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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Numbers

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PART 2: To Canaan

The second part covers the travel from Sinai to Kadesh and the events along the way.

Ch.10: [Action] Leaving Sinai

- Breaking camp

Ch.11: [Action] Complaints, Fire, Quail, Plague

- First grumblings, discipline, meat provided and plague follows

Ch.12: [Action] Internal Opposition

- Aaron & Miriam complain & are disciplined


FRAMEWORKS: Numbers 11: Complaints, Fire, Quail, Plague


v.1-3 Fire From the Lord

v.4-9 The People Crave other food

v.10-15 Moses Appeals to the Lord the Lord

v.16,17 The Lord calls for Seventy Elders to share Moses' Burden

v.18-20 The Lord says He will Provide Meet in excess

v.21-23 To Moses' Query, the Lord Promises Meat

v.24-30 The Seventy Elders are Anointed with the Spirit

v.31-35 Quail and Plague arrive


[Preliminary Notes: The two chapters that follow might be described by some as ‘spiritual warfare' with two lots of grumblings in this chapter and then a surprising in-family revolt against Moses in the next chapter. We will see the Lord on one hand disciplining some of the people and on the other hand providing help for Moses and then food in abundance on the other. However the provision of Quail [how else was such a large amount of meat going to turn up?] showed that having large amounts of meat left around in the heat of the wilderness would soon turn bad and cause disease and death. As we see in Scripture a number of times, it is as someone has pointed out, the Lord gives us exactly what we wanted even if it turns round and bites us, so to speak. Grace and discipline going hand in hand.]


v.1-3 Fire From the Lord


v.1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

v.2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down.

v.3 So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the Lord had burned among them.


[Notes: A strange case without any real explanation except “it was the Lord” where after there was more grumbling in the camp as they travelled, fire burned around the outskirts of the camp. Assuming it had divine origin, it is thus clearly a limited disciplinary warning. When you compare the things that happened on the journey from Egypt to Sinai, and then, (after much experience of the Lord at Sinai) on the journey from Sinai to the Promised Land, it is almost as if the Lord tolerated their grumblings on the first journey because they were only an embryonic nation, but once they had committed themselves (more than twice) to obey the Lord in covenant relationship with Him, He no longer tolerated their rebellious nature. They should now know better. Not only had they witnessed at a distance His mighty miracles that delivered them from Egypt but, now much closer up at the mountain, they had witnessed His presence in a unique way. If the earlier journey had been full of lessons in trust, this second journey should not have to witness such bad responses. In an earlier chapter we suggested that one of the reasons for God to have chosen Israel was to reveal the sinfulness of mankind and our need of a saviour. Israel are ‘under the microscope', so to speak and don't they reveal their folly and inability to learn to trust God!]



v.4-9 The People Crave other food


v.4 The rabble with them began to crave other food , and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!

v.5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.

v.6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

v.7 The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin.

v.8 The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil.

v.9 When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.


[Notes: Of course not everyone owned cattle or sheep and so now some are complaining that they are fed up with the manna and they want meat. They don't think to ask Moses to petition the Lord to help them but just ‘wail'!]



v.10-15 Moses Appeals to the Lord the Lord


v.10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled.

v.11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?

v.12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?

v.13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!'

v.14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.

v.15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favour in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”


[Notes: Moses senses the Lord's anger and he does petition the Lord but it is more for his own need to spread the load of overseeing this people. He maintains what he has maintained before - “I can't do this! Certainly not alone. I've had enough, kill me if you will.” A desperate leader!]



v.16,17 The Lord calls for Seventy Elders to share Moses' Burden


v.16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.

v.17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.


[Notes: The Lord is not unsympathetic. Call together seventy of those you would consider leaders and bring them to the tent, and I will share power with them.]



v.18-20 The Lord says He will Provide Meet in excess


v.18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it.

v.19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days,

v.20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord , who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”'”


[Notes: But the Lord goes a step further and promises Moses that He will provide meat for a whole month. There will be so much it will almost become a curse for them because of their bad attitudes.]



v.21-23 To Moses' Query, the Lord Promises Meat


v.21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!'

v.22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

v.23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord 's arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”


[Notes: There is a similar feel here to the incident of the feeding of the four thousand in the Gospels [Mt 15:33]. Moses struggles to cope with the idea of feeding the entire nation with meat. God basically says, ‘For me it's not a problem!']



v.24-30 The Seventy Elders are Anointed with the Spirit


v.24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent.

v.25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied— but did not do so again.

v.26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.

v.27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

v.28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

v.29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord 's people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”

v.30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.


[Notes: Moses got the seventy to come to the tent (well 68, because 2 stayed in the camp) and the Spirit came on them and they all prophesied.]



v.31-35 Quail and Plague arrive


v.31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day's walk in any direction.

v.32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp.

v.33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.

v.34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

v.35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.


[Notes: After this a strong wind blew flocks of quail in over the camp and the exhausted quail fell in massive numbers on the camp. Whether the Lord used rotting birds or some other method, plague hits the camp and, it seems, only those who had craved other food and complained died.]