And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.” (Numbers 13:1-2)
At this point in their journey, Israel was at the threshold of crossing into the land of Israel. Apparently, Moses felt the time was right to begin the conquest of the land, and thus, he selected twelve men to go in to scout the land. Later we find out that the people actually came to Moses with this idea and, as he said, “The thing seemed good to me” (Deuteronomy 1:23). That would explain why, in Hebrew, it says that God spoke to Moses saying, “Shelach l’cha” — which is to say, “You send for yourself.” In other words, the decision was left to Moses whether or not to do this.
That is a very interesting thing to consider — knowing the outcome, God still allowed Moses to make the decision concerning the spies. As we know, the result of this tour was the demoralizing report that caused the people to lose faith in their ability to possess the land. Consequently, that generation were destined to die in the wilderness and the conquest of the land was delayed for 38 years. So why would God allow this to happen? In my view, He permitted this for the same reason He gave them meat to eat — to teach them that what they want, and their way of doing things — is not in their best interests. Why not just believe God and trust Him to do what He said He would do?
In short, why was it necessary to send the spies at all? I think it’s clear that Moses’ objective and that of the ten spies was different. They went to see “if we can take the land” while Moses sent them to see “how to take the land.” Still, it seems that he succumbed to the wishes of the people, and for that, he ended up with a lot of problems. It seems to me then, when we have been given a mandate by the Almighty, it is important that we not be swayed by the thoughts and agendas others may have. While it is important to employ a “multitude of council,” it is equally important that we stay true to the vision that God has given to us. Put simply, we can’t be double minded about what God has instructed us to do.
Blessings and Shalom,