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NUMBERS 13 & 14
Under the leadership of Moses, the people of Israel had completed the long and difficult journey from Egypt to the edge of Canaan. It was finally time to enter and conquer the land God had promised to give them.
The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He sent out twelve men, all tribal leaders of Israel, from their camp in the wilderness. One of those twelve men was a man named Caleb, leader of the tribe of Judah.
When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Look the land over. See what it’s like. Assess the people: Are they strong or weak? Are there few or many? Observe the land: Is it pleasant or harsh? Inspect the cities: Are they unwalled or fortified? Examine the soil: Is it fertile or barren? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back samples of the fruit of the land.”
So the twelve spies went up and explored the land. They went as far as Hebron, where the descendents of the giant Anak lived. When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes that was so large that it took two of them to carry in on a pole between them! After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to the Israelite camp.
They reported to Moses and the people of Israel what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. Their report was one of good news and bad news. They said, “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey! Just look at this fruit! But the people living there are powerful, and their cities are huge and well fortified. Worse yet, we even saw giants there—the descendants of Anak!
The people began to murmur, but Caleb silenced them. “Let’s go at once and take the land,” he said. We can certainly conquer it!”
Caleb remembered how the Lord had already provided for Israel since they left Egypt—how He had parted the waters of the Red Sea, how He had provided water from a rock, and how He had rained down manna from the sky. Caleb was sure that God would once again help them if they battled against the people of Canaan.
But ten of the twelve men who had explored the land with Caleb disagreed. “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger that we are.” So they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land. They said, “The land we explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw there are huge. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!
The majority measured the giants against their own strength; Caleb measured the giant’s against God’s strength. The majority trembled; Caleb triumphed. The majority saw great giants and a little God. Caleb saw a great God and little giants.
That night all the people of Israel wept aloud. They grumbled against Moses. They said, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or even here in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be carried off as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a new leader and return to Egypt.”