BIBLE STUDY SERIES #350, 351 and 352

9 August, 1998


By Douglas C. Nesbit B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has taken us down the generations of his progeny through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) to the scene after they encamped at Mount Sinai, where the Tribes of the children of Israel had gathered to become a formal tribal nation. Subsequently they left the holy mountain, moving on their way to The Promised Land. In Numbers 12, we found on our last study that they had begun to find fault with the leadership, and express misery at the strains of the journey, and we then learned how The Almighty had dealt with this development.

In today's study, beginning at Numbers 13:1, the people have now approached The Promised Land, and having reached the border of that destination, certain preparatory steps are ordered by The Almighty. We will be picking up the Biblical account at that point. They are to be granted the opportunity to make a decision, and they are even to acquire sufficient evidence upon which to make that decision in a positive direction. That they chose a different option was, as we shall see, to become one of the sad crisis points in the history of the nation.

In introducing the comments on this and the following chapter, The New Bible Commentary gives some attention to the critics' arguments concerning alleged discrepancies between the accounts in the two chapters, as likewise does the Commentary of Keil and Delitzsch, but, I think, both of these resolve the matters raised rather well. Perhaps it will serve us better to reserve those passages of The Commentaries until after we have had a chance to read at least part of the portions concerned.

1. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2. Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.
3. And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.
4. And these were their names: of the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur.
5. Of the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori.
6. Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.
7. Of the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph.
8. Of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea the son of Nun.
9. Of the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu.
10. Of the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi.
11. Of the tribe of Joseph, [namely], of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi.
12. Of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli.
13. Of the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael.
14. Of the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi.
15. Of the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.
16. These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua.
17. And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:
18. And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many;
19. And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds;
20. And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.

Now all of this sounds very like the ordering of a sort of Geographical survey, of the type which would be mandatory before any occasion wherein a military expedition into a country was to be attempted. Today, we might have squads of experts pouring over aerial photographs from space, or delving into every sort of potential resistance through the use of spies and agents of every type, so the exercise described here would be a most prudent one. Further, the assembling of information by such means was supposed to prepare the people for what lay ahead, giving them some opportunity to adapt sensibly to the situation. Indeed, some, having an eye to our British-Israel thesis (that these Israelites form the ancestors of most of those we call Anglo-Celto-Saxons and kindred peoples today), have suggested that this was the occasion on which the British Intelligence Service was organized!

The Companion Bible notes that in this list of spies, there is included no representative of the Tribe of Levi, and it explains that the Tribe of Levi would have "no inheritance in the land." That would be so, of course, as the Levites must occupy cities in the areas occupied by all the other tribes, in order to perform their specific functions as priests and civil servants. That reference also mentions of Sethur, who represented the Tribe of Asher, that his name "= hidden, or mystical: by Gematria = 666." and it adds "Probably marking the ringleader of the Provocation."

The New Bible Commentary says: "God commanded that spies be sent to search out the land (1-2). It was His will that His people should use their own intelligence as far as possible, even though He desired them to recognize His constant leading. Twelve outstanding men, one from each tribe, were selected to take part in the expedition (3-16). Verse 16 tells us that Moses changed the name of Oshea the son of Nun to Jehoshua. Joshua has already appeared several times in Exodus as one of Moses' right-hand men, and in Nu. xi. 28 he was called 'the servant of Moses'. The form Oshea never occurs except here (8, 16) and in Dt. xxxii. 44 (Hoshea). Perhaps this change of name was made by Moses even before the first appearance of Joshua in the Pentateuch (Ex. xvii. 9, where he is referred to as a man already recognized as a leader), and the change is mentioned here because of the desirability of listing him in the formal roster of spies under the original form of his name. On the other hand, it is not impossible that Moses made the change at this time, but chose, when he wrote the Pentateuch, to use the well-known form of the great leader's name in all other references to his activities, including those which occurred at an earlier time... .

The Companion Bible adds of Jehoshuah, "Name occurs over 250 times... sometimes Jeshua (Neh. 8.17). Greek Jesus... . Hoshea = saviour, or salvation. Je, prefixed = he by whom Jehovah will save."

Keil and Delitzsch note "The command of Jehovah, to send out men to spy out the land of Canaan, was occasioned, according to the account given by Moses in Deut. i. 22 sqq., by a proposal of the congregation, which pleased Moses, so that he laid the matter before the Lord, who then commanded him to send out for this purpose, 'of every tribe of their fathers a man, every one a ruler among them', i.e. none but men who were princes in their tribes, who held the prominent position of princes, i.e. distinguished persons of rank; or, as it is stated in ver. 3, 'heads of the children of Israel,' i.e. not the tribe-princes of the twelve tribes, but those men, out of the total number of the heads of the tribes and families in Israel, who were the most suitable for such a mission, though the selection was to be made in such a manner that every tribe should be represented by one of its own chiefs. That there were none of the twelve tribe-princes among them is apparent from a comparison of their names (vers. 4-15) with the (totally different) names of the tribe-princes.

The New Bible Commentary continues: "Verses 17-20 contain Moses' commission to the spies. Their expedition has a twofold purpose: to learn whether the inhabitants of Canaan are strong or weak (18) and to determine whether the land itself is fat or lean (19-20). Verse 17 directs them to go up this way southward and then up into the mountain. It seems strange to read that people encamped south of Canaan are ordered to go southward into Canaan. Southward (17) Heb. bannegeb; better 'into the south' as in RV mg. or 'into the Negeb'. The Negeb is the somewhat dry southernmost section of Palestine. Hence the word comes, quite naturally, to designate the southern direction. Frequently, however, it refers to the region of the Negeb, as here, in Nu. xiii. 22, and in Gn. xiii. 1 and xxiv. 62, and the word is used in modern Israel to designate this region. In Jos. xv. 19 the word simply means a dry region. The AV translation is not incorrect, if understood as similar to the description of a journey by a Scotsman into the North of England."

Continuing with reference to the words "Into the mountain" it says "This is the regular designation of the hill country which forms the central backbone of Palestine, and in which most of the events of biblical history took place."

Next week, we shall be looking further into that history, but the story will take us there in a roundabout fashion, as we will find when we read the succeeding passages of Holy Writ. Meanwhile, may you find something upon which to meditate in this story, considering that, just as those ancient Israelites were on the very border of success, and held a bright future of expectancy almost within their hands, we may hold opportunities just within our grasp. Let us not lose them as those Israelites did through timidity and fear, as we will find revealed in the next passages of Scripture.

16 August, 1998


By Douglas C. Nesbit B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has taken us down the generations of his progeny through Jacob (Israel) to the scene after the Israelites had encamped at Mount Sinai, the holy mountain. There they had gathered to become a formal tribal nation, and then they had moved onward through the wilderness to the border of The Promised Land of Canaan. In Numbers 13, we saw, in our last study, how twelve spies were selected out from among all the tribes of Israel, one leader from each tribe, especially picked for their suitability to the task, and sent to destinations within the land in order to spy it out and to bring back a report to the rest of the nation. We had read the roster of those men who had been picked for the dangerous task, and how they had been assigned their duties, and been sent out to perform this commission.

Keil and Delitzsch note of verses 17-20. that in them "Moses gives them the necessary instructions, defining more clearly the motive which the congregation had assigned for sending them out, namely, that they might search out the way into the land and to its towns (Deut. i. 22)." Writing of the words "Get you up there... in the south country, and go up to the mountain", they note "Negeb, i.e. the south country, lit. dryness, aridity... hence the dry, parched land, in contrast to the well-watered country..., was the name given to the southern district of Canaan, which forms the transition from the desert to the strictly cultivated, and bears for the most part the character of a steppe, in which tracts of sand and heath are intermixed with shrubs, grass, and vegetables..., a district therefore which was better fitted for grazing... ." They explain of "the mountain" that this included both the areas of later Judah and also northern Israel as far as Lebanon, being the mountainous part of Palestine inhabited by Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites, the latter being the strongest of the Canaanitish tribes. The Israelites "were to see the land, 'what it was,' i.e. what was its character, and the people that dwelt in it, whether they were strong, i.e. courageous and brave, or weak, i.e. spiritless and timid, and whether they were little or great, i.e. numerically... ." The spies were to see "what the land was, whether good or bad... ."

Today, we pick up our Scriptural account at Numbers 13:21, where we learn what happened during the succeeding forty days.

21. So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath.
22. And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)
23. And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
24. The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.
25. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.

The Companion Bible notes that they went up "in the month Ab (our July)." On verses 21-25, The New Bible Commentary says that these "describe the journey of the spies. As is so often the case in Hebrew narration, the passage begins with a summary of the entire matter (21), and this is followed by a fuller description of some of its details (22-24)."

Commenting in a footnote on the Hebrew pattern when recounting events, Keil and Delitzsch explain the sequencing of the generality of the expedition of the spies in verse 21, after which appear details in verses 22-24, using parallel-patterned examples drawn from I Kings 6, Joshua 4:11 and Judges 20. They explain that the events are recorded in a pattern wherein a lead statement heads the account, which gives the end result of the described event, and afterwards the account proceeds to fill in details of how the event came about. It would seem that this is often the manner in which newspapers today grab the attention with a headline which summarises the culmination of an event and then follow with columns of smaller print to tell details of the process which led up to it, and what occurred as the story unfolded.

I think that higher critics have made a false assumption in attacking the unity of Scripture. To make the point, let us fancy that some archaeologists are working on one of today's newspaper morgues preserved in an archaeological dig in the distant future. Reading our newspapers should they be found by that later generation, it would be ludicrous for their report to hold that the writers of the headlines formed a different source from that of the smaller print of the main report, and that the headlines were added many generations later. This, however, appears to form one process by which some of the school of higher critics have attempted to dissect the words of Holy Writ in the last century!

The New Bible Commentary continues its examination of the passage stating "The twelve spies would hardly have travelled together or in groups large enough to attract attention to themselves. The several groups searched the land from end to end, one group going as far as Rehob, as men come to Hamath, in the extreme north. Another group spent its time exploring the area around Hebron, where the sons of Anak lived... . At the brook of Eshcol, near Hebron, they cut down a branch with a cluster of grapes, as an example of the fruit which the land produced. Even today, the grapes of Hebron are famous throughout Palestine." Of Hebron, The Companion Bible notes "Ancient name Kirjath-arba (or strong-hold of Arba) (Gen. 23. 2, 19), because built by Anak and the sons of Arba." Of Zoan, that reference notes that it was built "i.e. rebuilt (banah frequently has this meaning)." The reference also adds that it was "built by the first kings of the nineteenth dynasty.... Ramases II made it his capital [cp. Isa. 30.4 (and is the first to mention Hebron). Zoan was the scene of the Exodus (see Ps. 78. 12, 13), and 'the house of bondage'."]

Keil and Delitzsch give some attention in their notes to the specifics of the geography of the areas which were to be surveyed by the spies, mentioning the desert of Zin to Rehob, in the neighbourhood of Hamath, and to the varied Canaanites to be found therein. Mentioning Zoan, they state "the Tanis of the Greeks and Romans, the San of the Arabs, which is called Jani, Jane in Coptic writings - was situated upon the eastern side of the Tanitic arm of the Nile not far from its mouth... and was the residence of Pharaoh in the time of Moses... ."

26. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.
27. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.
28. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
29. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
30. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
31. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
32. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
33. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Here, then, we find the result of their expedition to search out the land. The evidence which they brought back with them was impressive. One cluster of grapes, they carried between two men upon a staff. Grapes of a size of small plumbs are reported by Keil and Delitzsch to be produced in the district from which the sample was taken. With this, they also brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. The sample evidence was certainly attractive. I might point out something symbolic in the choice of these particular samples. While the later symbol for all Israel was to be the Olive Tree, down the centuries with the split between Israel (the Northern ten-and-a-half tribes) from Judah of two and a half tribes, we find that these plants are also used as national symbols. The Priesthood, as we saw in the description of the High Priest's robe, as described in Exodus 28:33, was to wear symbolic pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet as part of the fringe to the blue robe of the ephod. Israelites of the Northern House of Israel were to take the grape vine as their symbol, while the remnant, Judah, (which also included temporarily, so long as they had a Davidic line of kings, the tribe of Benjamin), was to have the fig tree as its symbol.

In the next study, in Numbers 14, we will find out how the Israelites reacted to the report of the spies, and we will also have a basis on which to consider further the questions raised by the two chapters when compared with one another.

23 August, 1998


By Douglas C. Nesbit B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has taken us down the generations of his progeny through Jacob (Israel) to the scene after the Israelites had encamped at Mount Sinai, the holy mountain. Now a formal tribal nation, and moving onward through the wilderness to The Promised Land of Canaan, they had sent forward spies, especially picked for their suitability to the task, to report on this land of destiny. In our last study, in Numbers 13, we saw how these spies reported what they had found during their forty-day mission. It was a report which demonstrated the relative bounty of the countryside, as seen in the samples of pomegranates, the figs, and the huge cluster of grapes with which they returned, but in which, by their craven, defeatest words, they also gave cause to the people for grave apprehension with regard to their ability to take the land from the Canaanites who dwelt therein.

Let us pick up our Bible Study portion for this section starting with Numbers 14:1:

1. And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
2. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
3. And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
4. And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
5. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
6. And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:
7. And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
8. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
9. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
10. But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.

Under the heading "The rebellion", The New Bible Commentary notes of those verses: "Given the choice between faith in the judgment of the spies, who stood before them, and faith in the invisible God, the mass of the people put their faith in the words of the spies. All the memories of the great works that God had done through Moses were as nothing against the words of these men. Filled with despair, the people thought of selecting a new leader and going back to Egypt (4). Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who were faithful to God, urged them to trust God to give them victory, asserting that it would be as easy to conquer Canaan as to eat bread, if God delighted in them (6-9). But the people threatened to stone them (10).

11. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?
12. I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

Here, Moses receives an opportunity which tests his own personality to the full, and the outcome of which thus establishes him as the correct choice of The Lord to be the true leader of the nation. At this point, Moses pleads before The Almighty in an act which bears a striking prophetic pattern, similar to the activity of Jesus Himself, acting as a Kinsman-Redeemer, by interposing Himself between the wrath of God and the nation of His people to plead their case, and ameliorate the sentence.

13. And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)
14. And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.
15. Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,
16. Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.
17. And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,
18. The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
19. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
20. And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:
21. But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
22. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
23. Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:
24. But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.

Here, The Companion Bible points out that in verse 22, the mention of "these ten times" is not just a round number, and to prove this, it lists each of them. They are: 1. At the Red Sea (Ex. 14:11-12), 2. At Marah (Ex. 15:23-24), 3. Wilderness of Sin (Ex. 16:2), 4. and 5. Twice about manna (Ex. 16:20, 27), 6. At Rephidim (Ex. 17:1-3), 7. At Horeb (The Golden Calf) (Ex. 32), 8. At Taberah (Num. 11:1), 9. At Kibroth Hattavah (Num. 11:4), and 10. Here, at Kadesh (Num. 14:2). I might add that this conveys an interesting point to those who are watchful for details. God draws the line, so to speak, on His ledger at specific terminal points, and not just by caprice at any odd moment. To Abraham, God had previously stated a prophetic pronouncement, as you may remember, saying that Abraham's descendants would come back to this land after the span of four hundred years. God says to Abraham, in Genesis 15:16, "But in the fourth generation they (that is, Abraham's descendants) shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." We again pick up the Scripture at verse 25 but we shall have to leave serious comments on this next passage until the following study.

25. (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) To morrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.
26. And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
27. How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.
28. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:
29. Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,
30. Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
31. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.
32. But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.
33. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.
34. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.
35. I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.
36. And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land,
37. Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD.
38. But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still.

Well, that is a rather sad picture to leave with you for this study, but as our time has gone, we will have to leave the matter until we can see how the situation unfolded in the next talk.