Numbers 13:32—How could the ten spies report that the land devoured its inhabitants?
Problem: In Numbers 13:32, ten of the spies who had been sent by Moses reported that the land was “a land that devours its inhabitants.” However, in addition to the fact that Joshua and Caleb had reported that the land flowed with milk and honey (Num. 13:27), the spies had come back with evidence of the abundance of the land (Num. 13:26). How could the ten spies claim that the land was “a land that devours its inhabitants”?
Solution: It would be a misunderstanding of the text to assume that this epithet indicated that the land was actually a desolate place. The testimony of all the spies agreed upon the richness of the land in its capacity to produce food and sustain life. Rather, it was precisely because the land was so rich that the ten spies could give their pessimistic report. The fertility of the land caused many different peoples to desire to dwell in the land, which caused much blood shed between inhabitants and invaders. There is no contradiction in this statement. The land was so rich, and desired by so many different peoples, it facilitated many conflicts resulting in the inhabitants being devoured in the midst of the conflicts to own the land.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.