The events in Numbers 13 and 14 are both tragic and instructive. The tragedy is obvious to any and all who reads the chapters. The children of Israel had been given a promise by the Lord to take the Canaan land promised to them by Him. Yet, because of fear and unbelief they were spiritually paralyzed and, consequently, died physically in the wilderness.
As one reads and studies the two chapters much is gained that is instructive. But the one thing I always found interesting and instructive in the Book of Acts with regard to the actions of a mob (or crowd of people), I see also manifested here. There is much ignorance associated with a great many in the crowd (19:31-32). Here in Numbers 13 and 14 we learn a little bit about “crowd psychology” (the term is used by Ronald Allen in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary on Numbers).
The task at hand was for those whom Moses sent out to scout the land and bring back a report concerning their experiences. This was done, but of the twelve that were sent out, only two came back with much confidence in the Lord’s mission. The others came back with much fear. This fear of the few permeated the entirety of the Israelite camp.
Let me suggest to you a pattern on crowd (mob) psychology. First, there is an experience by one or more than one that is negative in interpretation. Ten of the twelve scouts (spies) experienced this. Second, this experience turns into a coherent idea, with words/report to follow. Third, there is a starting out with little to no belief in the mission. This will be harder to detect, but in the context of that which was experienced by the Israelites, it became clear that the façade they started with quickly came off. Fourth, the interpretation of the experience turns into fear, or, at the very least, a lack of understanding. This lack of understanding not only pertains to the mission, the execution of the mission, the people engaged in the mission, and even the authority of the one who initiated the mission. Fifth, and last, tell others about. When fear or discomfort grips a person, comfort is needed, and why not tell others in order to receive comfort?
When fear takes hold, it spreads like a virus! Crowd (mob) psychology is not anything that can be reasoned with; once it is in place and takes hold, the only thing that will defeat it will be self-imposed or a military force (Acts 19:35-41). Let us make a simple application to this. Psychology is that which pertains to the thinking of a man. A person will think and act on the information within; if that information is incomplete, or you might think that it is, then be slow to act on it. If you feel there is sufficient amount of information and understanding, then be sure there is a consequence to the act you engage in. Those in Numbers 13 and 14 thought they had sufficient information—and look what it did for them! RT