The Spies Revisited

Jul 14, 2015

וַנִּסַּע מֵחֹרֵב וַנֵּלֶךְ אֵת כָּל־הַמִּדְבָּר הַגָּדוֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא הַהוּא אֲשֶׁר רְאִיתֶם דֶּרֶךְ הַר הָאֱמֹרִי כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֹתָנוּ וַנָּבֹא עַד קָדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ׃

We set out from Horeb and traveled the great and terrible wilderness that you saw, along the road to the hill country of the Amorites, as Hashem our God had commanded us. When we reached Kadesh-barnea,

Deuteronomy 1:19

וַתֵּשְׁבוּ בְקָדֵשׁ יָמִים רַבִּים כַּיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר יְשַׁבְתֶּם׃

Thus, after you had remained at Kadesh all that long time,

Deuteronomy 1:46

Moses now turns to discuss the reason the Israelites are still in the wilderness. Moses reminds them that 38 years earlier  the people had approached him asking to send spies to check out the land they were about to inherit, ostensibly to form a battle plan. Moses had selected 12 leaders from among them for the task who, he says, brought proof of the glory of the Promised Land. But, the people rejected God’s gift saying it would be impossible to conquer a land inhabited by giants.


According to Moses, he then tried to calm the people, assuring them that with God’s help, they could accomplish anything. The people did not believe him, though, and despaired of ever reaching the Land of Israel.


God heard the complaints of the people, Moses continues, and decided to wipe out the generation that slandered the land, save Caleb and Joshua, who alone spoke well of the land. Upon hearing the news, Moses reminds the people, the generation of the desert regretted their rejection and tried to enter the land anyway, but it was too late. God did not help them and those who tried were wiped out. The survivors were destined to wander the desert for forty years, slowly dying out. In this way only their children, those now standing before Moses, could enter the land.


The Israel Bible points out that this account emphasizes how special the Land of Israel is. Even the spies, who came back with slander, determined to bad-mouth the Promised Land, could not help but praise its bounty.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

There are many discrepancies between the account of the spies described here by Moses and that recorded in Numbers 13-14. Why do you think that is? Why might Moses have opted to modify the details for this audience?


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