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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.

24. And Moses went out and told the people the words. We here see how greatly Moses profited by his brief rebuke, for he now actively sets about what he was commanded. Doubt had given him a check, so that he stopped in the middle of his course; whereas he now testifies by the promptitude of his obedience that his distrust is overcome. For just as unbelief discourages men, so that they sink down into inactivity, so faith inspires both body and mind with rigor for the effectual discharge of their duties.

Although the narrative does not expressly state that he spoke to them respecting the flesh, it declares in general terms that he omitted nothing; and, indeed, it would have been very inappropriate to speak only of the Seventy Elders, when the origin of all the evil had been the craving for flesh. Briefly stating, then, that he had reported the commands of God to the people, he includes both parts of the matter, the second of which he then follows up. And, first, he says that the elders were called to the Tabernacle, that they might there be appointed rulers and officers. When be states that they were “set round about,” I do not interpret the words so precisely as to suppose that eighteen were ranged on each side, and, of the rest, half were placed before the court, and half behind the Tabernacle; but that they were so arranged, as to surround some part of the Tabernacle. Now, this was equivalent to their being set before God, so that they might hereafter exercise their office with more authority, as being sent by Him; and at the same time that they might devote themselves to God, and dedicate themselves to His service; and also, that being invested with the necessary endowments, they might bear the tokens of their calling. For this reason, it is soon afterwards added, that enough of the spirit of Moses was given them for the discharge of their official duties; for, although Moses by God’s command had chosen men of approved virtue and experience, yet He would have them prepared anew, in order that their call might be effectual. When they are said to have “prophesied,” this was a visible sign of the gift of the Spirit, which, nevertheless, had reference to a different object; for they were not appointed to be. prophets, though God would testify by this outward mark that they were new men, in order that the people might receive them with greater reverence. In my opinion, however, prophecy here is equivalent to a special faculty of discoursing magnificently of secret things or mysteries. We know that poets were called prophets by profane writers, 3131     Vates is a name commonly applied by classical writers to poets. “Quare sue jure noster ille Ennius sanctos appellat poetas, quod quasi deorum aliquo dono, atque munere commendati nobis videantur.” — Cicero pro Archia Poeta, 8. “De versibus, quos tibi a me scribi vis, deest mihi quidem opera, quae non modo tempus, sed etiam animum vacuum ab omni cura desiderat; sed abest etiam ἐνθουσιασμὸς” — Ibid. Epist. ad Quint. Frat 3:4. because poetry itself savors of inspiration (ἐνθουσιασμὸν); in the same way that extraordinary ability, 3232     Fr. “La grace de parler authentiquement de choses hautes;” the grace to speak authentically of high things. in which the afflatus of the Spirit shone forth, obtained the name of prophecy. Thus, the gift of prophecy in Saul was a kind of mark of royalty; so that he might not ascend the throne without credentials. (1 Samuel 10:10.) Thus, then, this Spirit of Prophecy was only accorded to these persons for a short time; since it was sufficient that they should be once marked out by God: for so I understand what Moses says afterwards, “and they added not.” 3333     “These words are commonly rendered, ‘and did not cease (to prophesy,)’ as in our public version; or ‘and did not add,’ as they are rendered by Ainsworth and Purver, neither of which renderings is to me intelligible. By adopting the Sam. reading with Houbigant, Dathe, and Rosenmiiller, and placing ולא יאספי at the head of ver. 26, the text will be rectified, and the sense clear: At non congregati sunt, sed remanserant in castris viri duo, quorum nomen unius Eldad, et nomen alterius Medad, tamen requievit super eos spiritus ille (nam ipsi ex conscriptis, atsi non egressi erant ad tentorium) et prophetabant in castris.” — Boothroyd in loco. Thus, Eldad and Medad will be the nominative case to the verb, and its meaning “were not assembled.” it is too forced an interpretation to refer it, as some do, to the past. I confess, indeed, that they were not previously prophets; but I have no doubt but that Moses here indicates that the gift was a temporary one: as we are also told in the case of Saul: for, as soon as this token of God’s grace had manifested itself in him, 3434     The Fr. applies this sentence to the elders, “ils ont cesse de prophetizer;” they ceased to prophesy. he ceased to prophesy. The meaning, therefore, is that their call was thus substantiated for a short period, so that this unusual circumstance should awaken the more admiration.


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