The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 34: The Twelve Spies
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Eleven days after leaving Mount Horeb the Hebrew host
encamped at Kadesh, in the wilderness of Paran, which was
not far from the borders of the Promised Land. Here it was
proposed by the people that spies be sent up to survey the country.
The matter was presented before the Lord by Moses, and permission
was granted, with the direction that one of the rulers of each
tribe should be selected for this purpose. The men were chosen as
had been directed, and Moses bade them go and see the country,
what it was, its situation and natural advantages; and the people
that dwelt therein, whether they were strong or weak, few or
many; also to observe the nature of the soil and its productiveness
and to bring of the fruit of the land.
They went, and surveyed the whole land, entering at the
southern border and proceeding to the northern extremity. They
returned after an absence of forty days. The people of Israel were
cherishing high hopes and were waiting in eager expectancy. The
news of the spies' return was carried from tribe to tribe and was
hailed with rejoicing. The people rushed out to meet the messengers,
who had safely escaped the dangers of their perilous
undertaking. The spies brought specimens of the fruit, showing
the fertility of the soil. It was in the time of ripe grapes, and they
brought a cluster of grapes so large that it was carried between
two men. They also brought of the figs and pomegranates which
grew there in abundance.
The people rejoiced that they were to come into possession of
so goodly a land, and they listened intently as the report was
brought to Moses, that not a word should escape them. "We
came unto the land whither thou sentest us," the spies began,
"and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit
of it." The people were enthusiastic; they would eagerly obey the
voice of the Lord, and go up at once to possess the land. But [p. 388] after describing the beauty and fertility of the land, all but two of
the spies enlarged upon the difficulties and dangers that lay before
the Israelites should they undertake the conquest of Canaan.
They enumerated the powerful nations located in various parts
of the country, and said that the cities were walled and very great,
and the people who dwelt therein were strong, and it would be
impossible to conquer them. They also stated that they had seen
giants, the sons of Anak, there, and it was useless to think of
possessing the land.
Now the scene changed. Hope and courage gave place to
cowardly despair, as the spies uttered the sentiments of their
unbelieving hearts, which were filled with discouragement prompted
by Satan. Their unbelief cast a gloomy shadow over the congregation,
and the mighty power of God, so often manifested in
behalf of the chosen nation, was forgotten. The people did not
wait to reflect; they did not reason that He who had brought them
thus far would certainly give them the land; they did not call to
mind how wonderfully God had delivered them from their oppressors,
cutting a path through the sea and destroying the pursuing
hosts of Pharaoh. They left God out of the question, and
acted as though they must depend solely on the power of arms.
In their unbelief they limited the power of God and distrusted
the hand that had hitherto safely guided them. And they
repeated their former error of murmuring against Moses and
Aaron. "This, then, is the end of our high hopes," they said.
"This is the land we have traveled all the way from Egypt to
possess." They accused their leaders of deceiving the people and
bringing trouble upon Israel.
The people were desperate in their disappointment and
despair. A wail of agony arose and mingled with the confused
murmur of voices. Caleb comprehended the situation, and, bold
to stand in defense of the word of God, he did all in his power to
counteract the evil influence of his unfaithful associates. For an
instant the people were stilled to listen to his words of hope and
courage respecting the goodly land. He did not contradict what
had already been said; the walls were high and the Canaanites
strong. But God had promised the land to Israel. "Let us go up
at once and possess it," urged Caleb; "for we are well able to
But the ten, interrupting him, pictured the obstacles in darker
colors than at first. "We be not able to go up against the people," [p. 389] they declared; "for they are stronger than we. . . . 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
These men, having entered upon a wrong course, stubbornly set
themselves against Caleb and Joshua, against Moses, and against
God. Every advance step rendered them the more determined.
They were resolved to discourage all effort to gain possession of
Canaan. They distorted the truth in order to sustain their baleful
influence. It "is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof,"
they said. This was not only an evil report, but it was also a lying
one. It was inconsistent with itself. The spies had declared the
country to be fruitful and prosperous, and the people of giant
stature, all of which would be impossible if the climate were so
unhealthful that the land could be said to "eat up the inhabitants."
But when men yield their hearts to unbelief they place themselves
under the control of Satan, and none can tell to what lengths he
will lead them.
"And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried;
and the people wept that night." Revolt and open mutiny
quickly followed; for Satan had full sway, and the people seemed
bereft of reason. They cursed Moses and Aaron, forgetting that
God hearkened to their wicked speeches, and that, enshrouded
in the cloudy pillar, the Angel of His presence was witnessing
their terrible outburst of wrath. In bitterness they cried out,
"Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would
God we had died in this wilderness!" Then their feelings rose
against God: "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." Thus they accused not only Moses, but God Himself,
of deception, in promising them a land which they were not able
to possess. And they went so far as to appoint a captain to lead
them back to the land of their suffering and bondage, from which
they had been delivered by the strong arm of Omnipotence.
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