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Spies to Search the Land

Scripture Passage: 
Numbers 13:1-33

INTRODUCTION: God had promised the Israelites that He had reserved a land of milk and honey for them (Exodus 3:8; Exodus 13:5; Leviticus 20:24). He had even “espied” the land Himself for them (Ezekiel 20:5-6), but they had to see for themselves (see Deuteronomy 1:22-23). They could not take God’s word that He would give them the land. They had to determine for themselves whether or not they could take it. As a result, God removed His blessings and allowed them to walk in their own counsels (Psalm 81:10-12). He let them wander for forty years in the wilderness (Ezekiel 20:13-17).

  1. THE CHOOSING OF THE SPIES (Numbers 13:1-16)
    1. The Commandment of the Lord (Numbers 13:1-3)
      1. The initial request came from the Israelites (Deuteronomy 1:22-23); they wanted to see the land and determine their ability to take it.
      2. God commanded Moses to give them their request (Numbers 13:1-2).
        1. Sometimes God gives us what we want even when it is contrary to His perfect will. That is why submission to the will of the Lord should always be a part of our prayer life (Numbers 13:1-2a).
        2. God told them how to do it; a man from each tribe (Numbers 13:2b).
      3. Moses carried out the commandment of the Lord (Numbers 13:3).
        1. Man’s request was not enough to put him to action.
        2. He chose men who were heads of Israel; important men.
        3. The Lord wants the Israelites to send the very best that they have. They were to choose men who were already natural leaders among their people. God demonstrates to all of mankind that even the best of what we have to offer is cowardly and weak apart from faith in His power.
        4. He sent them from the wilderness of Paran where they were located (Numbers 12:16). This is located in the northeastern section of the Sinai peninsula directly south of Israel.
    2. The Names of the Men (Numbers 13:4-16)
      1. Caleb of the tribe of Judah (Numbers 13:6)
      2. Oshea (Joshua) of the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13:8)
      3. Note: The Levites did not send a spy because the Lord was their inheritance and so there was no need to spy the land.
      4. Changing Joshua’s name (Numbers 13:16)
        1. From Oshea (Hoshea) meaning salvation or deliverance
        2. To Jehoshua (Joshua) meaning The Lord is salvation or The Lord saves
        3. Before Joshua went to spy the land it was important for him to know that salvation was of the Lord and not in his own strength.
  2. THE COMMISSION OF THE SPIES  (Numbers 13:17-20)
    1. His Directions (Numbers 13:17)
      1. Go up by this way southward – they were to go directly north instead of around the Dead Sea as the Israelites eventually enter the land.
      2. Go up into the mountain.
        1. What mountain is not determined.
        2. Probably refers to the entire central mountainous region.
        3. Could refer to the mountain at Hebron (Joshua 14:12) or to the mountain of Isaac’s sacrifice in the land of Moriah (Genesis 22:2; 2 Chronicles 3:1).
    2. Their Purpose (Numbers 13:18-20a)
      1. See the land, what it is (Numbers 13:18).
      2. See the people who dwell there (Numbers 13:18).
      3. See the land, whether good or bad (Numbers 13:19).
      4. See the cities, what kind of dwellings they have (Numbers 13:19).
      5. See the land, whether there be wood or not (Numbers 13:20).
      6. NOTE: Moses obviously emphasized the land and its provision according to the promises of God. Half of God’s promise was that they were coming to a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8; Exodus 13:5; Leviticus 20:24). If this half was true, then certainly God would fulfill the second half of the promise—that He would give them the land (Exodus 6:8; Exodus 12:25: Leviticus 25:38).
    3. Final Instructions (Numbers 13:20b)
      1. Be of good courage (Deuteronomy 31:6-7; Joshua 1:6, 9, 18).
      2. Bring the fruit of the land (Deuteronomy 1:25).
        1. The time of first ripe grapes
          1. According to some sources this would be around the month of August and would only last a month.
          2. This would mean that by the time the spies returned they were bringing grapes from the main harvest time.
        2. Fruit is an outward manifestation of the goodness of the land.
  3. THE SEARCHING OF THE SPIES (Numbers 13:21-25)
    1. Their Journey (Numbers 13:21-22)
      1. Went as far north as Rehob on the way to Hamath (Numbers 13:21)
        1. Hamath was up in Syria.
        2. Rehob was in Galilee in the north of Israel.
      2. Spent extra time in the region of Hebron (Numbers 13:22; see also Joshua 14:12-15)
    2. The Brook Eshcol (Numbers 13:23-24)
      1. Gathered fruit in the valley (Numbers 13:23)
        1. Grapes
        2. Pomegranates
        3. Figs
      2. Called the brook Eshcol meaning bunch, as in a bunch of grapes
  4. THE REPORT OF THE SPIES (Numbers 13:26-33)
    1. The Land (Numbers 13:26-27)
      1. The fruit of the land (Numbers 13:26-27)
      2. A land flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13:27)
      3. NOTE: They confirmed that all that God had said about the land was true.
    2. The People (Numbers 13:28-29)
      1. The people are strong (Numbers 13:28).
      2. The cities are walled (Numbers 13:28).
      3. The giants are there (Numbers 13:28); the children of Anak are also known as Anakim (Deuteronomy 2:10-11, 21; Deuteronomy 9:1-2); God would later destroy them (Deuteronomy 9:2-3; Joshua 11:21-22).
      4. The land is filled with strong nations (Numbers 13:29).
    3. Caleb’s Confidence (Numbers 13:30)
      1. Let us go at once and possess the land.
      2. We are well able to overcome it.
    4. The Evil Report (Numbers 13:31-33)
      1. We are not able to fight these people (Numbers 13:31).
      2. The land eats up its inhabitants (Numbers 13:32).
      3. The giants of the land make us look like grasshoppers (Numbers 13:33).

CONCLUSION: God had shown His power and favor to the Israelites many times and in many ways. He had performed miracle after miracle on their behalf. He now expected them to trust in Him to fulfill His promises. They failed the test of faith.

David Reagan and Andrew Ray

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 26:14

As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.