Moses Sends Out His Spies to Explore the Promised Land

God instructed Moses to send 12 men, one from each tribe of Israel, into the Promised Land to scope it out. They did so and returned with a report of the bountiful Promised Land.

They also testified that its cities were highly fortified and inhabited by giants. Only Caleb and Joshua brought a positive report back to their people.

The Promised Land

Long before Beyonce and the Spice Girls were in the charts, Moses sent out his Spies Boys to explore the bountiful Promised Land. This story is a lesson on land and exile, and how a trusting relationship with God leads to blessing and a loving relationship with humanity.

The Promised Land refers to a land that the Bible describes as being the inheritance of Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:7; 15:18-20). In modern contexts, it also refers to a spiritual inheritance that believers have by faith today if they follow God.

After the spies explored the land, they returned with a mixed report. Ten spies saw danger and defeat. They were paralyzed by fear. The other two spies returned with a good report of the land that flowed with milk and honey. They were confident in God. These spies walked in the faith of Caleb and Joshua. They trusted God to lead them into the Promised Land.

The Spies

Last week in Parasha Behaalotecha we learned that God instructed Moses to send out 12 meraglim, spies, into the Promised Land to check it out. He told him to pick men from each of the tribes of Israel, a leader among them, to go into Canaan.

They would spend 40 days scouting the land and bring back fruit and a report. The spies agreed that the land flowed with milk and honey, and they saw great wealth in its produce. However, they also reported that the people who lived in Canaan were giants and that their cities were large and fortified. They frightened the spies and made them feel like ants in their presence.

Ten of the spies shared their fears with their fellow Israelites. They convinced them that the land was too hard to conquer. Only Caleb and Joshua argued that God could deliver them from their enemies. He did, and they entered the land of Canaan.

The Attitude

The spies were instructed to explore the land of Canaan (see Numbers 13:1-25). The goal was to gain intelligence about the inhabitants of the country, their fortifications and military potential.

They found the land flowed with milk and honey just as promised, but they also saw giant descendants of the Nephilim. They reported back to Moses and the Israelites that they would be soundly defeated if they entered the land.

Ten of the spies gave a negative report, expressing their fear and unbelief. They used the word “but” in their report – which indicates their lack of faith – and focused on the dangers, the large size of the people and the cities’ fortifications.

They also forgot the many miracles God had performed for them and the fact that He alone could defeat the giants. As a result, they and their children would wander the desert for forty years. Only Caleb and Joshua would enter the Promised Land.

The Results

The spies cut down a cluster of grapes in the Valley of Eshkol that was so big it took two men to carry it slung over a pole (13:23a). They also collected figs and pomegranates. The spies gave Moses a good report. However, most of the people who saw the giants were convinced that they were too strong to conquer. These ten spies stirred up fear and dissension among the people at Kadesh-barnea, and they convinced the other spies to back them up in their decision.

With the exception of Caleb and Joshua, the other spies vote to not enter the Promised Land. They will now wander in the wilderness for 40 years until they die. What could have been a glorious future is now a cursed past. It is clear that God’s Word is right, but the people choose to listen to their fearful voices instead of God’s voice. They will suffer for their unbelief and rebellion against God.

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