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The rabbis teach that the oral law was given at Mount Sinai and that the first teachers of the oral law were the 70 leaders of the community who are described as "the helpers of Moses" and later, "the judges".

If the oral law is so special and contains such great wisdom, then why did all 70 of these men die wandering around in the desert?

Shouldn't it have been obvious to these "Torah Sages" that Moses was the spokesman for God ?

  • It seems clear the spies were very convincing – Double AA Apr 17 '16 at 1:19
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    Just for clarification, what about teaching the oral law s relevant to this question? Could they have been men of great wisdom without teaching the oral law? Does teaching the oral law preclude being convinced of something? – rosends Apr 17 '16 at 1:31
  • the point is: if the first teachers of the oral law made a mistake and refused to enter the land promised to abraham, Isaac and jacob, then it is very possible the teachers of the oral law today are also making a mistake... – Dror Ben Ami Apr 18 '16 at 13:48
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    @DrorBenAmi Indeed, humans are humans. That's why we have Machlokot. No one claimed humans are Gods (except Christians, perhaps). But humans are still pretty good and God told us to follow them. Doctors make mistakes too, but we still go to them when ill and trust them. – Double AA Apr 18 '16 at 14:27
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The elders are not mentioned, either because they were already above 60 (and not subject to the punishment) or they were quiet because they could not testify that the spies were not telling the truth because they had not seen the land. Also, anyone who might have objected was swamped by the masses who were in a panic.

Note that even though there may have been individuals who might have refused to accept the report of the spies, the people as a whole panicked to the point where they overrode any individuals who might have objected. Only Yehoshua and Calev risked their lives to speak up and were rewarded by explicitly being told that they would survive past the 40 years of wandering. The punishment was given to the entire generation between the ages of 20 and 60. This implies that the people who were already above 60 lived out their natural lifespan (which was probably less than 40 additional years). No-one who died at the natural end of their life span in the desert would have been mentioned.

I also explain this at Why were the Jews punished for 40 years if the spies were the ones who were there for 40 days? and point out

The punishment was that all those who should have been in the army and insisted on not listening to the spies (ages 20 to 60) were allowed to live out their "service life" and were punished by dying at age 60.

  • Nowhere is it written that those above the age of 60 were spared... – Dror Ben Ami Apr 18 '16 at 13:48
  • @DrorBenAmi Actually, the meforshim say that the punishment applied to the ages 20 to 60 just as the census included only those from 20 to 60. Rav hirsch among others says that it why the punishment was 40 years so that those who were 20 at the time could reach 60 before dieing. As Rav Hisrc, "Rabbi Scroll" and others point out, only those included in the census were included in the punishment. – sabbahillel Apr 18 '16 at 13:52
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    @DrorBenAmi The reference is in the phrase וְכָל־פְּקֻֽדֵיכֶם֙ לְכָל־מִסְפַּרְכֶ֔ם All those counted [in the earlier census]. – Double AA Apr 18 '16 at 14:32
  • and , of course, they were there so they know this for a fact......where in the Torah does anyone die at 60? – Dror Ben Ami Apr 20 '16 at 3:21

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