Moshe sent twelve leaders to view the land. We refer to these men as the “spies” – ‘Meraglim’ מרגלים in Hebrew. But the Torah does not call them spies. Moshe tell them לתור את הארץ “to tour the land”. Really they were sent as “tourists” not as “spies”. What’s the difference between a tourist and a spy? A tourist travels to see the good things. A spy searches out the weaknesses. That was the whole difference of their approach, and where they made their mistake.
Moshe gave them instructions on on what to look for, and told them to bring back some fruit. The idea being to see how good the fruit is in the Promised Land.
They brought back the fruit alright. They picked the biggest cluster of grapes anyone had ever seen. It took eight men to carry it. This would show how great the land it – right?
Well, it depends on how you look at it. Or as they say in today’s “post-modern” world, it depends on your narrative. If you’re looking for the good that G-d is giving to us, you’ll see this fruit and be amazed at what a wonderful land his is giving to us.
But if you’re looking for the negative, you’ll find a way to take something as wonderful as this outstanding fruit and use it to show how bad things are. “If you think this fruit is big, you should see the people there!” In this way they convinced the whole nation that it was impossible to enter the land.
Did they have a conflict of interest? Well… in the desert they were leaders and princes. Once the nation entered the land, would they be needed? Would they win the next election? It’s safer not to find out. Better to convince them not to enter the land so as not to lose our cabinet post.