Numbers 11:1-35 . MANNA LOATHED.
21-23. Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand . . . Shall the flocks and herds be slain for them, to suffice them?--The great leader, struck with a promise so astonishing as that of suddenly furnishing, in the midst of the desert, more than two millions of people with flesh for a whole month, betrayed an incredulous spirit, surprising in one who had witnessed so many stupendous miracles. But it is probable that it was only a feeling of the moment--at all events, the incredulous doubt was uttered only to himself--and not, as afterwards, publicly and to the scandal of the It was, therefore, sharply reproved, but not punished.
24. Moses . . . gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people--The tabernacle was chosen for the convocation, because, as it was there God manifested Himself, there His Spirit would be directly imparted--there the minds of the elders themselves would be inspired with reverential awe and their office invested with greater respect in the eyes of the people.
25. when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease--As those elders were constituted civil governors, their "prophesying" must be understood as meaning the performance of their civil and sacred duties by the help of those extraordinary endowments they had received; and by their not "ceasing" we understand, either that they continued to exercise their gifts uninterruptedly the first day (see 1 Samuel 19:24 ), or that these were permanent gifts, which qualified them in an eminent degree for discharging the duty of public magistrates.
26-29. But there remained two of the men in the camp--They did not repair with the rest to the tabernacle, either from modesty in shrinking from the assumption of a public office, or being prevented by some ceremonial defilement. They, however, received the gifts of the Spirit as well as their brethren. And when Moses was urged to forbid their prophesying, his answer displayed a noble disinterestedness as well as zeal for the glory of God akin to that of our Lord ( Mark 9:39 ).
31-35. There went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, &c.--These migratory birds on their journey from Egypt, when "the wind from the Lord," an east wind ( Psalms 78:26 ) forcing them to change their course, wafted them over the Red Sea to the camp of Israel.
let them fall a day's journey--If the journey of an individual is meant, this space might be thirty miles; if the inspired historian referred to the whole host, ten miles would be as far as they could march in one day in the sandy desert under a vertical sun. Assuming it to be twenty miles this immense cloud of quails ( Exodus 16:13 ) covered a space of forty miles in diameter. Others reduce it to sixteen. But it is doubtful whether the measurement be from the center or the extremities of the camp. It is evident, however, that the language describes the countless number of these quails.
as it were two cubits high--Some have supposed that they fell on the ground above each other to that height--a supposition which would leave a vast quantity useless as food to the Israelites, who were forbidden to eat any animal that died of itself or from which the blood was not poured out. Others think that, being exhausted with a long flight, they could not fly more than three feet above the earth, and so were easily felled or caught. A more recent explanation applies the phrase, "two cubits high," not to the accumulation of the mass, but to the size of the individual birds. Flocks of large red-legged cranes, three feet high, measuring seven feet from tip to tip, have been frequently seen on the western shores of the Gulf of Akaba, or eastern arm of the Red Sea [STANLEY; SHUBERT].
32. people stood up--rose up in eager haste--some at one time, others at another; some, perhaps through avidity, both day and night.
ten homers--ten asses' loads; or, "homers" may be used indefinitely (as in Exodus 8:14 , Judges 15:16 ); and "ten" for many: so that the phrase "ten homers" is equivalent to "great heaps." The collectors were probably one or two from each family; and, being distrustful of God's goodness, they gathered not for immediate consumption only, but for future use. In eastern and southern seas, innumerable quails are often seen, which, when weary, fall down, covering every spot on the deck and rigging of vessels; and in Egypt they come in such myriads that the people knock them down with sticks.
spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp--salted and dried them for future use, by the simple process to which they had been accustomed in Egypt.
33. while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed--literally, "cut off"; that is, before the supply of quails, which lasted a month ( Numbers 11:20 ), was exhausted. The probability is, that their stomachs, having been long inured to manna (a light food), were not prepared for so sudden a change of regimen--a heavy, solid diet of animal food, of which they seem to have partaken to so intemperate a degree as to produce a general surfeit, and fatal consequences. On a former occasion their murmurings for flesh were raised ( Exodus 16:1-8 ) because they were in want of food. Here they proceeded, not from necessity, but wanton, lustful desire; and their sin, in the righteous judgment of God, was made to carry its own punishment.
34. called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah--literally, "The graves of lust," or "Those that lusted"; so that the name of the place proves that the mortality was confined to those who had indulged inordinately.
35. Hazeroth--The extreme southern station of this route was a watering-place in a spacious plain, now Ain-Haderah.