Scouting Out God's Promises

Discovery for Teachers

Scouting Out God's Promises



Numbers 13:1 through 14:45

“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.” (Numbers 13:30)


Many significant events happened in the land of Kadesh. Moses had disobeyed God in this same land. Both Aaron and Miriam had died there. The Children of Israel had wandered in the land forty years — one year for each day the spies were in Canaan exploring the land. In today’s text, the Children of Israel waited there, near Canaan’s border, for news from the twelve spies.

The “Promised Land” (the Land of Canaan) was relatively small: 150 miles long, 60 miles wide. The spies would have traveled about 500 miles during the forty-day survey of the land. The lush hills were covered with figs, dates, and nut trees. Some of the cities visited had thick, high walls.

In Numbers 14:22, God referred ten times to the people tempting Him. They had:

  • Doubted at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:11-12)
  • Complained about the bitter water at Marah (Exodus 15:24)
  • Complained, again, in the wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:3)
  • Collected more than a day’s portion of manna against the Lord’s instructions (Exodus 16:20)
  • They tried to collect manna on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:27-29)
  • Chided and murmured against Moses for water at Rephidim (Exodus 17:2-3)
  • Committed idolatry by worshiping a golden calf (Exodus 32:7-10)
  • Complained (Numbers 11:1)
  • Complained about the lack of food variety (Numbers 11:4)
  • Failed to trust about entering the Promised Land (Numbers 14:1-4)

God judged those who complained, doubted, and refused to believe His promises. All who were twenty years of age and older — except Caleb and Joshua — were told that their “carcasses” would be wasted in the wilderness.


  1. Read Numbers 13:17-20. What information were the spies to find out?

    The spies were to find out about the people who lived there, their capabilities, and their numbers. Did they live in tents or fortifications? How was the land agriculturally? Did it have trees for wood? They were told to bring back evidence of the “fruit of the land.”
  2. The Lord promised to bring the Israelites to a land “flowing with milk and honey” (See Exodus 3:8,17; 13:5; and 33:3). How did this compare with the report given by the spies after they returned? What conclusions should have been made from this report?

    Numbers 13:27 proves that God’s Word is true: the spies brought back the report, “surely it floweth with milk and honey.” They should have concluded that God also would drive out the inhabitants and give them the land as He had promised. God’s promises are just as sure today. Discuss with your class the effects of answered prayer and the confidence we can have that we will receive what God has promised if we meet His conditions.
  3. What can we learn from the doubting of the Children of Israel?

    The Children of Israel made the mistake of comparing the task to their own abilities rather than the promises of God. Their doubt then turned into rebellion, which led to punishment from God. They had seen many mighty victories, and yet were overcome by doubt. We must be careful not to let doubt rob us of God’s blessings. If we place our trust in God, we know all things are possible.
  4. In Numbers 14:6, we read that Joshua and Caleb “rent their clothes.” What does this mean and why did they do this?

    It was a custom to tear your clothes to show sorrow, mourning, or despair. Despair overcame Joshua and Caleb as they realized the people were refusing to follow God’s direction and obtain the Promised Land.
  5. How did the Israelites react when Joshua and Caleb urged them to enter Canaan? (Numbers 14:10)

    Not only did they contradict what Joshua and Caleb said, but they spoke of stoning them.
  6. Why did Moses intercede for the people (Numbers 14:13-19) after they rebelled? What did his prayer spare them from? How can we intercede for others?

    God said He would destroy all of the Children of Israel and give Moses a new people. Moses truly loved these people and did not want to see them destroyed. His intercessory prayer spared them from destruction. We, too, need to intercede in prayer for those who have “rebelled” against God and have rejected His plan of salvation. Discuss with your class the range of feelings Moses had toward these people, from fierce anger to loving compassion. Ask your students, “Do we pray only for those we love?”
  7. Describe the punishment God placed on Israel. (Numbers 14:34, 37)

    God punished the Children of Israel by making them wander for 40 years–one year for each day the spies were in Canaan. The spies who gave the bad report died in a plague.
  8. When the Israelites realized their error, they attempted to enter the Promised Land anyway and were defeated by the Amalekites and Canaanites (Numbers 14:40-45). What caused their defeat? How can we avoid “spiritual” defeat in our life?

    Once again, they rejected God’s instructions and attempted to do battle in their own strength. We, too, must follow the Lord’s direction and let Him fight our battles. Like Caleb, we are “well able to overcome” when we wholly follow God’s instructions. Ask the students to list ways that we can overcome.


The promises of God are just as sure today as they were in the time of Joshua and Caleb. With God, victories can be won before the battle ever takes place — they are won when we simply trust Him.