Hebron and Zoan (Num 13:22)
In Num 13:22, concerning the report of the twelve spies, there
occurs an interesting parenthesis:
"Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in
What is the purpose of such a statement? Let us look more
closely at each of these two cities, and perhaps a pattern will
The name signifies an "Alliance" and may have originated in
the events of Gen 13. When Abram and Lot became separated (vv 9,11),
Abram and Yahweh were joined together (v 18). Abram's reception of the
great land promise was followed by his dwelling at Hebron, where he built an
altar. From this time forward Hebron figures prominently in the history of
Abraham's family. Sarah died there and was buried in the cave of Machpelah
(23:2,19). Of all the land in Canaan this cave at Hebron became the sole
possession of Abraham. God promised him all the land for an everlasting
inheritance, but in his mortal life Abraham received nothing as a gift (Acts
7:5); this one possession of the patriarch was purchased! He showed his
faith in future blessing by reaching out to grasp this token or "earnest" of the
promise -- the cave at Hebron. Here he buried his wife; here he was buried, and
his sons after him, as if to say, "When we awake from the dead, let us first
cast our eyes upon the place where Yahweh gave us His great promise."
In later times Hebron became the possession of Caleb, the
Gentile who wholly followed the Lord God of Israel (Jos 14:14). The name Caleb
signifies "dog". In a beautiful preview of the fullness of God's plan, the
Jewish "Saviour" (Joshua) blessed the Gentile "dog" (Caleb) in the city of
"alliance and fellowship" (Hebron) (v 13). When God's people claimed the land of
promise, Hebron was dedicated as one of the cities of refuge (Jos 20:7). David
reigned in Hebron for seven and one-half years at the beginning of his kingdom.
Hebron is still populated today, one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities
in the world.
This name signifies a "Departure". Zoan was the city of the
Egyptian princes, or priests (Isa 19:11,13). It was the site of Yahweh's great
signs and wonders on behalf of His children in the days of the exodus (Psa
78:12,43). From this "departure" point God brought out His people by His servant
Moses (Acts 7:36,37).
In summary, then, Hebron is the city of Abraham, the city of
the everlasting covenant -- while Zoan is the city of Moses, and the city of
bondage from which God delivered His people. Zoan therefore can be seen as a
type of the law of Moses, which held man in bondage, while Hebron is a type of
"the gospel preached beforehand unto Abraham" (Gal 3:8) -- that is, salvation by
faith in the promises. Though God's nation had its first experience with Zoan,
Hebron was the older city. And though God's nation found themselves first in
bondage to the law, the gospel of Abraham was the older of God's pronouncements,
and therefore of the greater consequence (Gal 3:17).
All of this, it would seem, is implied in this brief
parenthesis of Num 13:22. Hebron is indeed the older of the two cities, by the
covenant-period, a symbolic seven years. Zoan is long since become a wilderness,
but no doubt Hebron will continue its existence into the millennium -- the
symbol of God's offer of fellowship to man on the basis of faith.