The People of Israel Complain. 1 The people complained about their hardships and the Lord heard and his anger flared up. Then the fire of the Lord burned up the outskirts of the camp. 2 The people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire was quenched. 3 He named that place Taberah,[a] for the fire of the Lord had burned in their midst.
4 Now the rabble[b] among them fell victim to their desires again, and the people of Israel said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is fading away, all we ever see is this manna.” 7 Manna had the shape of coriander seed and it looked like resin. 8 The people would go around gathering it, and then they would grind it in a mill or beat it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. It tasted something like fresh olive oil. 9 The manna would come down when the dew settled upon the camp at night.
10 Moses heard the people weeping, each family at the entrance to their tent. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was greatly displeased. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why are you torturing your servant? Have I not found favor in your sight, that you would burden me with this whole people? 12 Did I conceive this entire people? Did I give birth to them that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your arms like a nurse carries a small child to the land that I have promised to their ancestors?’ 13 Where can I get enough meat to give to all this people, for they cry to me saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry this entire people by myself; they are too burdensome for me. 15 If this is the way that you are going to treat me, and if I have found favor in your sight, then please put me to death right now so I do not have to keep looking upon my misery.”
16 But the Lord said to Moses, “Bring me seventy men from among the elders of Israel whom you know to be elders and leaders of the people. Bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them stand there with yourself. 17 I will come down and speak to you there. I will take some of the Spirit that is upon you and put it upon them. They will carry the burden of the people with you, so that you do not have to carry it alone. 18 Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow you will eat meat. You cried out in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? We were better off when we were in Egypt.” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, nor for two days, nor for five days, nor for ten days, nor for twenty days. 20 You will eat it for a whole month, until your faces overflow with it, and you become sick of it, for you have despised the Lord who is among you and whom you have confronted crying out, “Why did we come out of Egypt?” ’ ”
21 But Moses said, “I am standing among six hundred thousand people on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat to eat for an entire month?’ 22 Shall the flocks and herds be slaughtered to satisfy their desires? Will all of the fish of the sea be gathered together to fill them?” 23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you will see whether my word will be fulfilled or not.”
24 Seventy Elders. So Moses went out and proclaimed the words of the Lord to the people. He brought seventy of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. 25 Then the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to him. He took some of the Spirit that was upon him and placed it upon the seventy elders. When the Spirit descended upon them, they began to prophesy,[c] although they did not do so again.
26 But two men had remained in the camp. One was named Eldad, and the other was named Medad. The Spirit descended upon them. They had been on the list, but they had not gone out to the tabernacle. They began to prophesy in the camp. 27 A young man ran and informed Moses, saying, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 Joshua, the son of Nun, who had been an aide to Moses since he was young, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for me? Would that all of the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!” 30 Moses then returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
31 Now a wind came forth from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea, making them fall near the camp. They were all around the camp, a day’s journey on one side and a day’s journey on the other side. They were piled up on the surface of the land two cubits high.
32 The people stayed up all day, and all night, and all the next day gathering the quail. The least that any of them gathered was ten homers. They spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and they were still chewing on it, the anger of the Lord arose against the people and the Lord struck the people with a horrible plague. 34 This is why that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah,[d] because they buried the people who had fallen victim to their desires there. 35 From Kibroth-hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and they camped there.
- Numbers 11:3 Taberah seems to mean “place of pasture,” but the sacred writer here connects it with a similar root that means “to burn.” According to Deut 9:22f, this spot was in the area of Kadesh.
- Numbers 11:4 Rabble: this group incited those who were close to the Lord by pointing out all the negatives. As with many groups, the most vocal often set the mood and actions of the masses.
- Numbers 11:25 They began to prophesy: the prophetic gift in this case seems to be limited in time and power, but it allowed the seventy elders to be established as spiritual leaders.
- Numbers 11:34 At one time Kibroth-hattaavah certainly meant “grave of the Ta’avah” (i.e., a tribe). A different etymology, “graves of craving,” allows the sacred writer to highlight the moral significance of the incident. According to Deut 9:23, the place was near Kadesh.