Israelite Men Spy out the Land of Canaan

When the 12 Spies Visited the Land of Canaan, Only Joshua and Caleb Believed in the Victory

Road in the Wilderness Photo
From Kadesh, the Lord told Moses to appoint one man from each tribe to go in to explore the land of Canaan and bring back a report. Moses asked for specific details about the people who lived there. He wanted to know if they were strong, weak, few or many, and if the land was good or bad. He also wanted to know about the cities and how people lived. Did they live in tents or fortresses. So the appointed men went and surveyed the land for 40 days before returning to camp with the report.

At first the report was factual. The land is fertile, the people who live there are strong, and their walled cities are large. The descendants of Anak live there, the Amalekites live in the south, the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the mountains, and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan. Caleb enthusiastically said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” But the other men, except Joshua, were not as optimistic. “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we, and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

At these words all the people of Israel wailed and wept and whimpered all night. Worse yet, all the people again complained against Moses and Aaron. “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?” Unbelievably, they began to discuss selecting a leader to take them back to Egypt.

Moses and Aaron were speechless. They prostrated themselves before the congregation. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes, symbolizing their aggravation, and implored the people. “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. Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”

Just when people were shouting to stone Moses and Aaron, the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle in the sight of everyone. God spoke only to Moses. “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

Moses interceded again, and said to the Lord, “Then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness. Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”>

The Lord issued His pardon, but there were going to be consequences, nonetheless. After all that God had done, with His continual presence and power performed among the people, the people of Israel had now tested God's patience 10 times, and there was no sign that they were ever going to change their ways. God pronounced His decision. “They certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.” God made exceptions with Caleb and Joshua, who had not tainted the people's thinking with pessimistic and destructive information.

The Lord also told Moses and Aaron the fate of their generation. “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you, from 20 years old and above. Except for Caleb and Joshua, you shall by no means enter the land. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.” Moses told these words to the people, and they mourned greatly.

Many of the people rose early the next morning and went up to the top of the mountain, intending now to go into the land. Moses said, “This will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you, because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.” But they went up anyway, and the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and annihilated them. (Numbers 13:30-33; 14)

Written by: Pete Miller