The Israelites Complain
1 When the people complained, it displeased the Lord. When the Lord heard it, his anger burned, and so the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outer parts of the camp. 2 When the people cried to Moses, he prayed to the Lord, and the fire died out. 3 So he called the name of that place Taberah because there the fire of the Lord burned among them.
Complaints about Food
4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except this manna!” 7 (Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its colour like the colour of bdellium. 8 And the people went about and gathered it, and ground it with mills or pounded it in mortars; they baked it in pans and made cakes of it. It tasted like fresh olive oil. 9 And when the dew came down on the camp in the night, the manna fell with it).
Moses’ Complaint to the Lord
10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and when the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, Moses was also displeased. 11 And Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you afflicted your servant? Why have I not found favour in your sight, that you lay the burden of this entire people on me? 12 Did I conceive this entire people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your arms, as a foster father bears a nursing child,’ to the land which you swore to their fathers? 13 From where shall I get meat to give to this entire people, for they cry to me, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat!’ 14 I am not able to bear this entire people alone, because it is too heavy for me! 15 But if you are going to deal with me like this, then kill me immediately. If I have found favour in your sight then do not let me see my trouble.”
The Response of God
16 The Lord said to Moses, “Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know are elders of the people and officials over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting; let them take their position there with you. 17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take part of the spirit that is on you, and will put it on them, and they will bear some of the burden of the people with you, so that you do not bear it all by yourself.
18 “And say to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, and you will eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat, for life was good for us in Egypt?” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat. 19 You will eat, not just one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out your nostrils and makes you sick, because you have despised the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we ever come out of Egypt?”’”
21 Moses said, “The people around me are 600,000 on foot; but you say, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ 22 Would they have enough if the flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? If all the fish of the sea were caught for them, would they have enough?” 23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you will see whether my word to you will come true or not!”
24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. He then gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and had them stand around the tabernacle. 25 And the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to them, and he took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but did not do so again.
Eldad and Medad
26 But two men remained in the camp; one’s name was Eldad, and the other’s name was Medad. And the spirit rested on them. (Now they were among those in the registration, but had not gone to the tabernacle.) So they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!” 28 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his choice young men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29 Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for me? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses returned to the camp along with the elders of Israel.
Provision of Quail
31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and brought quail from the sea, and let them fall near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side, and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about three feet high on the surface of the ground. 32 And the people stayed up all that day, all that night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail. The one who gathered the least gathered ten homers, and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth, before they chewed it, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague.
34 So the name of that place was called Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people that craved different food. 35 The people travelled from Kibroth Hattaavah to Hazeroth, and they stayed at Hazeroth.
C H Spurgeon
Numbers 11:1. And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD:
Interpreters cannot make out what they had to complain of. The curse of labour had been removed; they did not earn their bread with the sweat of their face, for it fell from heaven every day. They were at no expense for clothing; and though they journeyed, their feet did not swell. I suppose that they complained of the weather. It was too cold; it was too hot; it was too wet; it was too dry. They complained when they stood still; they were much too long in a place. They complained when they marched; they moved too often. In fact, they were very like ourselves; they often complained most when they had least to complain of. Discontent is chronic to our humanity; and I do not believe that the poorest are the most discontented. It is often the very reverse. When a man is put in a place where be has nothing to complain of, especially if he is an Englishman, he feels quite out of place. He must have something to grumble at, something or other to be a grievance, or else he is not happy. “When the people complained, it displeased the Lord.”
Numbers 11:1. And the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
He could hear their first murmurings, as they were new to the wilderness, they were hungry, they were thirsty, and the Lord pitied them. But now, when there was no reason for their complaining, his fire in terrible judgment visited his people, on account of their rebellion and murmuring against the goodness of God.
Numbers 11:2-4. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched. And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them. And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting:
All evil seems to begin there, among “the mixt multitude”, as it does among those church members who are unconverted, and among those people who try to hold with the hare and run with the hounds, those who want to be Christians and worldlings, too.
Numbers 11:4. And the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
Even the true people of God caught the infection of the scum that was mixed with them, and they fell weeping, and said, —
Numbers 11:5. We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
Fine stuff that to recollect! “Why!” say you, “you have read before something very much like that.” I am reading another record; but there is no originality in grumbling; it is always the same old thing over again. You might well suppose that I was reading in the Book of Exodus, but I am not; there are many years in between. He who sitteth down with a discontented hand to paint a picture will paint the same picture that he painted before. There is no originality in the murmuring, although they put in a few new touches. Before, it was the flesh pots that they remembered; now, in addition to the flesh, there are these savoury vegetables, “the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick.”
Numbers 11:6. But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
Here they pour contempt upon the bread of angels, upon the food of heaven, upon the benison of God. Oh, what will men not complain of?
Numbers 11:7. And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
A fine white colour, like a pearl.
Numbers 11:8. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
At first they thought it was like wafers made with honey. Getting more used to it, they, perhaps, described it quite as accurately, but not quite so sweetly; they said it was like fresh oil, and there is no better taste than that. Oil, by the time it comes to us, has usually a rank and rancid taste; but in the oil countries it is delicious; and he who has bread and a drop or two of oil, will find himself not ill supplied with a dinner. “The taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.”
Numbers 11:9. And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.
God took care to preserve his precious gift, encasing each single particle of it within a drop of dew, which gave it freshness. And when truth comes to us encased in the dew of the Spirit, how sweet is its taste! May it be so to us whenever we feed on Christ!
Numbers 11:10. Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.
And no wonder; meek man as he was, they vexed his gracious spirit by their perpetual murmurings. As we read this sad story, let us, as in a glass, see ourselves; and let us deeply repent of our murmuring and complaining, and henceforth sing —
“I will praise thee every day!
Now thine anger’s turn’d away.”