Numbers 13:23
And they came to the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bore it between two on a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) The brook of Eshcol.—This is commonly identified with the valley of Hebron. Ritter says that the reputation of the grapes of Hebron is so great throughout all Palestine that there is no difficulty in believing that the valley of Eshcol was that which is directly north of the city of Hebron. The valley may have derived its name originally from Eshcol, the brother of Mamre the Amorite (Genesis 14:13). In like manner the name of Mamre appears to have been transferred to the tree, or grove, of Mamre, which was opposite to the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23:17); and in this manner Eshcol is closely connected with Hebron in Genesis 23:19 as it is in the present chapter.

Upon a staff.—The majority of travellers concur in estimating the weight of the largest clusters commonly produced in Palestine at about ten or twelve pounds. Kitto, however, mentions an instance of a bunch of Syrian grapes produced in our own country weighing nineteen pounds, which was sent by the Duke of Portland to the Marquis of Rockingham, and which was carried more than twenty miles by four labourers, two of whom bore it by rotation upon a staff. The greatest diameter of this cluster was nineteen inches and a half (Pictorial Bible, in loc., 1855). The arrangement referred to in the text was probably made, not because the weight was too great for one person to carry, but in order to prevent the grapes from being crushed. The pomegranates and figs, which are still some of the most important fruits of Hebron (see The Land and the Book, p. 583), were probably carried on the same pole. The words may be rendered thus: “And they bare it between two upon a staff; also some of the pomegranates and of the figs.” This incident has obvious reference to the homeward journey of the spies. As the grapes of Eshcol were to the Israelites both a pledge and a specimen of the fruits of Canaan, so the communion which believers have with God on earth is a pledge as well as a foretaste of the blessedness of heaven.

Numbers 13:23-24. Upon a staff — Either for the weight of it, considering the length of the way they were to carry it, or for the preservation of it whole and entire. In those eastern and southern countries there are vines and grapes of an extraordinary bigness, as Strabo and Pliny affirm. Eshcol — That is, a cluster of grapes, as the word signifies.13:21-25 The searchers of the land brought a bunch of grapes with them, and other fruits, as proofs of the goodness of the country; which was to Israel both the earnest and the specimen of all the fruits of Canaan. Such are the present comforts we have in communion with God, foretastes of the fulness of joy we expect in the heavenly Canaan. We may see by them what heaven is.The brook of Eshcol is by some identified with the rich valley immediately to the north of Hebron; (but by others with Wady Hanein to the south of Hebron). The valley was, in all likelihood, originally named after one of the three chiefs who were confederate with Abraham Genesis 14:24; but, as often came to pass, the Israelites, wittingly or unwittingly, took up in a new and significant sense the name which they found; and to them the valley thus became the Valley of the Cluster. Bunches of grapes are found in Palestine of many pounds weight. 23. they came unto the brook of Eshcol—that is, "the torrent of the cluster." Its location was a little to the southwest of Hebron. The valley and its sloping hills are still covered with vineyards, the character of whose fruit corresponds to its ancient celebrity.

and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes—The grapes reared in this locality are still as magnificent as formerly—they are said by one to be equal in size to prunes, and compared by another to a man's thumb. One cluster sometimes weighs ten or twelve pounds. The mode of carrying the cluster cut down by the spies, though not necessary from its weight, was evidently adopted to preserve it entire as a specimen of the productions of the promised land; and the impression made by the sight of it would be all the greater because the Israelites were familiar only with the scanty vines and small grapes of Egypt.

Upon a staff; either for the weight of it, considering the length of the way they were to carry it, or for the preservation of it whole and entire. In those eastern and southern countries there are vines and grapes of an extraordinary bigness, as Strabo and Pliny affirm. And they came unto the brook of Eshcol,.... Or "valley of Eshcol" (u), which is here so called by anticipation from the following circumstance; and perhaps had not this name given it, until the children of Israel were possessed of the land, and then they called it so, in memory of what was done here at this time; it was not far from Hebron, as may be concluded from thence; and so Jerom, relating the travels of Paula in those parts, says (w), she came from Betzur to Eshcol, where having seen the little cells of Sarah, the cradle of Isaac, and the traces of the oak of Abraham, under which he saw the day of Christ, and was glad, rising up from thence, she went up to Hebron; which shows this Eshcol to be near Hebron, and to lie low, and was a valley; see Deuteronomy 1:24,

and cut down from thence a branch, with one cluster of grapes; in this valley was a vineyard, or at least a vine tree, on which they observed one cluster, which perhaps was of an uncommon size, as it seems by what follows, and they cut down the branch, and that with it:

and they bare it between two upon a staff; it was so big; and which was not done only for the ease of carrying it, but that it might not have any of its grapes squeezed, bruised, and broken off, but that they might carry it entire and whole for the Israelites to behold: these two men were probably Caleb and Joshua; though Jarchi says they carried nothing, which is more than he could say with certainty. Some historians report very surprising things of the size of vines, and the largeness of their clusters, which, when observed, this account will not at all seem incredible. Strabo says (x), it is reported, that in Hyrcania, a vine produced a firkin of wine, and, the trunk of a vine was so large, that it was as much as two men could grasp with both arms, and bore clusters of two cubits long (y); the same he says (z) of the size of vines in Mauritania, and of their clusters being a cubit long; and of others in Carmania being two cubits long, as before (a): it is reported of the Indian fig tree, that it sometimes has an hundred figs more or less on a branch, and all in a cluster like grapes; and some of the clusters are sometimes so large as to be carried by two men on a staff (b), as here; and some have thought, that it is the fruit here meant; but this is expressly called a cluster of grapes. About half a mile from Eshcol, as Adrichomius (c) says, was the brook or valley of Sorek, which was famous for vines; and it is affirmed by many writers and travellers, that to this day there are vines in that place, which produce clusters of twenty five pounds weight and more; and that in Lebanon, and other parts of Syria, the kernels of grapes are as big as a man's thumb (d). Leo Africanus speaks (e) of grapes in some parts of Africa somewhat red, which, from their size, are called hens' eggs: and the Talmudists (f) are extravagant, and beyond all belief, in the account they give of the vines in the land of Canaan, and of the clusters of them, and the quantity of wine they had from them; and of this cluster they suppose (g), that the "two" spoken of are not to be understood of men, but of bars or staves; and that this cluster was carried by eight, four at the four ends of the two staves, and that there were, besides, two staves or bars that went across, at the ends of which were four more men, who carried the cluster hanging in the middle; a figure of which Wagenseil (h) has given us: but Philo the Jew (i) has given a better account of it, and more agreeable to the Scripture, as that it was put upon a staff, and hung at the middle of it, the ends of which were laid on the shoulders of two young men, who carried it; though he adds, that such was the weight of it, that these were relieved by others in succession:

and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs; that is, others of them did; which seems to favour the notion that they were in a body, and that there were more than two together at this place; but even these two might be able to bring some of this sort of fruit along with them, as well as bear the cluster of grapes; besides, the text does not oblige us to understand it of the same persons in the same place.

(u) "vallem", Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius. (w) Epitaph. Paulae, fol. 59. G. H. (x) Geograph. l. 2. p. 50. (y) Ibid. (z) lbid. l. 17. p. 568. (a) Ibid. l. 15. p. 500. (b) Salmuth. in Pancirol. rer. memorab. par. 2. p. 55. (c) Theatrum Terrae Sacr. p. 24. (d) Huet. Alnetan. Quaest. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 22. (e) Descript. Africae, l. 2. p. 204. (f) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 111. 2.((g) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 34. 1.((h) Sotah, p. 707, 708. (i) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 638.

And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. a staff] Perhaps a bar; the same word as in Numbers 4:10.

the wady of Eshcol] The Heb. naḥal denotes a stream and the small valley or gorge through which it flows. The modern wâdy is the nearest equivalent. It is never used of a large river, nor of a wide flat valley or plain. The wâdy of Eshcol has not been identified.Verse 23. - The brook of Eshcol. Rather, "the valley of Eshcol," for it is not a land of brooks. Probably between Hebron and Jerusalem, where the grapes are still exceptionally fine, and the dusters of great size. They bare it between two on a staff, not on account of its weight, but simply in order not to spoil it. Common sense dictates the like precaution still in like cases. Despatch of the Spies of Canaan. - Numbers 13:1. The command of Jehovah, to send out men to spy out the land of Canaan, was occasioned, according to the account given by Moses in Deuteronomy 1:22., by a proposal of the congregation, which pleased Moses, so that he laid the matter before the Lord, who then commanded him to send out for this purpose, "of every tribe of their fathers a man, every one a ruler among them, i.e., none but men who were princes in their tribes, who held the prominent position of princes, i.e., distinguished persons of rank; or, as it is stated in Numbers 13:3, "heads of the children of Israel," i.e., not the tribe-princes of the twelve tribes, but those men, out of the total number of the heads of the tribes and families of Israel, who were the most suitable for such a mission, though the selection was to be made in such a manner that every tribe should be represented by one of its own chiefs. That there were none of the twelve tribe-princes among them is apparent from a comparison of their names (Numbers 13:4-15) with the (totally different) names of the tribe-princes (Numbers 1:3., Numbers 7:12.). Caleb and Joshua are the only spies that are known. The order, in which the tribes are placed in the list of the names in Numbers 13:4-15, differs from that in Numbers 1:5-15 only in the fact that in Numbers 13:10 Zebulun is separated from the other sons of Leah, and in Numbers 13:11 Manasseh is separated from Ephraim. The expression "of the tribe of Joseph," in Numbers 13:11, stands for "of the children of Joseph," in Numbers 1:10; Numbers 34:23. At the close of the list it is still further stated, that Moses called Hoshea (i.e., help), the son of Nun, Jehoshua, contracted into Joshua (i.e., Jehovah-help, equivalent to, whose help is Jehovah). This statement does not present any such discrepancy, when compared with Exodus 17:9, Exodus 17:13; Exodus 24:13; Exodus 32:17; Exodus 33:11, and Numbers 11:28, where Joshua bears this name as the servant of Moses at a still earlier period, as to point to any diversity of authorship. As there is nothing of a genealogical character in any of these passages, so as to warrant us in expecting to find the family name of Joshua in them, the name Joshua, by which Hosea had become best known in history, could be used proleptically in them all. On the other hand, however, it is not distinctly stated in the verse before us, that this was the occasion on which Moses gave Hosea the new name of Joshua. As the Vav consec. frequently points out merely the order of thought, the words may be understood without hesitation in the following sense: These are the names borne by the heads of the tribes to be sent out as spies, as they stand in the family registers according to their descent; Hosea, however, was named Joshua by Moses; which would not by any means imply that the alteration in the name had not been made till then. It is very probable that Moses may have given him the new name either before or after the defeat of the Amalekites (Exodus 17:9.), or when he took him into his service, though it has not been mentioned before; whilst here the circumstances themselves required that it should be stated that Hosea, as he was called in the list prepared and entered in the documentary record according to the genealogical tables of the tribes, had received from Moses the name of Joshua. In Numbers 13:17-20 Moses gives them the necessary instructions, defining more clearly the motive which the congregation had assigned for sending them out, namely, that they might search out the way into the land and to its towns (Deuteronomy 1:22). "Get you up there (זה in the south country, and go up to the mountain." Negeb, i.e., south country, lit., dryness, aridity, from נגב, to be dry or arid (in Syr., Chald, and Samar.). Hence the dry, parched land, in contrast to the well-watered country (Joshua 15:19; Judges 1:15), was the name given to the southern district of Canaan, which forms the transition from the desert to the strictly cultivated land, and bears for the most part the character of a steppe, in which tracts of sand and heath are intermixed with shrubs, grass, and vegetables, whilst here and there corn is also cultivated; a district therefore which was better fitted for grazing than for agriculture, though it contained a number of towns and villages (see at Joshua 15:21-32). "The mountain" is the mountainous part of Palestine, which was inhabited by Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites (Numbers 13:29), and was called the mountains of the Amorites, on account of their being the strongest of the Canaanitish tribes (Deuteronomy 1:7, Deuteronomy 1:19.). It is not to be restricted, as Knobel supposes, to the limits of the so-called mountains of Judah (Joshua 15:48-62), but included the mountains of Israel or Ephraim also (Joshua 11:21; Joshua 20:7), and formed, according to Deuteronomy 1:7, the backbone of the whole land of Canaan up to Lebanon.
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