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On the twenty-seventh day of Siwan Moses sent out the spies from Kadesh-Barnea in the wilderness of Paran, [510] and following his directions they went first to the south of Palestine, the poorest part of the Holy Land. Moses did like the merchants, who first show the poorer wares, and then the better kind; so Moses wished the spies to see better parts of the land the farther they advanced into it. When they reached Hebron, they could judge what a blessed land this was that had been promised them, for although Hebron was the poorest tract in all Palestine, it was still much better than Zoan, the most excellent part of Egypt. When, therefore, the sons of Ham built cities in several lands, it was Hebron that they erected first, owing to its excellence, and not Zoan, which they built in Egypt fully seven years later.

Their progress through the land was on the whole easy, for God had wished it so, that as soon as the spies entered a city, the plague struck it, and the inhabitants, busied with the burial of their dead, had neither time nor inclination to concern themselves with the strangers. [511] Although they met with no evil on the part of the inhabitants, still the sight of the three giants, Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai inspired them with terror. These were so immensely tall that the sun reached only to their ankles, and they received their names in accordance with their size and strength. The strongest among them was Ahiman, beholding whom one fancied oneself standing at the foot of a mountain that was about to fall, and exclaimed involuntarily, "What is this that is coming upon me?" Hence the name Ahiman. Strong as marble was the second brother, wherefore he was called Sheshai, "marble." The mighty strides of the third brother threw up plots from the ground when he walked, hence he was called Talmi, "plots." [512] Not only the sons of Anak were of such strength and size, but his daughters also, whom the spies chanced to see. For when these reached the city inhabited by Anak, that was called Kiriath-Arba, "City of Four," because the giant Anak and his three sons dwelt there, they were struck with such terror by them that they sought a hiding place. But what they had believed to be a cave was only the rind of a huge pomegranate that the giant's daughter had thrown away, as they later, to their horror, discovered. For this girl, after having eaten the fruit, remembered that she must not anger her father by letting the rind lie there, so she picked it up with the twelve men in it as one picks up an egg shell, and threw it into the garden, never noticing that she had thrown with it twelve men, each measuring sixty cubits in height. When they left their hiding place, they said to one another: "Behold the strength of these women and judge by their standard the men!" [513]

They soon had an opportunity of testing the strength of the men, for as soon as the three giants heard of the presence of the Israelite men, they pursued them, but the Israelites found out with what manner of men they were dealing even before the giants had caught up with them. One of the giants shouted, and the spies fell down as men dead, so that it took a long time for the Canaanites to restore them to life by the aid of friction and fresh air. The Canaanites hereupon said to them: "Why do you come here? Is not the whole world your God's, and did not He parcel it out according to His wish? Came ye here with the purpose of felling the sacred trees?" The spied declared their innocence, whereupon the Canaanites permitted them to go their ways unmolested. As a reward for this kind deed, the nation to which these giants belonged has been preserved even to this day. [514]

They would certainly not have escaped from the hands of the giants, had not Moses given them two weapons against them, his staff and the secret of the Divine Name. These two brought them salvation whenever they felt they were in danger from the giants. For these were none other than the seed of the angels fallen in the antediluvian era. Sprung from their union with the daughters of men, and being half angels, half men, these giants were only half mortal. They lived very long, and then half their body withered away. Threatened by an eternal continuance of this condition, half life, and half death, they preferred either to plunge into the sea, or by magic herb which they knew to put an end to their existence. [515] They were furthermore of such enormous size that the spies, listening one day while the giants discussed them, heard them say, pointing to the Israelites: "There are grasshoppers by the trees that have the semblance of men," for "so they were in their sight." [516]

The spies, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, had resolved from the start to warn the people against Palestine, and so great was their influence that Caleb feared he would yield to it. He therefore hastened to Hebron where the three Patriarchs lie, and, standing at their graves, said: "Joshua is proof against the pernicious influence of the spies, for Moses had prayed to God for him. Send up prayers now, my fathers, for me, that God in His mercy may keep me far from the counsel of the spies." [517]

There had always been a clash between Caleb and his comrades during their crossing through Palestine. For whereas he insisted upon taking along the fruits of the land to show their excellence to the people, they strongly opposed this suggestion, wishing as they did to keep the people from gaining an impression of the excellence of the land. Hence they yielded only when Caleb drew his sword, saying: "If you will not take of the fruits, either I shall slay you, or you will slay me." They hereupon cut down a vine, which was so heavy that eight of them had to carry it, putting upon each the burden of one hundred and twenty seah. The ninth spy carried a pomegranate, and the tenth a fig, which they brought from a place that had once belonged to Eshcol, one of Abraham's friends, but Joshua and Caleb carried nothing at all, because it was not consistent with their dignity to carry a burden. [518] This vine was of such gigantic size that the wine pressed from its grapes sufficed for all the sacrificial libations of Israel during the forty years' march. [519]

After the lapse of forty days they returned to Moses and the people, after having crossed through Palestine from end to end. By natural means it would not, of course, have been possible to traverse all the land in so short a time, by God made it possible by "bidding the soil to leap for them," and they covered a great distance in a short time. God knew that Israel would have to wander in the wilderness forty years, a year for every day the spies had spent in Palestine, hence He hastened their progress through the land, that Israel might not have to stay too long in the wilderness. [520]

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