The People Complain
11 Now the people became like those who complain and whine about their hardships, and the Lord heard it; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and devoured those in the outlying parts of the camp. 2 So the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire died out. 3 He named that place Taberah (the place of burning), because the fire of the Lord burned among them.
4 The [a]rabble among them [who followed Israel from Egypt] had greedy desires [for familiar and delicious food], and the Israelites wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish we ate freely and without cost in Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. 6 But now our [b]appetite is gone; there is nothing at all [in the way of food] [c]to be seen but this manna.”
7 The manna was like coriander seed, and it looked like [d]bdellium. 8 The people went about and gathered it, and ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, and boiled it in pots, and made cakes with it; and it tasted like cakes baked with fresh [olive] oil. 9 When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna fell with it.
The Complaint of Moses
10 Now Moses heard the people weeping [in self-pity] throughout their families, every man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and [e]Moses regarded their behavior as evil. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Was it I who conceived all these people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your [f]arms as a nurse carries the nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, so that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. 15 So if this is the way You are going to deal with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”
Seventy Elders to Assist
16 Accordingly, the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for Me [g]seventy men from among the elders of Israel whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers; bring them to the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle) and let them stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take away some of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not have to bear it all alone. 18 Say to the people, ‘Consecrate (separate as holy) yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept [in self-pity] in the ears of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and is disgusting to you—because you have rejected and despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept [in self-pity] before Him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’”(A) 21 But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 [fighting men] on foot [besides all the women and children]; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, so that they may eat it for a whole month!’ 22 Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be collected for them to be sufficient for them?” 23 The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand (ability, power) limited (short, inadequate)? You shall see now whether My word will come to pass for you or not.”(B)
24 So Moses went out and spoke to the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered seventy men from among the elders of the people and stationed them around the Tent (tabernacle). 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took some of the Spirit who was upon Moses and put Him upon the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied [praising God and declaring His will], but they did not do it again.(C)
26 But two men had remained in the camp; one named Eldad and the other named Medad. The Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the Tent), and they prophesied in the camp. 27 So a young man ran and told Moses and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying [extolling the praises of God and declaring His will] in the camp.” 28 Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!”(D) 30 Then Moses went back into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
The Quail and the Plague
31 Now there went forth a wind from the Lord and it brought quails from the sea, and let them fall [so they flew low] beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and on the other side, all around the camp, about two cubits (three feet) deep on the surface of the ground. 32 The people spent all that day and all night and all the next day and caught and gathered the quail (the one who gathered least gathered ten homers) and they spread them out for themselves around the camp [to cure them by drying]. 33 While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck them with a very severe plague. 34 So that place was named Kibroth-hattaavah (the graves of greediness), because there they buried the people who had been greedy [for more than the manna that God provided them].(E) 35 From Kibroth-hattaavah the people set out for Hazeroth, and they remained at Hazeroth.
The Murmuring of Miriam and Aaron
12 Now [h]Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the [i]Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); 2 and they said, “Has the Lord really spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken also through us?” And the Lord heard it. 3 ([j]Now the man Moses was very humble (gentle, kind, devoid of self-righteousness), more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) 4 Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle).” And the three of them came out. 5 The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tabernacle, and He called Aaron and Miriam, and they came forward. 6 And He said,
“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision
And I will speak to him in a dream.
“But it is not so with My servant Moses;
He is entrusted and faithful in all My house.(F)
“With him I speak mouth to mouth [directly],
Clearly and openly and not in riddles;
And he beholds the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?”
9 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Miriam and Aaron, and He departed. 10 But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned and looked at Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous. 11 Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, I plead with you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned. 12 Oh, do not let her be like one dead, already half decomposed when he comes from his mother’s womb.” 13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “Heal her please, O God, I plead with You!” 14 But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but [k]spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up outside the camp for seven days, and afterward she may return.” 15 So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was brought in again [and declared ceremonially clean from her leprosy].
16 Afterward the people moved on from Hazeroth and camped in the Wilderness of Paran.
Spies View the Land
13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel. From each of their fathers’ tribes you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.” 3 So Moses sent spies from the Wilderness of Paran at the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the Israelites. 4 These were their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur; 5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori; 6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; 7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph; 8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea [that is, Joshua] the son of Nun; 9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu; 10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi; 11 from the tribe of Joseph, that is, of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi; 12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli; 13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael; 14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi; 15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. 16 These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land; but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua (the Lord is salvation).
17 Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up this way into the Negev (the South country); then go up into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many, 19 and whether the land in which they live is good or bad, and whether the cities in which they live are [open] camps or fortifications, 20 and what the land is, whether it is fat (productive) or lean, whether there is timber on it or not. Make an effort to get some of the fruit of the land.” Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.
21 So they went up and spied out the land from the Wilderness of Zin to Rehob [a town in Lebanon], at Lebo-hamath [in the far north]. 22 When they had gone up into the Negev (the South country), they came to Hebron; and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai the descendants of Anak were there. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)
23 Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol (cluster of grapes), and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two of them, with some of pomegranates and the figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshcol (cluster of grapes) because of the cluster of grapes which the sons of Israel cut down there.
The Spies’ Reports
25 When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, 26 they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh, and brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the land’s fruit. 27 They reported to Moses and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does [l]flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 But the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are [m]fortified (walled) and very large; moreover, we saw there the descendants of Anak [people of great stature and courage]. 29 [The people descended from] Amalek live in the land of the Negev (South country); the Hittite, the Jebusite, and the Amorite live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the [Dead] Sea and along the side of the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession of it; for we will certainly conquer it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people [of Canaan], for they are too strong for us.” 32 So they gave the Israelites a bad report about the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we went, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants. And all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
- Numbers 11:4 A unique word found only here in the OT. It refers to the mixed multitude of non-Israelites who joined the exodus.
- Numbers 11:6 Lit our throat is dry.
- Numbers 11:6 Lit for our eyes.
- Numbers 11:7 A gum resin obtained from various trees of the genus Commiphora. This resin was used as an ingredient to make incense or perfume, and was also used as a topical ointment.
- Numbers 11:10 Lit it was evil in Moses’ sight.
- Numbers 11:12 Lit bosom.
- Numbers 11:16 A council of seventy elders had existed the year before this (Ex 24:9). It appears to be the source of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish assembly for government in the time of our Lord—usually translated “council.”
- Numbers 12:1 Miriam is presumed to be the leader of the attack on Moses’ authority because she is mentioned before Aaron and because of the severity of her punishment.
- Numbers 12:1 Because the ancient borders of Cush and Midian sometimes overlapped Miriam may have considered Moses’ wife, Zipporah, a Cushite instead of a Midianite (Ex 2:21); however, it is also possible that Zipporah had died and this refers to a second wife. Marriage with a Canaanite was forbidden (Ex 34:11, 16), but not marriage with an Egyptian or Cushite. Joseph’s wife was an Egyptian (Gen 41:45).
- Numbers 12:3 Some scholars believe this comment was added to the text after Moses’ death.
- Numbers 12:14 I.e. rebuked her publicly.
- Numbers 13:27 This phrase referred to the abundant fertility of the land of Canaan. Milk (typically that of goats and sheep) was associated with abundance; “honey” referred mainly to syrups made from dates or grapes and was the epitome of sweetness. Bees’ honey was very rare and was considered the choicest of foods.
- Numbers 13:28 The spies probably had not seen walled cities before, having lived their childhood in Goshen in Egypt. Those who forgot God’s power to help them naturally found the situation formidable.