The Absence of Yehoshua

In Parshat Shelach we read about the sin of the ten spies who were sent to the Land of Israel and the disastrous effects that it had on the Jewish people. Two spies however did not participate in the sin, Yehoshua and Calev. In fact, they both publicly protested the report of the ten spies:

And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, of those who had scouted the land, rent their clothes and exhorted the whole Israelite community: “The land that we traversed and scouted is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, He will bring us into that land, a land that flows with milk and honey, and give it to us; only you must not rebel against the LORD. Have no fear then of the people of the country, for they are our prey: their protection has departed from them, but the LORD is with us. Have no fear of them!” (Bamidbar 14:6-9)

However, oddly enough, the Torah does not seem to give credit to Yehoshua for his resistance. When God spells out the fate of all the people who participated in the sin of the spies, he notes that Calev will be an exception to the rule. Calev will not die in the desert but will rather merit to enter into the Land of Israel and receive a special inheritance:

But My servant Caleb, because he was imbued with a different spirit and remained loyal to Me—him will I bring into the land that he entered, and his offspring shall hold it as a possession. (Bamidbar 14:24)

But what about Yehoshua? Yehoshua also stood up against the other spies. Should he not also deserve a special mention?

The Ibn Ezra provides a simple solution to this problem. Calev went above and beyond the call of duty. Yehoshua stayed faithful to Hashem and Moshe, but Calev uniquely extended himself even further. When the ten spies began the presentation of their findings, things were beginning to look bleak. They began speaking poorly of the land and the prospects of conquest. Immediately, Calev asserted himself and responded:

Caleb hushed the people before Moses and said, “Let us by all means go up, and we shall gain possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.” (Bamidbar 13:29)

Only later on in the narrative did both Yeshoshua and Calev speak out against the other spies. But early on, it was Calev alone. Therefore, Calev alone is mentioned later on.

The Ramban has a different approach. The Ramban notes that the Torah is telling us in verse 24 the reward that will be given to Calev. He will enter the Land of Israel and receive a special portion of land. What will Yehoshua’s reward be? The Ramban says that Yehoshua will merit to become the next leader of the Jewish people. That’s quite a reward! (It’s interesting to note that of all the qualifications of Yehoshua, it’s this one that qualifies him to become the next leader.) However, Moshe is still alive and well. Moshe is still the leader, and therefore it would not be proper to highlight Yehoshua’s eventual promotion while Moshe is still in charge.

The Bechor Shor has a different approach. In the standard edition of the Bechor Shor, there is no comment on this issue. However, the Daat Zekeinim quotes the opinion of the Bechor Shor on this issue. (See the Mosad Harav Kook edition of the Bechor Shor by Dr. Yehoshafat Navo.)

The Bechor Shor notes that the reward given to Calev is not just that he will enter the Land of Israel and receive an inheritance, but it will be “ve’zaro yorishena, his offspring will hold it as a possession.” Meaning, Calev’s courageous act was so meritorious that the generations that follow him will also reap the benefits of his good work.

The Torah never tells us about the family of Yehoshua, but the Talmud (Eiruvin 63b) tells us that he never had children. Therefore, the Bechor Shor writes that the reward of “ve’zaro yorishena, his offspring will hold it as a possession” would not apply to Yehoshua. As such Yehoshua was not mentioned in the verse. Certainly he was worthy of reward. But to note that only Calev’s progeny would be rewarded, and that Yehoshua would not receive a reward for his descendants (since he would not have any) would in fact be hurtful, and not fitting for a verse meant to reward good behavior.

While the approach of the Ramban focuses on sensitivity to Moshe, the approach of the Bechor Shor focuses on sensitivity to Yehoshua. Though both approaches share a common them. When highlighting the successes and accomplishments of one person, be careful how it can impact the moral of another!