Story of Counting/Spying
2 Timothy 2:2 – Hear, Entrust, Teach, Multiply!
“Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; San and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt (Joseph’s sons – Manasseh, Ephraim).” – Exodus 1:1-5
During their 430 years in Egypt, God exponentially multiplied the numbers of Israel’s descendants. They grew from a family of 73 individuals into a nation of at least several million people. You may be thinking, “how do we know this?” Read Numbers 1:1-54.
God commanded Moses to take a census of the men capable of fighting twenty years of age and older.
- Reuben – 46,500
- Simeon – 59,300
- Gad – 45,650
- Judah – 74,600
- Issachar – 54,400
- Zebulon – 57,400
- Ephraim – 40,500
- Manasseh – 32,200
- Benjamin – 35,500
- Dan – 62,700
- Asher – 41,500
- Naphtali – 53,400
- Total – 603,550 Men
Not counted were the women and children, the elderly, or the tribe of Levi. The census taken at Mt. Sinai proved that God had done just what He promised to Abraham.
“I will make you a great nation.” – Genesis 12:2a
The book of Numbers starts slowly for casual readers of the Bible. The first nine chapters cover the taking of the census, information concerning the priests and other Levites, various laws and offerings, and the second Passover celebrated at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
In chapter ten, the Chosen People head north to enter the Promised Land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Later, the ground opens up and swallows people, a donkey talks, Moses’ sister gets leprosy and is healed, and twelve spies are sent into a territory flowing with milk and honey.
Upon returning from Canaan, Moses and the people received a mixed review from the spies. Ten of them reported that although the land was rich and prosperous, all that God said it was, it was also filled with large fortified cities inhabited by giants, the Nephilim (see Genesis 6:1-4). What was their consensus? “We cannot take the land. We shouldn’t even try!”
Two men contested the testimony of the unbelieving ten. Their names? Joshua and Caleb.
“We should, by all means, go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” – Numbers 13:30
The sad reality is that God’s people forgot all that He had done for them. Freed them from slavery to the most powerful man on earth, parted the Red Sea, destroyed Pharaoh’s army, fed them in the desert with bread and meat from heaven, and gave them water from rocks. Their collective history provided all the evidence necessary concerning what God could and would do on their behalf.
But, God’s Chosen People forgot their own story. The majority of the spies convinced most of the people that they would die if they attempted to take the land God promised would be theirs.
Then, as now, most people make decisions based on what they perceive as being in their own best interest at the time. Humanity has almost always sacrificed its future in exchange for immediate comfort and convenience.
How did that work out for Israel? That is what the next lesson is all about.
Talk Thru the Bible – OT Lessons
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Read Numbers 1:1-54, 10:1-14:45
- While still at Mt. Sinai, God ordered a census of all men capable of fighting, twenty years of age and older. The only tribe not counted was Levi, as they would serve the Lord continually at the Tabernacle. The total number of men counted was 603,550. The census suggests a total population of about 3 million, perhaps even more.
- Heading for the Promised Land, the Israelites set up camp at Kadesh Barnea. From there, Moses sent twelves spies into Canaan. They were gone for 40 days and nights.
- Upon returning, the spies gave a divided report. Ten men said that while the country was everything God said it was, there were also large fortified cities inhabited by giants. Their advice was not to enter the land. Only Joshua and Caleb counseled the nation to take the land as their own. The nation followed the advice of the majority.
- What reasons can you think of about why God wanted a census of Israel to be taken?
- Complaining and negativity have a damaging impact on both individuals and groups of people. Explain the source of complaining among the Hebrews. What lessons are there for you concerning complaining and negativity?
- What should have motivated Israel to follow God into Canaan and take the land?
- What consequences have you experienced as a result of refusing to obey God? Have the consequences for your sin been suffered by others?
Make an “I will” Statement.
- Based on your study of Counting / Spying, what will you think, say, or do differently starting today?
- Who will you tell your “I will” statement to that will hold you accountable.