Wednesday, August 19, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 13

Chapter 13
Summary:God tells Moses to appoint and send out one man from each tribe of Israel to search the land of Canaan.

Moses sent out from the wilderness of Paran the following men from each of the twelve tribes of Israel:
  • Tribe of Reuben: Shammua, son of Zaccur
  • Tribe of Simeon: Shaphat, son of Hon
  • Tribe of Judah: Caleb, son of Jephunneh
  • Tribe of Issachar: Igal, son of Joseph
  • Tribe of Ephraim: Oshea, son of Nun
  • Tribe of Bejamin: Palti, son of Raphu
  • Tribe of Zebulun: Gaddiel, son of Sodi
  • Tribe of Joseph (via the Tribe of Mannaseh): Gaddi, son of Susi
  • Tribe of Dan: Ammiel, son of Gemalli
  • Tribe of Asher: Sethur, son of Michael
  • Tribe of Naphtali: Nahbi, son of Vophsi
  • Tribe of Gad: Geuel, son of Machi
Moses sent these men to spy out the land, and at this time also renamed Oshea to Jehoshua (Joshua). Moses told the men to head southward and to travel up the mountain to see the land and judge the land and the people living there. Moses tells them to determine whether the people are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad; what cities they dwell in, whether they live in tents or fortified strongholds; whether the land is fertile or not, and whether there are trees or not. He tells the men to be brave and to bring back a sample of the crops from the land, pointing out that the first of the grape harvest is in season.

The men went up the mountain and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin, to Rehob, and into Hamath. They ascended by the south and came into Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai (the children of Anak) were. The chapter notes that Hebron was built seven* years before the Egyptian city of Zoan*.

They came unto the brook of Eschol and cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes that was so large that it had be carried on a pole by two men. They also gathered some pomegranates and figs. The people of Israel named the valley "Eschol" (meaning "cluster") because of the cluster of grapes they found.

The men returned from searching the land after forty days and reported back to Moses, Aaron, and the people of Israel, showing them the fruit they had brought back with them. They told Moses that the land they had surveyed indeed "flowed with milk and honey", but that the people that dwelled in the land were strong, lived in walled cities, and large. Moreover, they told Moses, that they saw the "children of Anak" there.

The men continued on, reporting that the Amalekites dwelled in the south; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites dwelled in the mountains; and that the Canaanites dwelled by the sea, by the coast of Jordan.

Caleb then suggested before Moses and the people of Israel, that they should go and attempt to conquer the land, to which the other spies negated, pointing out that the inhabitants are stronger than the armies of Israel.

The spies report on the land was negative, and they repeated that the land was well armed, and that the people that inhabited it were giants. The spies said that they saw the giants - the sons of Anak - and that the spies themselves were comparatively the size of grasshoppers to the size of the giants.
Notes:1.) Another appearance of the mystical number of seven in the bible.
2.) The city of Zoan is an older Hebrew name for the Egyptian city of Tanis.
Thoughts:We begin the chapter with God telling Moses to assemble a team of spies, consisting of one man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, to spy upon the land of Canaan.

The most obvious question is if God is allegedly omnipresent and omniscient, why does he need to form a band of human spies to figure out what is going on in the land of Canaan? Why is he unable to swoop down in the form of a cloud and take a peek around himself and instead have to rely on a team of human spies?

The chapter goes on to list the names of the twelve men selected as spies, as well as each of their father's names. As with the census taking, the twelve tribes are technically only eleven - as the Levites are removed from the list of the sons of Israel due to their work in the tabernacle. In order to preserve the number of twelve, the tribe of Joseph is divided in half by his sons Ephraim and Mannaseh. After the names are listed, Moses inexplicably changes the name of one the spies (Oshea from the tribe of Ephraim, who is also Moses' servant) to Jehoshua (or Joshua, depending on your bible's translation).

Moses has the men travel southward and up the mountain to report upon the land and the inhabitants living there. He wants to know how strong or weak their armies are, how many there are, the condition of the land, how fortified their cities are, and whether the land is fertile or not. He also tells the spies to bring back a sample of some of the crops growing in the land, noting that it's the beginning of the grape harvest season.

So the spies travel up the mountain, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin, to Rehob, and into Hamath. They finally came into Hebron, which is home to the tribes of Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai. It's also noted that Hebron was allegedly founded "seven" years before the Egyptian city of Zoan, now known as Tanis.

Apparently the spies came upon a brook and cut down a branch containing a single cluster of grapes that was so large that it had to be carried by two men on a pole. Yes, folks, giant grapes for whom we find out at the end of this chapter - the "children of Anak" are in fact, a race of giants. According to the bible, around 1494 BC Canaan not only produced giant grapes, but was inhabited by a race of giants(!)

Giants were briefly touched upon in Genesis: Chapter 6 in verse four, where it is also mentioned that the "sons of God" mated with the "daughters of men" and bore children from this union. Initially, I had found that the consensus thought about Genesis 6:4 was that this was simply referring to the lineage of Seth (the "sons of God") mating with the lineage of Cain (the "daughters of men"), where Cain's "evil" lineage was seducing and corrupting the "good" lineage of Seth. However, others see this verse much differently, and use their interpretation as an explanation for giantism.

According to this alternate line of thought, the "sons of God" are actually referring to "fallen angels" or "demons", mating with "the daughters of men" - meaning human women. The hybrid offspring of "demons" and human women produced giants, according to this line of thought.

However, a more realistic stance that is held by some is that simply the spies in this were simply afraid and over exaggerating - but this doesn't explain the "giant grapes" they encountered and dragged back home on a pole.

Anyways, the people of Israel named the valley "Eschol" (meaning "cluster") after the giant cluster of grapes they found.

The spies returned after forty days (another curious number in the bible) and reported their findings back to Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the people of Israel.

Caleb (the spy from the tribe of Judah) then suggests that they go ahead and invade the land, to which the rest of the spies disagree with due to the fact that the cities in the land are well fortified and that the inhabitants seem stronger than the Israeli armies could manage. They repeat their story of the giant sons of Anak, and say that they themselves appeared to be the size of a grasshopper in comparison to the size of the "giants".

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