“Moshe sent them to reconnoiter the land of Kena‘an, instructing them, ‘Go on up to the Negev and into the hills, and see what the land is like. Notice the people living there, whether they are strong or weak, few or many; and what kind of country they live in, whether it is good or bad; and what kind of cities they live in, open or fortified. See whether the land is fertile or unproductive and whether there is wood in it or not. Finally, be bold enough to bring back some of the fruit of the land. When they left it was the season for the first grapes to ripen. They went up and reconnoitered the land from the Tzin Desert to Rechov near the entrance to Hamat. They went up into the Negev and arrived at Hevron; Achiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the ‘Anakim, lived there‘”-Numbers 13:17-20
So 12 men for the scouting mission into the Land of Canaan have been chosen.
The first destination the men are instructed to travel to is a barren desert area known as the NEGEV.
The NEGEV wasn’t an area they would be scouting but served more as a launching point for the trip ahead.
Here’s what Moses instructed the 12 men to check out.
-“Notice the people living there, whether they are strong or weak, few or many”
-“Notice what kind of country they live in, whether it is good or bad”
-“Notice what kind of cities they live in, open or fortified”
-“See whether the land is fertile or unproductive”
-“See whether there is wood or not”
When one reads the commentaries from the ancient Rabbis on this portion of Scripture, the general consensus is that this scouting mission was not really about checking to see if the people of Canaan were fierce warriors or not.
Rather it was about verifying the climate, whether the ground was fertile and able to produce healthy crops and whether or not there was an abundance of natural resources.
We’re told this scouting mission took place during “the season for the first grapes to ripen“.
Therefore, this would be referring to the hot summer season sometime in July and August.
I travelled to Israel during this season and I can testify that it was pretty hot during that time.
Next, we’re told they travelled on from the NEGEV to Hebron.
Now when you hear the word “Hebron“, signals should be going off in your head.
Hebron was where God spoke to Abraham and told him his ancestors would inherit the Land of Canaan and was pretty much the only place in Canaan where Abraham and the other Patriarchs settled down for any reasonable length of time.
In fact, before Jerusalem was established as Israel’s capital, Hebron was considered to be the unnamed capital of the Promised Land.
Either way, it was a very sacred place for the Israelites.
After Hebron, we’re told the men travelled on to an area called LEBO-HAMATH.
This was an area located in the farthest Northern regions reaching as far modern day Syria and Lebanon.
This area was once an official part of Israel under the rulership of Kings David and Solomon.
We’re told that “forty days later, they returned from reconnoitering the land…“.
Given that the distance from the NEGEV to Leo-hamath was about 250 miles, it makes sense that it would take about 40 days to make the round trip.