Twelve Tribes and Twelve Spies

11_Twelve Tribes and Twelve SpiesScripture Reference: Numbers 1-2, 13-14

Suggested Emphasis: God helped the Israelites conquer Canaan. He can give us strength to overcome obstacles.

1 Background Study_BBB        2 Story Introduction_BBB        3 Telling the Story_BBB        4 Review Questions_BBB        5 Learning Activities_BBB        6 Other Online Resources_BBB

Story Overview:

The Lord commanded that Moses take a census (counting the number of people) of the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses appointed one man from each tribe to spy out the land of Canaan. When the spies returned, ten of them convinced the Israelites that the people of Canaan were too big and strong to overcome. Only two spies, Joshua and Caleb knew that they could overtake the Canaanites with God’s help. Because of the people’s unbelief, the Lord said that none of the Israelites over twenty years old would live in the promised land. Only Joshua and Caleb were the exceptions. Because of their lack of faith, the people would now wander in the wilderness for forty years.

Background Study:


Way to Introduce the Story:

Take a census. Count how many people in your class today. Now count people in other bible classes. You might want to count people “secretly” like the spies did. You could just quietly count the adults in the adult class making sure that you are all so quiet that they do not notice you. Come back to the classroom and write your results on the board. “When you count people you are taking a census. We took a census of our class [and others]. God told Moses to take a census of all the people who were travelling together.”

The Story:

Ways to Tell the Story:

This story can be told using a variety of methods.  Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.

Review Questions:

  1. What did it mean when God told Moses to take a census? To count the people
  2. How many tribes were the Israelites divided into? Twelve
  3. How many spies took a look at the new land? Twelve
  4. What did ten of the spies report? The enemy is too strong and big for us.
  5. Who were the two spies that believed God would help Israel win the new land of Canaan? Joshua and Caleb
  6. Because the people did not trust in the Lord, how many years would they have to wander in the desert? 40


Learning Activities and Crafts:

(How to choose the best learning activities for my teaching situation)

  • Send out your spies! Let the children try to count the number of adults in the adult class or children in another class without those people knowing it (you might want to mention this before class to the teachers of those classes)
  • Play “I Spy” (For a variation you might spy things on the timeline if you have done one. Example: “I spy with my little eye . . . something hard with writing on it. Answer- the Ten Commandments).
  • Use the maps in the back section of a bible to show Egypt, Canaan, and the Jordan River. Many of them show how the Israelites wondered after the incident with the spies.
  • Review the Ten Commandments and the other memory verses this term.
  • Act out difficult situations where God gives us strength.
  • The help children understand the concept of the nation of Israel being divided into twelve tribes bring a pizza to class and divide it into twelve slices (Thanks, Cristy Neves, New Zealand for this great idea).
  • Here is a Song/Poem about the 12 Spies submitted by Jenny Ancell, Australia.  I’m only sorry I don’t know the tune for the song.
  • Here is a PowerPoint Slideshow about the 12 Spies or in a printible format: Pictures about the 12 Spies to help explain some background information concerning the 12 spies and the places they would have seen.  Submitted by Marvin Ancell, Australia.
  • Craft: Use plastic cups and purple paint to paint a cluster of 12 grapes and then write the names of each tribe inside the grapes. Adapt this plastic cup printing method (2 minute 27 second video) at
  • Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.

Printables pic
Click here for “Twelve Tribes and Twelve Spies” printables to print (A4 paper)
Click here for “Twelve Tribes and Twelve Spies” to print (Letter size-USA)

Other Online Resources:


2 Responses to Twelve Tribes and Twelve Spies

  1. Susan says:

    Make Spy glasses from toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls. Let the children decorate the tubes with stickers/or markers.

Teachers learn from teachers! Share your ideas here.

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