Back again and this time we’ll dig into chapter two.


Whenever I get that “déjà vu” feeling reading the Bible, I know it’s time to investigate. Joshua sends spies into the promised land and I immediately think of when Moses sent spies into the promised land (Numbers 13). What’s different? What’s the same? What’s the deal – haven’t they already spied out this land? Is he just stalling? So let’s take a closer look.

It’s been 40 years at least, so it makes strategic sense to send out spies and see what’s changed. That’s probably the deal and it’s probably not a stalling tactic. So what’s different? The first thing that stands out is who orders this clandestine activity. God ordered Moses to send a chief from each tribe, but Joshua picks two spies (presumably on his own). Moses’s spies (including Joshua) represented all the people and interests of Israel. Joshua’s choices were obviously limited.

Second, let’s look at how these spies were sent out. While this requires some speculation, it would appear that Moses sent out his 12 spies in a grand fashion. He must have created a stir during the selection process that would’ve drawn the attention of everyone in the camp. And based on the return party and reporting process, one might assume they had a pretty big send off as well. This was a big deal, sending these twelve. It had significant ramifications on the future of a nation.

And then we look at Joshua and his spies. Joshua “secretly” sends two spies from Shittim. When I first read that (and many times since), I assumed “secretly” referred to their enemies. (Of course, that didn’t work out too well.) Now that I think about it, though, it may have been a secret from everyone. I mean, the spies are never even named. and they go out, do their business, and returned, reporting only to Joshua. Again, basing this off of the return party of Moses’s twelve spies, and the riots that ensued, maybe Joshua was nervous about the report. Maybe this was something he did without God’s instruction because he wasn’t completely courageous quite yet? That’s speculation, of course, but it seems reasonable.

A third item to examine, the intention of the spies. The twelve were sent to explore the land and get a feeling about what was out there. This was all new territory for a people who had lived their entire lives under Egyptian rule. There were no travel guides or Yelp reviews to reference. This was all unknown. It seems to me, God had Moses send the twelve out to remind Israel why the promised land was worth claiming. It really is a land flowing with milk and honey. It really is amazing to behold. And, for two of the twelve, it really will be delivered to us.

Joshua’s spies seem to be on more of a tactical mission. They were looking specifically at Jericho, the first hurdle, and reporting any weaknesses or opportunities. It was a shorter mission (presumably a few days instead of forty) with a narrow focus. While the twelve were looking for literal fruit (they brought back grapes), the two were evaluating the low-hanging fruit of an early battle.

And finally, besides marveling that I have spent this much time on one verse, we’ll look at the results. The twelve, sent by Moses after God commanded it, returned after forty days apparently undetected. The reports weren’t exactly favorable for the most part, but they didn’t seem to have any run-ins with the subjects of their spying. It was a clean operation. Joshua’s two spies, however, are found out immediately. (Well, based on textual proximity.) They’ve no sooner checked into Rahab’s establishment when the king of Jericho is informed. “There are Israelites here to spy out the land.” Talk about an all-time fail. These spies are terrible.

So, what does this all say about leadership? A few things. First, spies are a good strategy. It’s important to know what you’re up against. Second, letting God lead is a better strategy. The twelve were sent by God’s command and they were protected from exposure. The two were sent by Joshua’s command and they were busted. Again, I’m speculating that Joshua was antsy, nervous, etc., but he later learns what it means to rely on God’s wisdom and sovereignty.

Lastly, discretion may prevent a full-scale riot. Some information is need to know and should be kept under close guard. We seem to have lost this in the digital information age. Everyone seems to think they have a right to know everything and anything. Too much knowledge in the wrong hands can be very dangerous. Knowledge without wisdom, I think it’s called in Proverbs. Believe me as a former database analyst, I’ve seen people look at a lot of data and come up with the most ridiculous conclusions. We need the dashboards, filters, and fancy graphs. As a leader, guard raw data and make sure you trust the people presenting it to you.

peace… love… bdg…