Parashat Shelach lecha (send for yourself)

The Parsha this week is Sh’lach-l’cha (send for yourself) Numbers 13:1 -15:41 . It is principally the story of the twelve spies, one from each tribe who were sent out to check out the land/

The spies and tribes represented were

 Hoshea (Joshua)Ephraim
Gaddiel Zebulun

Moses instructed the spies to take a holistic view of the land starting from the Negev and moving up to the hill country to find out about the soil, the produce that grew there, the people who lived there and even the trees. Further they were to return with some of the produce of the land.

They carried out their venture as directed and returned with a cluster of grapes so large that it had to be carried on a pole between two people. The image is used today by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism

The report that came back was that the land was good and plentiful but that it would be too hard to conquer it. Only two of the spies, Caleb the son of Jephunneh from the tribe of Judah and Joshua’s son of Nun from the half tribe of Ephraim thought it possible to conquer the land.

The people then grumbled and started to rebel against Moses and Aaron. They discussed selecting a new leader to take them back to Egypt and then stoning Moses. Moses Aaron and Joshua and Caleb prostrated themselves and the Glory of the LORD shone above the tent of meeting.

God told Moses that He was going to destroy all the people and raise up a new people from Moses. Moses however argued with God and told him that if He did that then everyone would say that God brought His people out of Egypt but were unable to bring them into the promised land. God changed his mind but still send a plague which killed all the spies who did not believe that they could defeat their enemies.

The people, realizing that they had been wrong, then took it upon themselves to attack the Amalekites and Canaanites, but God was not with them, and they were sorely defeated. God proclaimed that not one of the generations of those who had left Egypt other than Joshua and Caleb would enter the promised land.

Additional Offerings

When the people were to come into the land, they were to make additional offerings of fine flour mixed with oil as well as an offering of wine with the regular burnt and sin offerings.

The same rules were to apply to the native-born Israelite as well as to the foreigner.

An offering of a loaf made from the first grain harvested in the land was to be made.

Unintentional Sin

If the whole community sins unintentionally then they are to bring a young bull for a burnt offering along with its associated grain and drink offering as well as a male goat for a sin offering.

If just one person sins irrespective of them being an Israelite of foreigner residing among them, then the offering is a year-old female goat.

If however someone sins deliberately and defiantly then they are to be cut off from their people

The Sabbath breaker

A man was caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath and was brought to Moses who sought the LORD pending a decision. The judgement was that the man was to be put to death and the whole Israelite community stoned him.


God commands the people to put tassels on the corners with a blue cord running through them so they would remember all of God’s commandments whenever they looked at them.

Haftarat Sh’lach’lecha         הפטרת שלך-לך

The Haftarah portion associated with the Parsha for the week is Joshua 2:1-24. Two faithful spies gave a good report to Moses as forty years later two different faithful spies brought a report back to Joshua.

The spies stayed at the house of a woman named Rahab who earned her living by prostitution. When the troops from the King of Jericho arrived, she told them they had already left, but in the meantime, she had hidden the spies under a pile of flax on the roof.

Rahab told the spies that everyone knew that God had parted the Red Sea for the Israelites and destroyed the two kings of the Amorites on the east of the Jordan and that everyone was in fear of the Israelites. She pleaded with the spies to spare her and her family, so they told her to hang a scarlet cord on the side of her house so that Israel would know to spare the people in that house when they attacked Jericho.

The two spies then hid in the hills until the coast was clear then crossed back over the Jordan and reported back to Joshua that the LORD would give them the land since the people of Jericho were terrified of them.

Messianic Message

Every piece of logical evidence showed the ten unfaithful spies that trying to attack Canaan was a lost cause. There was no way they could defeat the giants in the land. However, Joshua and Caleb did not walk by sight. They walked by faith. Their trust in Adonai the LORD was unshakeable.  Yeshua himself could not perform miracles in his hometown because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:58)

The author of the epistle to the early Messianic Believers writes:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see(Hebrews 11:1)

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is facing a difficult situation full of fear but facing it trusting that God will take us through it.

Rahab was the dregs of society, a prostitute, one of the professions many people took advantage of but then despised.  Why was Rahab occupied in that way of life? Maybe she had been abandoned herself and had no other way of feeding her children. Maybe it was just an easy buck and she enjoyed doing it. Who know? Either way it was sinful and not an upright way to live.

Yet not only did God choose to save her but she became the ancestor of King David and hence the Messiah also. It was the red cord that saved her when Israel attacked, just as the blood on the doorposts on the houses of the Israelites that we studied in Parshat Bo protected our ancestors from the Angel of death, so the blood coloured cord protected Rahab and her family. It wasn’t her goodness that saved her. Her lifestyle was the lowest of the low and would never stand compared with the great and the good who lived alongside her. Many decent and upright people would have died when Joshua attacked. It was only the scarlet cord that saved Rahab and her family.

Likewise, irrespective of what our past has been like only the blood of Messiah can save us. It was also important for the spies to instruct her as to what to do. Likewise, it is important for us to instruct others as to the only way to be saved.

Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

This article originally appeared on the BMJA website, June 22, 2022, and reposted with permission.