Deuteronomy 1:28
Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.
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(28) Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart.—So Caleb says in Joshua 14:8, “My brethren made the heart of the people melt.” For the rest of the verse see Numbers 13:28.

Deuteronomy 1:28. The people is greater — In number, and strength, and valour. The cities are great, and walled up to heaven — An hyperbole, signifying that their cities were fenced with very high walls, which Moses himself allows to be true, Deuteronomy 9:1. But, however strong they were, the Israelites had no reason to fear, since they were assured of the divine protection and aid in the execution of his command.

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.

28. the cities are great, and walled up to heaven—an Oriental metaphor, meaning very high. The Arab marauders roam about on horseback, and hence the walls of St. Catherine's monastery on Sinai are so lofty that travellers are drawn up by a pulley in a basket.

Anakims—(See on [112]Nu 13:33). The honest and uncompromising language of Moses, in reminding the Israelites of their perverse conduct and outrageous rebellion at the report of the treacherous and fainthearted scouts, affords a strong evidence of the truth of this history as well as of the divine authority of his mission. There was great reason for his dwelling on this dark passage in their history, as it was their unbelief that excluded them from the privilege of entering the promised land (Heb 3:19); and that unbelief was a marvellous exhibition of human perversity, considering the miracles which God had wrought in their favor, especially in the daily manifestations they had of His presence among them as their leader and protector.

The people is greater, in number and strength and valour.

Up to heaven, i.e. to a great height. A common hyperbole, as Genesis 11:4 Psalm 107:26. The Anakims; the children of Anak or Enak. See Judges 1:10,20.

Whither shall we go up?.... What way can we go up into the land? where is there any access for us? the mountain we are come to, and directed to go up, is possessed by the Amorites, a strong and mighty people, who keep and guard the passes, that there is no entrance:

our brethren have discouraged our hearts; ten of the spies; for Joshua and Caleb encouraged them with very powerful arguments, which had they listened to, it would have been well for them:

saying, the people is greater and taller than we; more in number, larger in bulk of body, and higher in stature:

the cities are great, and walled up to heaven; an hyperbolical expression; their fears exaggerated the account of the spies; they told them they were great, large, and populous, walled, and strongly fortified; which appeared in their frightened imaginations as if their walls were so high as to reach up to heaven, so that it was impossible to scale them, or get possession of them:

and, moreover, we have seen the sons of the Anakims there; the giants so called from Anak, the son of Arba, the father of them; their names are given, Numbers 13:22.

Whither shall we go up? our {r} brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.

(r) The other ten, not Caleb and Joshua.

28. Whither are we going up?] That is, to what kind of a land or a fate? In the Hex. the Heb. prep is used only of place by JE and D, only of time by P.

made our heart to melt] In the Hex. the phrase either thus or with the intrans. form of the verb is found only here, Deuteronomy 20:8, and in the deuteronomic Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:1.

greater and taller] Sam. and LXX greater and more numerous, J, Numbers 13:28; Numbers 13:31, strong … stronger than we; E id. 33, we were in our own sight as grasshoppers; P, id. 32, men of great stature.

cities] So Sam.; LXX and cities.

great and fenced up to heaven] So Deuteronomy 9:1; J, Numbers 13:28, fenced, very great. The presumably pre-Israelite walls of two cities have been excavated: Lachish (Bliss, A Mound of Many Cities, 27 ff.) and Gezer (Macalister, Bible Side Lights from … Gezer, 141 ff.). Each is about 14 ft thick; the latter (a little later than 1450 b.c.) still in parts from 10 to 14 ft. high ‘can hardly be regarded as much more than the underground foundations.’ If, as is usually reckoned, the thickness was from ⅓ to ⅔ of the height this wall was from 21 to 42 ft, its impressive-ness increased by the scarps and slopes from which it rose and by the towers that crowned it. Sellin has laid bare in Jericho a ‘cyclopean’ outer stone wall 5 m. (16.4 ft), crowned by a brick wall 2 m. thick and 6 or 8 m. (19½ to 26¼ ft) high. So that up to heaven, the height at which birds fly, is hardly an exaggeration.

Emerging from the desert, Israel were startled by two facts which still startle the tent-dwelling nomads—the walls of cities and the stature of the settled inhabitants. No Arab enters without fear a walled city for the first time, nor willingly passes the night there. Egyptian bas-reliefs and paintings distinguish the ampler figures of settled Syrians from the lean and meagre desert Arabs. To-day, as the present writer has frequently noticed, the same difference of average stature is obvious between the two classes. Cp. Burton (Pilgrimage to Al-Medinah and Mecca, ii. 83, mem. ed.) on the short stature of the Arabs of the Hiǧaz. The cause of this is the difference in nutriment (Doughty, Ar. Des. passim, Musil, Ar. Petr. iii.). That early Israel felt these two impressions is one of many indications that they belonged to the nomad or Arab type of Semite. So far we are in the region of fact.

sons of the Anakim] Heb. without the art. as in Deuteronomy 9:2 a; but sons of the ‘A. Deuteronomy 2:11; sons of ‘Anak, Deuteronomy 9:2 b; J, Numbers 13:28, children of (yelîdê, Scot. ‘bairns’) the ‘Anak; cp. 22, 33. Both forms in Joshua 15:14. The Ar. ‘anaḳa is ‘to overtop,’ ‘unḳ, ‘neck,’ and in plur. ‘outstanding men,’ a‘naḳ, ‘long-necked,’ ‘tall’ (‘anḳa, a mythical beast, Wellh. Reste, 158, 216). In Joshua 15:13; Joshua 22:11 (P or edit.) ‘Anaḳ has become the name of the ancestor of the ‘Anaḳim (cp. LXX mother-city of the ‘A., which shows how the personification arose). The root still occurs in place names ‘Ain ‘Eneḳ, S. of Ma‘ân, and Jebel ‘Eneiḳ, S. of ‘Ain Ḳudeis, due perhaps to the shape of the ground. E, Numbers 13:33, has there we have seen the Nephilim (to which an edit. hand has added sons of ‘Anaḳ which come from the N.) who in Genesis 6:4 are said to be sprung from the sons of God and daughters of men, mighty men (LXX giants) of old, men of renown. LXX also render N. Giants, and Nephîla was the Aram. name for Orion, Giant par excellence. A note, Deuteronomy 2:11 (below), connects the ‘Anaḳîm with another racial name, Repha’îm, of whom ‘Ôg, of the great sarcophagus, was one of the last, Deuteronomy 3:11. R. is also the name in later Heb. literature for shades or ghosts of the dead, as if flaccid or powerless. Applied to an aboriginal race of giants (cp. the allied collective form The Raphah, 2 Samuel 21:16) it may have meant either the exhausted and vanishing or the shadowy race, or perhaps limp and flaccid, in derision of the notorious flabbiness of monstrously tall men. LXX render R. by giants or Titans (Genesis 14:5; 2 Samuel 5:15, etc.).

Note on the Giants. The O.T. associates this vanishing race of giants with the neighbourhood of Hebron and the E. of Jordan, where structures of huge stones abound, and individual giants are said to have lived in the time of David. The latter notices are perfectly credible; single giants being then as possible as they have been at all other periods. The present writer saw in the asylum at Asfuriyeh a Syrian of unusual height, who was born with six fingers on each hand like the giant in 2 Samuel 21:20. But the question of gigantic races in primitive ages vanishing before historic man must be judged in the light of the following. First, stories of such giant races are universal, e.g. among the Babylonians (Jeremias, Das A. T. im Lichte des alten Orients, 76, 120 f., 359), Phoenicians (Eusebius, Praep. Evang. i. 10 from Philo Bybl.), Greeks (the stories of Titans and Cyclopes), the nations of N. Europe, modern Arabs and Syrians (Thomson, Land and Book, 586 f.; Doughty, Ar. Des. i. 22). Second, many of these traditions are associated with remains of cyclopean masonry, and have obviously arisen in order to account for these, the giant races being nearly always described as builders; moreover the giants are generally derived by birth from the gods. Third, though stories have been current from time to time of the discovery of monstrous human skeletons and bones, e g. Plutarch, Pliny and even as late as Buffon, yet where it has been possible to test these the bones have been recognised as those of elephants, mastodons, etc.; while the discovered remains of pre-historic man show generally a stature under the average; this is also true of Mr Macalister’s finds of pre-Semitic remains in Gezer (the sole exception seems to be the average of the Cro-Magnon remains and this is only 5.839 feet). Fourth, the Hebrew tradition of a giant race exhibits the features already noted in such stories elsewhere: the race has disappeared, its memory is connected with cyclopean remains, it is said to have descended from the union of divine and human beings. These marks, along with the mythical names given to the race, Nephîlîm and Repha’îm, make it clear that, like its analogies among other peoples, Israel’s tradition of a primitive race of giants is borrowed from an imaginative folk-lore.

Verse 28. - Our brethren have discouraged our heart; literally, hate melted or made to flow down our heart (הֵמַסּוּ, Hiph. cf מָסַס, to flow down or melt), have made us fainthearted. The cities are great and walled up to heaven; literally, are great and fortified in the heavens. To their excited imagination, the walls and towers of the cities seemed as if they reached the very sky; so when men cease to have faith in God, difficulties appear insurmountable, and the power of the adversary is exaggerated until courage is paralyzed and despair banishes hope. Sons of the Anakims; elsewhere (Numbers 13:22; Joshua 15:14; Judges 1:20) children or sons of the 'Anak. 'Anak may originally have been the proper name of an individual, but it appears m the Bible rather as the designation of the tribe. It is the word for neck, and this race, which were strong and powerful men, or their progenitor, may have been remarkable for thickness of neck; this, at least, is more probable than that it was from length of neck (Gesenius) that they got the name, for a long neck is usually associated with weakness rather than strength. Some have supposed the Anakim to have been originally Cushites; but the origin of the tribe is involved in obscurity. Deuteronomy 1:28"Whither shall we go up? Our brethren (the spies) have quite discouraged our heart" (המס, lit., to cause to flow away; cf. Joshua 2:9), viz., through their report (Numbers 13:28-29, Numbers 13:31-33), the substance of which is repeated here. The expression בּשּׁמים, "in heaven," towering up into heaven, which is added to "towns great and fortified," is not an exaggeration, but, as Moses also uses it in Deuteronomy 9:1, a rhetorical description of the impression actually received with regard to the size of the towns.

(Note: "The eyes of weak faith or unbelief saw the towns really towering up to heaven. Nor did the height appear less, even to the eyes of faith, in relation, that is to say, to its own power. Faith does not hide the difficulties from itself, that it may not rob the Lord, who helps it over them, of any of the praise that is justly His due" (Schultz).)

"The sons of the Anakims:" see at Numbers 13:22.

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