Numbers 13:1 – 15:41


Today’s Parasha is called Shelach Lechah and it covers chapters 13 to 15 from the Book of Numbers.

Shelach means to send and speaks about the sending of the spies into the land of Israel. It is the first word of the second verse where the Lord spoke to Moses saying:  2 “Send out for yourself  men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.” Now, it does not start too well. Why did the Lord say, Send out for yourself  men,  שְׁלַח-לְךָ— Shelach Lech? Why for yourself? For Moses?

Before, when God asked Moses to choose the 70 elders, He said to him, Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel (Num 11:16), and Moses anointed them. However, here He tells him to gather them for yourself . The reason is because it was originally not God’s idea to send the spies. God told them so many times that the land is a great place, a beautiful and plentiful one. Why then did they feel the need to check it out?

He told them in Ezekiel 20:6 that it was a land that I had selected for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands. Yet, they did not believe it. And, from Deuteronomy 1 we know from the start that it was not God’s idea. It was when Moses reminded the next generation how their fathers had wanted to send spies. There we read; 22  “And everyone of you came near to me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come.’

 That reflected a complete lack of trust. The spies did go and it did not turn out well at all. They lost 38 years of time wandering in the wilderness when they were right there at the door of the promised land. What a waste. And so, beginning in Vs.21 of chapter 13, we read, So they went up and spied out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob, near the entrance of Hamath. They took 40 days to cover 800 kms or 500 miles, and they covered it all. They could have covered it in 25 days by walking 5 hours a day, but it seems they took their time.

And they all came back safely; no one was running after them. They also brought back some great fruits: figs, pomegranates and grapes so big that one single cluster of grapes was carried on a pole between two men; that land was very fruitful.

There were, however, giants and the report included them. vs.33, “There also we saw the Nephilim, (the sons of Anak are descendants of the Nephilim; and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight..” The Hebrew word Nephilim means the fallen ones. The Greek Septuagint has gigantes where we get our word giants, found in many of our translations. This is what discouraged the people and we read at the beginning of the 14th chapter,  1So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 4  So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.” See how vulnerable a congregation of people can be when a bad report comes in and see how quickly it spreads. We read in vs.1 that all the congregation lifted up their voices; all of them? They abandoned ship.

While complaining and as is often a bad habit to do, they felt the need to find some scapegoats, they first accused the leaders; Moses and Aaron.  That is not too bad, but then they accuse God directly; they asked, Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword? They came to the point of seeing God as an enemy when He wanted the best for them. They accused Him of wanting to kill them and their wives and children. And we see such an absurd conclusion they made. From Deut. 1:27, it says; It is because [God] hates us”*.

However, out of the 12 spies who spoke words of discouragement, there were 2, Joshua and Calev who differed in their response.  They were in the same situation, and they saw the same giants, but they had another perspective of things; they had a vision, they were endowed with supernatural faith. They understood the words of this great verse found in Zechariah 4:6 which says, `Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts –  They knew, they understood it was an impossible task. They knew they could not beat these Nephilims…

But they also knew that the battle is the Lord’s. With God, these giants were not giants anymore – they were so only in appearance. But it takes a lot of faith to see it this way. And as we read on in Numbers 14, we learn something great about our God. He is more saddened than angry and here He is so implicated, he even turns to Moses and says in Vs.11,  How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?

Here is the Creator of time and space, the One who lives in eternity, allowing Himself to suffer in time for His creation, man. His very nature compels Him to stand in love with Moses. This is the God of the Scriptures. And right in the midst of this chapter, right when one would have thought it was the end, in the midst of great confusion, God proclaims this powerful prophecy and says;  As I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord (vs.21). It matters not that some people, or even the majority abandon ship; the Word of the Lord will be fulfilled.

And this is when we are so blessed by what the two other spies, Joshua and Caleb said in trying to encourage the people to go and conquer the land.  We read in vs. 8-9  8  “If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ “Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”

Now, what did they mean when they said; they shall be bread for us? They were appealing to something they were so familiar with. What was the bread or the food that all the Israelites were eating at the time? Manna. And to acquire the manna they all had to wake up very early in the day, even before the sunrise to obtain what was there. Once the sun rose, it would melt away the manna. In the same way, Joshua and Calev’s argument was that these giants would have melted because the Lord would have risen up for them and provided everything for that battle, just as He did the manna.

This was in response to the complaining of the people who said that when they heard this report, our hearts melted Deut. 1:28. And, the same word is used by Rahab in Jericho when she described the peoples’ hearts at the advancing of Israel into the land. She said; And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted*  (Jos 2:11). And so Joshua and Calev’s encouragement stands for us as well; As the manna melted in the sun, so would our giants melt before us, for the LORD is the Sun of Righteousness as Malachi wrote –  He is the One Who shall rise like the light of the morning when the sun rises.  David sang this in 2Sam.23:4.