Whose idea what it to send spies into Canaan?


One of our members came to me following our class last evening disagreeing with the answer I gave to the question, "Whose idea was it to send spies into the land of Canaan?"  She believes it was the people's idea not God's. I have studied it more and come up with the following.  If you have anything to add, I'm open.

Numbers 13:1-2 tells us the Lord instructed Moses to send spies:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses saying, "Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers' tribes, every one a leader among them."

However, we get some additional information in Deuteronomy 1:22-23:

"Then all of you approached me and said, 'Let us send men before us, that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up and the cities which we shall enter.' The thing pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe."


Apparently, we have something here that is somewhat similar to the decision to appoint judges who were to relieve Moses' burden. The account is given in Exodus 18:13-27. There, clearly, it is Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, who suggested the plan. But he did say, "If you do this thing and God so commands you..." (Exodus 18:23). It appears that it was suggested by Jethro (and who knows but that God was behind it), then ratified by God and implemented by Moses. Then in Deuteronomy 1, we are told of the arrangement without mention that it was originally suggested by Jethro. Rather we are simply told that Moses instructed the people to choose men who could assist him.

So in the case of the spies, putting together the evidence from Numbers and Deuteronomy, it appears that the people did indeed first suggest sending spies, but God then ratified the idea and instructed Moses to do it. But here, as opposed to the matter of the judges, it may well be that the original suggestion was motivated by a lack of faith, just as the people's reaction to the spies' report evidenced a lack of faith in God.

I agree that the idea for the spies originated with the people. However, I don't think a case can be made that it was motivated by a lack of faith. Notice that the people's suggestion pleased Moses and we are told that God commanded the sending of the spies. The implication is that God approved of the suggestion. Or at the very least we can say God did not disapprove of the idea. Recall that "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Thus we could conclude that up to this point the suggestion for the spies was motivated by faith in God. Notice as well the people's reason for sending the spies, "that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up and the cities which we shall enter" (Deuteronomy 1:22). They were not questioning whether they should go or seeking an excuse for not going. They wanted some planning done by their leaders as to which route should be taken and which cities conquered first.

Compare this with a later suggestion by the people that they should have a king. "And the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them"" (I Samuel 8:7). Here again the Lord took the people's request, but He wasn't pleased with it. Thus we know that the people's suggestion was motivated by a lack of trust in God, unlike the earlier request.