By Mark Gerson
As discussed in last week’s column, in Numbers 12 we see God’s anger (directed at Aaron and Miriam) when words are used purposelessly to malign another person. In Numbers 13 and 14, we see a similar anger when the Jewish people commit a mass sin of lashon hara—this time against themselves.
This sin is known as the “Sin of the Spies” or the “Sin of the Scouts.” After two years in the desert, the Jewish people are poised to enter the land that God promised them. For reasons that the text leaves tantalizingly open to interpretation, Moses sends scouts to learn about the land.
But why do the people need to scout out the land that God promised them before entering? Why does God tell Moses to send scouts? Why, if God wants Moses to send scouts, does God tell His prophet to send them “if you please”? And why would Moses let the scouts give their report to the entire nation before briefing him privately?
Read more at Caleb, Joshua, and the Grasshoppers.