- The sending of the spies into Canaan, verse 1-17.
- The instructions given them, verse 18-20.
- Their journey and return, verse 21-25.
- Their report, verse 26-33.
Speak unto Moses - In answer to the peoples petition about it, as is evident from Deuteronomy 1:22. And it is probable, the people desired it out of diffidence of God's promise.
A ruler - A person of wisdom and authority.
Oshea - Called also Joshua, Numbers 13:16.
Of Joseph - The name of Joseph is elsewhere appropriated to Ephraim, here to Manasseh; possibly to aggravate the sin of the ruler of this tribe, who did so basely degenerate from his noble ancestor.
Jehoshua - Oshea notes a desire of salvation, signifying, Save we pray thee; but Jehoshua, or Joshua, includes a promise of salvation, He will save. So this was a prophecy of his succession to Moses in the government, and of the success of his arms. Joshua is the same name with Jesus, of whom Joshua was a type. He was the Saviour of God's people from the powers of Canaan, Christ from the powers of hell.
Southward - Into the southern part of Canaan, which was the nearest part, and the worst too, being dry and desert, and therefore fit for them to enter and pass through with less observation. Into the mountain - Into the mountainous country, and thence into the valleys, and so take a survey of the whole land.
What it is - Both for largeness, and for nature and quality.
In tents - As the Arabians did; or in unwalled villages, which, like tents, are exposed to an enemy.
Fat - Rich and fertile.
Zin - In the south of Canaan, differing from the wilderness of Sin, which was nigh unto Egypt. To Hamath - From the south they passed through the whole land to the northern parts of it; Rehob was a city in the north-west part, Hamath, a city in the north-east.
By the south - Moses having described their progress from south to north, more particularly relates some memorable places and passages. They came - Heb. He came, namely, Caleb, as appears from Joshua 14:9,12,14. For the spies distributed their work among them, and went either severally, or by pairs; and it seems the survey of this part was left to Caleb. Anak - A famous giant, whole children these are called, either more generally, as all giants sometimes were, or rather more specially because Arbah, from whom Hebron was called Kiriath-arbah, was the father of Anak, Joshua 15:13. And this circumstance is mentioned as an evidence of the goodness of that land, because the giants chose it for their habitation. Before Zoan - This seems to be noted to confront the Egyptians, who vainly boasted of the antiquity of their city Zoan above all places.
Upon a staff - Either for the weight of it, considering the, length of the way they were to carry it, or for the preservation of it whole and entire. In those eastern and southern countries there are vines and grapes of an extraordinary bigness as Strabo and Pliny affirm.
Eschol - That is, a cluster of grapes.
They returned after forty days - 'Tis a wonder the people had patience to stay forty days, when they were just ready to enter Canaan, under all the assurances of success they could have from the Divine power, proved by a constant series of miracles, that had hitherto attended them. But they distrusted God, and chose to be held in suspence by their own counsels, rather than to rest upon God's promise! How much do we stand in our own light by unbelief?
Kadesh - Kadesh-barnea, which some confound with Kadesh in the wilderness of Sin, into which they came not 'till the fortieth year after their coming out of Egypt, as appears from Numbers 33:37,38, whereas they were in this Kadesh in the second year, and before they received the sentence of their forty years abode in the wilderness.
They told him - In the audience of the people.
The Amalekites in the south - Where we are to enter the land, and they who were so fierce against us that they came into the wilderness to fight with us, will, without doubt, oppose us when we come close by their land, the rather, to revenge themselves for their former loss. Therefore they mention them, though they were not Canaanites. In the mountains -In the mountainous country, in the south-east part of the land, so that you cannot enter there without great difficulty, both because of the noted strength and valour of those people, and because of the advantage they have from the mountains. By the sea - Not the mid-land sea, which is commonly understood by that expression, but the salt or dead sea, as appears, 1. Because it is that sea which is next to Jordan, 2. Because the Canaanites dwelt principally in those parts, and not near the mid-land sea. So these guard the entrance on the east-side, as the others do on the south.
Caleb - Together with Joshua, as is manifest from Numbers 14:6,7,30, but Caleb alone is here mentioned, possibly because he spake first and most, which he might better do, because he might be presumed to be more impartial than Joshua, who being Moses's minister might be thought to speak only what he knew his master would like. Stilled the people -Which implies either that they had began to murmur, or that by their looks and carriage, they discovered the anger which boiled in their breasts. Before Moses - Or, towards Moses, against whom they were incensed, as the man who had brought them into such sad circumstances. Let us go up and possess it - He does not say, Let us go up and conquer it. He looks on that to be as good as done already: but, Let us go up and possess it! There is nothing to be done, but to enter without delay, and take the possession which our great Lord is now ready to give us! Thus difficulties that lie in the way of salvation, vanish away before a lively faith.
The men - All of them, Joshua excepted. Stronger - Both in stature of body and numbers of people. Thus they question the power, and truth, and goodness of God, of all which they had such ample testimonies.
Eateth up its inhabitants - Not so much by civil wars, for that was likely to make their conquest more easy; but rather by the unwholesomeness of the air and place, which they guessed from the many funerals, which, as some Hebrew writers, not without probability affirm, they observed in their travels through it: though that came to pass from another cause, even from the singular providence of God, which, to facilitate the Israelites conquest, cut off vast numbers of the Canaanites either by a plague, or by the hornet sent before them, as is expressed, Joshua 24:12.