“H’Shem spoke unto Moshe, saying: Send thou men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:1-2, JPS 1917 Tanach). Yet, this does not give the complete details, as later revealed in Torah. In Deuteronomy, it is written, “Behold, H’Shem thy G-d hath set the land before thee; go up, take possession, as H’Shem, the G-d of thy fathers, hath spoken unto thee; fear not, neither be dismayed (Deuteronomy 1:21, JPS).
These are words of encouragement; however, the people responded with caution, requesting of Moshe, “Let us send men before us, that they may search the land” (Deuteronomy 1:22, JPS). This is the prior conversation between Moshe and the people, before the opening words of the parashas, where H’Shem literally says, if you would like to send men, send men for yourself.” In other words, H’Shem left the actual decision to Moshe, whether or not to grant the request of the people to send out spies into the land of Canaan.
Previously, B’nei Yisrael had been told that they “would inherit their land, a land that flows with milk and honey” (Leviticus 20:24). When the ten spies spoke of the fruit of the land, including a cluster of grapes, carried by four men, on two sets of poles, crossways, and a giant pomegranate, they concurred that the land was truly, a land of milk and honey. Yet, they continued with their words to the people, by interjecting the conjunction, but, proceeding to give a negative bias on the local inhabitants, and the land itself.
The people were demoralized by their report; consequently, they were not intent on entering the land at that point in time. This is the generation that H’Shem decreed, would pass away during the next thirty-mine years of wandering in the desert. Hence, only the young ones at the time would enter the land. For, this decree excepted the women and children; only the men eligible for the legion, who were fit for battle passed away, as if by natural causes, over the next thirty-nine years. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, who had a “different spirit,” the ten other spies were consumed immediately.