[b-hebrew] code names in Numbers 13

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Jun 30 11:12:15 EDT 2008


On Sun, Jun 29, 2008 at 10:13 PM, Yigal Levin <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il>

> I had always thought that Ya'akov's second suggestion was the most likely -
> the spies' short names show that they were part of the younger generation,
> although I did suspect that there was something more there. The names Sodi
> and Satur ("secret" and "hidden") do seem apt for spies, so Ya'akov may be
> right in looking further.
> He may be right, by right now I need more evidence.

> Karl's comment that Caleb "was not even Jewish", and therefore
> "expendable",
> has four basic faults:
> 1. "Jewish" in this context is a huge anachronism. "Israelite" would be
> more
> fitting. "Jewish" usually refers to the religious group(s) that developed
> during the Second Temple period (or the Exile), most of whom, of course,
> were descended from the tribe/kingdom of Judah.
> You may be right that my use of the term is somewhat of an anachronism, but
it is rooted in my understanding of the term: "Israelite" referred to anyone
who was a descendent of Israel, while "Jewish" was more restricted, only to
descendants of Judah. Even during the second temple era, late in it, Paul in
the New Testament called himself not "Jewish" by an "Israelite" because he
was from the tribe of Benjamin.

> 2. "Expendable"? If he was such a loyal Yahwist that he even became a
> Judge,
> he was certainly not "expendable". And why would you think that in the
> Israelite thought of the time, a non-Israelite Yahwist was "worth" less
> than
> an Israelite?
> The book of Judges says that his nephew became a judge, not Caleb himself.
And Caleb was not appointed as a leader, prince, until after the spy

Who chose the spies and why those particular ones chosen? Why wouldn't the
princes of the tribe consider Caleb expendable, seeing as he was not part of
the tribe?

> 3. Besides, you can't have it both ways: you claim that Moses sent his
> personal assistant Joshua because he "so expected their return". In other
> words, he had full confidence that the God who commanded him to send the
> spies would not alow them to be harmed. So he would not expect Caleb to be
> harmed either - therefore his being "expendable" is really not an issue.
> Who chose the spies? According to Numbers 13, each was to represent a
tribe. While Numbers does not mention how the spies were chosen, it could
very well be that Moses used his influence to get Joshua as one of the
spies, and the rest were chosen independently of Moses. The text is silent
on this matter. If the tribal leaders did the choosing, would not
expendability be a factor if the leaders were uncertain about the outcome of
the mission?

> 4. While you are correct that there is a scholarly theory that the
> Calebites
> were not originally part of the tribe of Judah and sort of "joined on" and
> were eventually incorporated into the tribal genealogies, that could only
> have happened after the tribe had settled in Canaan, and thus has nothing
> to
> to with this story.

Isn't this exactly what the text says? Even though in Numbers 34:19 God
commanded Caleb to be the leader who led the tribe of Judah, his choice of
where he wanted to settle down was listed separately and before the tribal
area alloted to Judah was listed (Joshua 14 and 15). Where in the text is
Caleb, or even his father Jephunah, listed as a direct descendant of Judah?
This is not merely a "scholarly theory".

> Again, you can't have it both ways: you either look at
> the Bible as a literary construction which is not neccesarily "historical",
> in which case the spy story has to be seen within its own context - and
> there is NO indication IN THE STORY that Caleb was anything but Israelite,
> OR you consider the Bible to be "historical", in which case you have no
> real
> criterion for accepting the details of this story, while assuming that the
> genealogies of Caleb are litearary constructions.

This looks like a false dilemma argument. I don't accept either choice you
list as valid.

First of all, the concept of seeing the spy story as its own context,
without referencing the rest of the mentions of Caleb is anachronistic, a
modern invention. The text clearly elsewhere references the spy story,
including the mention that Caleb was a Kenezite, i.e. not Israelite. Where
in Tanakh does it say that Caleb was anything otherwise?

The spy narrative and the
> genealogies are different genres, composed by different people at different
> times for diferent reasons, and "reading" one into the other is problematic
> at best.
> ???? Don't the two complement each other? Where's the contradiction? What's
problematic? Aren't the only problematic areas those that have been taken
out of context of the whole?

> Yigal Levin
> I have the impression that I mention "context" more than all other people
on this list put together.

When looking at narratives, I consider them all to be in context with the

Where it affects lexicography, i.e. understanding the language, I think
taking each context as unique has a deleterious affect in understanding the
terminology used in Tanakh. That's one of my criticisms of Reinhard de
Blois' lexicon according to semantic domains. The same with BDB.

Taking the choosing of the spies in context, the people including the
leaders had repeatedly indicated that they considered this whole trip to
take over Canaan a madcap adventure that, had they had the choice, they
would not have undertaken. So why shouldn't expendability have been one of
the criteria in choosing which people to send as spies? Taking the narrative
as a whole, God obviously had a higher regard for Caleb than those who chose
him to represent them.

Karl W. Randolph.

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "K Randolph" <kwrandolph at gmail.com>
> To: "b-hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Monday, June 30, 2008 6:54 AM
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] code names in Numbers 13
> > Yaakov:
> > The spies were not the same as the princes. Joshua was the only one named
> > before Numbers 13, and then not as a prince, but as Moses' personal
> > assistant.
> >
> > That the names were different from the princes never bothered me,
> because I
> > expected that the princes would be considered too important to go out on
> a
> > dangerous mission where there was a chance that they would not return.
> > However, Moses so expected their return that he had his personal
> assistant
> > named as one of the spies.
> >
> > Caleb was sort of a fluke. He was not even Jewish. Therefore, he was
> > expendable. Yet his devotion to God got him and his family to
> receive God's
> > blessings the same as if he were a Jew, and his nephew was named as the
> > first of the saviors in the book of Judges.
> >
> > It never crossed my mind that these names might be code names.
> >
> > Karl W. Randolph.

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