Bible Question:

Why was it necessary to have spies go into Canaan, when God said, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.” Was it only a test?

Bible Answer:

Why was it necessary to send spies into the land? God asked for spies to be sent and Moses responded in obedience, just as we should when we do not understand something from scripture. Moses obeyed. That is the short answer.

The wilderness journey of the Israelites is a series of great spiritual examples for us. This example starts in Numbers 13:1-2 when God tells Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan to check it out.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses saying, “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel. (NASB) Numbers 13:1-2

The Spy Story

The spies went into the land and returned with fear in their hearts.

Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. “Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there . . . We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size . . . and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (NASB) Numbers 13:27-28, 31-33

The two spies, Caleb and Joshua, encouraged the people to enter the land. They had remembered the promise of God which is recorded by Moses later in Deuteronomy and then repeated in Joshua 1:1-9.

For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you, to do it, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him; then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you. Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours; your border shall be from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea. (NASB) Deuteronomy 11:22-24

The promise was conditional. If they would behave  in a certain way, then God would give them the land. It is clear that Joshua understood this from his statement he made later in Numbers 14.

And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh . . . spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, ” . . . If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us – a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (NASB) Numbers 14:6-9

Lesson For Us

God tested them just as He had tested Abraham (Genesis 22:1). God had tested them before in Exodus 16:4 and they failed. God is in the business of testing us (Proverbs.17:3) today. Have you had a sense you were being tested? They were! The promise of God did not mean they trusted Him. Someone once said, “Every promise in the book is mine.” But it does not mean much if one does not trust Him and act accordingly, since many promises are conditional. God may promise, but man often doubts.


The problem is our heart. He wants us to be seeking Him (Exodus 33:12-13; Deuteronomy 12:5; Psalm 9:10; Ps. 105:4; Jeremiah 29:13) and loving Him (Matthew. 22:37). He is testing our heart.

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts. (NASB) Proverbs 17:3

The question is, “How will each of us respond to Him during our next test?”

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