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SPIES (Heb. rāgal, to travel by foot). The custom of sending secret agents to discover facts about an enemy is age-old. The Hebrew word for a spy is suggested by the secrecy with which he did his work—he went stealthily. Joseph accused his brothers of being spies (Gen.42.1-Gen.42.38). Joshua sent spies to Jericho (Josh.6.23). David sent them to see if Saul was with his army at Hakilah (1Sam.26.1-1Sam.26.4). Absalom put secret agents throughout Israel to seize power when they were notified he had become king (2Sam.15.7-2Sam.15.10). Priests and scribes sent spies to entrap Jesus (Luke.20.20).

SPIES (מְרַגְּלִים, תָּרִ֖ים; NT κατασκόπους, ἐγκαθέτους, all meaning spies). Persons whose mission is to gather information secretly in a hostile place.

In the NT, spies are alluded to twice. The scribes and chief priests sent spies to Jesus (Luke 20:20), and Rahab is commended for welcoming the spies (Heb 11:31).


R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1965), 213-240.