Numbers 13&14: Scouting

The Israelites scout out the terrain, but refuse to enter the promised land. Here we discuss how this relates to today and trusting in God.


Photocredit: Albert
The first thing anyone would do before entering a new land would be to scout out the terrain, especially if there are other people occupying the land and you plan to remove them. The Israelites select 12 men, 1 from each tribe, who are tasked with scouting the Promised Land. This marks a major milestone in the Israelite's journey. The events that take place after the scouting mission prompts God to lengthen what would have been about a 2 year journey to a 40 year journey.

The 12 men selected for the mission are as follows:
  1. Shemmua (Reuben)
  2. Shaphat (Simeon)
  3. Caleb (Judah)
  4. Igal (Issachar)
  5. Oshea/Joshua (Ephraim)
  6. Palti (Benjamin)
  7. Gaddiel (Zebulun)
  8. Ammiel (Dan)
  9. Sethur (Asher)
  10. Nohbi (Napthali)
  11. Geuel (Gad)

First Fruits

Because it was the time of the frist fruits, it was the perfect time to see what the land produced. Not only were they viewing the land during "optimal" production season, but it would bear witness to God's glory when the land produced even better crops under the Israelites' dominion. It takes the spies 40 days to scout the entire the land. Upon completion, they return to the congregation with grapes, figs, and pomegranates.

A Positive Report

Initially, the spies bring a good report back to the Israelites. They all agree that the land is good, overflowing with milk and honey as God has promised. The spies also inform the Israelites that the sons of Anak (the inhabitants of the land) are great and strong. The Hittites and Jebusites are also identified as owning the land. Caleb tells the Israelites that he believes they can overtake the people of the land, suggesting they move at once to claim the land.

A Negative Report

Doubt is a common problem amongst people, it may even be the root of all our problems. With the Israelites, specifically, doubt was a constant issue and this occasion was no different. The other spies did not agree with Caleb and feared the inhabitants, despite having God's promise of victory. As a result, they give the people negative reports and call the Anakim giants.

There is much speculation about giants, Nephilim, and the Anakim. These speculations may be fueled by the fact "im" is a common suffix amongst types of angels (e.g. Cherubim and Seraphim). Following this line of thinking, it is not hard to see how people come to the conclusion that angels are involved with Anakim and Nephilim. I talked more in depth about the possibility of half-man, half-angel beings in the post Genesis 6-10: Noah & the Flood. Here, we don't know if the description of the Anakim is literal. For one, we know the spies were spooked and attempting to convince the who nation to abort the plan of attack. Under those circumstances, it seems highly possible that they would exaggerate. The fact that the spies compare themselves to grasshoppers also makes it seem more likely that they exaggerated.

Whatever the case, this information persuades the Israelites to refuse to enter the promised land. Can you imagine walking that far (it's over 150 miles from the border of modern day Egypt to modern day Israel), fighting that hard, and enduring everything they had endured just to get there and refuse to accept your new home? Where did they expect to go if not in to Canaan? From their doubting perspective, they thought God had lead them to a dead end and from God's all knowing perspective, He saw them as distrusting and rejecting Him. The Israelites' constant attitude that they were better off as slaves infuriates God, which is quite understandable.

Joshua & Caleb

Joshua stands with Caleb to convince the people they should fight to claim the land. Together, they try to convince the Israelites to follow God's plan, and though they are unsuccessful, this earns them favor with God. Conversely, the Israelites threaten to stone them. Needless to say, God is not happy with the Israelites' behavior.

Per Numbers 13:15, we see that Joshua, Moses' servant and future leader of the Israelites, is the same person as Oshea and a descendant of Ephraim. The names Oshea, Hosea, Jehoshua (Yehoshua), Osee, and Jesus (Yeshua / Iησοῦς) all translate to the same name, meaning "salvation" or "YHWH is salvation."[1][2][3]

Moses Intercedes

As usual, Moses intercedes to calm God's wrath. He pleads for God forgive the Israelites and points out that if God didn't deliver the Israelites to the promised land the nations who heard their story would say God failed. Being the forgiving God He is, He decides to forgive them, but vows that none of the Israelites who provoked Him would enter the promised land. Only the children of these people (plus Joshua and Caleb who found favor) were granted permission to enter the promised land. It seems a fitting punishment considering they refused to enter anyway.

God Punishes Israel

In addition to banning the current generation of Israelites from entering the promised land, God sentences them to wander for 40 years—one year for each day the spies spent exploring the land. Everyone over the age of 20, excluding Joshua and Caleb, were denied entry to the promised land, including Moses! While the Israelites are punished for being lead astray, those who incited them to stray from God's plan are punished to a greater extent. The 10 spies who brought the negative report were struck with a plague and died soon after. This is a reminder that we are accountable for our actions; the excuse "my pastor told me..." will not exempt us from our responsibility to seek out God or Jesus for ourselves. It is also a reminder that if we are the ones to lead people astray, we will suffer even greater consequences.


  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 253. 2014< /li>
  2. Slick, Matt. "Is Jesus' name really Yeshua?". Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM). 2016
  3. "Joshua". Bible Hub. 2016

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