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Basic Bible: The Mission of Twelve Spies

Numbers 13:1-3, 17-20, 25-33

The Lord instructed Moses to send a prominent man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel on a mission to spy out the land which He had given to them. The land that they were to spy out was the same as that which was promised to Abraham in Genesis 15.

Moses did as the Lord directed. His instruction to the spies was specific. They were to go up into “the mountain” and see the land and all that was in the land. The promised land of Canaan extended from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Jordan River on the east and from Mount Hermon in the north to Bethsheba in the south. The mountain that they were to go up unto would appear to be Mount Hermon, the northern bounds of Canaan. The children of Israel were not close to Mount Hermon. They were south of Bethsheba. Mount Hermon was an 11 to 12 day journey from the location of Israel’s encampment in Kadesh (v. 26).

The spies were to bring back reports detailing the lay of the land, the strength and number of the inhabitants, any fortifications, and the natural resources. They were to return with a sampling of the fruit of the land as it was time for the grapes to ripen (v. 20). The spies did as Moses instructed. They returned to the camp of Israel with their report after searching out the land for forty days.

They presented their report to Moses and Aaron and to all of the congregation of Israel. Before they would utter a single word, all saw that which they were carrying. The entire congregation saw the cluster of grapes that was so large that it had to be transported on a staff supported by two men (v. 23).

The spies reported that there was an abundance of food within the land. They reported that the people of the land were strong and that the cities were fortified and of great size. They also reported that they saw the children of Anak in the land. The children of Anak were giants (v. 33).

Forty years after the spies issued their report, Joshua entered into the land. On that occasion, he slew all the Anakim with the exception of those in the cities of the Philistines (Judg. 11:22). Goliath, whom David would slay, was a son of Anak.

All that the spies reported was true. Their report was an accurate description of the land which God had promised to the seed of Abraham. The mission of the spies was one hundred percent successful. They did all that they were instructed to do.

The purpose of their mission was to gather information on the land which the Lord had given them. The Lord had Moses send forth the spies such that they might make known the magnitude of that which He was about to do. The Lord wanted all Israel to know with certainty that He had given them a land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord wanted all to know that the people from whom He would take the land were both strong and great in number. The Lord wanted all to know that He would cause the walled and great cities of Canaan would fall before them. The Lord wanted Israel to know that He would make the giants of the land to mowed down as grass before them.

The Lord wanted Israel to know that they would see the promise which He made to Abraham fulfilled. The Lord wanted Israel to realize the magnitude of that which He would do.

We, New Testament believers, know that the promised land was given to them who believed as Abraham believed. Abraham believed that God would do the impossible. The Lord would take the land from a strong and great people and give it to Israel because they believed as Abraham believed. People who are truly Goid’s people believe that the Lord will do the impossible.

New Testament believers are empowered by truth made known to us by our Lord and Savior. Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father” (John 14:12). New Testament believers know that with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26).

The true and accurate report of the spies confirmed that God must do the impossible for Israel to possess the promised land. Their true and accurate report revealed that Israel could not, of its own strength, take the land. They must rely upon the Lord God.

New Testament believers know that no man can enter into the kingdom of heaven by his own strength. All believers know that we are saved from the wrath to come by faith — faith that is given by God (Eph. 2:8). Let us not walk by our strength but in His such that men may see that which God has done.