Mosaic of Moses’ Spies Who Explored Canaan Discovered in Israel

A team of specialists have discovered several mosaics in Israel, including one depicting two men carrying a pole with a cluster of grapes, believed to be the two spies Moses sent to scout the land of Canaan, as found in the book of Numbers in the Bible.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill team announced on Monday that the first mosaics were discovered at the site of Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee, where the synagogue excavations are taking place, in 2012 by a team led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Professor Jodi Magness.

With the assistance of Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University, they have uncovered additional mosaics every year, including that of Samson carrying the gate of Gaza, Noah’s Ark, the parting of the Red Sea, Jonah being swallowed by fish, and the building of the Tower of Babel.

Identifying the significance of the mosaics, UNC-Chapel Hill said, “The discoveries indicate villagers flourished under early fifth century Christian rule, contradicting a widespread view that Jewish settlement in the region declined during that period.”

Magness, who is president of the Archaeological Institute of America and has participated on 20 different excavations in Israel and Greece, commented, “The mosaics decorating the floor of the Huqoq synagogue revolutionize our understanding of Judaism in this period.”

“Ancient Jewish art is often thought to be aniconic, or lacking images. But these mosaics, colorful and filled with figured scenes, attest to a rich visual culture as well as to the dynamism and diversity of Judaism in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.”

The latest mosaic to be identified depicts two men with Hebrew inscriptions, with one of the panels, labeled “a pole between two,” most likely referring to Numbers 13:23.

The passage refers to two spies sent by Moses to investigate the land of Canaan following the Exodus from Egypt, who “cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes” in the Valley of Eshkol.

Later on in the biblical account, the spies return to Moses and report, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and indeed, it is flowing with milk and honey.” (Numbers 13:27)

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Source: Christian Post