About 1275 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, God spoke unto Moses about formulating a scouting party of twelve men to enter into the land of Canaan for the purpose of spying out the land which he had promised unto Abraham. After wandering in the wilderness of the vast Sinai for 40 years, Moses led the children of Israel northward from the Gulf of Aqabah to the eastern edge of the Jordan River, near the ancient city of Heshbon. The Israelites were refused a right of passage by the Edomites and ended up having to fend off the Amorite army of Sihon. Not far from the shadows of Mt. Nebo, the children of Israel finally found themselves within eyesight of the Promised Land. Moses could scale up Mt. Nebo and peer over and beyond the Jordan Valley into the land which so long ago had been promised to the forefathers of Israel. His heart yearned to cross the Jordan. Now near the end of his life, Moses obeyed the Lord and assembled together a surveying party to cross into the land to evaluate the prospects for a successful entry into the Promised Land. But Moses never managed to ever set foot in the Promised Land! But with hope in his heart, and an abiding faith in God, he longed for the hearing of a good report on the land.
Numbers 13:1-33 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. And Moses by the commandment of the Lord sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel. And these were their names: of the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur. Of the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori. Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh. Of the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph. Of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea the son of Nun. Of the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu. Of the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi. Of the tribe of Joseph, namely, of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi. Of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli. Of the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael. Of the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi. Of the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun, Jehoshua. And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first-ripe grapes. So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath. And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
And so it was that Moses assembled a ruling elite of the twelve tribes of Israel, and formed an advisory committee among them, and charged them with the responsibility of
assessing the fertility of the land, and the defensive ability of the occupiers in the land, the size of their armies, and the structure of their cities. The twelve scouts were also to estimate the inventory of wood in the land, its watershed, and the projected productivity of the land. Moses also commanded them to return with tangible evidence, such as agricultural produce and maps. The twelve scouts included Shammura, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Oshea, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nabi, and Geuel. It is worth noting that Moses renamed Oshea, by calling him Jehoshua, or Joshua. Perhaps Moses changed Oshea's name because he had a unique understanding of the destiny of being surnamed as a deliverer of Israel. Joshua means “Jehovah saved”.
Of the twelve scouts that sojourned for the forty days spy excursion in Canaan, only two of their number returned to Moses with a glowing report of the land and a genuinely optimistic outlook for a military conquest of the land. Ten of the twelve, (83.3%) an overwhelming majority, although having witnessed the fruitfulness of the land, decided to devise a false report of the land, and report that to Moses because they greatly feared the “occupiers of the Promised Land.”
The reluctant ten scouts rumored their evil report among the people that the land of Canaan was actually a land that literally devoured its inhabitants, because of its harsh living conditions. Their evil report undoubtedly came as a grand disappointment to Moses. I am almost certain that Moses was fully anticipating following up the espionage report with a grand invasion into the Promised Land, as he fervently believed that God would make it possible for Israel to overcome any obstacles that might be presented in the pursuit of acquiring the land. In reality, the evil report of the reluctant scout-warriors reflected the overwhelming lack of faith that Israel really had in Jehovah to deliver the Promised Land unto them.
Only Caleb and Joshua quieted the anxieties of the people before Moses, and compelled upon the Israelites that they indeed could overcome the adversary in the land.
Ironically, at least from a prophetic standpoint, Caleb was the scout-representative from the tribe of Judah, the tribe that would one day produce the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ! Unfortunately, the majority of the people in the 12 tribes could only perceive that the inhabitants of the land were larger and stronger than they were. By focusing on the size of their enemy, they forgot about the strength, wisdom, and promises of God. All they could perceive was that they would be overwhelmed by the giants in the land, and left to die in the wilderness.
Numbers 14:1-11 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not. But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me?
Thus, while the children of Israel accommodated the evil report of the land brought by the ten reluctant warriors, Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua besought the Lord. Finally they compelled upon the people to remember the mighty miracles that God had wrought on their behalf when he delivered them from their bondage back down in Egypt. Undoubtedly they also recounted all of the many miracles God had rendered to sustain them during the times of their wanderings in the wilderness of Paran and the Sinai.
Caleb and Joshua were entirely focused on the strength of the Lord and thus were able to see the weaknesses of the Canaanites, Jebusites, Amalekites and Hittite peoples that occupied the land. They viewed the land as being promised to them, and therefore they reflected upon the power of the one who had made the promise, and that he had brought them to the doorstep of the Promised Land, and given them this Divine opportunity to enter into and occupy the land.
The ten reluctant warriors symbolized a national spiritual rebellion against the Lord, and their succeeding actions of conspiring to stone Caleb and Joshua for encouraging the people to possess the Promised Land angered God. Jehovah appeared before Moses in the tabernacle and vented his frustration with Moses regarding the unfaithfulness of the chosen nation. The Lord God Jehovah demonstrated to Moses that the people of Israel were a stiff-necked people, refusing his Ten Commandments and cavorting with pagan Gods, and now they mocked him by refusing to depend upon him to deliver the Promised Land into their hands. But Moses beseeched the Lord to remember his promise. Moses recounted to the Lord that the pagan nations that had observed and witnessed God's mighty demonstration to deliver Israel from Egypt, and knew that God was with Israel. Therefore the nations of the world would accuse the Lord of not being able to bring the children of Israel into possession of the Promised Land, as he had promised! And so the Lord pardoned Israel on behalf of the faithfulness of Moses, Caleb, and Joshua, but he delivered the unfaithful of Israel into the hands of the enemy.
And so today, The Lord will continue to be true to his promise to grant Israel full title and possession of the Promised Land. But he is still testing the gathered remnant of Israel to gage their faith, and their dependence upon him. As Caleb so adequately stated 3275 years ago,” if the Lord delight in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us!