Shammua and His Brethren

You know them, but not by their names

By Don Ruhl


While the Shang dynasty was making its mark in China and while Pharaoh Amenhotep’s II was making his mark in Egypt (because he was the Pharaoh of the Exodus), some men made their mark on Israel.

You know these men, but not by name.

The Bible identifies them as,


from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur;
from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori…
from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph…
from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu;
from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi;
from the tribe of Joseph, that is, from the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi;
from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli;
from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael;
from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi;
from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.

Who Were Shammua and His Brethren? 

They were leaders in Israel. What does it take to be a leader? You to have to care for the people whom you are leading. You have to have passion for what your group is about. You have to have skill for leading that group to its goal. Therefore, the tribes of Israel choose these men to be leaders, because they were recognized for their care, passion, and skill. They had established themselves in the eyes of their tribes, demonstrating success in getting things done. When Moses gave them a new job, he knew he could count on them to do what needed to be done. As leaders, he knew they had influence.

They did something that Moses never did as a leader in Israel, although he had privileges that no one else on Earth had. Yet, there was something that even that privileged man could not experience. Shammua and his brethren did experience it.

They obeyed Moses and the Lord. Moses told them to do something and they did it. Yet, for some reason we do not know these men by name.

A valley was renamed because of something they did there. What they did in that valley is often pictured in a large way. Therefore, the name of it became the Valley of Eshcol.

Shammua and his brethren were like Judas of whom we say, What might have been. Judas did many good things during his three and a half years with Jesus. Shammua and his brethren did many good things. Then they ruined their good, which is why you do not know these men by name. They should have become famous. Now, they are infamous and you do not want to imitate them.

Do not think like Shammua and nine his brethren. Think like two of his brethren whose names I did not list earlier.

Did you notice that when I listed the names of the tribes, I did not list three tribes. Levi did not present a man for this job, although it provided Moses and Aaron. I did not list the names of the leaders of Judah and Ephraim.

Do you know who Shammua and his brethren were? If you could hear me talk, when I mentioned the two other brethren, even just starting to pronounce the first syllable of the first name, you would know immediately who Shammua and his brethren were. You see, Joshua and Caleb also traveled with Shammua and the other nine into the land of Canaan.

Why do we know the names of Joshua and Caleb, but we do not know Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel?

The Thinking of Shammua and His Brethren 

Numbers 13 shows that Shammua and his brethren were leaders in their tribes, who went into the land of Canaan, which Moses never did; they obeyed Moses and the Lord by going through the land of Canaan, bringing back some of its fruit, carrying one cluster of grapes on a pole between two men, and so renaming the valley where they got it, the Valley of Eshcol, or the Valley of Cluster, yet, they ruined any good that they might have done for Israel and they ruined any good that they might have done for their own names when they said this,


Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan” (Num 13.27–29).


Caleb quieted and encouraged the people, but the ten contradicted him,


But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Num 13.31–33).


Numbers 32 will show you just how bad their report was. About 38 years later when two and a half tribes decided not to go into the land of Canaan and stay on the East side of the Jordan, Moses rebuked them, referring to the bad report of the ten spies, calling it sin,


“Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD has given them? Thus your fathers did when I sent them away from Kadesh Barnea to see the land. For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, so that they did not go into the land which the LORD had given them. So the LORD’s anger was aroused on that day, and He swore an oath, saying, ‘Surely none of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and above, shall see the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they have not wholly followed Me, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD.’ So the LORD’s anger was aroused against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone. And look! You have risen in your fathers’ place, a brood of sinful men, to increase still more the fierce anger of the LORD against Israel. For if you turn away from following Him, He will once again leave them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all these people” (Num 32.7–15).

Whoa! Do not be guilty of discouraging your brethren to do the right thing. The ten reported accurately of the land, but they gave a bad report of the nations.


  • They believed the Canaanites were stronger than Israel.
  • They believed Israel could not overcome the fortifications of the Canaanites.
  • The Canaanites intimidated spies.
  • They looked little in the sight of the Canaanites.


The ten spies concluded that Israel was:


  • out-gunned,
  • out-financed,
  • out-manned, and
  • out-sized.


Were the Canaanites greater than the Egyptians? How did Israel manage to escape the Egyptians, both in Egypt and at the Red Sea, and how did Israel survive the two years from the escape to the sending of the ten spies?

The Problem 

The ten spies looked at the power of the world and it was impressive.

They looked at themselves, former slaves, and they were not impressed.

They did not look at the Lord.

How could they forget the ten plagues? How could they forget the Red Sea crossing and the destruction of the Egyptians? They may have reasoned: That was then, this is now. God did those things then, but that does not mean He will or can do them now. Why does humanity think what God did yesterday, He cannot do today?

By their leadership and by their greater numbers, they outnumbered the faithful 10 to 2, and influenced Israel not to live by faith. Therefore, the Israelites complained about the current leadership,


So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”…And all the congregation said to stone them with stones (Num 14.1–4, 10a).

For their sin of faithlessness, fear, and frightening Israel, the Lord took their lives, “Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD” (Num 14.36, 37).

Do you believe the Lord is in charge or do you believe that the world is just too strong for the church to overcome it?

Do you believe the message of First John 5? Christians over the centuries lived by this verse and they were victorious! “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1Jo 5.4).

The Faith of the Two 

Numbers 13 shows that Caleb knew they could take the land, “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it’” (Num 13.30).

Why did Caleb believe they were well able to overcome it? Did he just have high self-esteem? No, from what we read next, you will know that it was not self-esteem or national-esteem, it was God-esteem. Where does your faith rest?

Numbers 14 shows that even after the people complained and did not believe in the Lord’s ability, Joshua and Caleb still tried to persuade the people,


But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them” (Num 14.6–9).

  • They knew it depended upon the Lord and not their ability, strength, or size.
  • The two knew it depended upon whether the Lord delighted in them.
  • They urged the people not to rebel against the Lord.
  • They urged them not to fear the Canaanites.
  • They revealed that the Canaanite’s protection had been taken away.
  • They encouraged the Israelites that the Lord was with them.


Could not the God who poured out the plagues upon Egypt pour out the same or greater plagues on the Canaanites? Why were the Egyptians no match for the Lord, but the Lord was no match for the Canaanites in the eyes of the ten and Israel? Did the Lord delight in Israel? Did not all that He had done in the previous two years mean anything?

What about Us? 

Do you have the spirit of the ten? If the world fights against the church, who do you believe will win? Remember Daniel 2.44 and Revelation 11.15. Is the Lord with us even as He was with Israel in Egypt and at the Red Sea? Does the Lord delight in us? What has He done for us in Jesus Christ? Do you believe that the Father has pulled back and left us on our own? Do you have the spirit of Joshua and Caleb?

After Moses pleaded with God to forgive Israel, He promised to do that, but they would still suffer for their faithlessness, fear, and frightening of others,


Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD—because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Num 14.20–24).

Determine to have the spirit of Caleb.

Has not the Lord Jesus promised that He would be with us even to the end? Do you believe that with all your heart? Do you encourage your brethren to believe that? Or do you have a defeatist attitude? Are you defeated even before you begin? Rededicate yourself today or start following Him fully today.

8 thoughts on “Shammua and His Brethren

  1. Great outline, Don. Well said.

    Something interesting happened while I was reading your post. I wasn’t logged in as a WP user and when I got down to the bottom of the post there was actually a video ad. Never saw that before. When I signed in so I could click on the ole’ like button, the ad disappeared. I guess someone else thought your post was good enough to attach their ad to it 🙂

  2. Awesome inspiration, and rarely-explored scriptural ground on which to base a teaching. Very well done indeed.

    • Don’t you just love meditating on the Scriptures, and seeing what opens up to you! As it is written,

      “Open my eyes, that I may see
      Wondrous things from Your law.”
      (Psa 119.18)

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