Numbers 13: A Bad Report

Merenptah Stele (Israel Stele): the name Canaa...
Merenptah Stele (Israel Stele): the name Canaan written in hieroglyphs as it appears on the stele (mirror view) in line 26 (context: Canaan is captive with all woe). Transliteration: k-A-n-a-n-a (basket with handle-Egyptian vulture-ripple of water-arm-ripple of water-arm) plus determinatives: enemy-foreign land (throwing stick-three hills). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Numbers 13: 1-2, we read that God told Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan, the land that God was giving to the sons of Israel. The “spies” were to consist of a leader from each tribe.

Moses told the leaders to “See what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many. How 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? How 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” (Numbers 13: 18-20).

The leaders did as they were told. After spying out the land over a period of 40 days, they returned with grapes, pomegranates and figs and said that the land “flows with milk and honey.” They informed Moses, Aaron, and the sons of Israel that the people in Canaan are “strong,” the cities “fortified and very large,” and “the descendants of Anak” live there.

Caleb from the tribe of Judah “quieted the people” and said, “We should . . . take possession [of the land], for we will we surely overcome it.”

BUT [always pay attention when you see the word “but” in scripture], the leaders who had spied out the land with Caleb gave a bad report saying that the people of the land “are too strong for us . . . .”  The land “devours its inhabitants,” and “the men are of great size.” Furthermore, “the Nephilim (the sons of Anak)” lived in Canaan.

Compared to the Nephilim, the spies–except for Caleb–felt like “grasshoppers.” (Who are the Nephilim?  The offspring of the “sons of God” and “the daughters of men.”  Biblical scholars disagree on what is meant by the “sons of God.” Some regard the “sons of God” as rebellious angelic beings. Others as the sons of Seth.  [See Genesis 6: 1-4.] Regardless of their origin, the Nephilim–were reportedly “giants.”)

English: Joshua and Caleb, as in Numbers 13
English: Joshua and Caleb, as in Numbers 13 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Caleb (and Joshua in Numbers 14:6) walked by faith and not by sight. The remaining leaders of the sons of Israel were walking by sight and not by faith. When circumstances seem larger than God, we have lost our vision, and the results can be catastrophic as we will see in the next chapter.


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