Commentary on Numbers 13:1-16

Notes (NET Translation)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses:

If one takes into account the parallel passage in Deut 1:19–46, the idea of sending scouts originated with the people as they were situated on the southern edge of the Amorite hill country. The idea seemed good to Moses, and the Lord then laid out the instructions for reconnoitering the region, by utilizing leaders from each of the tribes of Israel.1

2 “Send out men to investigate the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. You are to send one man from each ancestral tribe, each one a leader among them.”

The tribe of Levi does not send a man. The fact that leaders are sent is what makes their negative report so devastating. “It is a failure to lead and encourage.”2

3 So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran at the command of the LORD. All of them were leaders of the Israelites.

The wilderness of Paran is in northeast Sinai.

4 Now these were their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zaccur; 5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori; 6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh; 7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph; 8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun; 9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu; 10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi; 11 from the tribe of Joseph, namely, the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi son of Susi; 12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli; 13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael; 14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vopshi; 15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki.

The list of leaders here differs from those found in chapters 1, 2, and 7. Perhaps different leaders are chosen to investigate Canaan because they are younger and more fit for the task.

Caleb, the representative from Judah, is also called a Kenizzite in, e.g., Num. 32:12; Josh. 14:6, 14. The Kenizzites were an Edomite clan descended from Kenaz, the youngest son of Eliphaz, the oldest son of Esau (Gen. 36:10–11). Gen. 15:19 states that this group lived in Canaan. Since the book of Numbers makes it clear that Caleb was chosen as a leader of Judah (13:6; 26:65; 34:19), at some point the Kenizzites must have become related to or absorbed by the tribe of Judah (probably generations before Caleb’s time). Indeed, Josh. 14:6 mentions both groups together.3

16 These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to investigate the land. And Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.

Hoshea means “God is salvation” or “God saves” while Joshua (yehoshua) means “YHWH is salvation” or “YHWH saves”. It is not explicitly stated when his name changed. This verse is meant merely identify Hoshea with Joshua.


Ashley, Timothy R. The Book of Numbers. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993.

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Cole, R. Dennis. Numbers. Kindle Edition. The New American Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Friedman, Richard Elliott. Commentary on the Torah. First Edition. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperOne, 2001.

Levine, Baruch A. Numbers 1-20. The Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

Mays, James L., ed. The HarperCollins Bible Commentary. Revised Edition. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.

Milgrom, Jacob. Numbers. The JPS Torah Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Wenham, Gordon J. Numbers. Kindle Edition. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP Academic, 2015.

  1. Cole 2000, Kindle Locations 6602-6605 
  2. Friedman 2001, 469 
  3. Ashley 1993, 233 

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