Investigating The Promised Land
In my last blog post, Moses gave the scouts information as to what to look for in the land. He told the men to be of good courage and to bring some of the fruit of the land. Today we are going to talk about
- their experience of exploring the Promised Land,
- the results, and
- their fear of man,
- their discouragement,
- stumbling blocks and
So in verse 21 off they go; and they looked the place over, and it’s a big place. They began by taking a route through the low-lying desert and then on up into Hebron. And then eventually they travel all the way to a place called Lebo-Hamath.
There is some disagreement over the exact position of that location. But for sure it was well north, even into what would eventually be called Syria and Lebanon. An area that would, under Kings David and Solomon, actually be an official part of Israel.
It was probably a distance of about 250 miles from Kadesh to Lebo-Hamath. So, it’s no wonder it took 40 days for them to go there and back.
Now, why was Hebron a destination? Simple. It was in Hebron that Abraham was first promised the land, where Abraham first settled in the Land of Canaan and buried. It was the stomping grounds of all the Patriarchs to one degree or another. It was beautiful and fertile; suitable for pasture and good for crops.
Hebron would be the unnamed capital of Israel for the first few years of their living there. Because of the Hebrew history of the place, it, therefore, was also a sacred place for the Israelites.
And the verses say that along the way, the scouting party ran into three men called Anakites. Exactly who or what the Anakites were is uncertain. The one thing we do know is that they were a race of tall people. And they were compared to the Nephilim and Rephaim spoke of in Genesis, pre -Flood.
Recall that the Nephilim and Rephaim were a race that Scripture says was caused when sons of Heaven had intercourse with daughters of men. In other words, angel-like creatures had relations with human women, and the result was a line of big, strong, fierce, evil people.
Now, were the Anakites the latest version of the Nephilim, or were they just being compared to Nephilim in a rhetorical way? It is hard to know. Goliath (the giant warrior slain by David) was an Anakite (or, in Hebrew, Anakim). In any case, these Anakites made quite an impression on the 12 scouts.
Then for some reason Scripture pauses to inform us that Hebron was founded seven years earlier than Zoan (Numbers 13:22). There is nothing but speculation as to why this was even brought up.
But the one thing that IS now known is that Zoan would later be called Tanis, of Egypt. And Tanis was made the capital of Egypt at about the same time that King David made Jerusalem capital of Israel.
Next, they go to a place called Eschcol and find grapes of enormous size. The grapes are so large that a single cluster has to be strung between two poles to be carried. And this is not real; it is a metaphor for explaining the extreme fertile ground of the land.
It is no different than our saying that we found a watermelon the “size of a house.” No one in our culture would take that to mean that the watermelon was 30 feet around. It is just a common saying that explains it was unusually large. The same thing is happening here.
It is also interesting to note that the word Eschcol MEANS “cluster,” like a “bunch” of grapes. And this was a grape growing region, so things were given “grape” names.
So you see in the Bible you see the names of the place and the stories can all intertwine. And sometimes it’s hard to know which came first: the story or the name of the site. In other words, did the place get named after something that happened there, or was a story developed around the name of a place.
Remember: all of what we are reading was handed down word-of-mouth for centuries. So, many literary and phonetic devices were used to make stories easier to remember and to recite.
If we knew Hebrew better, we’d see that many of the verses of the Bible rhyme again. Because they were created in a way to be handed down orally. And, just as children are taught songs as memory devices for particular facts, so the ancients used rhyming, and poems, and unusual word structures in the telling of tales.
Anyway, these tribal leaders return almost 6 weeks later, and they go straight to Moses and Aaron and report what they encountered. They first tell Moses what they saw, and then tell “the whole community” of Israel. This does NOT mean all of the Israelites. It just means the elders and leaders of Israel.
And we don’t have to read too far before we get a little hint of the bent of these scouts because they say “we came to the land WHERE YOU SENT US.” Not the land the Lord promised or the land that was sworn to Abraham. In other words, they disassociated themselves from the Promise, from the covenant, and from God. For them, this was merely a political/economic matter.
And in the first part of their report, the group of Scouts offers a very positive view. Oh, yes, they say, it IS a land flowing with milk and honey. And this is in response to Moses’ instruction as they were readying to go on their mission to determine if the land was fertile.
And, they also show Moses the fruit they brought back. And this is in response to the question of “was the land wooded” meaning, did it support larger plants and not just underbrush.
But in answering the question about the strength of the people of Canaan, they replied that they were powerful. As for the cities, they were large and well defended. And, BTW, that was not an exaggeration. Most of the walls of the walled Canaanite cities that have been excavated have been found on average 30 to 50 feet high, and 10 to 15 feet thick.
The scouts also say that the “tall people,” the Anakites are present there. And the Amalekites thought to be the dominant people (wanderers) of the desert regions of Canaan. And the Sinai were also there in high number.
- The Hittites, a highly advanced civilization with its center in modern day Turkey.
- The Jebusites, the original builders of the city of Jerusalem.
- The Amorites, probably Abraham’s original tribe, a violent group who sought power and dominance and was always a bother to their neighbors.
The Canaanites, a conglomerate of many of the offspring of Noah’s grandson Canaan tended to live in the coastal plains of the land. All of these groups were there, and well entrenched. And, they undoubtedly had no interest in turning their city-states over to these Hebrews.
Let’s understand something: the scouts’ assessment was well balanced and not exaggerated. They were telling the truth, and the truth was scaring the daylights out of the leaders and elders of Israel who had gathered around them to hear the scouting report.
We can easily imagine the rising clatter of the people expressing anxiety and fear; a growing din of complaint and rebellion. Because verse 30 says, “Caleb hushed the people” Caleb told them to quiet down and settle down. And Caleb says, OK, enough reality. We know what we’re up against; now let’s go and take the land because surely we’ll overcome all of these obstacles.
This is not the same conclusion that those within earshot had already come to. The other scouts and the elders had decided that it was suicide to take on these dangerous people of Canaan. To make their point, they abandon their balanced report and say that the Anakites are so big, that WE looked like grasshoppers next to them! It was a hopeless situation, in their estimation.
But, here’s the problem. The scouts and the elders were in rebellion not against Moses, but against God. Their refusal to take God at His word was the greatest affront to His holiness. And, there would be grave repercussions.
Fellow Believers let me tell you something. Often we think that the main thing we’re to listen to the Lord about, is to NOT do something that we shouldn’t. But equally as often and as a case in point with the 12 scouts, our rebellion against God is that we DON’T do things that we clearly SHOULD do.
Instead, we focus on the obstacles and look away from Him and grow afraid and impatient. We think: well if it’s challenging and dangerous CERTAINLY it can’t be from the Lord.
If God has set this deal up, it’s going to be easy and without problems. If we encounter challenges and difficulties and it doesn’t go as we envisioned, we MUST be going against God’s will. That kind of thinking has probably snatched more blessings and victories away from individual Believers and groups of Christians than any other. It is a false assumption.
I would like to draw a parallel to this story of the 12 scouts for you that perhaps you haven’t thought about. It is a very contemporary side and one that is going to have an in-depth and lasting affect on we the Church.
God had led His people, Israel, to the Promised Land; but 10 men…trusted and respected leaders…. decided to stand in the way of God’s people entering that land of promise.
These men did what any good leaders would do: investigate, evaluate, and then come to an honest and pragmatic conclusion without emotion. Ten leaders who lacked faith and trust but who had authority denied 3 million Israelites (who looked to them for leadership) their God-ordained inheritance.
And many within the Church today are doing the same thing by working so diligently and efficiently to introduce us to the Messiah. But then denying His (and thus OUR) connection with His own people, the Jews, and His own land, Israel.
Who can look at the Bible and find one word that abrogates God’s often stated covenant that the Land of Canaan belongs to His people Israel? Where do we find a single statement that says for the sake of world peace and humanity, Israel should be pushed to give up part…. if not all…. of their sacred land inheritance?
Yet at least half of the Church today sides with Israel’s enemies and the matter of land. Entire denominations have openly denounced Israel’s right to the very land spelled out in detail in the Word of God.
Some of the Pro-Israel halves believes it’s only fair to divvy up at least some of that land and give it to those poor Palestinians. After all isn’t that just simple love and justice like Jesus taught us? And if we love the Palestinians the only possible response is to carve off some of the Promised Land and force Israel to give it to them for their own nation.
The consequences for those who seek to thwart God’s plan for His people, Israel, to claim their land inheritance is severe. Ten of those 12 scouts were about to find out just how seriously God takes His covenants, His commands, and the rights and DUTY of His people to assume their place in the Land of Promise.
The Church today is also about to find out that the Lord God does not change, and He does not make idle threats, and that He has not gone back on His promise to the set-apart nation He created through Abraham.