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Twelve Spies report on 'the land of Canaan'
By chapter 13, the children of Israel reached the borders of the land of Canaan. We see from maps that they were camped in the southwest section, just south of the Mediterranean Sea and about to enter the Negev, or Southland. At that strategic location, God instructed them to send spies into the land to see that it truly was a land of 'milk and honey' as He had promised (vs. 19). They were also instructed to see how the people of the land lived, whether in the open, in tents, or in fortified cities.
It has been postulated that the reason for the route Moses suggested (Numbers 13:18-20) may have been because his intention was to attack and penetrate Canaan from that direction. There certainly was no plan originally to enter the land from the east through Jericho. That was not only far off the main Egyptian access to Caanan but it involved the hazard of passing the heavily fortified defensive positions of Jericho and Ai. However, this is all irrelevant for, with God fighting for them, who could resist them? The itinerary taken by the explorers (Numbers 13:21-22) began in the Desert of Zin and extended as far north as Rehob at Lebo Hamath (probably modern Lebweh, 14 miles northwest of Baalbek). Hamath was an important Aramean city in the great Central Valley known as the Beq'a. Lebo Hamath was at the lower part of that valley which began just north of the Sea of Galilee. On the way back, the 12 leaders passed through Hebron, a city built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. Zoan, otherwise known as Tanis, was built by the Hyksos when they overran north-eastern Egypt about 1730 B.C.5-7 This geographical location is of interest to us because Hebron later became the inheritance of faithful Caleb (Joshua. 14:23-25) and even later than that David' s capital when he reigned over Judah (2 Samuel 2:1- 4). In Moses' day however, Hebron was the home of the Anakites, a tribe of giants (Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 9:2) who would prove to be implacable foes of Israel for years to come (Joshua 15:13-14).
The spies travelled throughout the land for forty days and discovered that it was a land 'flowing with milk and honey, " just as God had promised. They were able to cut such a large and heavy cluster of grapes (v. 23-25) near Hebron at the Valley of Eschol (eschol is Hebrew for "cluster") that two men carried it on a pole between them. The produce of the land was impressive, but so were the inhabitants. When the twelve spies returned and gave their report to the congregation, they said (vss. 27-29), "It truly is a land of milk and honey, but it is inhabited by giants." Ten of the spies declared that a successful invasion was impossible, the natives were too large and too strong, "and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers and so we were in their sight" (vs. 33). Only Joshua and Caleb insisted that by obeying the Lord they could take the land - and Caleb declared: "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it." But, lacking faith in God, the people listened to the ten spies with the negative report.
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