The Sin of the Spies

Numbers 13:1-14:10

In our portion, God tells Moses to choose a representative from each tribe to scout out the land that He has chosen to give the people. Moses selects reliable men and instructs them to examine the country carefully, not only militarily (are the cities fortified? What are the people like?), but also agriculturally (is the land fertile? Bring back a sample of its fruit). The men take forty days to tour the country, bringing back the iconic cluster of grapes so large it requires two men to carry it.


The land is fertile, ten of the men report, but none of that matters because the people are too powerful to overcome. Only Caleb and Joshua insist that if God wills it, the Children of Israel will triumph over the current residents.


The people are distraught by the report, and unwilling to listen to Caleb and Joshua’s counterpoint. They cry out in despair, saying, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would we had died in this wilderness!” (14:2). They lambaste God for having taken them and their children out of Egypt only to die in the so-called Promised Land, and suggest choosing a new leader who will take them back.


As the Israel Bible points out, the sin of the spies is one of the most grievous episodes in the Bible, if not the worst sin mentioned. God forgives many sins throughout the Bible, but for accepting the slanderous report brought by the spies, the entire generation of the desert is punished. Jewish tradition tells us that the sin occurred on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, the same day that later saw the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. This is no coincidence. When the people cried for the “misfortune” of being led to the Land of Israel, God decreed, “You cried on the 9th of Av for no reason; this day will become a day for crying for all generations.” The linkage between the dates in history teaches us that all of Jewish history is the unfolding of God’s divine plan. We must therefore remember to put our unwavering faith in God, to correct the sin of the spies and their generation and thus usher in the Messianic Era.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

The Torah relates that prior to sending off the spies, Moses changes Joshua’s name from Hosea to Joshua. Why do you think he does this?

Comments ( 13 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • NavyTim

    How does this event tie to the 9th of Av? What scripture ties the 10 spies and the sojourners rejection to 9th of Av? Or is there another Jewisn writing that does this? Yeshua bless all of you Shalom

  • Reyna

    Also people accuse the Jews of racism because nations are following against family values and selling their bodies of exchange in order to get benefits. The Jews are fixing the world (Tikkun Olam ) They aren't here to please the world and the Jews are to follow the instructions and please their God and protect their inheritance.

  • Reyna

    People tend to pretend not to see the evidence of their beliefs about the destruction of the Jewish people. They still insist the Jewish people are spying on them. Hashem present their atrocities against the Jewish people on every nation and they reject to see it.

  • Remarkable that the one of Jehuda (Kalev) and one of Efraim (Hosea) are joined together. Both carrying the load of wonderful promises, blessings for the future. (Hosea and Kalev) A name is kind of a prophecy, a kind of description of things to come. So i got my Hebrew name. The name Hosea means salvation. The new name has something more: Jehoshua 's name starts with the first letters of the Name of HaShem. I think that in this change of name Hosea —>Jehoshua HaShem wanted to express His presence in the queest of these two. Maybe it took place in the midst of those who were destined to be sent out to look at the country. And they in that time knew exactly what it meant to get a new name: HaShem is present and in all things HE will save. So be at ease, guys ! Would the name Kalev (=dog) mean that he is someone who is faithful in following the trail G-d had set out ?

    • 🙂 Thank you for those sentiments, Herman. I was also trying to connect the meaning of Caleb to his purpose, and your interpretation is something I agree with – someone faithful in following the trail God had set out.

  • I agree with all your thoughts on the reason for the name change.

  • Sheila

    God’s people were very conscious of the meaning of names, so there was a vital connection between the name and the person it identified so the name represented the nature in some way of the person. Hosea means Salvation and Joshua means Yahweh the Lord is Salvation. I sense that Moses was grooming Joshua as his successor. By changing his name it caused Joshua to realize his potential through Yahweh who was the one who rescued, who delivered and liberated His people.

  • Ken

    I agree with Jesse’s comment. But I have a question or two. Prior to Moses changing Hoshea’s name to Yehoshua , he was previously referred to as Yehoshua eight times in Exodus and Numbers. Were these prior references a private name that only Moses used and he waited until this later time to make it a public name? If not, then how does one explain the earlier uses of the name Yehoshua?

    • Ken I was wondering also. Maybe someone will answer.

      • Ken and Doreen, you are correct that Joshua is referred to as Yehushua a number of times before this event, even though it sounds like Moses changed his name from Hoshea to Yehoshua only now. This leads many commentators to conclude that Moses had indeed changed his name to Yehoshua earlier, when he became Moses' helper, but the Torah only publicizes the name change now.

        • Thank you for the clarity, I was equally confused, previously.

  • Jesse

    As Joshua was chosen by G-d and Moshe to lead the Israelites in the future, Moshe changed Hoshea to Yehoshua to indicate that it would be G-d who saves and not man when entering into the land

    • Diana Brown

      I agree that G-d renames people for the purpose He created them for. What is interesting to me is the reading of the High Priest Joshua and the satan in Zechariah chapter 3. Who is this Joshua? The Joshua we know and love because he was faithful to G-d in the service of Moses was never the High Priest. He was a military commander.

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