The Canaan Spies and the Forty Years
(Were women and Levites exempt from the decree?)
by Wayne D. Turner
By considering several passages of scripture, here is what we may conclude about the spies who went into Canaan and the decree from God after their return:
- God commanded Israel to go into Canaan and possess it in the second year.
Deut. 1:21, "Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged."
- The people requested that spies be sent into Canaan first.
Deut. 1:22, "And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come."
- Of those numbered in the census, all will fall in the wilderness except for Joshua and Caleb.
Num. 14:29, "Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,"
Num. 14:30, "Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun."
- This decree probably did not include the women who were above twenty years of age.
In Numbers 14:29 it passes judgment against "all that were numbered of you." Only the men able to fight were numbered from each of the tribes except for the Tribe of Levi.
- Numbers 26:64-65, "But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. For the LORD had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun."
- Deut. 1:35, "Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,"
Deut. 2:14, "And the space in which we came from Kadeshbarnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the LORD sware unto them."
Deut. 2:16, "So it came to pass, when all the men of war were consumed and dead from among the people,"
Josh. 5:6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.
- Likewise, this decree did not appear to apply to the Levites.
They were not numbered among the "men of war."
Eleazar served as a priest (above 30 years old) prior to the spy mission into Canaan.
Eleazar was the priest who succeeded Aaron and served after their arrival in Canaan.
Num. 3:4, "And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priests office in the sight of Aaron their father."
Josh. 14:1, "And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them."
Based upon these scriptures, I think we can conclude that the decree of dying in the wilderness applied only to men above twenty years of age from the twelve tribes, and probably did not include women or Levites.