set up an altar and bought land for a tomb in c.1691BC) (see Genesis 33:18-20).

From here they continued north to Rehob and Lebo Hamath (‘Hamath Pass’) in the far north of Canaan near Damascus. On their way back south, they passed Hebron (where Abraham was buried in Machpelah Cave in c.1815BC) (see Genesis 25:9) and cut a large cluster of grapes from the Valley of Eshcol (‘Eshcol’ means ‘a cluster’) before returning after forty days to the Israelite camp at the Kadesh oasis in the Desert of Paran.

The twelve spies reported back that the fertile land did indeed ‘flow with milk and honey’, but they added that the cities were well fortified and the inhabitants were strong. Most of their comments were negative and discouraging, and only Caleb urged the Israelites to attack immediately and claim the land for themselves.

The photo shows the Central Highlands of Galilee in the northern part of Canaan explored by the twelve spies. You can read more about the outcome of this secretive reconnaissance @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/26-the-journey-continues-from-sinai-to-moab/moses-sends-spies-into-canaan/

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