Twelve Spies Explore Canaan
Before deciding how to mount a military campaign against the existing inhabitants of Canaan, Moses needed accurate and up-to-date information about the settlements and their fortifications. To gain this vital intelligence, he sent a dozen ‘undercover agents’ on a six-week mission in c.1445BC to secure details about the defences of the towns and cities that could become future military targets.
Moses sent the twelve spies, including Joshua and Caleb, to explore the whole land of Canaan, from the Kadesh region in the south to as far north as Lebo Hamath – over 150 miles.
The spies travelled north, secretly, for three weeks from the Desert of Zin in the south, beyond Beersheba (where Isaac had settled some three hundred years earlier in c.1730BC) and on past Shechem (where Jacob had set up an altar and bought land for a tomb in c.1691BC). From here they continued north to Rehob and Lebo Hamath (‘Hamath Pass’) in the far north of Canaan near Damascus. On their way back south, they passed Hebron (where Abraham was buried in Machpelah Cave in c.1815BC) and cut a large cluster of grapes from the Valley of Eshcol (‘Eshcol’ means ‘a cluster’) before returning after forty days to the Israelite camp at Kadesh oasis in the Desert of Paran.