December 18, 2017
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
The incident in Numbers 13 of the twelve spies sent into Canaan to reconnoiter the country has always fascinated me (see From Egypt To Canaan – XXV from October 24, 2016). Moses commissioned twelve men – one from each tribe of Israel – to spy out the land God had promised to the Jews. Only two brought back a positive report, Caleb and Joshua! Ten gave a very negative report! Here is the record from Numbers 13:30 through 33 of their report:
…Caleb quieted the people…and said, “Let us go up at once and take pos-
session, [of Canaan] for we are well able to overcome it.” But the men who
had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people,
for they are stronger than we….The land through which we have gone as
spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw
in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of
Anak…); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were
in their sight.”
Ten men were Whiners! Only two were Winners! The Whiners prevailed and, as a result, Israel spent another 38 years in the Sinai desert! Let’s consider the Whiners first:
• In Hebrews 4:2 (Good News Bible) we are told, “…we have heard the Good News, just as they [the Israelites of Moses’ day] did. They heard the message, but it did them no good, because when they heard it, they did not accept it with faith.” The writer of Hebrews is referring to the gospel of Jesus Christ the Savior which is indeed Good News! But such Good News must be received by faith believing – whatever God is promising! (See Romans 3:30; Ephesians 2:8). Otherwise it does one no good at all!
The Good News of God fulfilling His word concerning the Promised Land of Canaan was certainly proclaimed by Caleb and Joshua. After all, God had made that promise many times over the previous 600 or so years since the time of Abraham! (See Genesis 13:14, 15; 15:18-21; 17:7, 8; 26:4, 5; 48:3, 4; 50:24; Exodus 6:6-8). If the Israelites had had faith in God’s promise, they would not have become Whiners and rejected the LORD’s leading to go in and conquer Canaan!
• What was the nature of their whining?
✡ At first, the ten spies seemed to have faith in God’s promise. They came back after forty days of reconnaissance bringing “…the fruit of the land…” (Numbers 13:26) – “…pomegranates and figs…and…one cluster of grapes…[which] they carried… between two of them on a pole.” (Numbers 13:23). “…they told them… ‘…the land…truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.’ ” (Numbers 13:27). So far, so good! It sounds like the ten men were impressed with what God had promised!
✡ But then they turned negative – Numbers 13:28 and 29:
“Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are
fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.
The Amalekites dwell in land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites,
and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by
the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”
▸ The descendants of Anak – The ten spies further said (part of our featured Scripture) – verse 33: “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak…).” Often grouped with another race of giants in the Bible – Rephaims or Emims (see Deuteronomy 2:10, 11), they are said by a number of Bible scholars to be descended from the Nephilim – the offspring of fallen angels and human women! (See, for instance the article ‘What Are The Nephilim?’ by the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry at https://carm.org/what-are-nephilim). The Nephilim (a Hebrew word meaning ‘giants’) are mentioned in Genesis 6:2 (American Standard Version – see Genesis 6:1–4; Jude 1:6):
The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when
the sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they bare children
to them: the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of re-
▸ The Hittites – a tribe of war-like people who occupied modern Turkey and northern Syria. According to Deuteronomy 20:17, the Israelites were to utterly destroy the Hittites! But they figured throughout Israel’s history in Canaan (see Judges 3:5; I Kings 11:1; Ezra 9:1; Nehemiah 9:8).
▸ The Jebusites – one of the nations that inhabited Palestine and even Jerusalem. The Israelites were supposed to have destroyed this tribe also! (See Deuteronomy 20:17). But they did not! (See Joshua 15:63; I Chronicles 11:4; Ezra 9:1; Nehemiah 9:8).
▸ The Amorites – decended from Emer, the fouth son of Canaan, the grandson through Ham of Noah (see Genesis 10:15-18). They occupied the territory west of the Dead Sea. As with the other Canaanite tribes, Israel was supposed to wipe them out (see Deuteronomy 20:17) but they did not! (See Judges 3:5; I Kings 19:20; Ezra 9:1; Nehemiah 9:8).
▸ The Canaanites – This is considered more of a general term for all the pagan tribes that occupied the land of Canaan. As stated above, God instructed Israel to destroy those tribes, but they failed to fulfill His directive!
The ten spies, giving their negative whining report, were following what they saw with their eyes, their natural senses! (See Jeremiah 17:9; I Corinthians 2:14). And their natural senses told them that they could not defeat the strong tribes of Canaan! But, we are told in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We are to ‘see’ not with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of faith! If God leads us to do something, He will provide all we need to accomplish that task! (See Matthew 6:32, 33; Philippians 4:19).
More on Winners Or Whiners? in the next blog.