Why did it take the Israelites 40 years to travel from Egypt to Canaan yet such a journey even at that time would have taken no more than eleven days?

First, they didn't know where they were going, they just went where they were told. Moses told them that they were being led by God.

Once they got there, the people chose to send in spies to survey the country. 10 of the dozen spies said that they wouldn't be able to take on the people of the land; only Joshua and Caleb showed any amount of faith in God. Because of their disobedience and lack of faith, God told them to turn around and wander in the desert for 40 years, until all but Joshua and Caleb had died ... even Moses.


The Israelites were never likely to have made the journey in ten days considering the delays they experienced. Very early on in their travels, the decision had been made to take a more circuitous route to avoid the warring nation of the Philistines:

Exodus 13:17

'When Pharoah let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ' If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.'

Also, God wanted to teach His people about Himself and his laws. This also took up time. But as referred to above, the major delay by far was because they doubted God's power and showed cowardice.


Exodus 13:17... "The land of the Philistines"

God led the Israelites through the land of the Philistines, hundreds of years before the Philistines were established in Canaan.

see link on left "The Exodus"


When the 40 years of wilderness wanderings were over the Israelites finally entered Canaan through the land adjacent to Jericho. This is just North of the current day Dead Sea to the East side of Canaan. As the Philistines were a seafaring people their land was along the coast.


If one is honestly asking why the people wandered in the desert so long, God answers this question in Deuteronomy 8:2-5. He indicates that He led them all the way in the desert to humble them and test them. He also intimates that He taught them to trust him, He provided for all their needs, and He was disciplining them as a father disciplines his child.