After the scouts returned from their trip to the Land of Israel, they gave their report to Moshe, Aharon and B’nai Yisrael. They started with the positive, both in Bamidbar 13:27: “We arrived at the Land to which you sent us, and indeed it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit” and in Dvarim 1:25: “Good is the Land that HaShem, our God, gives us!’”
The scouts continued with a factual report about the cities and nations who lived there (Bamidbar 13:28-29):
However, the nation is mighty, those who inhabit the Land, and the cities are greatly fortified to the utmost, and we also saw the offspring of the giant over there. Amalek lives in the southern part of the land, the Chiti, Yevusi and Emori dwell in the mountain and the Cnaani dwell by the sea and next to the Yarden.
According to Ramban (Dvarim 1:25), after Calev encouraged B’nai Yisrael that they surely could inherit the Land, the scouts chose to continue the conversation later and slander the Land when they were not in the presence of Moshe or Aharon.
We read in Bamidbar 14:1-4:
The entire community arose and raised their voices; and the people wept that night. They murmured against Moshe and Aharon- all of B’nai Yisrael- and the entire congregation said to them: “Would we have died in the land of Egypt or in the desert, would we have died. Why does God bring us into this land to fall by the sword: our wives and infants would be as spoils; is it not better for us to return to Egypt?” They said to each other: “Let us appoint a head and we will return to Egypt.”
What went on that night to cause B’nai Yisrael to become so antagonistic?
Ramban (Bamidbar 14:1) points out that the scouts went into the people’s tents towards evening, after they left Moshe, and in the morning, the people rose early and they all murmured against Moshe and Aharon. And likewise Moshe said (Dvarim 1:27) “You slandered in your tents and said, ‘Because of God’s hatred for us did He take us out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorite to destroy us.’” For it was in their tents that they spoke the words of a complainer as it says in Mishlei 18:8: “The words of a talebearer are like blows and they descend to the innermost parts of the body.”
Ramban explains further (Bamidbar 14:3) that the spies only gave the evil report privately in their tents, they did not say it publicly to the entire congregation since Moshe and Aharon would have testified against them that they spoke falsely.
Ramban believes that the verses in Bamidbar 13:31-33 were said behind closed doors, while Moshe and Aharon were not present: “We are not able to go up against the nation, for they are more powerful than we…The Land through which we have passed to scout it, is a Land which consumes its inhabitants…There we saw the giants…”
Somehow, overnight, when Moshe and Aharon were not around, the scouts convinced B’nai Yisrael that God was bringing them into the Land where they would fall by the sword and that their wives and infants would be as spoils, therefore it would be better to return to Egypt.
Despite everything that God had done for B’nai Yisrael so far- saving them from the Egyptians, feeding and taking care of them in the desert, promising that He would fight for them and take care of them in the Land of Israel, they were still willing to accept a negatively skewed report that was told to them privately.
We can learn from here that we need to beware of what happens behind closed doors and take rumors with a grain of salt if they were started quietly by people who are too embarrassed to be upfront and out in the open.