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The People Complain Again

11 The people started complaining about their troubles. The Lord heard their complaints. He heard these things and became angry. Fire from the Lord burned among the people. The fire burned some of the areas at the edge of the camp. So the people cried to Moses for help. He prayed to the Lord and the fire stopped burning. So that place was called Taberah.[a] The people gave the place that name because the Lord caused a fire to burn in their camp.

The 70 Older Leaders

The foreigners who had joined the Israelites began wanting other things to eat. Soon all the Israelites began complaining again. The people said, “We want to eat meat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt. That fish cost us nothing. We also had good vegetables like cucumbers, melons, chives, onions, and garlic. But now we have lost our strength. We never eat anything—only this manna!” (The manna was like small coriander seeds, and it looked like sap from a tree. The people gathered the manna. Then they used rocks to crush it and cooked it in a pot. Or they ground it into flour and made thin cakes with it. The cakes tasted like sweet cakes cooked with olive oil. The manna fell on the ground each night when the ground became wet with dew.)

10 Moses heard the people complaining. People from every family were sitting by their tents and complaining. The Lord became very angry, and this made Moses very upset. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why did you bring this trouble on me? I am your servant. What did I do wrong? What did I do to upset you? Why did you give me responsibility over all these people? 12 You know that I am not the father of all these people. You know that I did not give birth to them. But I must take care of them, like a nurse carrying a baby in her arms. Why do you force me to do this? Why do you force me to carry them to the land that you promised to our fathers? 13 I don’t have enough meat for all these people! And they continue complaining to me. They say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot take care of all these people alone. The burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you plan to continue giving me their troubles, kill me now. If you accept me as your servant, let me die now. Then I will be finished with all my troubles!”

16 The Lord said to Moses, “Bring to me 70 of the elders of Israel. These men are the leaders among the people. Bring them to the Meeting Tent. Let them stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and speak with you there. The Spirit[b] is on you now. But I will also give some of that Spirit to them. Then they will help you take care of the people. In this way you will not have to be responsible for these people alone.

18 “Tell the people this: Make yourselves ready for tomorrow. Tomorrow you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you cried out and said, ‘We need meat to eat! It was better for us in Egypt!’ So now the Lord will give you meat. And you will eat it. 19 You will eat it for more than one, or two, or five, or ten, or even twenty days! 20 You will eat that meat for a whole month until you are sick of it. This will happen to you because you complained against the Lord. He lives among you and knows what you need, but you cried and complained to him! You said, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’”

21 Moses said, “There are 600,000 soldiers here, and you say, ‘I will give them enough meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 If we were to kill all the sheep and cattle, that would still not be enough to feed this many people for a month. And if we caught all the fish in the sea, it would not be enough for them!”

23 But the Lord said to Moses, “Don’t limit my power! You will see that I can do what I say I can do.”

24 So Moses went out to speak with the people. He told them what the Lord said. Then he gathered 70 of the elders together and told them to stand around the Tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. He put on the 70 elders some of the same Spirit that was on Moses. After the Spirit came down on them, they began to prophesy.[c] But that was the only time they ever did this.

26 Two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, did not go out to the Tent. Their names were on the list of elders, but they stayed in camp. But the Spirit also came on them, and they began prophesying in camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses. The man said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in camp.”

28 Joshua son of Nun said to Moses, “Moses, sir, you must stop them!” (Joshua had been Moses’ helper since Joshua was a boy.)

29 But Moses answered, “Are you afraid the people will think that I am not the leader now? I wish that all the Lord’s people were able to prophesy. I wish that the Lord would put his Spirit on all of them!” 30 Then Moses and the leaders of Israel went back to the camp.

The Quail Come

31 Then the Lord made a powerful wind to blow in from the sea, and it blew quail into the area all around the camp. There were so many birds that the ground was covered. They were about three feet deep on the ground. There were quail in every direction as far as a man can walk in one day. 32 They went out and gathered quail all that day and all that night. And they gathered quail all the next day too! The smallest amount anyone gathered was 60 bushels. Then the people spread the quail meat all around the camp to dry in the sun.

33 People began to eat the meat, but the Lord became very angry. While the meat was still in their mouths, before the people could finish eating it, the Lord caused the people to become very sick and die. 34 So the people named that place Kibroth Hattaavah,[d] because there they buried those who had the strong desire for meat.

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

Miriam and Aaron Criticize Moses

12 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses. They criticized him because he married an Ethiopian[e] woman. They said to themselves, “Moses is not the only one the Lord has used to speak to the people. He has also spoken through us!”

The Lord heard this. (Moses was a very humble man. He was more humble than any other man on earth.) So suddenly, the Lord came and spoke to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. He said, “You three, come to the Meeting Tent, now!”

So Moses, Aaron, and Miriam went to the Tent. The Lord came down in the tall cloud and stood at the entrance to the Tent. He called out, “Aaron and Miriam!” They went to him. God said, “Listen to me! You will have prophets. I, the Lord, will let them learn about me through visions. I will speak to them in dreams. But Moses is not like that. He is my faithful servant—I trust him with everyone in my house. When I speak to him, I talk face to face with him. I don’t use stories with hidden meanings—I show him clearly what I want him to know. And Moses can look at the very image of the Lord. So why were you brave enough to speak against my servant Moses?”

The Lord was very angry with them, and he left them. 10 The cloud rose from the Tent. Aaron turned and looked at Miriam. Her skin was white like snow—she had a terrible skin disease!

11 Then Aaron said to Moses, “Please, sir, forgive us for the foolish sin that we did. 12 Don’t let her lose her skin like a baby who is born dead.” (Sometimes a baby will be born like that, with half of its skin eaten away.)

13 So Moses prayed to the Lord, “God, please heal her from this sickness!”

14 The Lord answered Moses, “If her father spit in her face, she would be shamed for seven days. So put her outside the camp for seven days. After that she can come back into the camp.”

15 So they took Miriam outside the camp for seven days. And the people did not move from that place until she was brought in again. 16 After that the people left Hazeroth and traveled to the desert of Paran where they set up camp.

The Spies Go to Canaan

13 The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan. I will give this land to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve tribes.”

So Moses obeyed the Lord’s command and sent out the Israelite leaders while the people were camped in the desert of Paran. These are their names:

from the tribe of Reuben—Shammua son of Zaccur;

from the tribe of Simeon—Shaphat son of Hori;

from the tribe of Judah—Caleb son of Jephunneh;

from the tribe of Issachar—Igal son of Joseph;

from the tribe of Ephraim—Hoshea[f] son of Nun;

from the tribe of Benjamin—Palti son of Raphu;

10 from the tribe of Zebulun—Gaddiel son of Sodi;

11 from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe from Joseph)—Gaddi son of Susi;

12 from the tribe of Dan—Ammiel son of Gemalli;

13 from the tribe of Asher—Sethur son of Michael;

14 from the tribe of Naphtali—Nahbi son of Vophsi;

15 from the tribe of Gad—Geuel son of Maki.

16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to look at and study the land. (Moses called Hoshea son of Nun by another name. Moses called him Joshua.)

17 When Moses was sending them out to explore Canaan, he said, “Go through the Negev and then into the hill country. 18 See what the land looks like. Learn about the people who live there. Are they strong or are they weak? Are they few or are they many? 19 Learn about the land that they live in. Is it good land or bad land? What kind of towns do they live in? Do the towns have walls protecting them? Are the towns strongly defended? 20 And learn other things about the land. Is the soil good for growing things, or is it poor soil? Are there trees on the land? Try to bring back some of the fruit from that land.” (This was during the time when the first grapes should be ripe.)

21 So they went to explore the country. They explored the area from the desert of Zin to Rehob and Lebo Hamath. 22 They entered the country through the Negev and went to Hebron. (The town of Hebron was built seven years before the town of Zoan in Egypt.) Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai lived there. These men were descendants of Anak. 23 Then the men went to Eshcol Valley. There they cut off a branch from a grapevine that had a bunch of grapes on it. They put that branch on a pole, and two men carried it between them. They also carried some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place is called the Eshcol[g] Valley, because there the men of Israel cut off the bunch of grapes.

25 The men explored that country for 40 days, and then they went back to the camp. 26 The Israelites were camped near Kadesh, in the desert of Paran. The men went to Moses and Aaron and all the Israelites. They told Moses, Aaron, and all the people what they saw and showed them the fruit from the land. 27 The men told Moses, “We went to the land where you sent us. It is a land filled with many good things[h]! Here is some of the fruit that grows there. 28 But the people living there are very powerful. The cities are very large and strongly defended. We even saw some Anakites there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev. The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live near the sea and by the Jordan River.”

30 Caleb told the people near Moses to be quiet. Then Caleb said, “We should go up and take that land for ourselves. We can easily take that land.”

31 But the men who had gone with him said, “We cannot fight those people! They are much stronger than we are.” 32 So those men gave a report that discouraged the people. They said, “The land we saw is full of strong people. They are strong enough to easily defeat anyone who goes there. 33 We saw the giant Nephilim people there! (The descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim.) We felt like little grasshoppers. Yes, we were like grasshoppers to them!”


  1. Numbers 11:3 Taberah This name means “burning.”
  2. Numbers 11:17 Spirit Or “spirit.” Also in verses 25, 29.
  3. Numbers 11:25 prophesy Usually this means “to speak for God.” But here, it might mean that God’s Spirit took control of these men in some special way. Also in verse 26.
  4. Numbers 11:34 Kibroth Hattaavah This name means “Graves of Strong Desire.”
  5. Numbers 12:1 Ethiopian Or “Cushite,” a person from Ethiopia, in Africa.
  6. Numbers 13:8 Hoshea Or “Joshua.”
  7. Numbers 13:24 Eshcol This name is like the Hebrew word meaning “a bunch of grapes.”
  8. Numbers 13:27 land … things Literally, “land flowing with milk and honey.” Also in 14:8.

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