Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,4. At Kadesh-Barnea and Israel’s Unbelief
1. The command to search out the land (Numbers 13:1-3)
2. The names of the spies (Numbers 13:4-16)
3. Directions given (Numbers 13:17-20)
4. Their explorations (Numbers 13:21-25)
5. The report they brought (Numbers 13:26-33)
The crisis is reached with this chapter. The events of the preceding chapters are the prelude to the complete failure and disaster. To understand the situation we must consult Deuteronomy 1:21-24. Moses spoke in faith when he said, “Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.” And the people’s answer was that men be sent to search out the land. It was unbelief once more. They wanted to see first before they acted upon the Word of God. The saying also pleased Moses. No doubt he asked the Lord and received an answer from Him, which is recorded in the opening verses of this chapter.
Leading men are selected to act as spies. Reuben here stands first, Simeon follows, Levi is left out, for the Levites were not to have an inheritance in the land, Judah (praise) is the third. Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, who represents the tribe of Judah is here mentioned for the first time. Caleb means “brave,” “whole hearted.” Joshua’s name is given also as “Oshea.” Oshea means “saviour” and Joshua is “Jehovah is Saviour.” The name of Joshua is found some 250 times in the Bible. He is the type of the Lord Jesus Christ. The name “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent. Caleb and Joshua were the only two in the whole company who trusted In Jehovah. And Jehovah rewarded them for their faith. Another interesting name is “Sethur” (verse 13). His name means “mysterious.” The four letters of the name of Sethur give the number 666. He may have been the leader of the opposition, as Antichrist has this number (Rev. 13).
They found the land exactly as it had been described. “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.” They brought a great cluster of grapes, pomegranates and figs. These tell us of spiritual food and service, which is for those who possess the land, our heavenly portion in Christ. They could not deny that Jehovah’s promise was true. They carried the evidences of it upon their shoulders while they carried unbelief in their hearts. They looked at the children of Anak, the giants, which dwelled in the land and not to Jehovah, who had delivered them from the Egyptians. If they had reckoned with the Lord and trusted Him, not they, but the giants would have appeared to them as grasshoppers. Caleb said in faith, “Let us go up at once and possess it.” Their unbelieving hearts refused and declared, “We are not able to go up.” They brought an evil report of the land. The Hebrew for “bringing up an evil report” is in Proverbs 10:18 translated “uttering a slander.” Unbelief slanders God; it is an insult to the Lord.
And all this has many lessons for us. The church is called to possess a heavenly portion. This is typified by Canaan. Christendom has made a worse failure than Israel by not entering into the inheritance and by turning back to the world. And besides this, there are the lessons connected with our individual experience.