SynopsisIn this passage, Moses recounts the sending out of spies, to spy out the Promised Land, before the Israelites went in to take possession of it. (This is referring to the story which originally happened in Numbers 13.)
The story is told a bit differently, however, in Deuteronomy than it was told in Numbers. As you may recall, in Numbers, the LORD told Moses to send in some men to spy out the land (Numbers 13:1–2); but as Moses recounts it in Deuteronomy, the Israelites had reached the Promised Land, and Moses instructed them to go on in, and take possession of it—but the Israelites asked Moses if they could send in spies, first.
Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”
The idea seemed good to Moses, so he went ahead and sent twelve men—one from each tribe—to spy out the land. They came back, and reported that the LORD was giving the Israelites a good land.
ThoughtsBy putting together the two accounts, from Numbers and Deuteronomy, we can get a more full picture of what happened: The Israelites came to Moses and asked him to send in spies; Moses thought it was a good idea, and, obviously, so did the LORD, since Numbers gives Him credit for sending out the spies.
This happens a few places in the Old Testament; sometimes, different accounts of the same story will have different “accountability” for the same events, because, depending on your perspective, the person responsible for a certain thing happening can actually be different. For example, the Deuteronomy account of this event is more straightforward, telling exactly who came to whom, and who made what decisions. The Numbers account, however, simply gives God the credit for it happening. Since it wouldn’t have happened if He wasn’t okay with it, in that respect, it was Him who sent the spies out.
That’s how I read it, anyway.