Published with Permission
Written by Zan Tyler


The story of Moses sending out the twelve spies to scout out the Promised Land is one of my favorite accounts in Scripture. This story has it all—intrigue and adventure, suspense and drama, rebellion and obedience, faith and treachery, blessing and cursing—even lessons for homeschooling parents on how to teach. It is a story about God, His people, and an assignment.

In Numbers 13:17–20, 25 (HCSB)1 we learn the content of the assignment Moses gives the spies, as well as the manner in which he delivers the assignment.

Important Guidelines for Giving Assignments

1. Moses gave clear directions and told the spies how to get started: “Go up this way to the Negev, then go up into the hill country.”

2. Moses gave the spies specific things to observe and specific questions to answer: “See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. Is the land they live in good or bad? Are the cities they live in encampments or fortifications? Is the land fertile or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not?”

3. Moses addressed the attitude the spies were to have while carrying out this assignment: “Be courageous.” Even though this was a challenging assignment, Moses expected his “students” to have good attitudes. He expected courage—not whining.

4. Moses made this a “hands-on” assignment: “Bring back some fruit from the land.” The hands-on part of the task made sense and was in keeping with their environment at the time: “It was the season for the first ripe grapes.”

5. Moses gave the spies plenty of time to complete the assignment in a thorough manner: “At the end of 40 days they returned from scouting out the land.”

When the spies finished their assignment, they gave an oral report. The account we have is written. We can tell our children with great confidence, “Giving reports is biblical!”

Aspects of the Reports that Moses’s Students Gave (Numbers 13:26–33 and Numbers 15:6–10)

1. The spies gave their report to an audience. “The men went back to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They brought back a report for them and the whole community . . . ” The assignment that Moses gave had real significance both for the lives of the report-givers and the audience.

2. The spies followed Moses’s instructions about where to go, what to observe, and what to bring back (items 1, 2, and 4 in the list above). They reported to Moses: “We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit.”

3. Ten of the spies disobeyed Moses’s instruction about attitude—his command to “be courageous.” As they continued giving their report to the entire community, these ten said:

However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. . . . We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are! . . . The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size. We even saw the Nephilim there . . . . To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.

When confronted with the giants in the land, these spies did not meet the assignment Moses had given with courage and faith.

4. Only two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, obeyed Moses’s instruction to be courageous. Numbers 13:30 tells us, “Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, ‘We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!’ ”

Later we learn in Numbers 14:7–10 that Joshua and Caleb said this to the entire Israelite community: “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!”

5. Even though ten of the spies completed most of the assignment, they failed because of their poor attitudes and lack of faith and courage. Later on in this account we learn that their failure at this point also led to wholesale rebellion within the Israelite camp. Joshua and Caleb, however, were rewarded greatly by God for conducting and finishing the assignment with faith and courage.

Two Components of Excellent Reports

1. Content

The first component of excellent reports is the information they contain. The instructions we give our children will in many ways determine their ability to produce a top-notch report. First we need to give them direction and get them started. We should give them specific questions to answer and things to observe. Then we teach them how to compile research, record observations, and organize the information they have. Don’t forget to include some hands-on activities in the research process. Some reports will be given in written form, some in oral form, and some will include both formats.

2. Attitude, Character, and Faith

God places a premium on attitude, character, and faith. We must too. God rewarded the two faithful spies for these three things. When our children exhibit a good attitude, display strong character, and exercise faith as they do their schoolwork and assignments, we should reward their behavior. It is not enough for our children to complete an assignment. All twelve of the Hebrew spies gave a final report.

Our children’s attitudes while they are working and giving their reports are every bit as important to God as the process of observation, compiling research, organizing information in written or oral form, and giving the final report.

Faith—Part of God’s Scope and Sequence Chart

Our assignment as parents is clear. We need to teach our children to give excellent reports. Excellent reports will contain important information and will be composed with positive attitudes marked by faith and courage. When we give our children assignments, we need to point out that there will be giants in the land. As parents we usually know what circumstances will cause frustration and fear in each child. Part of our daily curriculum should include teaching our children that God is greater than any obstacle or any giant they face in life. Teaching our children to walk by faith, not by sight, can be woven into every part of the day’s assignments—schoolwork, daily living, chores, and social interactions.

Zan is the Director of Apologia Press, a division of Apologia Educational Ministries; the author of 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child’s Potential; and an international speaker. Her goal is to empower and encourage parents in the eternally significant task of homeschooling. Zan and Joe homeschooled their three children from kindergarten through high school, for a total of twenty-one years. In 1984, Zan was threatened with jail by the South Carolina State Superintendent of Education. She founded the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools in 1990 and served as its president for ten years. She also served as the National Grassroots Director for

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices. 


1. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

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