“And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)
Since they had just been complaining about the lack of variety in their food, the huge cluster of grapes and the other produce must have caused quite a stir. Caleb got them quieted down and recommended they immediately proceed to go into the land, convinced their six hundred thousand man army was enough to face any opponent they might encounter.
“But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:31-33)
The others who had gone stood against Caleb, unwilling to take any risk. Like so many, they were overwhelmed by the size of the task, saying that the people were stronger than they were. Something that holds a lot of people back is the failure to realize any task can be broken down into a series of manageable smaller tasks. Focusing on the total population to be defeated rather than individual cities was daunting.
Intimidated by the size of the task, they began to invent excuses for not trying. They said, “The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof;” What does that even mean? They exaggerated the difficulties they would face. “… all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.” Most of the people were just ordinary in size, but their fear exaggerated the size. They had seen some giants, the descendants of Anak, but as we learn from Joshua 15:14, there were only three of them. Caleb proved they were not invincible by killing all three by himself when he was more than eighty years old. Surely six hundred thousand men could have defeated them.
Unfortunately people failed to ask more details, allowing themselves to be swayed by the number advocating the position rather than obtaining the facts and making their own decision. The majority is not always right.
“And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.” (Numbers 14:1-4)
We have no count of the number who died as a result of complaining about the food but, discouraged by the spies, the Israelites began to complain again, accusing God of just having brought them into the wilderness so they could starve. They completely ignored all the things he had done for them, As David said in Psalm 106:13. "They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:” Rather than seeking God’s direction they decided to elect a new leader and return to slavery in Egypt.
“Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.” (Numbers 14:5-9)
Once people commit to a course of action, it is very hard to change their minds. Recognizing that fact, Moses and Aaron wend directly to the Lord for help. Being somewhat less experienced, Caleb and Joshua attempted to dissuade the people by reminding them of God’s promises and warnings. The people turned on them, threatening to kill them for trying to stop them.
“But all the congregation bade stone them with stones.” (Numbers 14:10)
There are times when only God can get people to change their minds and further discussions are wasted effort. Learning when to back off and allow God to do what he sees fit is crucial.