The 12 spies sent into Canaan; their report; Moses’ intercessory prayer for the children of Israel; God’s pardon, but refusal to allow Israel to enter the Promised Land; laws concerning offerings, sins, and the Sabbath.


Leaving the wilderness of Sinai, the children of Israel were led northward until they reached Kadesh-barnea, the southern tip of the land of Canaan. For the first time, they were actually able to see the land God had promised to them. Before going into possess the land, a leader from each of the 12 tribes was chosen to spy out the land for 40 days.

As the 12 spies brought back their report, there was complete agreement that Canaan was, indeed, “a land that flowed with milk and honey” (13:27), but 10 said that overcoming the obstacles in the land was an utter impossibility. Only Joshua and Caleb said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it for we are able to overcome it” (13:30). As one writer so aptly put it, “The ten put the difficultly between themselves and God. The two put God between themselves and the difficulty. The ten saw with the eye of the flesh. The two saw with the eye of the faith.”

The outcome is history. Israel first refused to believe, then rebelled, even suggesting that Joshua and Caleb be stoned, and that a new leader be appointed to lead them all back to Egypt. The result: 38 years of wandering in the wilderness. (Note: A total of 40 years, one year for each day the spies were in Canaan Num. 14:33-34.) And what a tragedy! The entire generation of people who were age 20 and above at the time of their glorious exodus from Egypt was condemned to die in the wilderness, having never experienced God’s purpose in bringing them out. They picture many (most?) believers today, who like Israel, refuse to trust God’s promise to grant them victory over their enemies (the world, the flesh, and the Devil), and refused to trust God to grant them entrance into the fullness of life, rest, fruit, and blessing in Christ (Canaan).

As we begin chapter 15, God begins the transitional part of the Book of Numbers (chapters 15-20), which covers the 38 years of wilderness wanderings where the old generation died off. To help us understand just how much “dying” actually took place, Dr. Leon Wood (A Survey of Israel’s History) notes:

“Figuring 1,200,000 (600,000 of both men and women) as having to die in 14,508 days (38½ years), gives 85 per day. Figuring 12 hours per day maximum for funerals, gives an average of seven funerals per hour for all 38½ years, a continuous foreboding reminder of God’s punishment upon them.”


As the GLORY OF GOD Num. 14:22 (Heb. 1:3; John 1:14; II Cor. 4:6)