Bible Review 19:5, October 2003

Spy Tales

By Rose Mary Sheldon

Daily news reports from the Middle East are filled with tales of espionage, terrorism and counterintelligence operations. So is the Bible.

Indeed, some of the most dynamic biblical figures—Moses, Joshua, David, Delilah and Judith—either act as spies or command others to spy. It’s not surprising, when we recognize the Bible as the history of a people leaving, reentering, conquering, losing and returning to the land of Israel.

An understanding of military operations not only sheds light on how these shifts in Israel’s settlement history occurred, it also offers insight into some of the more unusual maneuvers of the Bible’s most cunning spies.

Although advances in technology have changed the methods, the underlying motivations for clandestine activity have remained the same since biblical times. Established rulers, whether ancient or modern, develop intelligence services for the defense of their countries, for political expansion, for the internal security of the state and their dynasties, and for the maintenance of control over their subjects. Leaders of occupied peoples have different intelligence needs: They run secret networks to foment rebellions, take back land and plan terrorist activities in the hope of liberating themselves. The Holy Land has witnessed both kinds of intelligence.

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