Add parallel Print Page Options

The Israelites Complain

11 One day the Israelites started complaining about their troubles. The Lord heard them and became so angry that he destroyed the outer edges of their camp with fire.

When the people begged Moses to help, he prayed, and the fire went out. They named the place “Burning,”[a] because in his anger the Lord had set their camp on fire.

The People Grumble about Being Hungry

One day some worthless foreigners among the Israelites became greedy for food, and even the Israelites themselves began moaning, “We don’t have any meat! In Egypt we could eat all the fish we wanted, and there were cucumbers, melons, onions, and garlic. But we’re starving out here, and the only food we have is this manna.”

The manna was like small whitish seeds 8-9 and tasted like something baked with sweet olive oil. It appeared at night with the dew. In the morning the people would collect the manna, grind or crush it into flour, then boil it and make it into thin wafers.

10 The Israelites stood around their tents complaining. Moses heard them and was upset that they had made the Lord angry. 11 He prayed:

I am your servant, Lord, so why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this? You’ve made me responsible for all these people, 12 but they’re not my children. You told me to nurse them along and to carry them to the land you promised their ancestors. 13 They keep whining for meat, but where can I get meat for them? 14 This job is too much for me. How can I take care of all these people by myself? 15 If this is the way you’re going to treat me, just kill me now and end my miserable life!

Seventy Leaders Are Chosen To Help Moses

16 The Lord said to Moses:

Choose seventy of Israel’s respected leaders and go with them to the sacred tent. 17 While I am talking with you there, I will give them some of your authority, so they can share responsibility for my people. You will no longer have to care for them by yourself.

18 As for the Israelites, I have heard them complaining about not having meat and about being better off in Egypt. So tell them to make themselves acceptable to me, because tomorrow they will have meat. 19-20 In fact, they will have meat day after day for a whole month—not just a few days, or even ten or twenty. They turned against me and wanted to return to Egypt. Now they will eat meat until they get sick of it.

21 Moses replied, “At least six hundred thousand grown men are here with me. How can you say there will be enough meat to feed them and their families for a whole month? 22 Even if we butchered all of our sheep and cattle, or caught every fish in the sea, we wouldn’t have enough to feed them.”

23 The Lord answered, “I can do anything! Watch and you’ll see my words come true.”

24 Moses told the people what the Lord had said. Then he chose seventy respected leaders and went with them to the sacred tent. While the leaders stood in a circle around the tent, Moses went inside, 25 and the Lord spoke with him. Then the Lord took some authority[b] from Moses and gave it to the seventy leaders. And when the Lord’s Spirit took control of them, they started shouting like prophets. But they did it only this one time.

26 Eldad and Medad were two leaders who had not gone to the tent. But when the Spirit took control of them, they began shouting like prophets right there in camp. 27 A boy ran to Moses and told him about Eldad and Medad.

28 Joshua[c] was there helping Moses, as he had done since he was young. And he said to Moses, “Sir, you must stop them!”

29 But Moses replied, “Are you concerned what this might do to me? I wish the Lord would give his Spirit to all his people so everyone could be a prophet.” 30 Then Moses and the seventy leaders went back to camp.

The Lord Sends Quails

31 Some time later the Lord sent a strong wind that blew quails in from the sea until Israel’s camp was completely surrounded with birds, piled up about three feet high for miles in every direction. 32 The people picked up quails for two days—each person filled at least fifty bushels. Then they spread them out to dry. 33 But before the meat could be eaten, the Lord became angry and sent a disease through the camp.

34 After they had buried the people who had been so greedy for meat, they called the place “Graves for the Greedy.”[d]

35 Israel then broke camp and traveled to Hazeroth.

Miriam and Aaron Are Jealous of Moses

12 1-3 Although Moses was the most humble person in all the world, Miriam and Aaron started complaining, “Moses had no right to marry that woman from Ethiopia![e] Who does he think he is? The Lord has spoken to us, not just to him.”

The Lord heard their complaint and told Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to come to the entrance of the sacred tent. There the Lord appeared in a cloud and told Aaron and Miriam to come closer. Then after commanding them to listen carefully, he said:

“I, the Lord, speak to prophets
    in visions and dreams.
But my servant Moses
    is the leader of my people.
He sees me face to face,
and everything I say to him
    is perfectly clear.
You have no right to criticize
    my servant Moses.”

The Lord became angry at Aaron and Miriam. And after the Lord left 10 and the cloud disappeared from over the sacred tent, Miriam’s skin turned white with leprosy.[f] When Aaron saw what had happened to her, 11 he said to Moses, “Sir, please don’t punish us for doing such a foolish thing. 12 Don’t let Miriam’s flesh rot away like a child born dead!”

13 Moses prayed, “Lord God, please heal her.”

14 But the Lord replied, “Miriam would be disgraced for seven days if her father had punished her by spitting in her face. So make her stay outside the camp for seven days, before coming back.”

15 The people of Israel did not move their camp until Miriam returned seven days later. 16 Then they left Hazeroth and set up camp in the Paran Desert.

Twelve Men Are Sent into Canaan

13 The Lord said to Moses, “Choose a leader from each tribe and send them into Canaan to explore the land I am giving you.”

So Moses sent twelve tribal leaders from Israel’s camp in the Paran Desert 4-16 with orders to explore the land of Canaan. And here are their names:

Shammua son of Zaccur
    from Reuben,
Shaphat son of Hori
    from Simeon,
Caleb son of Jephunneh
    from Judah,
Igal son of Joseph
    from Issachar,
Joshua son of Nun
    from Ephraim,[g]
Palti son of Raphu
    from Benjamin,
Gaddiel son of Sodi
    from Zebulun,
Gaddi son of Susi
    from Manasseh,
Ammiel son of Gemalli
    from Dan,
Sethur son of Michael
    from Asher,
Nahbi son of Vophsi
    from Naphtali,
and Geuel son of Machi
    from Gad.

17 Before Moses sent them into Canaan, he said:

After you go through the Southern Desert of Canaan, continue north into the hill country 18 and find out what those regions are like. Be sure to remember how many people live there, how strong they are, 19-20 and if they live in open towns or walled cities. See if the land is good for growing crops and find out what kinds of trees grow there. It’s time for grapes to ripen, so try to bring back some of the fruit that grows there.

21 The twelve men left to explore Canaan from the Zin Desert in the south all the way to the town of Rehob near Lebo-Hamath in the north. 22 As they went through the Southern Desert, they came to the town of Hebron, which was seven years older than the Egyptian town of Zoan. In Hebron, they saw the three Anakim[h] clans of Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai. 23-24 When they got to Bunch Valley,[i] they cut off a branch with such a huge bunch of grapes, that it took two men to carry it on a pole. That’s why the place was called Bunch Valley. Along with the grapes, they also took back pomegranates[j] and figs.

The Men Report Back to the People

25 After exploring the land of Canaan forty days, 26 the twelve men returned to Kadesh in the Paran Desert and told Moses, Aaron, and the people what they had seen. They showed them the fruit 27 and said:

Look at this fruit! The land we explored is rich with milk and honey. 28 But the people who live there are strong, and their cities are large and walled. We even saw the three Anakim[k] clans. 29 Besides that, the Amalekites live in the Southern Desert; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites are in the hill country; and the Canaanites[l] live along the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

30 Caleb calmed down the crowd and said, “Let’s go and take the land. I know we can do it!”

31 But the other men replied, “Those people are much too strong for us.” 32 Then they started spreading rumors and saying, “We won’t be able to grow anything in that soil. And the people are like giants. 33 In fact, we saw the Nephilim who are the ancestors of the Anakim. They were so big that we felt as small as grasshoppers.”


  1. 11.3 Burning: Or “Taberah.”
  2. 11.25 some authority: Or “some of the Spirit’s power.”
  3. 11.28 Joshua: Hebrew “Joshua son of Nun.”
  4. 11.34 Graves for the Greedy: Or “Kibroth-Hattaavah.”
  5. 12.1-3 Ethiopia: The Hebrew text has “Cush,” which was a region south of Egypt that included parts of the present countries of Ethiopia and Sudan.
  6. 12.10 leprosy: See the note at 5.2,3.
  7. 13.4-16 Joshua. . . Ephraim: Hebrew “Hoshea son of Nun from Ephraim; Moses renamed him Joshua.”
  8. 13.22 Anakim: Perhaps a group of very large people (see Deuteronomy 2.10,11,20,21).
  9. 13.23,24 Bunch Valley: Or “Eshcol Valley.”
  10. 13.23,24 pomegranates: A bright red fruit that looks like an apple.
  11. 13.28 Anakim: See the note at verse 22.
  12. 13.29 Amalekites. . . Hittites. . . Jebusites. . . Amorites. . . Canaanites: These people lived in Canaan before the Israelites.

Bible Gateway Recommends