Deuteronomy 1:22
And you came near to me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.
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(22) And ye came near . . . and said, We will send.—A new aspect is here given to the sending of the twelve spies. In Numbers 13:1 the incident is introduced thus: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men.” We learn here that the proposal in the first instance came from the people. Moses would naturally refer it to Jehovah; and, when approved, the scheme was carried out.

They shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.—We read in Deuteronomy 1:33 that the Lord “went in the way before them to search out a place” for them to encamp in. But here the spies and Israel proposed to take the guidance of their march into their own hands. It is noticeable that in the campaigns of Joshua, not one step was taken without Divine direction. Thus the sending of the twelve spies, in the light in which the people intended it, was an act of unbelief. “In this thing (Deuteronomy 1:32) ye did not believe the Lord your God.” (See also Note on Joshua 2:1.)

1:19-46 Moses reminds the Israelites of their march from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea, through that great and terrible wilderness. He shows how near they were to a happy settlement in Canaan. It will aggravate the eternal ruin of hypocrites, that they were not far from the kingdom of God. As if it were not enough that they were sure of their God before them, they would send men before them. Never any looked into the Holy Land, but they must own it to be a good land. And was there any cause to distrust this God? An unbelieving heart was at the bottom of all this. All disobedience to God's laws, and distrust of his power and goodness, flow from disbelief of his word, as all true obedience springs from faith. It is profitable for us to divide our past lives into distinct periods; to give thanks to God for the mercies we have received in each, to confess and seek the forgiveness of all the sins we can remember; and thus to renew our acceptance of God's salvation, and our surrender of ourselves to his service. Our own plans seldom avail to good purpose; while courage in the exercise of faith, and in the path of duty, enables the believer to follow the Lord fully, to disregard all that opposes, to triumph over all opposition, and to take firm hold upon the promised blessings.The plan of sending the spies originated with the people; and, as in itself a reasonable one, it approved itself to Moses; it was submitted to God, sanctioned by Him, and carried out under special divine direction. The orator's purpose in this chapter is to bring before the people emphatically their own responsibilites and behavior. It is therefore important to remind them, that the sending of the spies, which led immediately to their complaining and rebellion, was their own suggestion.

The following verses to the end of the chapter give a condensed account, the fuller one being in Numbers 13-14, of the occurrences which led to the banishment of the people for 40 years into the wilderness.

22-33. ye came … and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land—The proposal to despatch spies emanated from the people through unbelief; but Moses, believing them sincere, gave his cordial assent to this measure, and God on being consulted permitted them to follow the suggestion (see on [111]Nu 13:1). The issue proved disastrous to them, only through their own sin and folly. No text from Poole on this verse. And ye came near unto me everyone of you,.... Not every individual of them, but the heads of their tribes, that represented them; this is not to be understood of the present generation personally, but of their fathers, who all died in the wilderness, save a very few of them; but they being the same people and nation, it is so expressed:

and said, we will send men before us; that is, they thought it was proper and prudent so to do, and came to Moses to consult him about it; for we are not to suppose that they had determined upon it, whether he approved of it or not:

and they shall search us out the land: that they might know what sort of land it was, whether good or bad, fruitful or not, and whether woody or not: see Numbers 13:19.

and bring us word again by what way we must go up; or, "concerning the way (m) in which we must go"; which is the best way of entering it, most easy and accessible, where the passes are most open and least dangerous:

and into what cities we shall come; which it would be the most proper to attack and subdue first.

(m) , "de via", Noldius, p. 117. No. 594. so the Arabic version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

{o} And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.

(o) Read Nu 13:3.

22. And ye came near unto me … and said] The proposal to send spies is here attributed to the people, Moses consenting (see next verse). In P, Numbers 13:1 f., it is a divine command. There is no discrepancy of fact; but the difference of standpoint in describing the fact is instructive, and ought to be noticed along with other instances in D of the people’s initiative. JE has nothing on the origin of the mission of the spies; but the beginning of its narrative of the episode is broken (see above). This is one of four facts given in D of which no notice is found in JE; the other three are also given in P: (1) that the spies were twelve, Deuteronomy 1:23; Numbers 13:2; (2) that those who went down to Egypt with Jacob were seventy, Deuteronomy 10:22; Genesis 46:27; Exodus 1:5; (3) that the ark was of acacia wood, Deuteronomy 10:3; Exodus 25:10. See Introd. § 3.

that they may search] Heb. ḥaphar, lit. to dig; to explore, only here and Joshua 2:2 f.; JE has see and P uses the verb tûr, to go about, travel either for spying or for trading.

the land] JE, Numbers 13:18 ff.; land and people; P, Numbers 13:2 land of Canaan.

the way … and the cities] J, Numbers 13:19, what cities they dwell in, whether in camps or strongholds.לכם הבוּ, give here, provide for yourselves. The congregation was to nominate, according to its tribes, wise, intelligent, and well-known men, whom Moses would appoint as heads, i.e., as judges, over the nation. At their installation he gave them the requisite instructions (Deuteronomy 1:16): "Ye shall hear between your brethren," i.e., hear both parties as mediators, "and judge righteously, without respect of person." פּנים הכּיר, to look at the face, equivalent to פּנים נשׁא (Leviticus 19:15), i.e., to act partially (cf. Exodus 23:2-3). "The judgment is God's," i.e., appointed by God, and to be administered in the name of God, or in accordance with His justice; hence the expression "to bring before God" (Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:7, etc.). On the difficult cases which the judges were to bring before Moses, see at Exodus 18:26.
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