This chapter is a kind of prologue. By which I mean, it ends on an unresolved note, and the next chapter is entitled “the people rebel” in both English and Japanese.
Moses sends out twelve spies into Canaan and they come back with a report of both great richness but also very powerful cities. I suspect there’s more than a little exaggeration at work here. No archeological evidence shows that late Bronze Age Canaan had unusually tall people or cities that could rival New Kingdom Egypt, where they’d just left. What’s more, if you really want to take those census numbers literally, the Israelites would have to have outnumbered everyone in the area at least five to one.
But let’s set aside logistics as much as I want to and look at that unresolved note. Caleb, one of the spies, is particularly gung-ho about them going in right now, saying they could easily take them. Maybe he was thinking of the criticisms I just lobbed at the narrative: come on, God defeated Egypt, you think he won’t let us chase off these guys? But everyone else is much more skeptical and overrules him, delivering a report that the land is full of giants (Nephilim).
I’ve been trying to steer clear of the pedantic in recent posts, but weren’t the Nephilim supposed to have all died out in the flood? The easiest explanation for it is the meta one that the passage in Genesis about the Nephilim is in the wrong place, or comes from a narrative tradition that didn’t have a flood story. I wasn’t able in my admittedly-brief look to find if there’s a midrash that explains away the discrepency, though I imagine one exists.
Or maybe there it’s just a matter of translation? The NRSV puts the note that the Anakim are descendeed from the Nephilim in parentheses, like an explanatory aside. The NCT puts it in part of the spies’ dialog, so that they sound more like country bumpkins: these Anakim are so big, they must be descended from the antediluvian giants!
Another pedantic thing: Joshua’s name is somehow changed retroactively here. He’s been called Joshua son of Nun all the time, but now we suddenly learn that it was really Hoshea son of Nun, and that at this point Moses changed his name. It’s a wierd point to bring this up, and even wierder that they didn’t call him by his older name up until now and then switch, as happened with Abram/Abraham and Sarah/Sarai; it must have been missed in the editing.
But the change is also interesting. The names look much more different in English than they are in Hebrew. “Joshua” is actually Yahoshua, and because Hebrew doesn’t have vowels, his name could also be transliterated Yahoshea. Basically, Moses added “Ya,” as in YHWH, to Joshua’s old name, “salvation.” Maybe this is a mark that Moses is setting him up as his successor already?
Also, I was completely under the mistaken impression that Joshua was Levite, because he assisted Moses. Turns out he was an Ephraimite. You learn something new every chapter in the Bible.
The Japanese: tsukawasu “to employ,” teisatsu suru “to scout, do reconnaissance” (v 2), jouheki “wall, rampart” (v 19), koeteiru “fertile, rich,” ina “not,” ooshii “brave, courageous” (v 20), fusa “a bunch of (grapes, bananas, etc.),” ichijiku “fig” (v 23), taisou “very, a lot” (v 28), kaigan “seaside,” enkan “coast” (v 29), shingen suru “to contribute, to suggest,” danzen “by far, easily,” senryou suru “to occupt, to capture” (v 30).
Bonus Japanese points for typing this out on a Japanese keyboard during my lunchbreak!