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Parsha Sh’lach Numbers 13:1-15:41

Parsha Sh’lach Numbers 13:1-15:41

This week we enter into the climax of the wilderness journey. The whole purpose of the “יציאת מצרים” or Exodus from Egypt was to get to this very moment, a moment that Abraham the Patriarch had only dreamt of. His descendants were entering the Promised Land after 230 years of slavery and exile in Egypt. A new chapter in Israel’s history was about to begin.
 
In this week’s Torah Portion as Israel arrives at the edge of the Promised land, we would expect to see a triumphal entry as God’s chosen People enter God’s chosen Land, but instead we see that men are sent in, “…to spy out the land of Canaan… And they returned from spying out the land after forty days…and they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out…”

Here is the report that 10 of the 12 spies gave after their return, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we…The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
 
We must ask 2 questions here: “If God told them to go in to the Land, why did they need spies?” and “Who told them ‘we were like grasshoppers… in their [the inhabitants] sight’?
 
In order to answer the first question we need to start from the beginning. This portion is called “Sh’lach” or “Send” as in “Send men to spy out the land…” (12 spies)
But something we don’t notice in English stands out very apparent in Hebrew.
Right after the word “Sh’lach” comes the word “Lecha”, which means “for yourself”.
Put these words together and you get “Send for yourself men.
 
Deuteronomy 1 gives more clarity on this story. Moses is recounting for the children of Israel everything that has transpired since their exodus out of Egypt; here is how he describes sending out the 12 spies, “And every one 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.’ “
 
From reading these stories, it becomes blatantly obvious that the idea of sending spies into the land of Canaan was not God’s idea.
 
Ibn Ezra writes concerning Num. 13:2, “…God said to the Israelites ‘Go up and conquer.’ The Israelites then said to themselves: ‘Let’s send people first.’ After this, God said: ‘Send forth men.’”
And the Rashi continues along this same thought train, “I (God) have told them long ago that it (the land) is good…I swear that I will give them now an opportunity to fall into error through the statements of the spies, so they should not come into possession of it.”
 
Israel knew God’s promises of a “land flowing with milk and honey.” Why did they need the spies to bring back a taste of the fruit of the land? Israel knew God’s promises of them prevailing over their enemies. Why did they need spies to inspect the fortified cities?
 
The New Testament tells us in Hebrews 3:19, “…we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” They didn’t trust God’s promises and sent a reconnaissance mission out to see if what God had promised was true. They followed the will of their hearts and so died in the wilderness, while the children they said would perish, were the very ones who entered in.
 
The second question was, “Who told them they were like grasshoppers
in the sight of the giant inhabitants of the Land?”
 
When the Children of Israel prepared to enter the promised land a second time, Joshua sent spies into Jericho where a woman named Rahab hid them and told them, “…the terror of you has fallen on us…all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you…our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you…”
 
Remember, this is 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt, and the inhabitants are still in terror of the Children of Israel. The fear of the Lord and dread was upon the inhabitants of the Land. The spies saw themselves as grasshoppers and assumed that is how the giants saw them. They forgot that the Lord was with them, as the young shepherd boy named David said when facing the giant Goliath in the land, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand… that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”

Instead of walking in the spirit of Joshua, Caleb, and David, the nation of Israel elected to send spies, causing them to believe the bad report and did not enter into the promises of God. Then, they saw themselves as grasshoppers, when in reality the peoples of the land were in terror because they knew God was with them.
 
How does this apply to our time? What can we learn and apply to our own lives?
 
First, let’s apply this to our world. We see the “giants in the Land” of Israel today. Called terrorism, BDS, anti-Semitism, and contested-land. They go by different names today, but they are still doing the same thing as the giants of old—keeping the children of Israel from entering the land.
One interesting thing to note about the 10 spies report was everything they said could have well been true. The same is in Israel today, the “giants in the Land” are real and could be viewed as obstacles—if we’re looking at it through man’s eyes.
 
But when we look at the Land of Israel through God’s eyes, we see His heart being shown to the world. As a God of restoration, of faithfulness, and of mercy; He’s showing He is a covenant keeping God.
 
And if He has been faithful to Israel, and will work everything together for His glory in the Land, then we can also know He will be faithful to us.
We must remember that even when there are giants in the land, we can take God at His word. Even when we feel like grasshoppers, and the obstacles seem like giants, we must keep in mind that God is faithful to perform His will and establish His covenants, just as in days of old.


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