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Numbers 13:17-29

Context
The Spies’ Instructions

13:17 When Moses sent 1  them to investigate the land of Canaan, he told them, “Go up through the Negev, 2  and then go up into the hill country 13:18 and see 3  what the land is like, 4  and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, few or many, 13:19 and whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or fortified cities, 13:20 and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether or not there are forests in it. And be brave, 5  and bring back some of the fruit of the land.” Now it was the time of year 6  for the first ripe grapes. 7 

The Spies’ Activities

13:21 So they went up and investigated the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, 8  at the entrance of Hamath. 9  13:22 When they went up through the Negev, they 10  came 11  to Hebron where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, 12  descendants of Anak, were living. (Now Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan 13  in Egypt.) 13:23 When they came to the valley of Eshcol, they cut down from there a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a staff 14  between two men, as well as some of the pomegranates and the figs. 13:24 That place was called 15  the Eshcol Valley, 16  because of the cluster 17  of grapes that the Israelites cut from there. 13:25 They returned from investigating the land after forty days.

The Spies’ Reports

13:26 They came back 18  to Moses and Aaron and to the whole community of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. 19  They reported 20  to the whole community and showed the fruit of the land. 13:27 They told Moses, 21  “We went to the land where you sent us. 22  It is indeed flowing with milk and honey, 23  and this is its fruit. 13:28 But 24  the inhabitants 25  are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. Moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. 13:29 The Amalekites live in the land of the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the banks 26  of the Jordan.” 27 

1 tn The preterite with vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated to the next verb of the same formation to express a temporal clause.

2 tn The instructions had them first go up into the southern desert of the land, and after passing through that, into the hill country of the Canaanites. The text could be rendered “into the Negev” as well as “through the Negev.”

3 tn The form is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; the word therefore carries the volitional mood of the preceding imperatives. It may be either another imperative, or it may be subordinated as a purpose clause.

4 tn Heb “see the land, what it is.”

5 tn The verb is the Hitpael perfect with vav (ו) consecutive, from the root חָזַק (khazaq, “to be strong”). Here it could mean “strengthen yourselves” or “be courageous” or “determined.” See further uses in 2 Sam 10:12; 1 Kgs 20:22; 1 Chr 19:13.

6 tn Heb “Now the days were the days of.”

7 sn The reference to the first ripe grapes would put the time somewhere at the end of July.

8 sn Zin is on the southern edge of the land, but Rehob is far north, near Mount Hermon. The spies covered all the land.

9 tn The idiom uses the infinitive construct: “to enter Hamath,” meaning, “on the way that people go to Hamath.”

10 tc The MT has the singular, but the ancient versions and Smr have the plural.

11 tn The preterite with vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated to the following clause. The first verse gave the account of their journey over the whole land; this section focuses on what happened in the area of Hebron, which would be the basis for the false report.

12 sn These names are thought to be three clans that were in the Hebron area (see Josh 15:14; Judg 1:20). To call them descendants of Anak is usually taken to mean that they were large or tall people (2 Sam 21:18-22). They were ultimately driven out by Caleb.

13 sn The text now provides a brief historical aside for the readers. Zoan was probably the city of Tanis, although that is disputed today by some scholars. It was known in Egypt in the New Kingdom as “the fields of Tanis,” which corresponded to the “fields of Zoar” in the Hebrew Bible (Ps 78:12, 43).

14 tn The word is related etymologically to the verb for “slip, slide, bend, totter.” This would fit the use very well. A pole that would not bend would be hard to use to carry things, but a pole or stave that was flexible would serve well.

15 tn The verb is rendered as a passive because there is no expressed subject.

16 tn Or “Wadi Eshcol.” The translation “brook” is too generous; the Hebrew term refers to a river bed, a ravine or valley through which torrents of rain would rush in the rainy season; at other times it might be completely dry.

17 tn The word “Eshcol” is drawn from the Hebrew expression concerning the “cluster of grapes.” The word is probably retained in the name Burj Haskeh, two miles north of Damascus.

18 tn The construction literally has “and they went and they entered,” which may be smoothed out as a verbal hendiadys, the one verb modifying the other.

19 sn Kadesh is Ain Qadeis, about 50 miles (83 km) south of Beer Sheba. It is called Kadesh-barnea in Num 32:8.

20 tn Heb “They brought back word”; the verb is the Hiphil preterite of שׁוּב (shuv).

21 tn Heb “told him and said.” The referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

22 tn The relative clause modifies “the land.” It is constructed with the relative and the verb: “where you sent us.”

23 sn This is the common expression for the material abundance of the land (see further, F. C. Fensham, “An Ancient Tradition of the Fertility of Palestine,” PEQ 98 [1966]: 166-67).

24 tn The word (אֶפֶס, ’efes) forms a very strong adversative. The land was indeed rich and fruitful, but….”

25 tn Heb “the people who are living in the land.”

26 tn Heb “by the side [hand] of.”

27 sn For more discussion on these people groups, see D. J. Wiseman, ed., Peoples of Old Testament Times.



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