Numbers 13:23
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) The brook of Eshcol.—This is commonly identified with the valley of Hebron. Ritter says that the reputation of the grapes of Hebron is so great throughout all Palestine that there is no difficulty in believing that the valley of Eshcol was that which is directly north of the city of Hebron. The valley may have derived its name originally from Eshcol, the brother of Mamre the Amorite (Genesis 14:13). In like manner the name of Mamre appears to have been transferred to the tree, or grove, of Mamre, which was opposite to the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23:17); and in this manner Eshcol is closely connected with Hebron in Genesis 23:19 as it is in the present chapter.

Upon a staff.—The majority of travellers concur in estimating the weight of the largest clusters commonly produced in Palestine at about ten or twelve pounds. Kitto, however, mentions an instance of a bunch of Syrian grapes produced in our own country weighing nineteen pounds, which was sent by the Duke of Portland to the Marquis of Rockingham, and which was carried more than twenty miles by four labourers, two of whom bore it by rotation upon a staff. The greatest diameter of this cluster was nineteen inches and a half (Pictorial Bible, in loc., 1855). The arrangement referred to in the text was probably made, not because the weight was too great for one person to carry, but in order to prevent the grapes from being crushed. The pomegranates and figs, which are still some of the most important fruits of Hebron (see The Land and the Book, p. 583), were probably carried on the same pole. The words may be rendered thus: “And they bare it between two upon a staff; also some of the pomegranates and of the figs.” This incident has obvious reference to the homeward journey of the spies. As the grapes of Eshcol were to the Israelites both a pledge and a specimen of the fruits of Canaan, so the communion which believers have with God on earth is a pledge as well as a foretaste of the blessedness of heaven.

Numbers 13:23-24. Upon a staff — Either for the weight of it, considering the length of the way they were to carry it, or for the preservation of it whole and entire. In those eastern and southern countries there are vines and grapes of an extraordinary bigness, as Strabo and Pliny affirm. Eshcol — That is, a cluster of grapes, as the word signifies.

13:21-25 The searchers of the land brought a bunch of grapes with them, and other fruits, as proofs of the goodness of the country; which was to Israel both the earnest and the specimen of all the fruits of Canaan. Such are the present comforts we have in communion with God, foretastes of the fulness of joy we expect in the heavenly Canaan. We may see by them what heaven is.The brook of Eshcol is by some identified with the rich valley immediately to the north of Hebron; (but by others with Wady Hanein to the south of Hebron). The valley was, in all likelihood, originally named after one of the three chiefs who were confederate with Abraham Genesis 14:24; but, as often came to pass, the Israelites, wittingly or unwittingly, took up in a new and significant sense the name which they found; and to them the valley thus became the Valley of the Cluster. Bunches of grapes are found in Palestine of many pounds weight. 23. they came unto the brook of Eshcol—that is, "the torrent of the cluster." Its location was a little to the southwest of Hebron. The valley and its sloping hills are still covered with vineyards, the character of whose fruit corresponds to its ancient celebrity.

and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes—The grapes reared in this locality are still as magnificent as formerly—they are said by one to be equal in size to prunes, and compared by another to a man's thumb. One cluster sometimes weighs ten or twelve pounds. The mode of carrying the cluster cut down by the spies, though not necessary from its weight, was evidently adopted to preserve it entire as a specimen of the productions of the promised land; and the impression made by the sight of it would be all the greater because the Israelites were familiar only with the scanty vines and small grapes of Egypt.

Upon a staff; either for the weight of it, considering the length of the way they were to carry it, or for the preservation of it whole and entire. In those eastern and southern countries there are vines and grapes of an extraordinary bigness, as Strabo and Pliny affirm.

And they came unto the brook of Eshcol,.... Or "valley of Eshcol" (u), which is here so called by anticipation from the following circumstance; and perhaps had not this name given it, until the children of Israel were possessed of the land, and then they called it so, in memory of what was done here at this time; it was not far from Hebron, as may be concluded from thence; and so Jerom, relating the travels of Paula in those parts, says (w), she came from Betzur to Eshcol, where having seen the little cells of Sarah, the cradle of Isaac, and the traces of the oak of Abraham, under which he saw the day of Christ, and was glad, rising up from thence, she went up to Hebron; which shows this Eshcol to be near Hebron, and to lie low, and was a valley; see Deuteronomy 1:24,

and cut down from thence a branch, with one cluster of grapes; in this valley was a vineyard, or at least a vine tree, on which they observed one cluster, which perhaps was of an uncommon size, as it seems by what follows, and they cut down the branch, and that with it:

and they bare it between two upon a staff; it was so big; and which was not done only for the ease of carrying it, but that it might not have any of its grapes squeezed, bruised, and broken off, but that they might carry it entire and whole for the Israelites to behold: these two men were probably Caleb and Joshua; though Jarchi says they carried nothing, which is more than he could say with certainty. Some historians report very surprising things of the size of vines, and the largeness of their clusters, which, when observed, this account will not at all seem incredible. Strabo says (x), it is reported, that in Hyrcania, a vine produced a firkin of wine, and, the trunk of a vine was so large, that it was as much as two men could grasp with both arms, and bore clusters of two cubits long (y); the same he says (z) of the size of vines in Mauritania, and of their clusters being a cubit long; and of others in Carmania being two cubits long, as before (a): it is reported of the Indian fig tree, that it sometimes has an hundred figs more or less on a branch, and all in a cluster like grapes; and some of the clusters are sometimes so large as to be carried by two men on a staff (b), as here; and some have thought, that it is the fruit here meant; but this is expressly called a cluster of grapes. About half a mile from Eshcol, as Adrichomius (c) says, was the brook or valley of Sorek, which was famous for vines; and it is affirmed by many writers and travellers, that to this day there are vines in that place, which produce clusters of twenty five pounds weight and more; and that in Lebanon, and other parts of Syria, the kernels of grapes are as big as a man's thumb (d). Leo Africanus speaks (e) of grapes in some parts of Africa somewhat red, which, from their size, are called hens' eggs: and the Talmudists (f) are extravagant, and beyond all belief, in the account they give of the vines in the land of Canaan, and of the clusters of them, and the quantity of wine they had from them; and of this cluster they suppose (g), that the "two" spoken of are not to be understood of men, but of bars or staves; and that this cluster was carried by eight, four at the four ends of the two staves, and that there were, besides, two staves or bars that went across, at the ends of which were four more men, who carried the cluster hanging in the middle; a figure of which Wagenseil (h) has given us: but Philo the Jew (i) has given a better account of it, and more agreeable to the Scripture, as that it was put upon a staff, and hung at the middle of it, the ends of which were laid on the shoulders of two young men, who carried it; though he adds, that such was the weight of it, that these were relieved by others in succession:

and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs; that is, others of them did; which seems to favour the notion that they were in a body, and that there were more than two together at this place; but even these two might be able to bring some of this sort of fruit along with them, as well as bear the cluster of grapes; besides, the text does not oblige us to understand it of the same persons in the same place.

(u) "vallem", Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius. (w) Epitaph. Paulae, fol. 59. G. H. (x) Geograph. l. 2. p. 50. (y) Ibid. (z) lbid. l. 17. p. 568. (a) Ibid. l. 15. p. 500. (b) Salmuth. in Pancirol. rer. memorab. par. 2. p. 55. (c) Theatrum Terrae Sacr. p. 24. (d) Huet. Alnetan. Quaest. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 22. (e) Descript. Africae, l. 2. p. 204. (f) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 111. 2.((g) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 34. 1.((h) Sotah, p. 707, 708. (i) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 638.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. a staff] Perhaps a bar; the same word as in Numbers 4:10.

the wady of Eshcol] The Heb. naḥal denotes a stream and the small valley or gorge through which it flows. The modern wâdy is the nearest equivalent. It is never used of a large river, nor of a wide flat valley or plain. The wâdy of Eshcol has not been identified.

Verse 23. - The brook of Eshcol. Rather, "the valley of Eshcol," for it is not a land of brooks. Probably between Hebron and Jerusalem, where the grapes are still exceptionally fine, and the dusters of great size. They bare it between two on a staff, not on account of its weight, but simply in order not to spoil it. Common sense dictates the like precaution still in like cases. Numbers 13:23The spies also came into the valley of Eshcol, where they gathered pomegranates and figs, and also cut down a vine-branch with grapes upon it, which two persons carried upon a pole, most likely on account of its extraordinary size. Bunches of grapes are still met with in Palestine, weighing as much as eight, ten, or twelve pounds, the grapes themselves being as large as our smaller plums (cf. Tobler Denkbltter, pp. 111, 112). The grapes of Hebron are especially celebrated. To the north of this city, on the way to Jerusalem, you pass through a valley with vineyards on the hills on both sides, containing the largest and finest grapes in the land, and with pomegranates, figs, and other fruits in great profusion (Robinson, Palestine, i. 316, compared with i. 314 and ii. 442). This valley is supposed, and not without good ground, to be the Eshcol of this chapter, which received its name of Eshcol (cluster of grapes), according to Numbers 13:24, from the bunch of grapes which was cut down there by the spies. This statement, of course, applies to the Israelites, and would therefore still hold good, even if the conjecture were a well-founded one, that this valley received its name originally from the Eshcol mentioned in Genesis 14:13, Genesis 14:24, as the terebinth grove did from Mamre the brother of Eshcol.
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