God’s Word for You
Numbers 13:26-29 Giants and Canaanites
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, August 20, 2021
I made an error in yesterday’s devotion in the paragraph about the building of Hebron. I will submit a replacement for it in the near future, and my apologies for the mistake, entirely my fault.
The Report About Canaan
26 They came back to Moses, Aaron, and the entire community of the Israelites at Kadesh in the Wilderness of Paran. They brought back a report to them and to the entire community. They showed them some of the fruit of the land.
This is not the first time Kadesh appears in the Bible, but in each of the three previous mentions (all in Genesis), Moses simply equates the name with a place which might be uncertain to his readers. It was one of the places assaulted by Kedorlaomer in Genesis 14:7, it served as a landmark for Moses to explain where Beer Lahai Roi was located (between Kadesh and Bered, Genesis 16:14), and Abraham lived for a while between Kadesh and the desert of Shur (Genesis 20:1). Now we find Israel camped there, waiting for the spies to return. Kadesh is an ancient spring in the northeast corner of the Sinai Peninsula. There the mountains of the et-Tih (Wilderness of Paran) diminish and leave a lovely rectangular parkway running ten miles east to west and five or six miles (an hour’s walk) north to south. It is surrounded by mountain heights, but is easily entered through the many wadis or rain-fed gulches on each side. A spring gushes from one of the heights on the north end, and a large amount of water flows down to the west, but only for a quarter mile or so before it disappears into the sand. This is Kadesh, known today by the locals as Kudēs.
27 They reported to him and said, “We went to the land where you sent us. It really does flow with milk and honey, and here is its fruit. 28 However, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites are living in the land of the Negev. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites are living in the hill country. The Canaanites are living by the sea and along the Jordan.”
The report began with proof that the land really was fruitful, just as the Lord had said it would be. “A land flowing with milk and honey” is how the Lord had described it (Exodus 3:8a). That verse should be carefully remembered here, because while it was God’s first description of Canaan to Moses, he also said, in the same sentence, that it was “the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites” (Exodus 3:8b). The Lord had held nothing back from Moses or from his people. Canaan was a fertile land, and it was also inhabited by many people who would be a challenge for his dear Israel. But he would be with them.
Yet the spies’ majority report was also an accusation. This was “the land where you sent us” (verse 27). Obviously they were afraid of the many different people living there. The blessings of the land had been used by the Canaanites for many years, and now it was Israel’s task to move into the land and drive out all of those nations. Six nations are mentioned in our text, and although a few more were there besides, we should at least look at these six.
- The giant Anakites. We have already mentioned that the Anakites were not the only giants in Canaan, but this group in particular lived along the southwest coastal plain, today known as the Gaza strip. These were also called Rephaites (Genesis 15:18) and also the Nephilim, “the heroes of old, men of renown” (Genesis 6:4), the relatives and ancestors of Goliath of Gath. While they were seemingly common before the flood, the line endured and appeared again after the flood, perhaps through the wife of Ham, since he was the father of Canaan (Genesis 9:18). We are told that they were “on the earth in those days” (before the flood) “and also afterward” (Genesis 6:4).
They were obviously tall, commonly seven feet and sometimes eight feet, with just over nine feet occurring in certain cases like Goliath himself. Goliath is described as being very tall, “six cubits and a span” (1 Samuel 17:4). A cubit is around 18 inches, so six of these would be nine feet, and a span (the breadth of a man’s hand with the fingers splayed) is about half a cubit, between six and nine inches (mine happens to be nine, but I can palm a basketball). The Anakites were rare, not an entire nation, but a group inhabiting the land alongside other groups who obviously liked to have such gigantic champions living among them. They were almost extinct by the time of David and Saul, some four hundred years later.
- The Amalekites. This nation was descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother, through his son Eliphaz (Genesis 36:12). They had already attacked Israel after the Red Sea crossing, before they reached Mount Sinai (Exodus 17:8). That was the battle in which Joshua and Hur held up Moses’ arms (Exodus 17:12). Moses prophesied then, that the Lord would be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation (Exodus 17:16). They lived in the south, in the foothills west and south of the Mountains of Judah (Numbers 14:45; 1 Samuel 30:1). The Amalekites remained a thorn in Israel’s side throughout the Old Testament period. Saul defeated one of their greatest kings, Agag, and tried to spare his life (1 Samuel 15:9), but the Lord told the prophet Samuel to put Agag to death, which he did (1 Samuel 15:33). An Amalekite tried to win David’s favor by claiming to have killed Saul (2 Samuel 1:13), and the last Amalekite we meet in the Bible, a descendant of Agag, is the wicked Haman, who tried to annihilate the Jews in Persia (Esther 3:8-9). I have not found a description of the way that the Amalekites looked or a depiction of them in any ancient source.
- The Hittites. This kingdom was in the far north, but there were Hittites living as far south as the vicinity of Hebron. Abraham had been on friendly terms with them, and purchased the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite after Sarah died (Genesis 23:10-18). In the nineteenth century (A.D.), the existence of the Hittites was seriously questioned by many higher-critical scholars who rejected the text of the Bible as accurate. One such scholar claimed that if they existed at all, no Hittite king could have compared in power to the king of Judah. However, in 1908 a massive collection of ten thousand clay cuneiform tablets was discovered in Amarna, Egypt. They show the correspondence between the kingdom of the Hittites with two Egyptian pharaohs. The Hittite kingdom was located in central and western Turkey (Asia Minor) and extended southward toward Palestine along the Orontes river. The period of the Hittite “Old Kingdom” corresponds from the time of Abraham to the time of Moses. A short “Middle Kingdom” of the Hittites was a transitional period, roughly the lifetime of Moses. A “Late Kingdom” with many wars, sometimes with Egypt and sometimes Assyria, ended with the burning of their capital in about 1180, during the time of the Judges in Israel. Later Hittites were an ethnic minority from a small city-state. Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s mighty men, is the last Hittite we meet in Scripture and in history. He was killed in a conspiracy by David and Joab to cover up David’s affair with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:24). In artwork, Hittite warriors are usually depicted without beards and with prominent noses.
- The Jebusites. The Jebusites were the people of a small Canaanite city-state inhabiting the mountaintop known as Moriah (Genesis 22:2) or Zion (1 Chronicles 11:5). Their walled city, called Jebus or Jerusalem from pre-Israelite times, had freshwater springs and defensive walls. Since it was only one seemingly minor fortress, the Israelites left it alone until David realized its strategic value and conquered it in the seventh year of his reign (2 Samuel 5:6-9), calling it the City of David. Some of the Jebusites survived, surrendering to David. It was the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite that David purchased, to be used as the location for Solomon’s temple (2 Samuel 24:24). In artwork, Jebusite men are depicted with somewhat long and styled hair and pointed beards.
- The Amorites. Abraham had been on friendly terms with the Amorites as well. They lived in the mountains of Judah and Ephraim. The Amorites were especially known for their loathsome and sinful practices. About the time that Abraham left Ur, the local kings of Mesopotamia (including Ur) were building a 170-mile-long wall as a defense against the Amorites. The famous Hammurabi was an Amorite king, and later in Numbers we will encounter the Amorite kings Sihon and Og, to the east and northeast of Canaan. In artwork, Amorite men are depicted with very short hair or shaved heads, and medium or long beards, carefully trimmed.
- The Canaanites. Noah’s grandson through Ham was Canaan. While “Canaanite” is a general term for every non-Israelite or non-Philistine living in the Promised Land, the term is also used specifically of the Hamitic descendants of Noah who, like the Amorites, lived in the hill country of Judah (“along the Jordan”) and in the northwest, in Tyre and Sidon, along with another ethnic group, the Hivites (2 Samuel 24:6). After the conquest, a remnant of Canaanites lived in the foothills and in the Negev to the south of Judah (Judges 1:9). In art, Canaanite men are often depicted with dark, bushy hair and short beards without moustaches. Their clothing is often depicted as woven with bright colored patterns, and wealthier women sometimes wore white linen.
God had placed wonderful blessings into the land of Canaan, which we have already mentioned. There were people there, wealthy and prosperous, cultivating the land, using some of the resources, and the Lord permitted them to live there until it was time for his people to take it over and to be given their wealth and prosperity. Now was the time. The spies had noticed the blessings of the soil and the way the nations who lived there were blessed. What they couldn’t see was that when God promises a thing, he will bring it about. “The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes” (Psalm 41:2). We need to apply this to ourselves. Some people have trouble understanding things like the atonement for sin and the resurrection of the dead. But God has promised those things, too. He will certainly bring them about without fail. Don’t fail to trust in him.
Pastor Timothy Smith