In order to make an example out of those ten spies who feared invading a much more powerful nation, God smites them with disease, and they each die horrible deaths; so reads Numbers 14:36-38. Ten men, gone, just like that. Letís take a minute to think about these men.
Their names were Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel. Each manís father was also named in the bible, now they are childless. Chances are these men had wives who are now widows, children who miss their daddies, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins who will never see them again. Their families would watch them as they got sick, they would sit helpless by their beds as the men grew weak, coughing, wheezing, lungs filling with fluid. They would pray to God to take away their sickness, but it was all in vain, for God was the one who wanted them dead! Finally, after their bodies couldnít take it any more, the disease overtook them, their organs failed, fever boiled their brains, and their loved ones wept by their bedsides.
And if you ask any believer, they must say that this was the morally right thing to do. It doesnít matter that God chose these people, knowing full-well they wouldnít want to invade Canaan, all that matters is that they disobeyed his orders.
And letís just reexamine those orders. God tells the Israelites that they are to invade the land of Canaan, drive out all the native inhabitants, and claim the land as their own. Already, weíre looking at a foreign conquest, an action of which any civilized person should be ashamed. Next, God expects the Israelites to invade a land where they will be hopelessly out-gunned, and when they refuse to carry out his commands, God murders them.
Some may argue that we shoot people for treason, which is precisely what these men did, since they were trying to convince the other Israelites to violate orders. But letís modernize this story and see if it holds up. Say, a general sends out some scouts into a foreign territory, and they return saying the place is crawling with snipers, machine gun nests, and has countless drones flying over head. Then the General says thatís no problem because heís given each of his men a shiny new sword and expects them to walk into the war zone in broad daylight, you just gotta have faith that his orders are correct! Is it treason for the scouts to tell the other soldiers what kind of blood bath theyíre walking into?