“Lesson 63: Numbers 13–14,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 63,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
As directed by the Lord, Moses sent 12 spies to explore the land of Canaan and report what they found. After 10 of the spies gave “an evil report” (Numbers 13:32), the Israelites feared that the people in the land were too strong to conquer and lacked the faith they needed to enter the promised land. As a consequence, the Lord declared that they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
Before class, write on the board the following words recited by President Thomas S. Monson. (This rhyme is found in “Dare to Stand Alone,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 61.)
To begin the lesson, invite students to come to the board and list a few circumstances in which they might need to decide whether to defend their faith or standards. If appropriate, you may want to ask students to explain the challenges of the circumstances they listed.
Invite students to look for important lessons as they study Numbers 13–14 that they can learn from Israelites who defended their faith and from Israelites who did not.
To help students understand the context of Numbers 13, explain that the Lord had brought the children of Israel through the wilderness, a land of vast nothingness, near the goodly land that He promised to give them if they were faithful to Him. After they had been in the wilderness for two years, they found the promised land (the land of Canaan) and discovered that it was inhabited by other people. (You may want to invite students to refer to Bible Map no. 2, “Israel’s Exodus from Egypt and Entry into Canaan,” and trace the journey from Rameses to Kadesh-barnea near the land of Canaan.)
Summarize Numbers 13:1–16 by explaining that the Lord instructed Moses to select one member from each of the 12 tribes to carry out an important task. Invite a student to read Numbers 13:17–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Moses commanded these men to do according to the Lord’s instruction.
What did Moses ask the men to find out about the land and the people?
Summarize Numbers 13:21–26 by explaining that the 12 spies spent 40 days investigating the land and then returned with their reports and the fruit they brought from the land. To prepare students to learn about these reports and the response of the Israelites, write the following on the board:
Divide the class into thirds. Invite one group to study Numbers 13:27–29, 31–33 to find the 10 spies’ report concerning the land and the people. Ask another group to study Numbers 14:1–4 to find the Israelites’ response to the 10 spies’ report. Invite the final group to study Numbers 13:30; 14:6–9 to find Joshua and Caleb’s report of the land and the people. As students read, invite them to imagine they are in the positions of the people they are reading about and to ponder the thoughts or feelings those people may have had that prompted them to respond in the ways they did. Explain that after students have read their assigned verses, they will explain what they learned from the viewpoint of the people they read about.
After students have finished studying their assigned verses, use the following activity to ask them to report what they found as if they were one of the people they just read about.
Ask one student to come to the front of the class to interview each of the three groups. Invite one group at a time to come to the front of the class. Invite the student who is acting as interviewer to ask the following questions:
How would you describe the land you saw?
How would you describe the people in the land of Canaan?
What feelings did you have when you saw the people? Why?
What feelings did you have when you listened to the 10 spies’ report? Why?
What did you suggest the people do rather than follow Moses into the promised land? Why?
How would you describe the land you saw?
How would you describe the people there?
The other spies are convinced that Israel cannot overcome the people in Canaan. Why are you so sure that Israel can?
Thank the students for their participation, and ask them to be seated.
Invite the class to silently read Numbers 14:9, looking for a phrase that indicates why Joshua and Caleb believed that Israel could overcome the people in Canaan.
What phrase did you find? (“The Lord is with us: fear them not.”)
What principles can we learn from Joshua and Caleb’s words and example? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: If we know the Lord is with us, we can overcome fear and more courageously stand for righteousness.)
Ask students to ponder times when they have chosen to defend their faith or righteous standards like Joshua and Caleb did. As students ponder their experiences, you may want to read aloud the following statement by President Thomas S. Monson:
“We may at times find ourselves surrounded by others and yet standing in the minority or even standing alone concerning what is acceptable and what is not. Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone? …
“… May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so courageously, strengthened by the knowledge that in reality we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven” (“Dare to Stand Alone,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 60, 67).
When have you felt that God was with you as you stood for righteousness?
How did it help you to know that God was with you?
You may also want to share an experience from your own life.
How did the Israelites respond to Joshua and Caleb?
How would you compare the Israelites’ response to circumstances we might face today when we stand for what is right?
Summarize Numbers 14:11–39 by explaining that the Lord told Moses that there would be consequences for the Israelites’ lack of faith and their choice not to follow the Lord and His servants.
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Numbers 14:21–23, 29–33. Ask the class to follow along, looking for consequences the Israelites would receive.
What consequences would the Israelites receive?
Of all the Israelites 20 years or older, who were the only ones that would be blessed to enter the promised land? (Joshua and Caleb.)
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: To receive all of the Lord’s blessings, we must …
Ask a student to read Numbers 14:24 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for why Caleb would enter the promised land.
Why was Caleb able to enter the promised land?
What do you think it means that Caleb “had another spirit with him”? (As students respond, you may want to point out that Caleb was filled with faith and courage rather than doubt and complaints.)
What do you think it means that Caleb followed the Lord fully?
Invite students to complete the statement on the board based on what they learned from verse 24. Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: To receive all of the Lord’s blessings, we must choose to follow Him fully.
Explain that this principle is illustrated in Numbers 14:40–45. You may want to summarize these verses by explaining that after the Lord declared that the Israelites would not enter the promised land at that time, some of them ignored His words. These Israelites set aside their earlier fears of the people who occupied the land of Canaan and went to battle against them. However, because the Lord was not with these rebellious Israelites, they were defeated.
How can we show the Lord that we will follow Him fully?
As you discuss the preceding question, you may want to invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“[You] will encounter people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps all of His commandments. It takes faith to obey them, and keeping His commandments will strengthen that faith” (“Face the Future with Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 34).
You may want to briefly review the principles students have identified during this lesson and invite a few students to testify of these principles. Consider adding your testimony to theirs. Encourage students to act on the principles they have learned by standing for what is right and obeying all of God’s commandments.
Because many of the Old Testament scripture mastery passages are introduced in context later in the course, you may want to introduce some of them to students earlier in the year. You could do this by periodically introducing a few new scripture mastery passages, inviting students to mark them, helping them understand the meanings of the passages, and finding a way to help them remember the references to the passages. Use the activities in the appendix to help students review and deepen their understanding of scripture mastery passages. With regular review, students will be better able to master key passages of scripture by the end of the course.