grayscale photo of eyeglasses on top of book


The Israelites stayed in their camp before Mount Sinai almost a year,
while they were building the Tabernacle and learning God’s laws given
through Moses. At last the cloud over the Tabernacle rose up, and the
people knew that this was the sign for them to move. They took down the
Tabernacle and their own tents, and journeyed toward the land of Canaan
for many days.

At last they came to a place just on the border between the desert and
Canaan, called Kadesh, or Kadesh-barnea. Here they stopped to rest, for
there were many springs of water and some grass for their cattle. While
they were waiting at Kadesh-barnea and were expecting soon to march into
the land which was to be their home, God told Moses to send onward some
men who should walk through the land and look at it, and then come back
and tell what they had found; what kind of a land it was, and what
fruits grew in it, and what people were living in it. The Israelites
could more easily win the land if these men, after walking through it,
could act as their guides and point out the best places in it and the
best plans of making war upon it.

So Moses chose out some men of high rank among the people, one ruler
from each tribe, twelve men in all. One of these was Joshua, who was the
helper of Moses in caring for the people, and another was Caleb, who
belonged to the tribe of Judah. These twelve men went out and walked
over the mountains of Canaan and looked at the cities and saw the
fields. In one place, just before they came back to the camp, they cut
down a cluster of ripe grapes which was so large that two men carried it
between them, hanging from a staff. They named the place where they
found this bunch of grapes Eshcol, a word which means “a cluster.” These
twelve men were called “spies,” because they went “to spy out the land”;
and after forty days they came back to the camp, and this was what they

“We walked all over the land and found it a rich land. There is grass
for all our flocks, and fields where we can raise grain, and trees
bearing fruits, and streams running down the sides of the hills. But we
found that the people who live there are very strong and are men of war.
They have cities with walls that reach almost up to the sky; and some of
the men are giants, so tall that we felt that we were like grasshoppers
beside them.”

One of the spies, who was Caleb, said, “All that is true, yet we need
not be afraid to go up and take the land. It is a good land, well worth
fighting for; God is on our side, and he will help us to overcome those

But all the other spies, except Joshua, said, “No, there is no use in
trying to make war upon such strong people. We can never take those
walled cities, and we dare not fight those tall giants.”

And the people, who had journeyed all the way through the wilderness to
find this very land, were so frightened by the words of the ten spies
that now, on the very border of Canaan, they dared not enter it. They
forgot that God had led them out of Egypt, that he had kept them in the
dangers of the desert, that he had given them water out of the rock, and
bread from the sky, and his law from the mountain.

All that night, after the spies had brought back their report, the
people were so frightened that they could not sleep. They cried out
against Moses, and blamed him for bringing them out of the land of
Egypt. They forgot all their troubles in Egypt, their toil and their
slavery, and resolved to go back to that land. They said:

“Let us choose a ruler in place of Moses, who has brought us into all
these evils, and let us turn back to the land of Egypt!”

But Caleb and Joshua, two of the spies, said, “Why should we fear? The
land of Canaan is a good land; it is rich with milk and honey. If God is
our friend and is with us, we can easily conquer the people who live
there. Above all things, let us not rebel against the Lord, or disobey
him, and make him our enemy.”

But the people were so angry with Caleb and Joshua that they were ready
to stone them and kill them. Then suddenly the people saw a strange
sight. The glory of the Lord, which stayed in the Holy of Holies, the
inner room of the Tabernacle, now flashed out, and shone from the door
of the Tabernacle.

And the Lord, out of this glory, spoke to Moses, and said, “How long
will this people disobey me and despise me? They shall not go into the
good land that I have promised them. Not one of them shall enter in,
except Caleb and Joshua, who have been faithful to me. All the people
who are twenty years old and over it shall die in the desert; but their
little children shall grow up in the wilderness, and when they become
men they shall enter in and own the land that I promised to their
fathers. You people are not worthy of the land that I have been keeping
for you. Now turn back into the desert and stay there until you die.
After you are dead, Joshua shall lead your children into the land of
Canaan. And because Caleb showed another spirit and was true to me, and
followed my will fully, Caleb shall live to go into the land, and shall
have his choice of a home there. To-morrow, turn back into the desert by
the way of the Red Sea.”

And God told Moses that for every day that the spies had spent in
Canaan, looking at the land the people should spend a year in the
wilderness; so that they should live in the desert forty years, instead
of going at once into the promised land.

When Moses told all God’s words to the people they felt worse than
before. They changed their minds as suddenly as they had made up their

“No,” they all said, “we will not go back to the wilderness; we will go
straight into the land, and see if we are able to take it, as Joshua and
Caleb have said.”

“You must not go into the land,” said Moses.

But the people would not obey. They marched up the mountain and tried to
march at once into the land. But they were without leaders and without
order–a mob of men, untrained and in confusion. And the people in that
part of the land, the Canaanites and the Amorites, came down upon them
and killed many of them and drove them away. Then, discouraged and
beaten, they obeyed the Lord and Moses, and went once more into the

And in the desert of Paran, on the south of the land of Canaan, the
children of Israel stayed nearly forty years; and all because they would
not trust in the Lord.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *