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NUMBERS 13

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

 NASB  NKJV  NRSV  TEV   NJB
(MT versing)
Spies View the Land Spies Sent Into Canaan The Reconnaissance of the Land The Spies The Reconnaissance in Canaan
13:1-16 13:1-16 13:1-16 13:1-15 13:1-2
13:3-4
13:5
13:6
13:7
13:8
13:9
13:10
13:11
13:12
13:13
13:14
13:15
13:16 13:16
13:17-20 13:17-20 13:17-20 13:17-20 13:17-20a
13:20b-24
13:21-22 13:21-25 13:21-24 13:21-24
13:23-24
The Spies' Reports The Expedition's Report
13:25-29 13:25-29 13:25-29 13:25-26
13:26-29
13:27-29
13:30-33 13:30-33 13:30-33 13:30 13:30-33
13:31-33

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

  1. This is an important historical event in the life of the people of God (cf. Deut. 1:19-46; Joesphus, Antiq. 3.14-6.2)

  2. This was another of God's tests of faith for His newly formed nation. Like the others, it was a miserable failure. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD TESTS HIS PEOPLE.

  3. The geographical categorizations of the Canaanite tribes are based on Num. 13:29. "The Amorites" (BDB 57) is usually used as a collective term for all of the tribes of Canaan, but when it is not, they are located in the highlands.

    Another collective term for all of the tribes of Canaan is "Canaanites" (BDB 489 I), but at other times this refers to those who live on the flat, coastal plains or the flatland next to the Jordan.

  4. This literary unit (Numbers 13-14) demonstrates the spiritual priority of Joshua and Caleb. The lives of these two men will be developed in later historical accounts of the wilderness wandering period.

  5. The intercession of Moses, found in Num. 14:13-19, is a classical passage on God's development of a leader (see SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER).

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:1-16
1Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, 2"Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers' tribes, every one a leader among them." 3So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran at the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the sons of Israel. 4These then were their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur; 5from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori; 6from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; 7from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph; 8from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun; 9from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu; 10from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi; 11from the tribe of Joseph, from the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi; 12from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli; 13from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael; 14from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi; 15from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. 16These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land; but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.

13:1 "Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying" When one compares Num. 13:1 with Deut. 1:22, there seems to be an obvious discrepancy. In Numbers 13 it is God who instructs Moses to send out the spies, while in Deuteronomy 1 it is the people who ask to send out the spies under the auspices of the military reconnoitering of the land. It is possible that God instructed Moses after the people brought the request.

13:2 "Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel" Both accounts seem to begin very positively. There is no sense of the lack of faith which will manifest itself in the upcoming verses. Again, this verse reemphasizes that this is the historical culmination of the promise to Abraham and his descendants, especially Gen. 15:12-22.

The VERB "spy out" or "reconnoiter" (BDB 1064, KB 1707, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense) occurs almost exclusively in chapters 13-14.

  1. Num. 13:2, 16, 17, 21, 25, 32
  2. Num. 14:6, 7, 34, 36, 38

▣ "you shall send a man from each of their fathers' tribes, every one a leader among them" The tribe of Levi is not included here. Therefore, this would involve twelve different representatives because Joseph has divided his inheritance between his two children, Ephraim and Manasseh.

The term "leader," here, is the Hebrew word for "prince" (BDB 672). There has been some confusion because the list of the representatives (cf. vv. 4-15) is different from the list of princes of the tribes found in both Numbers 1 and 2 as well as Numbers 7. Many assume that the early lists were of older men and the list here was uniquely of men of military age (i.e., 20-50 years).

13:3 "So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran" It is assumed that this locality is Kadesh-Barnea, the famous, large oasis to the south of Beer-Sheba. However, the location of these geographical units within the book of Numbers is extremely difficult to ascertain. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE WILDERNESSES OF THE EXODUS.

13:6 "Caleb" Caleb's origin is uncertain but he became a member of the tribe of Judah. See NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 456.

13:16 "but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua" Hoshea, the son of Nun, is mentioned in Deut. 32:44. Joshua is the Hebrew term for "salvation" (BDB 448; NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 808-810), which in the OT, means "physical deliverance" (see Special Topic: Salvation [OT] at Num. 10:9). However, in Exod. 17:9, he is already called Joshua. It is uncertain if this verse is the official naming of Joshua and the Exodus account is simply an anachronism. It is significant that the covenant name for God, which was revealed uniquely at Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod. 3:14; 6:3), is prefixed in Joshua's name. This is the Hebrew form of the Aramaic name "Jesus." It can be translated: "YHWH saves," "YHWH is salvation," "YHWH is the One saving us," etc.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:13:17-20
17When Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, he said to them, "Go up there into the Negev; then go up into the hill country. 18See what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many. 19How is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are they like open camps or with fortifications? 20How is the land, is it fat or lean? Are there trees in it or not? Make an effort then to get some of the fruit of the land." Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.

13:17 "Go up there into the Negev" This is a term (BDB 616) which literally means "the dryness" and is used to describe the semi-arid desert on the southern border of Judea.

▣ "the hill country" Usually this phrase is linked to a particular location, like "the hill country of Judah," but in this context, because a city in the far north of Canaan is mentioned (13:21), it probably refers to the low, rounding hill between the coastal plain and the river valley of the Jordan through the south to north length of Canaan.

13:18 "See what the land is like" There seem to be two basic purposes for sending the spies: (1) to check out the agricultural aspects of the land (cf. Num. 13:20) and (2) to check out the military fortifications of the land (cf. Num. 13:18-19; Deut. 1:22).

Notice the phrases.

  1. whether the people who live there are strong or weak
  2. whether they are few or many
  3. whether the land is good or bad
  4. what kind of cities (i.e., walled or unwalled)
  5. whether the land is fat or lean (i.e., fruit trees)
13:20
NASB  "Make an effort then to get"
NKJV, Peshitta  "Be of good courage"
NRSV, NJB  "Be bold"
TEV  "Be sure to bring. . ."
JPSOA  "Take pains to bring back. . ."
REB  "Go boldly in"
LXX  "you shall persevere"

The form of this VERB is described differently.

  1. OT Parsing Guide, p. 115, has a Hithpael PERFECT with waw
  2. Analytical Key to the OT, p. 632, has a Hithpael IMPERATIVE

The term (BDB 304, KB 302) in the Hithpael can mean

  1. strengthen oneself
  2. put forth strength or use one's strength; the BDB lists Num. 13:20 under this meaning

▣ "Now the time was the time of the first grapes" This would have been about two months after they left Mt. Sinai (cf. Num. 10:11). It would be around the time of our late July.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:21-22
21So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob, at Lebo-hamath. 22When they had gone up into the Negev, they came to Hebron where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)

13:21 "the wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob, at Lebo-hamath" The wilderness of Zin forms the southern boundary to the Promised Land (see SPECIAL TOPIC: WILDERNESSES OF THE EXODUS), while Lebohamath is north of the Syrian capital of Damascus (cf. Josh. 13:5). For more detail on the geographical limits of the Promised Land, see Num. 34:1-12. Although this account majors on the events around Hebron, it seems to imply a journey far to the north which took thirty days.

13:22 "the descendants of Anak" The term "Anak" seems to mean "long necked" (BDB 778 I, KB 859 II). Apparently they are a group of what we would call giants. Another name for this group is the Nephilim (BDB 658, KB 709), which is found in v. 33. It is uncertain if v. 33 is a true description of Anak and his descendants or if this was a mythological conclusion which was meant to reinforce the report of the fearful spies. The term Nephilim seems to come from Gen. 6:4, where it could mean "the fallen ones." It is translated in KJV as "giants" and they seem to be the result of angels copulating with human women. This, however, is simply one interpretation of this passage. However, this is the opinion of the very influential book of I Enoch. We encounter these extremely tall men several times in the Bible, i.e., Og of Bashan and Goliath.

See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS USED FOR TALL/POWERFUL WARRIORS OR PEOPLE GROUPS (GIANTS) and SPECIAL TOPIC: "the sons of God" IN GENESIS 6.

▣ "(Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt)" This is either an editorial addition or Moses is trying to link these two cities together historically. Many use this as a way to show Mosaic authorship because he was familiar with the historical site of Zoan (cf. Ps. 78:12,43). Both cities were apparently built by Egyptians, possibly the Hyksos of the 1700 B.C. period or the rebuilding of the 1100's B.C. Zoan was the capital of northern Egypt, also called "Tannis," which was near the land of Goshen in the delta region and probably was the capital during the time of Joseph. See SPECIAL TOPIC: MOSAIC AUTHORSHIP OF THE PENTATEUCH.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:23-24
23Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs. 24That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the sons of Israel cut down from there.

13:23-24 "Then they came to the valley of Eshcol" This means "cluster" (BDB 79). It is uncertain if this valley always had this name or if it was simply named this by the Hebrews (cf. Gen. 14:13,24).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:25-29
25When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, 26they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. 27Thus they told him, and said, "We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan."

13:25 "forty days" In the Bible this number refers to a long, indefinite period of time. This is an estimate of the time it would take to spy out the land, which was 250 miles north, as the description of v. 21 implies. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WILDERNESSES OF THE EXODUS.

13:27 "it certainly does flow with milk and honey" The spies were affirming that God's description of the Promised Land was not over-exaggerated (cf. Exod. 3:8,17). Later on the land of Canaan will be called the "land of milk and honey" in the official documents of the Persian Empire. The "honey" was probably not from bees but from fruit, like dates (cf. Jewish Study Bible, p. 310).

13:28-29 This is the summary of the report of ten of the spies. It lists several of the tribes of Canaan in an attempt to discourage the people in their possessing, militarily, the Promised Land. They are going to focus on the city of Hebron.

For a description of the tribes of Canaan see SPECIAL TOPIC: PRE-ISRAELITE INHABITANTS OF PALESTINE.

13:28 "Nevertheless" This is a very strong Hebrew ADVERSATIVE. Although they assert that the land flows with milk and honey, they purposely omit the characteristic phrase "that the Lord swore to give to them," for the ten spies are going to make a negative report about the possibility of occupying the land.

▣ "the cities are fortified" This (BDB 130, KB 148, Qal PARTICIPLE) means they had a protective, surrounding wall (see NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 648-649).

13:29 "Amalek is living in the land of the Negev" Amalek is a group of nomadic Arabs, the sons of Esau (cf. Gen. 36:12). Israel had already encountered them in Exodus 17. In the OT they become a metaphor for wickedness and evil. They are a constant thorn in the side of Israel until they are finally eliminated. See NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 371-372.

▣ "the Hittites" We learn that this group of non-Semitic inhabitants lived near the city of Hebron. There are three groups of Hittites mentioned in the Bible.

  1. one in Mesopotamia
  2. one in central Turkey
  3. this group in Canaan

The exact relationship of the groups is uncertain. The group in central Turkey was a large and powerful civilization for centuries.

▣ "the Jebusites" These are the descendants of the city of Jebus, which will later become Jerusalem. Many Bible scholars believe that this city was originally called Salem and was the city of Melchizedek (cf. Genesis 14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: MORIAH, SALEM, JEBUS, ZION, JERUSALEM.

▣ "the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan" These two tribes are often used as a collective term for all of the tribes of Canaan. Here, they are given specific geographical regions. It is interesting that the Philistines are not mentioned in this list. They apparently had already landed on the southern coast of Palestine but possibly, as yet, had not begun their infiltration and domination of the land. One more note on these tribes: some OT scholars see the term "Canaanites" here as a reference not to the tribes of southern Canaan but to the Phoenicians in the north. Canaan is mentioned in Gen. 10:15 as related to the city of Sidon.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 13:30-33
30Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it." 31But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us." 32So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. 33There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."

13:30 "Caleb" The term "Caleb" means "dog" (BDB 477). He was apparently not part of the tribe of Judah but had been incorporated into it. He is called a Kenizzite (cf. Num. 32:12; Josh. 15:17; Jdgs. 1:13). It is not certain if this refers to the Edomite family mentioned in Gen. 36:11 and 1 Chr. 1:53 or to the Phoenicians in the north. Canaan is mentioned in Gen. 10:15 as related to the city of Sidon.

▣ "We should by all means go up. . .we will surely overcome it" Both of these phrases are emphatic (i.e., an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB of the same root).

  1. BDB 748, KB 828
  2. BDB 407, KB 410

13:31 "for they are too strong for us" The problem with this statement is (1) it was numerically and militarily inaccurate and (2) it totally overlooked the promise and provision of God.

13:32 "a land that devours its inhabitants" This may mean that it had many internal wars or that it had some harsh natural conditions (cf. Lev. 26:38 and Ezek. 36:13).

▣ "and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size" This is obviously an overstatement. The sons of Anak were geographically localized around Hebron. This was an attempt by the ten spies to make their case stronger by exaggeration.

13:33 "also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak. . .)" See note at Num. 13:22.

▣ "and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight" Here is the problem—it was a self devaluation. They forgot to take into account the presence and promises of YHWH.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. How do you reconcile the same account in Deut. 1:22-23? Here, it is YHWH who initiates the mission but in Deuteronomy, it is Moses.
  2. Why is the list of tribal leaders different here from the list in Numbers 1?
  3. How far north did the spies journey?
  4. What does the phrase in Num. 13:32, "a land that devours its inhabitants," mean?
  5. Who are the Anakim (13:28) or Nephilim (v. 33)?

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