“They brought up an evil report of the land” (Num. 13:32)
The term “evil report” is a translation from the Hebrew word dibbah (Strong’s 1681) and apart from “evil report” it could mean whispering, defamation, slander, infamy or unfavourable saying. The word does not necessarily mean incorrect/false report even if it could be translated as such (or a report including half truths), but at least it is a negative description about something.
Moses asked a group of his men to investigate the land of Canaan and he gave them instructions how to go about it. Among other things he wanted to know whether the people in Canaan were strong or weak and their number. He also asked them to bring back some fruit of the land.
Num. 13:17 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: 18And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; 19And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; 20And what the land is, whether it befat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.21So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath. 22And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)23And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. 24The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.25And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. 26And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. 27And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. 28Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.29The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.30And 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. 31But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. 32And 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. 33And 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.
Notice above that Caleb is described as being able to still the people of Israel and encouraged them to go up against the Canaanites because they would certainly be able to be successful despite the children of Anak. Caleb is not the one bringing up an evil report back to Moses, but the other men, who went with him, did. We can read “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. 32 And THEY brought up an evil report of the land”. What is at focus here is the incorrect claim that the Israelites would not be able to conquer the people in Canaan because of their strength. The claim that their defeat would be inevitable was the exact opposite of the message that God wanted to give his people.
The people (the sons of Anak) were described as huge giants, and in comparison the Israelites felt like grasshoppers. The fact that two men carried one cluster of grapes is also an indication of that the sons of Anak were indeed huge people who needed large amounts of food (and preferably genetically modified in order to enlarge it). Why else mention this cluster of grapes and the information that two men carried it between the two of them with help of a stick?
The people of Israel unfortunately believed the evil report, and this is why Caleb and Joshua were highly disappointed (they even rent their clothes) and instead tried to tell the people about the good land that Canaan indeed was, and that God would give it to them as long as they did not rebel against him or feared the current inhabitants:
Num. 14:6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:7 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.8 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.9 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.
However, the people of Israel did not listen to Caleb and Joshua and instead the two men were attacked. The people provoked the Lord by not believing in his consistent promises about the land, which they really should have considering the many miracles that God performed among them:
Num. 14:10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.11 And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?
The inhabitants of Canaan, and other nations, had already heard about the God of Israel, and the many miracles that he did among his people so their arrival was expected. The Israelites did not always obey their God despite of the many miracles, but Moses communicated with God and the Israelites got another chance.
God spoke well of Caleb and described him as a servant who obeyed him fully:
Num. 14:12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.13 And Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou Lord art among this people, that thou Lord art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.15 Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,16 Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.17 And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,18 The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.20 And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word:21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went;and his seed shall possess it.25 (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.)
The problem was again the slander which the spying men (not Caleb and Joshua) made about the land and which made the people of Israel murmur against their God. Those men who brought up the evil report about the land died by a plague:
30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.31 —36 And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land,37 Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord.38 But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still.
Examples of giants
Here you can read bout the giants before and after the flood. Examples of references in the Bible:
Amos 2:9 Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath.
Deu 2:10 The Emim lived there in days gone by, a great and plentiful people, and tall as the Anakim 11 they are reckoned to be giants (rephaim), they too, like the Anakim; but the Moabites call them Emim.
Deu 2:20 That also is accounted a land of Rephaim: Rephaim dwelt therein aforetime; but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim 21 a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakim; but the LORD destroyed them before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead
Deu 3:11 For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the Rephaim; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbah of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man. (15 feet! – or 9 feet depending on if you use the standard cubit or lower forearm cubit) 4,6 meter or 2,7 meter
Deu 9:2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, Who can stand before the sons of Anak?
Pro 25:10 Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy H1681 turn not away.