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11. Fire and Quail from the Lord

And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: 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. 2And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched. 3And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the Lord burnt among them.

4And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? 5We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: 6But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. 7And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. 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. 9And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.

10Then 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. 11And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? 12Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? 13Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. 14I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. 15And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

16And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. 17And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. 18And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. 19Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; 20 But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? 21And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. 22Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them? 23And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.

24And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. 25And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. 26But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. 27And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. 28And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. 29And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’S people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! 30And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.

31And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. 32And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. 33And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague. 34And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted. 35 And the people journeyed from Kibrothhattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.

16. And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men. God complies with the request of Moses, by associating with him seventy companions, by whose care and assistance he may be relieved from some part of his labor; yet not without some signs of indignation, for, by taking from him some portion of His Spirit to distribute amongst the others, He inflicts upon him that mark of disgrace which he deserved. I know that some 2020     Thus, De Lyra; “It is not to be understood that anything was taken away from Moses and given to the others, but they were illuminated without any- diminution of the grace of Moses; thus, by the light of one candle others are lighted, without any diminution of its own light.” Ainsworth thus traces the gloss of De Lyra to its source: “Neither was Moses’ spirit hereby diminished; for as Sol. Jarchi says, ‘Moses in that hour was like unto the lamp that was left (burning) in the candlestick (in the Sanctuary) from which all the other lamps were lighted, yet the light thereof was not lessened any whit.’” So also St. Augustine, “We understand that God would signify nothing more than that they also would have assistance from the same Spirit of grace, as Moses had; that they also should have as much as God pleased, not that Moses would therefore have less. Quest. in Numbers 18. Edit. Bened., tom. 3. P. 1, p. 535. C., indeed, here, seems to have but few followers. The gloss in the Geneva version is; “I will distribute my Spirit among them, as I have done to thee;” and Attersoll says, “It it true he doth sometimes punish in this manner, sometimes by lessening, and sometimes by taking away, what he had formerly bestowed. Zechariah 11:17; Matthew 25:27. But we do not read or find that he dealt so with Moses, or that he was less fit for government than he was before,” etc. regard it differently, and think that nothing was taken away from Moses, but that the others were endued with new grace, such as Moses had been preeminent for possessing alone before. But, since the words expressly declare that God will make them partakers of that grace which He will take from Moses himself, I by no means admit the truth of this subtle exposition. The passage in Genesis 27:36 is quoted, in which it is said, “Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” but, when God expressly says, “I will separate 2121     A. V., “I will take;” or “will separate.” — Ainsworth. of the Spirit which is upon thee,” there can be no question but that a diminution is indicated. For, as long as Moses alone was appointed to rule the people, he was so supplied with the necessary gifts of the Spirit, as that his ability should not be inferior to the greatness of the labor. God now promises that the others shall be his companions in such sort, as that He divides His gifts among them all. I have no doubt, then, but that this division comprehends punishment in it; and from hence we may gather a useful piece of instruction, viz., that the greater the difficulty is which God imposes upon any one, the greater is the liberality with which He treats him, in order that he may be sufficient for his charge. Thus it is in His power to work with equal efficiency by one man, as by a hundred, or a thousand; for He has no need of a multitude (of agents,) but, as He pleases, He executes His works sometimes without the aid of men, sometimes by their hands. In sum, God indirectly reproves the gross ingratitude of Moses, whereby he depreciated that marvelous grace which had hitherto shone forth in him; and He declares that he shall not be hereafter so great as he was, in regard to the excellency he derived from the Spirit; inasmuch as he had in a manner thrown away the gifts of the Spirit, by refusing to bear the trouble imposed upon him. Our modesty, indeed, is praiseworthy, if through consciousness of our own weakness we recoil from arduous charges; but it is too absurd for us to withdraw ourselves under this pretext from our duty, and, despising the calling of God, to shake off the yoke.

The word Spirit is here, as frequently elsewhere, applied to the gifts themselves; as if He had said, I had deposited with thee gifts sufficing for the government of the people; but now, since thou refusest, I will distribute his due measure to each of the seventy, so that the grace of the Spirit, which dwelt in thee alone, shall be manifestly dispersed among many. It is now asked how Moses separated the seventy, whether according to his own judgment only, or by the election of the people. It is generally agreed that six were chosen from each tribe, and thus that they were seventy-two; but that for the sake of brevity two were omitted, as amongst the Romans, 2222     “Centumviri were judges chosen from the thirty-five tribes, three from each, so that properly there were 105, but they were always named by a round number, Centumviri. Eestus.” — Adam’s Rom. Antiq. they spoke of the Centumviri, although they were a hundred and five; for they appointed three for each of the thirty-five tribes. Since the opinion is probable, I leave it undecided; but at the same time I retain the conjecture which I have elsewhere made, 2323     See ante, on Exodus 24:1, vol. 3, p. 316. viz., that, since the race of Abraham had been increased in an incredible manner in two hundred and twenty years, lest so astonishing a miracle should ever be forgotten, the seventy were elected in accordance with the number of the fathers who had gone down into Egypt with Jacob. And, in fact, this seems to have been with them, as it were, a sacred number; as recalling to their memory that little band from which they had derived their origin. For, before the Law was promulgated, Moses was commanded to take with him seventy to accompany him to the mount, and to be eye-witnesses of God’s glory. Meanwhile, I do not deny that there were two more than the number seventy; but I only point out why God fixed upon this number, viz., to equalize the leaders and heads of the people with the family of Jacob, which was the source of their race and name. In truth, from the fact that, when Hoses went up into Mount Sinai to receive the Tables from the hand of God, he took with him seventy officers, we infer that the number of those who should excel in honor, was already fixed at this, although the charge of governing, which is here spoken of, was not yet committed to them. And it is probable that these same persons who had been appointed leaders, were called to this new and unwonted office, as the words themselves imply. It is indeed certain, that when the Jews returned from the Babylonish captivity, because they were not permitted to appoint a king, they followed the example here set them in the establishment of their Sanhedrim; only this honor was paid to the memory of David and their rings, that from their race they chose their seventy rulers in whom the supreme power was vested. And this form of government continued down to Herod, 2424     Josephus, Antiq., 14:9. Section 4. who abolished the whole council by which he had been condemned, and destroyed the lives of them all. Still, I think that he was not impelled to commit the massacre only out of vengeance, but also lest the dignity of the royal race should be an obstacle to his tyranny.

It must, however, be observed that, although God promises new grace to the seventy men, he would not have them taken indiscriminately from the people in general, but expressly commands them to be chosen from the order of the elders, and heads of the people, being such as were already possessed of authority, and had given proofs of their diligence and virtue. Thus, also, now-a-days, when he calls both the pastors of the Church and magistrates to their office, although He furnishes them with new gifts, still He would not have them raised to their honorable stations promiscuously as they may come first, but chooses rather with reference to their spiritual endowments, wherewith He distinguishes, and commends those whom He has destined to any exalted office. In short, He commands the most fitting to be chosen; but, after they have been elected, tie promises that He will add what is wanting. For this reason He commands that they should station themselves at the door of the tabernacle, that He may there display His grace. Although I think that two other reasons were likewise taken into consideration, viz., that they might know that the office was intrusted to them by God, and might always be mindful of the heavenly tribunal, before which they must be accountable: and also that they might be held in additional reverence by the very associations of the place, and that the people might submit to them as the ministers of God. Now, although God does not at present dwell in a visible tabernacle, yet are we reminded by this example that pastors and magistrates are not duly ordained, unless they are placed in the presence of God; nor rightly inaugurated in their offices, unless when they consecrate themselves to God Himself, and when His majesty, on the other hand, acquires their reverence. Cyprian 2525     “Wherefore a people which obeyeth the precepts of the Lord, and feareth God, ought to separate itself from a Prelate who is a sinner, nor mingle itself up with the sacrifices of a sacrilegious priest, especially since it has itself the power either of choosing worthy priests, or rejecting the unworthy. This, too, we see to be derived from divine authority, that a priest should be chosen in presence of the people, in sight of all, and be approved worthy and fit by public sentence and testimony; as in Numbers, the Lord commanded Moses, saying, Take Aaron thy brother, and Eleazar his son, and bring them up into the mount, before all the congregation: and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son, and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there. (Numbers 20:25, 26.) God commands a priest to be appointed before all the congregation, that is, He instructs and shows us, that the ordinations of priests ought only to be solemnized with the knowledge of the people standing by, that so by their presence either the crimes of the wicked may be detected, or the merits of the good proclaimed, and so the ordination be right and lawful, as having been examined with the suffrage and judgment of all.” — Epistles of S. Cyprian. Oxford Transl. 1844, pp. 211, 212.
   The above quotation is from a letter written in the names of Cyprian and thirty-six of his brethren, as a reply to inquiries made by the presbyter and people of Leon and Astorga, and the deacons and faithful people in Merida. Cyprian has not cited Numbers 11:16, in any of the works now acknowledged as his, though the argument thus drawn from Numbers 20:25, 28, would have been more reasonably collected from the text, to which Calvin has assumed that he referred.
twists this passage further, but I know not whether on sufficiently firm grounds, to prove that bishops are not to be elected, except with the consent of the whole people.


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