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Parasha Shlach (Send): Minding What We Hear

Shlach (Send)
Numbers 13:1–15:41; Joshua 2:1–24; Mark 10:1–45

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Send out for yourself (shlach lecha) men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.”  (Numbers 13:1–2)

Rabbi-Torah-Jerusalem-Temple Mount

Lifting up the Torah in Jerusalem at the foot of the Temple Mount

Last week, Parasha Behaalotecha began with the commandment to light the lamps of the Menorah, and ended with God confirming Moses’ anointing to be the leader of the Israelites after Aaron and Miriam criticized him for marrying an Ethiopian woman.

This week in Parasha Shlach, 12 spies (m’raglim) are dispatched into the land of Canaan to spy out the land that God promised to give them as their new home.  They returned with huge clusters of grapes, since it was the season of the first ripe grapes, which coincides with the months of July and August.  (Numbers 13:20)

Although each of the spies acknowledged the bounty in the Land, they also reported that strong, violent giants lived there, spreading fear and doubt among the children of Israel, saying:

“The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height.”  (Numbers 13:32)

The Grapes of Canaan-James Tissot

The Grapes of Canaan, by James Tissot

Only two spies, Joshua and Caleb, seemed to remember how God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt.  Only they had the faith and courage to say, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”  (Numbers 13:30)

They saw that the land was everything God had promised and understood that it was through Him that they would gain the victory.

That is why they were fully confident: they had their eyes on God and not on the problems.

The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.  Only do not rebel against the Lord.  And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them.  Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us.  Do not be afraid of them.  (Numbers 14:7–9)

Gan Hashlosha-National Park-Pool

Gan HaShlosha (Park of the Three), which is located in the Lower Galilee, is considered one of the most beautiful places in Israel.  Its pools, which are fed by a natural spring, are a constant 28 Celsius (82 Fahrenheit) year-round.  Some believe that this national park is the real-world location of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden).

Conversely, the 10 spies did not acknowledge the goodness, strength or promises of the Lord:

We came to the land to which you sent us.  It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.  However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large.  And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak [giants] there.  (Numbers 13:27–28)

Their discouraging report reveals that they had their eyes on the power of men and not God.

They completely sidestepped God’s promise that the children of Israel would return from an Egyptian exile to their own land, which was the fifth promise God delivered to the Israelites in Egypt.

“I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.  I will give it to you for a possession.  I am the LORD.’”  (Exodus 6:8)

Sadly, the Israelites chose to listen to the ten voices of fear, doubt and unbelief, instead of the two voices of faith and trust in the Lord.  They chose to believe the bad report over the good.

Because of that, God condemned that generation to wander for 40 years in the wilderness.  They died there instead of entering the Promised Land; however, the two men who trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly, Joshua and Caleb, entered the Land with the next generation.

Israeli girl-basket of grapes

An Israeli girl holds a basket of grapes.

Wandering Instead of Entering

“But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.  These things are written as our examples.”  (1 Corinthians 10:5-6)

Being condemned to perish in the wilderness may seem like a harsh sentence, especially since God actually forgave them at the request of Moses and Aaron.  The Lord said:

“I have forgiven them, as you asked.  Nevertheless,… not one of those who saw My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed Me and tested Me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors.”  (Numbers 14:20–23)

Many may wonder why God’s forgiveness was not enough to bring them into the Promised Land.

Despite the amazing victories and miracles they experienced through God moving on their behalf, many of the Israelites seemed unchanged on the inside.  They did not have a revelation of God and didn’t seem to grasp that He consistently wanted to bless them.


A Jewish man prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem with his tallit (prayer shawl) drawn over his head.

The Israelites complained, imagined the worst possible outcome, doubted the goodness of God’s intentions for them, and wanted to go back to enslavement.

The people wept that night and grumbled against Moses and Aaron.

The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt!  Or would that we had died in this wilderness!  Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?  Our wives and our little ones will become a prey.  Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”  (Numbers 14:2–3)

They even considered choosing their own leader, one that God had not appointed, to bring them back to Egypt.

Why?  They had given into fear, and fear is a spiritual force that wants to drive us back into bondage.

God equated this complete lack of faith with despising Him.  He was so grieved with the Israelite’s response to the bad report that He actually threatened to kill them immediately and start all over again with Moses. 

“How long will this people despise Me?  And how long will they not believe in Me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?  I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”  (Numbers 14:11–12)


A young man reads the Torah at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

To Which Report Will We Listen?

“Consider carefully how you listen.”  (Luke 8:18)

The mistakes of the Israelites in this Torah portion reveal something important to us today.

When we find ourselves in a battle and feel fear threatening to extinguish our faith, to halt our forward progress, we must proclaim the truth that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7)

In order to come out of a situation into a place of greater liberty and abundance, our battle is to stand firm in faith, despite hardships or evidence to the contrary.

Although the Israelites lack of faith cost them their place in the Promised Land, we need not fall if we will be strong and of good courage like Joshua and Caleb, trusting in the Lord.

The question we may ask ourselves when faced with a challenging situation is, “Which voice will I listen to?”  Listening to the wrong voices may mean that we never reach our God-given destiny.

This is something to remember for every challenge or giant we face.

Einot Tzukim-Ein Feshka-Desert Oasis

Visitors at Einot Tzukim (Ein Feshka) desert oasis, which is on the shore of the Dead Sea in Israel, listen to the presentation given by the guide.

We must not cave in to discouraging reports or be moved by the way things appear.  Unbelief drags us down like a cement anchor.

When Yeshua walked on water, Peter defied the elements and stepped out of the boat in faith to meet him.  But the winds and the waves caused him to doubt despite the miracle before his very eyes.  (Matthew 14:31)

When we feel like we’re sinking, we must not look down; rather, we must look up.  Yeshua is ever ready to extend His saving hand to us, for He knows our weaknesses.

Unbelief will also rob us of our ineffectiveness in spiritual warfare.

For instance, Yeshua told His talmidim (disciples) that they were unable to cast out a demon because of their own unbelief.

But we don’t need to have extraordinary faith to win a battle or make a difference.  He said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we will tell a mountain to move and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for us.  (Matthew 17:20)


While the mustard seed is not the smallest seed known to man, it was the smallest of the seeds known to the Judean farmers of Yeshua’s time.  The height of the quick-growing black mustard seed of the Holy Land can exceed heights of 3 meters (10 feet), which is tall enough to provide rest for birds.

Although it is impossible to please God without faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed moves God’s heart.  (Hebrews 11:6)

But like a seed, faith must be nurtured.

It is so important that we speak faith-filled words over our own lives and not words of fear, doubt and unbelief.  Our words can amount to prophecy of our own future.

God hears our confessions of faith and fear, just as He heard the Israelites’ and brought to pass what they spoke:

Just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; your corpses will fall in this wilderness … from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me.  Surely you will not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb … and Joshua ….  Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected.  (Numbers 14:28–32)

God is basically saying that they prophesied their own destruction upon themselves.


The yad (literally, hand) is usually used to keep one’s place while reading.  It also protects the parchment and the precious handwritten text.

The power of life or death is truly in our tongues as a prophetic instrument.  For instance, God told the Ezekiel to prophecy life to the dry bones, revealing that we can be God’s partners in bringing life through His Word and Spirit.  (Ezekiel 37)

We can speak to the dry places in our own life.

Immense creative power resides in the spoken and written word.  After all, God spoke the entire universe into existence!

Some of God’s promises are conditional upon our faith and cooperation.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

Especially when the odds are against us, or our enemies seem so much bigger and  more powerful than ourselves, we need not be intimidated, for the Lord is El ElyonGod Most High—above all!  He will keep us from being defeated by our enemies if we will stay in an attitude of faith and trust.

“By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.”  (Psalm 41:11)


Rahab and the Emissaries of Joshua, artist unknown

Salvation Through Faith

This week’s prophetic portion of Scripture (Haftarah) takes place 39 years after God judged the Israelites in the events of this Torah Portion.  Moses is now dead and the next generation of Israelites have not yet entered the Promised Land.

Joshua, Moses’ successor, is the new leader, preparing to take the children of Israel across the Jordan into the Promised Land.  Once again, spies are sent into the Land, but this time, the men go in faith.

Even Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, exemplifies faith.

Rahab, who lives in Jericho, has such faith in the God of Israel that she hides the spies and helps them escape.  She and her family are, therefore, the only ones in the city saved when Joshua comes to conquer it.

It is not her righteousness that saves her life: it is her demonstration of faith in the God of Israel by her willingness to help the Israelite spies.

She tells the spies: “The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”  (Joshua 2:11)

In faith, Rahab secures the crimson or scarlet cord (representing the blood of Yeshua and the cord of Covenant) to her window.  When the Israelites return to conquer Jericho, she is spared.  (Joshua 6:17, 25)


The Flight of the Spies, by James Tissot

Rahab also reveals the importance of standing with Israel against her enemies.

Like Ruth, a Moabite who showed kindness (chesed) to Naomi, Rahab shows kindness to the Israelite spies.  She helps the People of Israel enter their homeland and is rewarded with household salvation and a place in Israel.

Even though she was not an Israelite by birth, her kindness brought her honor, and she is recorded in the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant) as a great woman of faith.

“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”  (Hebrews 11:31)

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