Lesson: 12 Spies and 40 Years of Wandering

This free Children’s Church lesson plan was first written for elementary aged students. It covers the story of Moses sending the 12 Spies out and the result of their 40 years of wandering. This material could also be used as the Bible lesson for children’s Sunday school. Be sure to consider your own ministry context and modify it as needed. Please leave any feedback or suggestions for improvement in the comment box at the bottom of this page. We also have a preschool lesson about the 12 Spies.

Bible Story:12 Spies and 40 Years in the Wilderness
Scripture: Numbers 13:1-3,18-20,26-32 & 14:1-9,22-24,29-34
Target Age Group: Age 6 – 11 (U.S. Kindergarten – 5th Grade)
Time: 20 Minutes
Learning Context: Children’s Church
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Learning Objectives: After this lesson, the children will demonstrate an understanding of the story of the 12 Spies by being able to tell the main parts of the story to the teacher.

Items Needed:

  • Bible: Numbers 13:1-3,18-20,26-32 & 14:1-9,22-24,29-34. There is a detailed explanation below to help bring out some of the important parts of the story.
  • Different activities to choose from (puzzles, books of the Bible, memory, etc)
  • 1 piece of paper for every 4 children, pencils
  • Bible Verse written on a piece of paper (x2), scissors, tape, 2 paper clips
  • Optional – 12 Spies Booklet PDF
  • Optional – Crossing the Jordan River coloring page

Worship: Use Moses Songs (extra print out) PDF to lead the children to sing before the Bible lesson. You can also browse our recommendations for children’s worship music.

Teaching Plan: The Building of the Tabernacle

Welcome Activity: Welcome activities are things to have out for the children to do as they are arriving for class. These activities will get them engaged as soon as they arrive and will help the transition from their parents.

Have different activities available for the children to choose from (puzzles, books of the Bible, memory, etc.)

Worship: Moses Songs

Bible Lesson Introduction: Play “I Spy” with the class.

Bible Lesson

  • What part of the Bible is Numbers in? The Old Testament
  • What book of the Old Testament is Exodus? #4

Read Numbers 13:1-3,18-20,26-32 & 14:1-9,22-24,29-34 (NIRV) aloud to the children. Have the children listen for the list of items that God wants the “spies” to check out.

1 The Lord spoke to Moses. He said, 2 “Send some men to check out the land of Canaan. I am giving it to the people of Israel. Send one leader from each of Israel’s tribes.”
3 So Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. He sent them as the Lord had commanded. All of them were leaders of the people of Israel.

18 See what the land is like. See whether the people who live there are strong or weak. See whether they are few or many.
19 “What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Do the towns have high walls around them or not? 20 How is the soil? Is it rich land or poor land? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” It was the season for the first ripe grapes.

26 The men came back to Moses, Aaron and the whole community of Israel. The people were at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There the men reported to Moses and Aaron and all of the people. They showed them the fruit of the land.
27 They gave Moses their report. They said, “We went into the land you sent us to. It really does have plenty of milk and honey! Here’s some fruit from the land.
28 “But the people who live there are powerful. Their cities have high walls around them and are very large. 30 Then Caleb interrupted the men who were speaking to Moses. He said, “We should go up and take the land. We can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him spoke. They said, “We can’t attack those people. They are stronger than we are.” 32 The men spread a bad report about the land among the people of Israel. They said, “The land we checked out destroys those who live in it. All of the people we saw there are very big and tall.

1 That night all of the people in the community raised their voices. They sobbed out loud.
6 Joshua, the son of Nun, tore his clothes. So did Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. Joshua and Caleb were two of the men who had checked out the land. 7 They spoke to the whole community of Israel. They said, “We passed through the land and checked it out. It’s very good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he’ll lead us into that land. It’s a land that has plenty of milk and honey. He’ll give it to us.
9 “But don’t refuse to obey him. And don’t be afraid of the people of the land. We will swallow them up. The Lord is with us. So nothing can save them. Don’t be afraid of them.”

22 The Lord said, “And you can be just as sure that these men will not see the land I promised to give them. They have seen my glory. They have seen the miraculous signs I did in Egypt. And they have seen what I did in the desert. But they did not obey me. And they have put me to the test ten times. 23 So not even one of them will ever see the land I promised with an oath to give to their people of long ago. No one who has made fun of me will ever see it.
24 “But my servant Caleb has a different spirit. He follows me with his whole heart. So I will bring him into the land he went to. And his children after him will receive land there.
29 ” ‘You will die in this desert. Every one of you who is 20 years old or more will die. Every one of you who was counted in the list of the people will die. Every one of you who has spoken out against me will be wiped out. 30 I lifted up my hand and promised with an oath to make this land your home. But now not all of you will enter the land. Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, will enter it. So will Joshua, the son of Nun. They are the only ones who will enter the land.
32 As for you, you will die in the desert. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for 40 years. They will suffer because you were not faithful. They will suffer until the last of your bodies lies here in the desert. 34 For 40 years you will suffer for your sins. That is one year for each of the 40 days you checked out the land. You will know what it is like to have me against you.’

Discuss Bible Lesson
1 The Lord spoke to Moses. He said, 2 “Send some men to check out the land of Canaan. I am giving it to the people of Israel. Send one leader from each of Israel’s tribes.”
3 So Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. He sent them as the Lord had commanded. All of them were leaders of the people of Israel.

God sent 12 men out to check out the land that He was giving them.

18 See what the land is like. See whether the people who live there are strong or weak. See whether they are few or many.
19 “What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Do the towns have high walls around them or not? 20 How is the soil? Is it rich land or poor land? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” It was the season for the first ripe grapes.

God is listing for them the things that He wants information about. He doesn’t need the information, but it’s for the people of Israel.

26 The men came back to Moses, Aaron and the whole community of Israel. The people were at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There the men reported to Moses and Aaron and all of the people. They showed them the fruit of the land.
27 They gave Moses their report. They said, “We went into the land you sent us to. It really does have plenty of milk and honey! Here’s some fruit from the land.
28 “But the people who live there are powerful. Their cities have high walls around them and are very large. 30 Then Caleb interrupted the men who were speaking to Moses. He said, “We should go up and take the land. We can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him spoke. They said, “We can’t attack those people. They are stronger than we are.” 32 The men spread a bad report about the land among the people of Israel. They said, “The land we checked out destroys those who live in it. All of the people we saw there are very big and tall.

10 of the spies came back with a bad report about the land. Caleb spoke up and said that they should go ahead and attach.

1 That night all of the people in the community raised their voices. They sobbed out loud.
6 Joshua, the son of Nun, tore his clothes. So did Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. Joshua and Caleb were two of the men who had checked out the land. 7 They spoke to the whole community of Israel. They said, “We passed through the land and checked it out. It’s very good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he’ll lead us into that land. It’s a land that has plenty of milk and honey. He’ll give it to us.
9 “But don’t refuse to obey him. And don’t be afraid of the people of the land. We will swallow them up. The Lord is with us. So nothing can save them. Don’t be afraid of them.”

22 The Lord said, “And you can be just as sure that these men will not see the land I promised to give them. They have seen my glory. They have seen the miraculous signs I did in Egypt. And they have seen what I did in the desert. But they did not obey me. And they have put me to the test ten times. 23 So not even one of them will ever see the land I promised with an oath to give to their people of long ago. No one who has made fun of me will ever see it.
24 “But my servant Caleb has a different spirit. He follows me with his whole heart. So I will bring him into the land he went to. And his children after him will receive land there.
29 ” ‘You will die in this desert. Every one of you who is 20 years old or more will die. Every one of you who was counted in the list of the people will die. Every one of you who has spoken out against me will be wiped out. 30 I lifted up my hand and promised with an oath to make this land your home. But now not all of you will enter the land. Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, will enter it. So will Joshua, the son of Nun. They are the only ones who will enter the land.
32 As for you, you will die in the desert. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for 40 years. They will suffer because you were not faithful. They will suffer until the last of your bodies lies here in the desert. 34 For 40 years you will suffer for your sins. That is one year for each of the 40 days you checked out the land. You will know what it is like to have me against you.’

God is letting the people know that He is not happy with them. They will all die in the desert (everyone who is 20+ years or older). No one, except Joshua and Caleb’s tribes, will see the Promised Land.

Bible Lesson Activities: Use the following activities to reinforce the learning goals. If time is short, move on to the evaluation portion of the lesson plan.

Activity: Building a Tabernacle

  • Have each group draw a line down the middle of their paper (from top to bottom)
  • Have them label one side “Pro” and the other side “Con”
  • Have them discuss in their groups about the pros and cons of going into the land – they can reference their Bibles and the story if they want
  • When they are finished – talk about what side they would be on

Activity: Bible Verse Memorization
“The Lord spoke to Moses. He said, “Send some men to check out the land of Canaan. I am giving it to the people of Israel.” Numbers 13:1-2 (NIRV

Have the children do the following hand motions along with repeating the words after you, to help them learn the Bible Verse:

The Lord: point to the ceiling
Spoke to Moses: motion with hand as though saying something
He said, “Send some men: point to people in the class
To check out: put hands up as though holding binoculars and looking through them
The land of Canaan: motion with hands – flat like showing land
I am giving it to the people of Israel: point to people in the class
Numbers 13: hold up all 10 fingers and then 3 fingers
1 & 2: hold up 1 finger and then 2 fingers

Do this a few times with the children. Make it fun for them to do the motions and say the words. Involving them in active learning is essential for memorization.

Activity: Bible Verse Puzzles

  • Before class, cut the Bible Verses into pieces and attach the pieces with a paper clip.
  • Split the children into 2 groups
  • Give each group a paper clipped Bible Verse
  • The group must tape the verse together and then be able to say it as a group

Evaluation:
Have the children tell the main parts of the story back to you. Make sure that they have the parts in order.

Need More Ideas? Then browse our list of children’s  Sunday School material or use our Questions for Bible trivia.


Comments

  1. Charles Agerl says

    Thank God for this ministry. The lesson is fantastic. I pray for more grace

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