Shelach Lekha Numbers 13


Torah Portion: Shelach Lekha  Numbers 13:1-15:41

HafTorah: Joshua 2:1-24

I would like us to focus mainly on the story of the spies and see what we can learn from it. First let us see if we can clear up what seems to be a contradiction. In Numbers 13:1-2 we read in English that G-d spoke to Moses and told him to send the spies. In Deut. 1:22 we read Moses recounting this event by saying the people came to him and asked to send spies. So which is true? Here the Hebrew language helps a little. In Numbers 13:2 G-d’s word to Moses translated as “send men” should be translated as. “send for yourself” or you do what you think is right. Given this, then there is harmony between the two. G-d allowed this. He allows us the freedom of choice even when that choice is incorrect.

So, in these verses we read the account of the spies being sent. I want to later look at the similarity between this and Matthew 10 where Yeshua sends out the twelve disciples. But for now let us concentrate on this and the lesson to be learned.

According to the story the people were encamped only a days journey from Israel however rather than a day it takes them 40 years to reach their destination. And of the earlier census showing 600,000 males over 20 years old how many of them make it into the Promised Land? Only two.

So, here we have twelve men sent for 40 days to search out the land. Ten came back with a bad report and two were of a different opinion. All these men saw the same thing yet they came back with completely different opinions. Why?  Perspective: let’s read the bad report and see what we can learn from the dissenters view. Read Numbers 13:27-31.

Something in this caused the people to lose faith. It could have been the last phrase translated as, “mightier than we.” In Hebrew, which has no vowel markings, this can be read as mightier than He. In effect, if read with that translation, the men would be saying they were mightier than G-d. Even G-d could not conquer such a land. Now think back. It had only been five months since G-d defeated Pharaoh and delivered them from Egypt. He provided them with food and water, gave them protection and direction. He appeared in fire and smoke on the mountain. But here they lose complete faith in Him to give them victory. Why? How are we like this?

Where did they go wrong? Some people say it was because they did not want to enter the land because to do so would have meant that they would leave the place where G-d met their every need without them having to do anything. Once they enter the land, then they have to work, pay taxes and serve in an army. So it would become a land that consumes its inhabitants. It would take their time and energy to make a living and here they were constantly being provided for. They didn’t see themselves capable of making that transition. Our challenge remains the same. How do we maintain our spiritual life and not be consumed by the land. How can we synthesize the material world with the spiritual world? We do it by brining G-d into every part of our life. We must have those purely spiritual times in our lives but also bring those into our everyday lives. By this we can conquer the land and not be devoured by it. By this we can make everyday of our lives a Holy Land.

Now to quickly compare Numbers 13 and Matthew 10

  1. Moses and Yeshua send out twelve men. The very word “shelach” is the same root word later translated into Greek as apostolos. Which then became apostles in English.
  2. Both places give the names of the twelve.
  3. In both a discourse is given to each group setting out the geographical boundaries to be adhered to and what they are to do.
  4. Torah does not say Moses sent the men out in pairs but it can be inferred. Joshua and Caleb. Two men carried the grapes, and when Joshua 40 years later sends spies to Jericho he sends them in pairs.


So we can see Numbers 13 as a prototype of Yeshua in Matthew 10.