Studies in Torah

Parashat Shelach (שלח): Numbers 13–15

Rebelliousness, laziness and fear lead us to fight against, avoid and run from what we know — or should know — we should do. This week’s reading, שְׁלַח Shelakh (“send,” Numbers 13–15), takes a deep dive into a pivotal moment where all three killers of Israel’s faith in the LORD and His messengers.

The common companion passage to Shelakh is Joshua 2, covering the infiltration of Caleb and Yoshua (Joshua) into Yericho (Jericho). God favored her trust in the LORD over the gods of Canaan by putting her in the genealogy of Mashiakh Yeshua (Jesus) and making her a high symbol of faith (Matt. 1:5; Heb. 11:31; James 2:25).

The following are recordings and notes from previous Hallel Fellowship studies from Numbers 13–15.

Shelach discussions

Numbers 13–15: Don’t give God’s rest a one-star review

Numbers 13–14

Aaron and Miriam ‘speak evil’ against Moses; spies ‘speak evil’ against the Land

Numbers 12 shows us the consequences of Miriam and Aaron’s jealously of God’s special relationship with Moses. Since they could not openly complained about God’s special treatment of Moses, they struck out against Moses’s by attacking his Cushite wife.

Numbers 13 shows us the story of the first spies who went out into the land of Israel to scout out the land. God told Moses to call out one leader from each tribe to be the spies of the land.

A bad report, a promise delayed

Instead of facing their fears about the “giants” in the Land, the spies ancient Israel sent into Canaan after the long journey from captivity in Mitsraim (Egypt) cowered and backed away and encouraged most of the people to do likewise. They lost their prize when they refused to walk forward where God told them to walk.

The same is true today: We will lose out on many blessings if we don’t move forward when God tells us to. When the Israelites doubted God’s word and refused to enter the Land, He took the blessing away from the majority of that generation of forever. They never entered into the promise. But for Caleb and Joshua, the promise was delayed to them for 40 years. Joshua and Caleb paid a price for the cowardice and unbelief of their peers.

Trusting in God and His apostles

The shockwave of Israel’s shrinking back from entering Canaan under the LORD’s protection reverberated for the next 40 years of wandering and throughout time. It’s all about trusting God when the task seems too big and the means so meager. This faith in God’s apostles — shelakhim, or “sent ones” — is crucial to entering God’s rest.

12 spies ‘bad’ and ‘faithful’ reports on the Land

Not only did the people believe the “evil” report, they actually wanted to stone the two spies who brought back the faithful report.

Bad report about Promised Land sparks rebellion

The “bad report” brought by the spies about the land God promised to give Israel was a dishonest report. Yet because the majority of the spies were willing to spread lies, the honest report of the two faithful spies was drowned out. The leaders of Israel believed the false report so completely that they were planning an insurrection to have Moses and Aaron stoned and then appoint a “leader” who would return them to Mitsraim (Egypt).

Numbers 14 is an example of democracy gone wrong. It also shows us God’s great patience with us in our lack of trust. We would not have tolerated the 10 times of grumbling that God tolerated from ancient Israel during the journey from Mitsraim. Yet He had to enact discipline too.

Numbers 15

Of tassels of blue, Sabbath reverence and offerings

After the accounts of rebellion and fear in trusting God’s leading into Canaan (Numbers 13–14), there’s this passage talking about types of offerings, tying blue-corded fringes on clothes and setting aside a memorial portion of each loaf, called challah. These may seem like grab-bag topics, but they all are connecting to a life of faith.

One law for Israelite and foreigner

There is a difference between sins done in ignorance vs. those done willfully. But there is no substantial difference between how the native Israelite and the sojourner are judged under God’s instructions and called to repent.

Tzitzitot a sign against rebellion; rebellions of ‘stick man,’ Korah and Reubenites

This section could be titled, “The Three Stories of Rebellion”: of a man collecting firewood on Shabbat, of Korah, of two families of the tribe of Reuben. God dealt with each rebellion in a different way. All imprinted in the minds of the people over and again God was the one in charge, and it was God’s prerogative to choose Moses and Aaron.

What do you think about this?