The Mission of the Twelve Spies (SHS 1 CRS Lesson 4)

Last Updated on April 14, 2023 by Ralph Nyadzi

The major topics we shall cover in this tutorial on the Mission of the Twelve Spies sent by Moses to spy the land of Canaan are whose idea it was to send the twelve spies, the reason for the sending of the twelve spies, names of the twelve spies, what the twelve spies went to look for (or Moses’s instructions to them), the report they brought and the lessons from the twelve spies story.

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At the end of it all, I shall give you a list of very likely examination questions on Moses’s sending of the twelve spies into Canaan.

In case you are a high school student or teacher of either Christian Religious Studies (CRS) or Bible Knowledge (BK), let me remind you that this post forms part of the broader topic, Moses as A Leader, in the CRS syllabus.


The Mission Of The Twelve Spies( Numbers 12:1 – 33, 14: 1 – 19)

The sending of the twelve spies is yet another incident that proved Moses as a leader with admirable leadership skills.

Whose idea was it to send the twelve spies to Canaan?

From the biblical accounts, it was the people of Israel who initiated the move to send men to spy the land of Canaan. Moses readily accepted the idea and sought approval from the Lord.

And it was only after God sanctioned the idea of sending the twelve spies with clear instructions that Moses acted upon it.

Thus,when the Israelites got to the wilderness of Paran, Moses sent twelve spies representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel to spy out the land of Canaan.

Why God Sent the Twelve Spies to Canaan

The reasons why Moses acted upon God’s instructions and sent the twelve spies into Canaan were military and strategic in nature.

Since Moses was the military leader of the Israelites, the responsibility of taking and acting upon important decisions rested on his shoulders.

In this particular instance, Moses needed enough information about Canaan, the inhabitants and the entire land in order to be able to devise the best military strategy to attack and conquer the land.

To be able to achieve his military goals, Moses sent the twelve spies to go and collect this useful intelligence information. He would factor this intel into his overall military strategy in preparation for the anticipated battles.

Moses’s Instructions to the Twelve Spies

Here are the specific instructions that Moses gave to the twelve spies. It is all about the information they must gather and bring back to him about the land of Canaan and the surrounding tribes.

In very broad terms, Moses wanted the twelve spies to survey the strengths and weaknesses of The Promised Land and to discover its economic potential.

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Moses asked the twelve spies to look out for the following in particular.

1. Whether the people dwelling in the land were weak or strong

2. Whether they were few or many.

3. Whether the land was fertile or not.

4. Whether the people dwelt in camps or strongholds

5. Whether there were many trees

6. Whether the land was rich or poor

They must not be afraid but must bring back samples of the crops on the land.

The Names of the Twelve Spies

See below the names of all the twelve spies that Moses sent to the land of Cannan. Each was a representative of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

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  1. Shammua, son of Zaccur from the Tribe of Reuben
  2. Shaphat, son of Hori from the tribe of Simeon
  3. Caleb, son of Jephunneh from the tribe of Judah
  4. Igal, son of Joseph from the tribe of Issachar
  5. Hoshea (Joshua), son of Nun from the tribe of Ephraim
  6. Palti, son of Raphu from the tribe of Benjamin
  7. Gaddiel, son of Sodi from the tribe of Zebulun
  8. Gaddi, son of Susi from the tribe of Manasseh
  9. Ammiel, son of Gemalli from the tribe of Dan
  10. Sethur, son of Michael from the tribe of Asher
  11. Nahbi, son of Vophsi from the tribe of Naphtali
  12. Geuel, son of Maki from the tribe of Gad

The twelve spies that Moses sent searched out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob (at the entrance of Hammath). Then they came to the valley of Eschol.

Report of the Twelve Spies

The twelve spies Moses sent to Canaan stayed there for forty days.

After wandering for 40 days, the spies reported that the land flowed with milk and honey.

As proof, they showed the cluster of grapes brought from the valley of Eschol.

They also revealed that the Canaanites were strong and powerful as their cities were fortified.

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In addition, the majority of the spies mentioned the presence of the fearful and gigantic descendants of Anak, the Amalekites, the Hittites, the Jebusites and the Amorites

Upon hearing the report, the Israelites became frightened. They murmured against God, Moses and Aaron. They wished they had died earlier in Egypt.

Consequently, the Israelites decided to choose a different leader to take them back to Egypt.

Joshua and Caleb’s Report

The prompt intervention of Joshua and Caleb was an attempt on their part to save the situation.

Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to proceed to take over the land with the assurance that the Lord was with them and would give it to them.

Still, the people were not convinced by their assurances. They showed their disappointment by stoning them.

Israel’s Show of Lack of Faith in God

This behaviour on the part of the Israelites was just one instance of Israel’s constant show of lack of faith in God.

God saw the people’s lack of faith as rebellion and decided to destroy them with a plague. But again, Moses pleaded with God to spare them and God heeded his plea.

Nevertheless, God redirected their Journey so that they spent a longer time in the wilderness than was required to reach The Promised Land.

In addition, all those Israelites who were above twenty years would die in the wilderness.

Moral Lessons from the Twelve Spies

Find below the moral and leadership lessons that political leaders of today can learn from The Mission of the Twelve spies.

  • The advice of the majority may not necessarily be the right one.
  • Enough groundwork needs to be done before major decisions are implemented.
  • It is necessary to seek God’s guidance in difficult moments.
  • In times of crisis, leaders should work with courageous people.
  • A few outstanding men could guide the nation in the right direction.
  • With faith in God, we can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Likely Exam Questions on the Sending of the Twelve Spies

The Mission of the Twelve Spies features prominently in most Christian Religious Studies or Bible Knowledge examinations for high school students. This is why I want us to end this tutorial on the Mission of the Twelve spies with very likely exam questions.



Some of the questions are WAEC/WASSCE CRS past questions. All senior high school CRS students and teachers will find them useful.

  • Why did Moses send men to spy on the land of Canaan? What report did they bring back?
  • Describe the mission of the twelve spies.
  • What lessons can political leaders of today learn from the mission of the twelve spies?
  • What evidence is there to show that the Israelites displayed a lack of faith in God’s promise to bring them safely to The Promised Land?

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