Shelach L’Kha (Send on Your Behalf) B’MIdbar (Numbers) 13:1-15:41

Haftorah Reading: Joshua 2:1-24

1.In Numbers 13:1-2 we read in English that G-d spoke to Moses and told him to send scouts to check out the land. In Deut. 1:22 we read Moses recounting this event by saying the people came to him and asked to send men. How do you put these two verses together? 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.

2. The men that Moses sent in, could they best be described as spies, scouts or tourists? In English we usually read, “spy out” the land. But that is only one translation of the word in Hebrew.  The verse reads, “And G-d commanded Moses saying send to yourself men, to tour the land,” to examine the land, to scout the land, to traverse the land. Whatever  translation you want of the Hebrew word, latur, all these meanings work.  

3.Did the 12 men do exactly what they were commissioned to do? In Numbers 13:1-3 G-d told Moshe what kind of men he should choose for this mission. The men that he is to choose are the chiefs, the leaders of the tribes. There are 12 tribes, and he should send 12 men. The men that are sent are supposed to be men of renown, selected leaders of the tribes. Tribe after tribe, we have the names of the people that were sent. In other words, Moses did not choose just anybody who wanted to go. He chose the best, the ones with the most talented gifts as leaders of their tribes. They’re supposed to go, examine the land,  scout the land, and bring back a report. In Numbers 13:17-20 we are told what they’re supposed to do; what they’re supposed to bring. They were to look at the land; what kind of land it is? They were to check the inhabitants that live on the land; are they strong or are they weak? Are there few or are there many of them? This is a strategic examination for somebody who’s getting ready to wage war. He has to know who is his enemy, how much power his enemy has, how many men his enemy has, and what kind of training they have?

And after 40 days of touring the land, they came back to Moses. Numbers in the Bible are important. Anything to do with the number 40 is usually a sign of testing. The children of Israel were 40 years in the wilderness. They were tested these 40 years in the wilderness. Yeshua was 40 days and nights in the wilderness. He was tested by the devil in these 40 days and 40 nights. And these 12 leaders of the tribes that were sent to examine the land, to tour the land, to scout the land, spent 40 days walking up and down the land, examining the fruitfulness, the fertility, what kind of vegetables, what kind of trees? What kind of fruit, what kind of cities, what kind of inhabitants were in the land? It’s not an accident that it’s 40 days. The Torah is telling us this mission that Moses sent these 12 men, the leaders of the tribes, was a test. Not only to test the land, but to test the leadership of the tribes of Israel that were chosen men to go and do this scouting of the land.

In Numbers 13:27 we read, what kind of land it is. Is it a good land? Is it a bad land? Are they living in fortified cities or in unfortified cities? In camps? In fortresses? This is all important information to bring back in order to be able to assess what is before them to conquer such a land. Is the land fruitful or not? They go from the Sinai desert, all the way to the north of Israel to the Lebanon, to Lebo Hamath; and they tour the land, examine the land.

4.When the 12 men came back 10 had a negative report and 2 had a positive report. Why did they come back with different opinions when they all experienced the same things and saw the same things? Perspective: let’s read the bad report and see what we can learn from the dissenter’s view. Read Numbers 13:27-31.

The ten men here in our verses seem to never mention G-d’s promises to the nation concerning the Land of Israel. Rather, they went after their own heart. They turned to their own emotions and interpreted what they had seen through their own emotions and not through the promises and truth of G-d’s word. Faith does not look only look at the reality of the situation. Faith does not rely on our own strength. The lamp from the past is the path for our future. That was one of Ben-Gurion’s mottos. That’s what that leadership of the 10 tribes didn’t have. They didn’t calculate. We left Egypt. The sea was in front of us. The Egyptian army was behind us. Did we have a chance? No, but G-d took us through. We were in the wilderness. We didn’t have water. We could have died from thirst but G-d provided water for us by Moses striking the rock. They had the Amalekites attack them. Did they have a chance? No, but Aaron and Hur held the arms of Moses up in the air and the battle was won by G-d. All these events, they didn’t take into account. They didn’t remember G-d’s faithfulness in taking care of his children. They looked at the reality of what their eyes saw and they allowed the reality to poison their faith.

That was the big sin of these men who were sent in to scout the land. It was not the issue of the reality that was in the land of Canaan. It was the issue of the lack of reality of how they saw themselves with G-d as their leader who had already  fought battles for them and provided all their needs in spite of their complaining and murmuring. 

The ten men discouraged the people. They robbed the people of faith, of hope, of confidence, self-assurance. And then they say in chapter 14, verse three, “Why did G-d even bring us out of the Egypt? Did he bring us out so we could die by the sword? Our women, our children will be devoured. They will be put to shame. It would’ve been better for us to stay in the land of Egypt.”

 Caleb and Joshua relied on what they knew to be truth – G-d’s truth. So, here we have a great example of two different ways to see the same event. This should help us as we confront challenges and obstacles to our walk with G-d. When Joshua and Caleb heard what the other ten spoke, what did they do? In Numbers 14:6 it says they used the custom of mourning for the dead. They tore their clothes. Here they were at the edge of entering the land that G-d gave Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And now they’re saying, “Oh, we wish we had died in Egypt. Why did we ever leave Egypt?” You see, this is one of the big issues of what faith means.

Can we believe our eyes and act on it? Like our heart, our eyes can mislead us and tempt us. How do we counteract these temptations? We do that by being grounded in the word of G-d. What does He have to say about what our eyes present to us? Also we remember what He has done for us in the past.

One last thought, the term, a land flowing with milk and honey is used in this portion. What does that symbolize?  What is the thing about the land of milk and honey? Man had little to do with the milk. They just had to milk the goat,  sheep, or cow. They had the land of milk and honey, which means these are two things that men have very little to do with. Milk is produced by the animal from G-d. Honey, whether it came from a date tree or from bees is produced by the bees themselves or by the dates from the tree.

It’s not something that they had to till the land to produce. They did not have to feed the bees. It’s something that is independently provided in the land of Israel, by the land and by G-d. The land is blessed by G-d and the milk and the honey are produced by G-d, not by men; they don’t manufacture it

5.Where else in scripture do we see the same pattern Moses used in sending out 12 men? Yeshua sent out His 12 men in Matthew 10.

6.Please compare Numbers 13 and Matthew 10. What are the similarities you see in these two chapters? 

a.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.

b.Both places give the names of the twelve.

c.In both a discourse is given to each group setting out the geographical boundaries to be adhered to and what they were to do.

d.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 sent spies to Jericho he sent them in pairs.

7.In Numbers 15:38 we read they were to have tassels/tzit tzit on the corners of their garment and the tassel was to include a blue thread, What other garment in Torah included the color blue? What was the significance of the blue thread on the corner of their garments? What did it symbolize? Here we read about the tzit tzit that were to be on the corners of their garments. In Yeshua’s time a person’s main garment was like a poncho with four corners. These corners were called canafim or wings. The tzit tzit were attached here to the canafim. One of the threads was to be techelet or sky blue in color. It is the same color in which the ephod of the priest was made. This was to show physically the verse that says Israel was to be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6). Also read I Peter 2:1-10 where spiritually we are included in this role of priests, showing us that we have this spiritual connection to our High Priest in heaven. This idea of tzit tzit also helps us understand the incident of the woman who had the issue of blood. It says in Luke 8:44 that she came up behind Him and touched the fringe (tzit tzit) of His garment and was healed. In Malachi 4:2 we read about the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. Sun of Righteousness was one of the names of Messiah and wings were the fringes on the corner of His garments. Perhaps the woman had this verse in mind when she touched Yeshua.

8.In Numbers 15:1-2 we read what seems somewhat strange words. Immediately after the defeat of the people of Israel, the very next verse, G-d tells Moshe what should be done when they come into the Land, offerings that are to be given. Why did He do this right after rebuking them for their sin of unbelief?  So here immediately following this great defeat, what does the Father do? He encourages the people and us as well. He is moving ahead and expected them to move ahead as well. Their setback did not cancel out His promises. The Land still was their heritage. They missed the mark here because of their perspective. The future in Him is far greater than our present situation.  The scouts saw only the here and now, the familiar realities of the present. Their eyes were filled with the physical challenges of the present and they lost their perspective of what G-d had promised. A hint of this is found in their report. They never mentioned G-d only the problems ahead. What do we see when we look around us? Do we see the present and its problems or do we see the future and all of its potential? Do we build on our failures or do they defeat us? Seeing the future through eyes colored by holiness allows us to see a completely different reality. Joshua and Caleb were able to see the future. The other ten men preferred to see only the present.