Containing The Interval Of Two Years.
From The Exodus Out Of Egypt, To The Rejection Of That Generation.
How Moses Sent Some Persons To Search Out The Land Of The Canaanites, And The Largeness Of Their Cities; And Further That When Those Who Were Sent Were Returned, After Forty Days And Reported That They Should Not Be A Match For Them, And Extolled The Strength Of The Canaanites The Multitude Were Disturbed And Fell Into Despair; And Were Resolved To Stone Moses, And To Return Back Again Into Egypt, And Serve The Egyptians.
1. WHEN Moses had led the Hebrews away from thence to a place called Paran, which was near to the borders of the Canaanites, and a place difficult to be continued in, he gathered the multitude together to a congregation; and standing in the midst of them, he said,
"Of the two things that God determined to bestow upon us, liberty, and the possession of a Happy Country, the one of them ye already are partakers of, by the gift of God, and the other you will quickly obtain; for we now have our abode near the borders of the Canaanites, and nothing can hinder the acquisition of it, when we now at last are fallen upon it: I say, not only no king nor city, but neither the whole race of mankind, if they were all gathered together, could do it. Let us therefore prepare ourselves for the work, for the Canaanites will not resign up their land to us without fighting, but it must be wrested from them by great struggles in war. Let us then send spies, who may take a view of the goodness of the land, and what strength it is of; but, above all things, let us be of one mind, and let us honor God, who above all is our helper and assister."
2. When Moses had said thus, the multitude requited him with marks of respect; and chose twelve spies, of the most eminent men, one out of each tribe, who, passing over all the land of Canaan, from the borders of Egypt, came to the city Hamath, and to Mount Lebanon; and having learned the nature of the land, and of its inhabitants, they came home, having spent forty days in the whole work. They also brought with them of the fruits which the land bare; they also showed them the excellency of those fruits, and gave an account of the great quantity of the good things that land afforded, which were motives to the multitude to go to war. But then they terrified them again with the great difficulty there was in obtaining it; that the rivers were so large and deep that they could not be passed over; and that the hills were so high that they could not travel along for them; that the cities were strong with walls, and their firm fortifications round about them. They told them also, that they found at Hebron the posterity of the giants. Accordingly these spies, who had seen the land of Canaan, when they perceived that all these difficulties were greater there than they had met with since they came out of Egypt, they were affrighted at them themselves, and endeavored to affright the multitude also.
3. So they supposed, from what they had heard, that it was impossible to get the possession of the country. And when the congregation was dissolved, they, their wives and children, continued their lamentation, as if God would not indeed assist them, but only promised them fair. They also again blamed Moses, and made a clamor against him and his brother Aaron, the high priest. Accordingly they passed that night very ill, and with contumelious language against them; but in the morning they ran to a congregation, intending to stone Moses and Aaron, and so to return back into Egypt.
4. But of the spies, there were Joshua the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, and Caleb of the tribe of Judah, that were afraid of the consequence, and came into the midst of them, and stilled the multitude, and desired them to be of good courage; and neither to condemn God, as having told them lies, nor to hearken to those who had affrighted them, by telling them what was not true concerning the Canaanites, but to those that encouraged them to hope for good success; and that they should gain possession of the happiness promised them, because neither the height of mountains, nor the depth of rivers, could hinder men of true courage from attempting them, especially while God would take care of them beforehand, and be assistant to them.
"Let us then go," said they, "against our enemies, and have no suspicion of ill success, trusting in God to conduct us, and following those that are to be our leaders."
Thus did these two exhort them, and endeavor to pacify the rage they were in. But Moses and Aaron fell on the ground, and besought God, not for their own deliverance, but that he would put a stop to what the people were unwarily doing, and would bring their minds to a quiet temper, which were now disordered by their present passion. The cloud also did now appear, and stood over the tabernacle, and declared to them the presence of God to be there.