What is the Hebrew connection between spying and feet?

Yesterday we mentioned that there are two different words for ‘spying’ in Biblical Hebrew. The first word ‘La-Tur’ {לתור}  which means ‘to search out’ or ‘to seek’ in Biblical Hebrew (and ‘to tour’ in Modern Hebrew) is the one we can find many times in our weekly Torah portion (‘Shlach Lecah’).

The other Biblical Hebrew word for ‘spying’ is ‘Le-Ragel’ {לרגל} and this is the word which appears in the story of the spies that can be found in the Book of Joshua:

“And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” (Joshua 2:1)

The Hebrew root of this word is R-G-L {ר-ג-ל} which simply means ‘foot’ or ‘leg’ and it refers to the ‘footwork’ that characterizes the spy’s job. The main difference between the first Hebrew word for ‘spying’ (‘La-Tur’) and the second word – ‘Le-Ragel’ – involves the purpose of the spying. In other words, the Biblical Hebrew word ‘Le-Ragel’ describes military spying (a bit like reconnaissance) as can be found in the following story from the Book of Judges:

“So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it. And they said to them, “Go and explore the land.” And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there.” (Judges 18:2)

Today, in Modern Hebrew, the word ‘Le-Ragel’ is the only one to describe the act of spying and it is not necessarily talking about military spying but rather spying in general.