Beginning of the End


Twelve Spies Survey Canaan

This chapter is based on Numbers 13 and 14.

The Israelites camped at Kadesh, in the wilderness of Paran, which was not far from the borders of the Promised Land. It was here at Kadesh that the people suggested that spies be sent out to look over the country. Moses presented the matter to the Lord, and permission was granted. The men were chosen and Moses told them to go and see the country and the people—whether they were strong or weak, few or many, and to also evaluate the soil and its fruitfulness and to bring some of the fruit of the land. BOE 189.1

They went and surveyed the whole land, returning after forty days. The news of the spies’ return was met with rejoicing. The people rushed out to greet the messengers who had safely escaped the dangers of their risky undertaking. The spies brought samples of the fruit, showing the richness of the soil. They brought a cluster of grapes so large that it was carried between two men. They also brought figs and pomegranates which grew there abundantly. BOE 189.2

The people listened intently as the report was brought to Moses. “We went to the land where you sent us,” the spies began, “It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” The people were enthusiastic—they would eagerly obey the voice of the Lord and go up at once to possess the land. BOE 189.3

But then all but two of the spies started focusing on the dangers and voiced the feelings of their unbelieving hearts, which were filled with discouragement prompted by Satan. Their unbelief threw a gloomy shadow over the congregation. The mighty power of God, so often shown in behalf of the chosen nation, was forgotten. The people did not remember how wonderfully God had delivered them from their slave masters, cutting a path through the sea and destroying the pursuing armies of Pharaoh. They left God out of the question, as though they must depend only on human power. BOE 189.4

In their unbelief they repeated their earlier mistake of complaining against Moses and Aaron. “This, then, is the end of all our high hopes,” they said. They accused their leaders of deceiving the people and bringing trouble on Israel. BOE 189.5

A wail of agony arose, mingled with the confused murmur of voices. One of the spies, Caleb, was brave enough to defend the word of God, and he did all in his power to counteract the evil influence of the unfaithful spies. He did not contradict what the others had said—the walls were high and the Canaanites strong. But God had promised the land to Israel. “Let us go up at once and take possession,” urged Caleb, “for we are well able to overcome it.” BOE 190.1

But the ten, interrupting him, listed the obstacles. “We are not able to go up against the people,” they declared, “for they are stronger then we. ... All the people whom we saw in it are men of a great stature ... and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” BOE 190.2