Numbers 11 – The People Complain
A. The complaints of Israel and of Moses.
1. (1-3) The complaining heart of Israel.
Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched. So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the Lord had burned among them.
a. Now when the people complained: In the first 10 chapters of Numbers, Israel was ordered, organized, cleansed, separated, blessed, taught how to give, reminded of God’s deliverance, given God’s presence, and the tools to advance to the Promised Land. Now, having set out towards Canaan, after just a few days the people complained.
i. We might think it strange that a people so blessed could still complain. God did so much in and for Israel; yet they still murmured against Him. They were still in the wilderness and their circumstances were not easy, but nothing good came of it when the people complained.
ii. According to Allen, when the people complained “could also be translated, ‘Now the people became truly murmurous, an offense to Yahweh’s ears.’”
iii. “What the cause of this complaining was, we know not…. But surely no people had ever less cause for murmuring; they had God among them, and miracles of goodness were continually wrought in their behalf.” (Clarke)
b. The people complained, it displeased the Lord: Their complaining made God displeased. Complaining hearts often displease God, especially when they show little gratitude for what He did in the past, and little faith for what God could do at the moment.
i. We aren’t told here exactly what Israel complained about. It is possible that it simply came from a generally dissatisfied heart. Sometimes we complain not for any one great reason, but because our hearts are dissatisfied.
c. The fire of the Lord burned among them: Israel had valued the pillar of God’s fire present with them every night. Here, that the fire and the presence of God became something of a two-edged sword. God’s fire was present with Israel to comfort them, but it was also present to deal with their sin.
i. “The text does not make clear what was burnt on this occasion, whether it was just shrubs near the tents, or some of the tents themselves. However, the people realized the danger they were in and appealed to Moses to pray for them.” (Wenham)
ii. “Either a supernatural fire was sent for this occasion, or the lightning was commissioned against them, or God smote them with one of those hot suffocating winds which are very common in those countries.” (Clarke)
iii. Consumed some in the outskirts of the camp: “This purging fire was limited to the outskirts of the camp, a mercy of the Lord. He might have cast his fire into the very midst of the camp and killed many more persons than suffered this terrible judgment.” (Allen)
d. The people cried out to Moses: Ideally, Israel would have cried out to God directly. Because they lacked a strong sense of relationship with God Himself, they brought their cry to Moses instead of bringing it to the Lord.
e. When Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched: Moses prayed for the people, and the fire was quenched. The place was named Taberah (“burning”) as a reminder of God’s judgment of the complaining hearts among Israel.
2. (4) Israel complains about a lack of meat.
Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat?
a. Now the mixed multitude who were among them: Exodus 12:38 says that a mixed multitude went out of Egypt. This means that not everyone in the great crowd that came out of Egypt with Moses were ethnically Israelites. There were many Egyptians (and perhaps other non-Israelites) who went with them. This may be because they were also slaves in Egypt, and perhaps because the God of Israel showed Himself more powerful than the gods of the Egyptians.
i. We first read of the mixed multitude in Exodus 12:38: A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock. The statement in Exodus shows that they were wealthy, having ‘flocks and herds, even very much cattle.’ Perhaps that accounted for the willingness of the people of God to permit them to accompany them.
ii. “The fact that they, had such possessions would seem also to ·suggest that they were more than adventurers. They had a certain interest in the migration–one of curiosity, perhaps. The only thing that is certain is that they were not of the Theocracy; and not having true part or lot in the Divine movement, they fell a-lusting after the things of Egypt, and infected the people of God with the same unholy desire.” (Morgan)
iii. There is also a spiritual sense in which Israel was a mixed multitude. That is, not who were descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had a genuine, real relationship with God. This is also true of the visible church, which Jesus said would contain good and bad until the final harvest (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).
b. Yielded to intense craving: The Hebrew word here is taavah; it is also used in passages like Genesis 3:6, 1 Samuel 2:16, Job 33:20, Psalm 10:3 for the strong desire for something pleasant, but perhaps (though not always) sinful.
i. The people of Israel had to yield to this intense craving; their sinful desire would not be fulfilled unless they cooperated with it. James 1:14 says but each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. The attraction to sin is present within us, yet we must still yield to that sinful desire in choosing to sin.
ii. Allen on intense craving: “The verb can be used for positive and proper desires but is especially fitting for feelings of (improper) lusts and bodily appetites.”
c. Who will give us meat to eat? This was a strange question to ask, considering they had a God in heaven that met their every need. It seems that some in Israel looked for another provider because they were not satisfied with what came to them from the hand of God. They were so distraught over this they wept.
i. Tears of repentance or sorrow over sin or experienced as joy in the Lord can be beautiful. However, it is also possible for people – even among God’s people – to shed tears over childish disappointments.
ii. Israel could have provided meat for themselves. God did not prohibit them to hunt whatever animals they could in the wilderness. and they also had their flocks, which could be slaughtered for meat. Yet they did not want to do anything about their desire for meat, except to weep about it.
iii. “They had indeed flesh and cattle which they brought with them out of Egypt, but these were reserved for breed to be carried into Canaan, and were so few that they would scarce have served them for a month.” (Poole)
3. (5-6) Israel remembers the foods of Egypt.
We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!”
a. We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt: About a year before this, God responded to Israel’s complaints by providing miraculous food for Israel (Exodus 16:11-35), which they called manna (Exodus 16:31). After a year of eating mainly manna, Israel now longed for the foods they (sometimes) ate as slaves in Egypt. The first food mentioned was the fish we ate freely in Egypt, because there were no fish in the wilderness.
i. They also mentioned cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic – all juicy, crunchy, or flavorful foods they sometimes ate as slaves in Egypt. Exodus 16:3 records a similar complaint about a year earlier: When we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full!
ii. “Goshen in the eastern Nile delta was practically the breadbasket of Egypt, lush with vegetation and abounding with natural and man-made canals whose waters teemed with fish and were replete with nutrients for abundant crop production. The foods listed were among the most commonly grown in the region.” (Cole)
iii. As the people of Israel claimed to remember their supposedly good life in Egypt, they sinned with ingratitude, selective memory, and twisting the past to justify their present complaints. There were no doubt some good and pleasant times and meals for the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, but in general their Egyptian masters made their lives bitter with hard bondage (Exodus 1:14).
iv. In one sense, the memory of the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic was not a lie. They were times they ate such things. Yet in a greater sense, this was a lie because it chose to remember one small, good aspect of their slavery in Egypt, while ignoring the much greater bitter and hard bondage of their slavery. It can be a trap to remember only the good (or only the bad) of the past.
v. “They forgat their servitude. Discontent is ever harping upon wants, and enjoys nothing: no more than Haman did his honour, or Ahab his kingdom, when he longed for a salad out of Naboth’s garden.” (Trapp)
vi. Israel fell in love with an illusion from the past (the thought that their life in Egypt was wonderful). Instead, they should have looked for what God had for them in the future – the milk and honey of Canaan (Exodus 13:5). God’s people should have the attitude later expressed by Paul in Philippians 3:13-14 – pressing forward, looking ahead, and not focused on the past.
b. Nothing at all except this manna: It seems Israel complained that manna was not exciting enough, that it was boring. This terrible lack of thankfulness was nothing less than to have despised the Lord (Numbers 11:20).
i. There were at least three distinct times when Israel complained about God’s provision of food: Exodus 16:1-3, Numbers 11:4:34, and Numbers 21:4-9. In Exodus 16 they complained about the lack of food; in Numbers 11 they complained about the lack of variety, and in Numbers 21 they were again dissatisfied with manna.
ii. God is our provider; to despise what He provides is to despise Him. It is not God’s job to entertain us, and we should be more than children who demand to be entertained and excited.
iii. “They could never be satisfied; even God himself could not please them, because they were ever preferring their own wisdom to his. God will save us in his own way, or not at all; because that way, being the plan of infinite wisdom, it is impossible that we can be saved in any other.” (Clarke)
c. Now our whole being is dried up: These words sound over-dramatic from a people who were fed by the manna that came to them that morning. In their complaining, Israel not only romanticized the past, but they also exaggerated the problems of the present. To say, “our whole being is dried up” was a terrible exaggeration. God would not allow them to waste away in the wilderness. In fact, God provided their every need – though not their every desire.
i. Israel focused on what they didn’t have. It was true – they didn’t have the fish and several kinds of vegetables listed. However, they seemed to completely forget what they did have – daily, miraculous, nutritious provision from God that could feed a nation in the wilderness. Many since that time have followed the same dangerous path of forgetting what God has provided and focusing on what one does not [yet] have.
4. (7-9) A description of manna.
Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil. And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it.
a. Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium: This passage and Exodus 16 give the most detail about what manna was like and how God provided it.
· “Manna” was Israel’s name for this substance (Exodus 16:31), because they didn’t know what it was (Exodus 16:15). God called it bread from heaven (Exodus 16:4, Psalm 78:24) and angel’s food (Psalm 78:25).
· Manna was given by God to Israel as a test of their obedience (Exodus 16:4).
· Manna was given by God in double measure on the sixth day, so Israel could rest from collecting it on the seventh day (Exodus 16:5).
· Manna appeared in the morning, liked dew on the ground (also in Exodus 16:13-14).
· Manna “melted” away later in the morning (Exodus 16:21).
· Manna was a small, white, and fine as frost on the ground (Exodus 16:14), like a white coriander seed (also in Exodus 16:31) Some (such as Wenham) suggested that manna came as little white flakes.
· Manna was collected family by family (Exodus 16:16).
· Manna that was kept for the following day spoiled (Exodus 16:19-20)., except for that which was gathered on the sixth day for the sabbath day (Exodus 16:23-26).
· Manna was prepared in a variety of ways (ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it).
· Manna was sweet to the taste, like wafers made with honey (Exodus 16:31). It tasted like pastry prepared with oil.
· Manna was eaten by Israel for 40 years, until they entered Canaan (Exodus 16:35).
b. Its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil: In fact, manna was excellent provision. It was as tasty as a bread-like pastry that was cooked with oil (perhaps something like a modern donut or pancake). Yet, manna provided all nutrition the people of Israel needed for a long journey through the wilderness.
5. (10-15) The complaint of Moses.
Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased. So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now; if I have found favor in Your sight; and do not let me see my wretchedness!”
a. And the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased: The childish weeping of the people not only angered the Lord; it also displeased Moses. This frustration drove Moses to God, and he complained that he could never meet the needs of so many people.
i. Moses certainly had a better reason to complain to God; it wasn’t as if he yielded to intense craving as the children of Israel did. Yet even his complaining was not good, and showed a lapse in his trust in God.
ii. Perhaps Moses was caught off-guard, surprised that the people rebelled so quickly after such a strong warning at Taberah (Numbers 11:1-3). It’s easy for leader to do the wrong thing when they are caught off-guard!
b. Why have You afflicted Your servant? Moses responded to God the way many of us do in a time of trial. He essentially said, “God, here I am serving You. Why did You bring this upon me?” It’s easy to say God did not bring this upon Moses – a carnal and ungrateful people did. Yet, though God did not directly afflict Moses with this, He ultimately allowed it.
i. God allowed this for the same reason God allows any affliction – to compel us to trust in Him more, to partner with Him in overcoming obstacles, and to love and praise Him more through our increased dependence on Him and the greater deliverance He brings. For these reasons and more, God sometimes appoints affliction for His people (1 Thessalonians 3:3).
ii. In the middle of our affliction it is easy to think God is against us, as Moses did (Why have I not found favor in Your sight?). God’s response is ever the same: “It’s because I do love you that I am training you, building you up in faith.”
iii. “Whereas Moses assured Hobab that the Lord would treat Israel well, he was soon to ask, ‘Why hast thou dealt ill with thy servant?’ (10:32; 11:11).” (Wenham)
c. Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them: When Moses likened himself to a mother and the children of Israel as his children, he used a fitting figure of speech – because Israel was acting like unsatisfied infants, complete with tears (For they weep all over me).
i. Moses, like many servants of God since his time, had to understand that as unpleasant as the work of leading God’s people sometimes is, God uses such difficulties in the lives of His servants. “God does not remove annoyances out of the way even of His devoted servants. We remember how Paul was vexed and burdened while carrying the world’s thought on into a new day.” (Watson)
d. I am not able to bear all these people alone: Understanding that the job of leading Israel was too big for Moses was good. It could lead him to rely on God, and not try to do the work apart from God. Moses could not bear all these people alone; God will do it in him and through him.
i. To paraphrase John Trapp, the German reformer Philip Melanchthon said that the three most painful labors were those of God’s ministers, civil leaders, and women giving birth.
ii. “The best service that all human leaders, helpers or lovers, can do us, is to confess their own insufficiency, and to point us to Jesus. All that men need is found in Him and in Him alone.” (Maclaren)
e. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now: Moses was greatly frustrated. He poured out his emotion, pain, and frustration to the Lord. This wasn’t a proper thing to ask God to do, but we understand the misery of Moses. He did the right thing in pouring out his heart and complaint before the Lord.
i. God did not say “yes” when Moses asked, “Please kill me here and now.” Yet, God helped the overwhelmed Moses, who knew that the job of leading God’s people was too big for him to do without God’s help.
ii. And do not let me see my wretchedness: In a sense, God wanted Moses to see his wretchedness – his inability to do what God called him to do in his own strength. As the Apostle Paul later learned, God’s strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
B. God answers the complaints of Israel and of Moses.
1. (16-17) God helps Moses by sending elders to assist him.
So the Lord said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.
a. Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel: God told Moses to gather men to help in the work of leading Israel. These seventy men would first be gathered to God (gather to Me) before they were gathered to Moses. Their loyalty was first to God, not to Moses.
i. “Here, say some, began the Sanhedrim, that is, the great council of the Jews, consisting of seventy seniors and one president. It continued till the time of Herod the Great.” (Trapp)
b. Whom you know to be the elders of the people: Moses was not to pick men whom he thought might become elders; he was to pick men who were already known as elders because of their wisdom, conduct, and ministry to others. Elders are made by God but recognized by men.
c. That they may stand there with you: These were called to simply stand there with Moses, before the Lord. They were a support and strength to Moses just by their presence.
d. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them: The elders must have the same heart, the same vision, and same Spirit that was on Moses. If not, there would be no agreement among the leadership of the nation and disaster could come to Israel.
e. They shall bear the burden of the people with you: The elders were there to help Moses carry the spiritual load – to help him care for and minister to the people, and to be a support for him in the ministry. God’s help was going to come to Moses through the support of godly men. This is a customary way for God to meet our needs.
2. (18-20) God promises to provide meat for Israel.
Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?”’”
a. For you have wept in the hearing of the Lord: God heard the weeping of Israel and knew it was the tears of ungrateful and complaining people. God heard their claim, it was well with us in Egypt and knew their words were a selective twisting of the past to justify their complaint.
b. Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat: This was not a blessing. God promised to answer the desire of Israel’s heart; but not in a way that would be a blessing to Israel. Sometimes God disciplines His people by giving them what we ask for – what their intense craving cries out for.
c. Until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you: God promised to give them so much meat they would become sickened by it. This was because they denied and doubted the goodness of God’s deliverance. It isn’t good for the people of God to deny the goodness of God’s deliverance in their lives.
3. (21-23) Moses reacts to God’s promise to provide meat for Israel.
And Moses said, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them?”
And the Lord said to Moses, “Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.”
a. The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot: Moses reacted as we often do – trying to figure out how God would perform His promise. Moses couldn’t understand how God could do this, but God never asked him to understand it. God would provide from His inexhaustible resources.
i. “Moses reminds God (!) of the numbers involved: six hundred thousand men on foot…. A marching force of this size suggests a total population of over two million people.” (Allen)
ii. “You will see, my brethren, right readily the mistake which Moses made. He looked to the creature instead of the Creator. Doth the Creator expect the creature to fulfill his promise? No; he that makes fulfills. If he speaks, it is done — done by himself.” (Spurgeon)
b. Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? God had not suddenly become weak or limited. God had resources that Moses knew nothing about. God would meet Israel’s need in a completely unexpected way.
4. (24-25) The Spirit of the Lord comes upon the seventy elders.
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.
a. He gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle: Before God provided the meat for Israel (which they asked for, but didn’t really need), He first provided them more leadership and oversight (which they didn’t ask for, but really did need).
b. And took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders: For this expanded leadership to do the job, they needed to have an outpouring of the Holy Spirit – and they needed to have the same spirit that was on Moses. They needed to have his vision, his heart, and his attitude.
i. If a man does not have the Holy Spirit’s power flowing in his life, and the same spirit as those he serves the Lord under or serves with, he is unequipped to serve as he should. That man will end up being a hindrance, not a blessing.
c. When the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied: It is difficult to picture exactly what this was like. Perhaps they each spontaneously spoke forth a word from God, or divinely inspired praises to God. Whatever exactly happened, it was a clear sign that the Spirit of the Lord had come upon them.
i. “As with Saul, the prophecy described here was probably an unintelligible ecstatic utterance, what the New Testament terms speaking in tongues, not the inspired, intelligible speech of the great Old Testament prophets and the unnamed prophets of the early church.” (Wenham)
d. Although they never did so again: Apparently, the prophetic gift was given to these elders in a unique, one-time experience. They prophesied this once but did not become prophets. It was meant to be visible evidence of the Holy Spirit’s equipping them for the office of elder, not the role of prophet.
i. Like the tongues of fire on Pentecost in Acts 2, the prophetic gift of these elders did not continue – but their Spirit-empowered service did.
5. (26-30) The Spirit of the Lord upon Eldad and Medad, and upon all God’s people.
But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!” Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” And Moses returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
a. Yet they prophesied in the camp: The operation of the Holy Spirit was not limited to only one place. Even these two men (Eldad and Medad) who were not at the tabernacle with the rest of the seventy elders were also filled with the Holy Spirit, evidenced by the prophetic gift.
i. Joshua was first introduced as leading the battle against the Amalekites in Exodus 33:7-11. When he learned of what Eldad and Medad did, Joshua hoped to support Moses. His first concern was for Moses’ ministry and feared that this unusual display of the Spirit might in some way undermine it. Perhaps Eldad and Medad would become rivals to Moses.
b. Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them! Moses probably appreciated that Joshua was zealous for his sake, but Moses did not fear these men as rivals. Instead, Moses longed that all God’s people would receive this gift of His Spirit.
i. That broad outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all the people of God waited for a better covenant, a new covenant. Under the new covenant, God promised to pour out His Spirit upon all His people (Ezekiel 36:27, Joel 2:28-29).
ii. “This one saying proves the incomparable greatness of Moses’ character. Little souls are monopolists. They like to be good and gifted, because it gives them a kind of superiority to others; but they dislike to see a leveling-up process at work by which the Eldads and Medads are lifted to stand by their side.” (Meyer)
6. (31-35) God brings meat to Israel.
Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering 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 two cubits above the surface of the ground. And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague. So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.
From Kibroth Hattaavah the people moved to Hazeroth, and camped at Hazeroth.
a. Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail: Miraculously, God directed a huge number of quail to the camp of Israel, where they were killed and could be eaten. Quail migrate over the Sinai wilderness every year; it has been recorded that Arabs living near this region could catch between one and two million quails during their autumn migration, using nets.
i. The quail came all around the camp – that is, on the perimeter. When the Holy Spirit was poured out, it drew men into the center of the camp – right into the middle of the people of God. To get the quail, they had to go outside of the camp – away from the people of God.
ii. “The scene must have been similar to a riot: people screaming, birds flapping their wings, everywhere the pell-mell movement of a meat-hungry people in a sea of birds.” (Allen)
iii. The Spirit was given to the elders to help Moses (Numbers 11:25, 29), and the wind brought the quail (Numbers 11:31) – using the same word in Hebrew for both “spirit” and “wind” (ruah).
b. While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people: The people, with great effort and excitement, gathered the quail and prepared it for eating. But when they ate – while the meat was still between their teeth, the Lord sent a plague among them and many died.
i. He also rained meat on them like the dust, feathered fowl like the sand of the seas; and He let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. So they ate and were well filled, for He gave them their own desire. They were not deprived of their craving; but while their food was still in their mouths, the wrath of God came against them, and slew the stoutest of them, and struck down the choice men of Israel. (Psalm 78:27-31)
ii. They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul. (Psalm 106:13-15)
iii. When we allow ungodly cravings to rule our lives, God may send what we crave – and leanness into our soul as well. Better to have a well-fed soul and to be deprived ungodly cravings.
iv. “There are times when God grants an unwarranted request in order that men may learn through experience the folly of their desires.” (Morgan)
v. This was a strict judgment, but it was a help to Israel because it taught them to not be ruled by their desires. If the lesson was learned, it was a huge help to the nation. To inherit the land of Canaan – God’s promised land for Israel – they had to be ruled by more than their physical or emotional appetites.
c. So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah: They named the place Kibroth Hattaavah – which means “Graves of Craving.” Spiritually speaking, many people are killed by their unrestrained desires.
i. Jesus proclaimed that He was God’s true or ultimate bread from heaven (John 6:29-35). Like the manna in the wilderness, this was God’s provision and there was nothing else to eat. Israel was sustained only by manna in the wilderness, and the disciple is sustained only by Jesus and nothing else.