Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,God commandeth Moses to send spies to search out the land of Canaan, Numbers 13:1-3. Their names, Numbers 13:4-16. Moses’s commandment where to go, and what to do, Numbers 13:17-20. Their return with the fruits of the land, and their report, Numbers 13:23-29. They are encouraged by Caleb, Numbers 13:30; but ten others dishearten them by their false report, Numbers 13:31-33.
In answer to the people’s petition about it, as is evident from Deu 1:22. And it is probable from the following story, that the people desired it out of diffidence of God’s promise and providence, though Moses liked of it as a prudent course to learn where or how to make the first invasion. And God granted their desire for their trial and punishment, as well knowing from what root it came.
Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.Do as the people press thee to do.
Of every tribe of their fathers, i.e. which comes from their several parents or patriarchs.
A ruler; a person of wisdom and authority, which might make his witness more considerable with the people.
And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.No text from Poole on this verse.
And these were their names: of the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea the son of Nun.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Joseph, namely, of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi.i.e. Of that part of the tribe of Joseph which is peculiarly called
the tribe of Manasseh, as the other part of it was called the tribe of Ephraim, Numbers 13:8. The name of Joseph is elsewhere appropriated to Ephraim, as Ezekiel 37:16,19 Re 7:8; here to Manasseh; possibly to aggravate the sin of the ruler of this tribe, who did so basely degenerate from his noble ancestor, Joseph.
Of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.No text from Poole on this verse.
These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua.Oshea notes a desire of salvation, signifying, Save, we pray thee, but Jehoshua, or Joshua, includes a promise of salvation, that he should save, or that God by his hands should save the people. So this was a prophecy of his succession to Moses in the government, and of the success of his arms.
And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:Southward, i.e. into the southern part of Canaan, which was the nearest part, and the worst too, being dry and desert, Joshua 15:1,3 Jud 1:15 Psalm 126:4, and therefore fittest for them to enter and pass through with less observation.
Into the mountain, i.e. into the mountainous country, and thence into the valleys, and so take an exact survey of the whole land.
And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many;What it is, both for largeness, and for nature and quality; as is more particularly expressed, Numbers 13:19,20.
And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds;Good or bad, healthful or unwholesome, fruitful or barren.
In tents, as the Arabians did; or in unwalled villages, which, like tents, are exposed to an enemy.
And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.Fat; rich and fertile.
Be ye of good courage; doubt not but God will preserve you in this dangerous journey, and be not dismayed nor discouraged if you find the people numerous, potent, and well fortified.
So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath.The wilderness of Zin, in the south of Canaan, Numbers 34:3 Joshua 15:3; differing from the wilderness of Sin, which was nigh unto Egypt, Exodus 16:1.
To Hamath; i.e. from the south they passed through the whole land even to the northern parts of it,
Rehob, a city in the northwest part, Joshua 19:28 Judges 1:31; and Hamath, a city in the north-east part, Joshua 19:35 Ezekiel 47:17. And that they might more expeditiously and securely perform this office, it is probable that they divided themselves into several shall parties, and informed themselves not only by their eye, but also by their ear, and the information of persons, of whom they inquired about the nature and condition of their land.
And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)Here Moses having generally described their process and course from south to north, now returns more particularly to relate some memorable places and passages, as that having entered the land in the southern parts, they travelled then till they came to
Hebron. Came, Heb. he came, to wit, Caleb, as appears from Joshua 14:9,12,14; for, as was now intimated, the spies distributed their work among them, and went either severally, or by pairs: and, it seems, the survey of this part was left to Caleb.
Anak; a famous giant so called, whose children these are called, either more generally, as all giants sometimes were, or rather more specially, because Arba, from whom Hebron was called Kirjath-arba, was the father of Anak, Joshua 15:13. And this circumstance is mentioned as an evidence of the goodness of that land and soil, because the giants chose it for their habitation.
Before Zoan in Egypt: this seems to be noted to confront the Egyptians, who vainly boasted of the antiquity of their city Zoan above all places.
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.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.
The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.Kadesh; so called by way of abbreviation, which is frequent in Hebrew names, for Kadesh-barnea, Deu 1:19, which some rashly confound with Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, Numbers 20:1 27:14 33:36; into which they came not till the fortieth year after their coming out of Egypt, as appears from Numbers 33:37,38 whereas they were in this Kadesh in the second year, and before they received the sentence of their forty years’ abode in the wilderness.
And they told him, and said, 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 told him in the audience of the people, as appears from Numbers 13:30. They craftily begin their relation with commendations, that their following slanders might be more easily believed.
Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.Strong; potent for the strength of their body, and the valour of their minds.
The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.The south, where we are to enter the land; and they who were so eager and fierce against us that they came into the wilderness to fight with us, will without doubt oppose us when we come close by their land, and are about to settle in their neighbourhood, the rather, to revenge themselves for their former loss and shame received by us. Therefore they mention them, though they were no Canaanites.
In the mountains, i.e. in the mountainous country in the south-east part of the land; so that you cannot enter there without great difficulty, both because of the noted strength and valour of those people, and because of the advantage they have from the mountains.
By the sea; not the midland sea, which is commonly understood by that expression, but the Salt or Dead Sea, as appears,
1. Because it is that sea which is next to Jordan, as here follows.
2. Because the Canaanites dwelt principally in those parts, and not near the midland sea. So these guard the entrance on the east side, as the others do on the south.
And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.Caleb, together with Joshua, as is manifest from Numbers 14:6,7,30; but Caleb alone is here mentioned, possibly because he spake first and most, which he might better do, because he might be presumed to be more impartial than Joshua, who being Moses’s minister might be thought to speak only what he knew his master would like.
Stilled the people; which implies either that they had began to murmur, or that by their looks and carriages they discovered that grief and anger which boiled in their breasts.
Before Moses, or toward Moses, against whom they were incensed, as the man who had brought them into such sad circumstances.
We are well able; partly in moral probability, because we are one people united under one head, whereas they are divided into several nations, and governments of differing counsels, and interests, and inclinations; and principally because of the assistance of the Almighty God.
But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.The men that went up with him; all of them, Joshua excepted.
They are stronger than we, both in stature of body and numbers of people. Thus they wickedly question the power, and truth, and goodness of God, of all which they had such ample testimonies.
And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.They brought up, Heb. brought forth, to wit, out of their mouths; they uttered a reproach, or reproachful words.
Of the land i.e. against it, or concerning the land. It is the genitive case of the object, as Matthew 10:1 14:1.
Eateth up the inhabitants; not so much by civil wars, as most think, for that was likely to make their conquest more easy; nor by the barrenness of the soil, which consumed the people with the excessive pains it required to make it fruitful, as others think, for they confessed the excellency of the land, Numbers 13:27; but rather by the unwholesomeness of the air and place, which they guessed from the many funerals which, as some Hebrew writers, not without probability, affirm, they observed in their travels through it; though that came to pass from another cause, even from the singular providence of God, which, to facilitate the Israelites’ conquest, cut off vast numbers of the Canaanites, either by a plague, or by the hornet sent before them, as is expressed Joshua 24:12, or some other way.
And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.i.e. Small and contemptible.