The Biography of Ancient Israel: National Narratives in the Bible

By Ilana Pardes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The Spies in the
Land of the Giants

Restless Youth

On the threshold of Canaan, in the wilderness of Paran, Moses sends twelve representatives, one from each tribe, to explore the Promised Land. “See the land, Moses instructs them, “what it is;…whether it be good or bad, …whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not” (Num. 13:18–20). After forty days, the men—better known as the twelve spies—return with pomegranates, figs, and an enormous cluster of grapes held by two men. Presenting the fruits to the people, they unanimously hail the fertility of the land. “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, they say to Moses, “and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it” (Num. 13:27). The Mosaic image of the Promised Land as a land of milk and honey seems to be confirmed. But then a fissure opens up as ten of the spies swerve from the official line and depict a land that has little to do with what had been promised. Canaan is more perplexing

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