Reconnaissance of Canaan (Num 13:1-13:24)

“Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.  From each of their ancestral tribes you shall send a man, everyone a leader among them.’  So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of Yahweh, all of them leading among the Israelites. These were their names:

From the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zaccur;

From the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori;

From the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;

From the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph;

From the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun;

From the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu;

From the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi;

From the tribe of Joseph, that is from the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi son of Susi;

From the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli;

From the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael;

From the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi;

From the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Machi.

These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land.  Moses changed the name of Hoshea son of Nun to Joshua.”

Once again, Yahweh spoke to Moses.  This time he wants spies to go to the land of Canaan.  There are a number of problems with this text.  First, it is only year two and that means that there are more than thirty-eight years to go.  Why send anyone?  Why are they spies?  The list that follows does not have the same leaders from chapters 1, 7, and 10.  What happened to them?  Perhaps this is from a later time when the leaders have changed.  As per usual, each tribe was to send a leader.

Here is the list of tribes with the names now and the former leaders:

1)      Reuben – Shammua son of Zaccur, not Elizur, son of Shedeur;

2)      Simeon – Shaphat son of Hori, not Shelumiel, son of Zurishaddai;

3)      Judah – Caleb  son of Jephunneh, not Nahshon, son of Amminadab;

4)      Issachar – Igal son of Joseph, not Nethanel, son of Zuar;

5)      Ephraim – Hoshea  son of Nun, not Elishama, son of Ammihud;

6)      Benjamin – Palti  son of Raphu, not Abidan, son of Gideoni;

7)      Zebulun – Gaddiel son of Sodi, not Eliab, son of Helon;

8)      Manasseh – Gaddi  son of Susi, not  Gamaliel, son of Pedahzur;

9)      Dan – Ammiel  son of Gemalli, not Ahiezer, son of Ammishaddai;

10)  Asher – Sethur  son of Michael, not Pagiel, son of Ochran;

11)  Naphtali – Nahbi  son of Vophsi, not  Ahira, son of Enan;

12)  Gad – Geuel son of Machi, not Eliasaph, son of Deuel;

Here is some clarification about the names. Shammua will be the name of one of David’s sons.  Caleb was the name of Judah’s grandson through Tamar.  There is also a Caleb that will appear in Chronicles. There will be an Igal in Samuel. The name Hoshea will be changed to Joshua by Moses.  Michael is a fairly common name in the Bible with the most dominant being Michael, the archangel or chief angel. This name will also appear in Chronicles. This is the only biblical indication of all the other names.

“Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan.  He said to them, ‘Go up into the Negeb.  Go up into the hill country.  See what the land is like.  Find out whether the people who live in it are strong or weak.  Find out whether they are few or many.  Find out whether the land that they live in is good or bad.  Find out whether the towns that they live in are un-walled or fortified.  Find out whether the land is rich or poor.  Find out whether there are trees in it or not.  Be bold, and bring some of the fruit of the land.’ Now it was the season of the first ripe grapes.”

Moses sent them to spy on the land of Canaan.  They were to find out both in the lowlands of the Negeb and the hill country what the land is like.  Are the people strong or weak?  Are they few or many?  Is the land good or bad?  Are the towns un-walled or fortified?  Is the land rich or poor?  Are there any trees?  This sounds like the expedition of Lewis and Clark up the Missouri River from St. Louis in the early nineteenth century.  Certainly, Yahweh would have known about all these things anyway.

“So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, near Lebo-hamath.  They went up into the Negeb, and came to Hebron.  Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the Anakites, were there.  Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.   They came to the Wadi Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes.  They carried it on a pole between two of them.  They also brought some pomegranates and figs.  That place was called the Wadi-Eshcol, because of the cluster that the Israelites cut down from there.”

Thus they went out from the wilderness in Paran to the wilderness of Zin, which was north of Sinai and Paran.  They went through Rehob and Lebo-hamath, until they came to the low level Negeb area, just southwest of the Dead Sea.  They came to Hebron, the southwest area of Canaan, which was an ancient Canaanite royal city that could be traced back to 1700 BCE.  The writer mentioned explicitly that Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.  Abraham is said to have visited the Oaks at Hebron, met Yahweh there, built an altar, and also buried Sarah there.  There are at least seven mentions of Hebron in Genesis.  While they were there, they ran into the three sons of Anak, a very tall person, Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, who will play an important role in the conquest of Canaan.  Then they went into the Valley of Eshcol, near Hebron, where Abraham had friends in Genesis. They cut down a cluster of grapes, and some pomegranates and figs. Wadi-Eshcol got its name because of the fruit clusters.

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