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God’s Word for You

Numbers 13:30-33 A bad report

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 23, 2021

30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should go up now and take possession of it, because we can certainly conquer it!”

The majority report of the spies upset the people. The main complaint will be restated below: The Canaanites looked too big to fight.

There was enough of an outcry or uproar that Caleb had to quiet them down. We don’t know whether this was a meeting of the leaders of Israel or if there were more people in earshot. When Caleb spoke, we know that Joshua agreed with him (Numbers 14:6-9), but it was two against eight.

31 But the men who had gone up with Caleb said, “We are not able to go up against the people, because they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they spread a negative report to the Israelites about the land that they had scouted. They said, “The land that we explored and scouted is a land that eats up its inhabitants. All the people we saw in the land were huge. 33 We saw there the Nephilim (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). In our own eyes we seemed like grasshoppers. We seemed like grasshoppers in their eyes too.”

A dibah is a whisper (Jeremiah 20:10), but by extension it also means a bad report, slander, or calumny, as in Hamlet’s curse: “Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery” (Hamlet III:1). Joseph’s brothers gave him a bad report to their father (Genesis 37:2). Here the bad report is a certain spin on the information the spies brought back. They exaggerated the large size of the Anakites, making them into the Nephilim. There was a penalty for a false report in ancient laws, including the Eighth Commandment. More about that in chapter 14.

The Nephilim are described in Genesis 6:4 as being children from the union of the sons of God and the daughters of men. By this, we should be careful not to think that “the sons of God” were angels, since angels are unable to conceive, beget, or bear children (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25). Angels are not children of angels, but the creation of God: “Praise him all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts… for he commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:2,5). So “the sons of God” in Genesis 6:4 are believing humans, and “the daughters of men” is a way of describing unbelievers. In that part of Genesis, Moses often speaks about parents having children who are now descended from sinful parents, no longer having the image of God. Throughout chapter 5, for example, the recurring theme is the death of sinful, fallen mankind. The expression vayamoth “and then he died” occurs eight times in Genesis 5, once for every father of the ten generations between Adam and Noah except for Enoch, the testimony to the resurrection to eternal life by being an exception to death for the ancient world (Genesis 6:24).

When the believers (either men or women) intermarried with unbelievers (either women or men), the children too often carried with them the physical characteristics and blessings of the godly parent and the unbelief of the ungodly parent, making them “arrogant men who usurped both the government and the priesthood” (Luther, LW 2:32), and because of their tyranny and oppression. Such beings embraced the saying, “Let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless” (Wisdom of Solomon 2:11). And that passage goes on to say: “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions” (2:12). So Moses’ evaluation of these ancient troublemakers was not necessarily about their size, although they are associated with known giants such as the Anakites, it was their oppression and opposition to God that was really the problem in the days before the flood. The giant Anakites of Moses’ time were violent and immoral men, and in that way they were most like the Nephilim.

When the Israelites applied their superstitious fear of them to these Canaanites, they forgot their faith in God and gave way to their fear. This is why they despaired and said, “We seemed like grasshoppers compared with them, in our eyes and in theirs.” What they didn’t realize is that Israel probably would have seemed like a locust swarm to those enemies, an endless ocean of people coming up out of the desert to the south, a people truly to be feared.

This is a good spot to pause and consider our place in God’s mind and plan. David preaches: “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1). And Jeremiah preaches the same sermon: “Do not be afraid of the one whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands” (Jeremiah 42:11). The only one we should fear is the one who punishes sin in hell (Luke 12:5), but we also remember that he is the one who sent his one and only Son to rescue us. God doesn’t toss sinners out into the ditch. He shows us our sins, lets us know their depth, and then removes it all through Christ. He knows that we thirst for righteousness. A wicked man doesn’t care about his sin, and he will even attack anyone who points out his sin. He will flail and shriek and fling mud around like a sore loser. That’s the devil’s own schooling showing itself. “Mockers stir up a city” (Proverbs 29:7), but the Lord our God gives his people rest on every side and blesses them with peace (Psalm 29:11; 1 Kings 5:4).

The very first time anyone ever wrote the familiar words, “Grace and peace to you from God,” it was the Apostle Paul writing to the Galatians and central Asia Minor. He wanted them to understand that we have nothing to fear when we trust in Jesus. There might be physical suffering to come, and even persecution because of our faith. Natural disasters, fires, plagues, and even pandemics may end our lives on earth, but we have peace with God and assurance that our souls are safe forever. Paul said that this peace is from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:3-4). Put your trust in Jesus Christ. The peace we have in Jesus is true peace (Romans 5:1), everlasting peace, and that means a quiet conscience before God.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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