Moses and Joshua both sent scouts into the land of Canaan. When Moses sent the scouts there are 13 verses (Numbers 13:4-16) spent on listing their names. When Joshua sent the scouts there is one verse (Joshua 2:1) that simply says that he sent two men.

Is there any reason why Moses' scouts are named and Joshua's scouts are left nameless?

  • 1
    Because it's all done quietly and secretly. There is no appointing people from each tribe, or any accountability to the people altogether. It is only Joshua's secret mission...
    – user22655
    Jun 19, 2018 at 22:18
  • @רבותמחשבות Are you saying that because it was a secret mission it's not important for us to be told, or are you saying that it doesn't tell us in order to underscore the secret nature of the mission?
    – Alex
    Jun 19, 2018 at 22:22
  • The latter, I think
    – user22655
    Jun 20, 2018 at 1:28
  • They were men of Shittim.
    – enegue
    Jun 20, 2018 at 4:14
  • (+1) Brave men, risked their lives - why not name them ?
    – Nigel J
    Jun 20, 2018 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


The children of Israel were encamped in Shittim (in Moab, east of the Salt Sea) according to Numbers 25:1. After the spies returned, it is stated in Joshua 3:1 that they 'removed from Shittim and came to Jordan'.

So I believe that the spies were sent 'from' [YLT] or 'out of' [KJV] Shittim not that they were inhabitants of Shittim. I believe these were men of the tribes of Israel.

But why not name them, particularly, as some suppose, they were such fine men as Caleb and Phinehas ?

I think that there might be three reasons, the third being the most powerful of all.

1. Clandestine Activity in General

These men were spies, sent out to infiltrate a foreign land. Special Forces (as they are now called) do not advertise their names. What they do is secretive and some do not quite understand - or agree with - the kind of activity they might get involved in, in order to do their jobs. Thus the anonymity.

Joshua may have kept quiet about this mission, at the start, but later it was publicised and these men (or their descendants) were still among Israel.

2. Clandestine Activity in Particular

These men took the astute move of turning up at the city gate and ... and what ? How did they get in ? Why were they not slaughtered on the spot ? They had no merchandise to trade. They had no reason to be there. Or did they ?

Well, they ended up in the house of an harlot. So was there a quiet murmur at the gate ? Was there a nod and a wink of understanding ? Was there a 'greasing of the hand' to let them in 'just for the night' ?

Who knows how they did it, but they managed it. Brave men.

There is no hint of a suggestion in the narrative that they did anything indelicate. Nor did they hide their intentions from Rahab. They were there on serious business, but not the business in which she engaged. (Presumably to support her father's household, who - perhaps - could not, himself. Such arrangements are common around the world.)

But back in Israel, some might not, well, be quite, ermm, 'comfortable' with such clandestine goings on. So best not say, exactly, who these fellows were - just in case they, or their families, suffered a cold-shouldering because of it in later years.

3. Rahab

But by far the strongest reason, in my own view, is that all the emphasis is given to Rahab, not the spies.

She was even braver. They escaped, but she had to stay. And her family. Had there been further investigation - more suspicion from the King - then Rahab and all her family would at best have been thrown out of the city or at worst have been summarily executed for treason.

And it was this woman, an harlot of a foreign nation, of whom would come, in the Providence and Wisdom of Almighty God, the Christ. Received into Israel, and received, personally, by Salmon to be his wife, she figures conspicuously in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

So all the emphasis is upon this woman, not the spies whom she helped, brave men though they were.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.