In a book about parenting, Paul David Tripp described the nature of foolishness in the book of Proverbs: “The fool has the world inside out and upside down. The fool looks at what is foolish and sees it as wise. The fool looks at what is good and sees it as bad. The fool looks at what is false and sees it as true. . . . The fool argues with the wise and listens to other fools. The fool has it all wrong, but is convinced he is always right.”
Sadly, this description fits Israel in today’s reading. What happened in the Valley of Eshkol shaped the nation’s future (see Num. 32:9–13). Moses had sent twelve spies into the Promised Land to scout it out. In the Valley of Eshkol, near Hebron, they found a cluster of grapes so large it took two men to carry it on a pole between them (vv. 23–24). They also brought similarly rich samples of figs and pomegranates. They should have interpreted this as encouragement from the Lord. He had indeed brought them to a land flowing with milk and honey (v. 27)!
Nonetheless, ten of the spies returned with a fearful report. From their perspective, the land was fertile and abundant but unconquerable (vv. 28–29, 31–33). Their timidity exhibited a rebellious lack of faith. They had apparently forgotten all the wonders God had already worked on their behalf. They thought they knew better than God the best choice.
The nation’s failure to obey God and step forward in faith had dire consequences. An entire generation, excluding Caleb and Joshua, were condemned to die in the wilderness. Entering the land was delayed for 40 years! These fools were convinced they were right, but they had it all wrong.
The spiritual geography of the Valley of Eshkol is where God’s blessings and instructions are clear, yet we fail to obey. This is foolish, but we do it all the time; we rely on our plans and perceptions above God’s promises and character. The antidote is to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).