Numbers 11

Listen to Numbers 11

The People Complain

1 And 1the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, 2his anger was kindled, and 3the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
2 Then 4the people cried out to Moses, 5and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down.
3 So the name of that place was called 6Taberah,[a] because the fire of the LORD burned among them.
4 Now the 7rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also 8wept again and said, 9"Oh that we had meat to eat!
5 10We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.
6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at."
7 Now 11the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium.
8 12The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. 13And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil.
9 14When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.
10 Moses heard the people 15weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the LORD blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased.
11 16Moses said to the LORD, "Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me?
12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, 17'Carry them in your bosom, as a 18nurse carries a nursing child,' to the land 19that you swore to give their fathers?
13 20Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, 'Give us meat, that we may eat.'
14 21I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.
15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness."

Elders Appointed to Aid Moses

16 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Gather for me 22seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and 23officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.
17 24And I will come down and talk with you there. And 25I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and 26they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.
18 And say to the people, 27'Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, "Who will give us meat to eat? 28For it was better for us in Egypt." Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat.
19 You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days,
20 but a whole month, 29until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, 30"Why did we come out of Egypt?"'"
21 But Moses said, 31"The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, 'I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!'
22 32Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?"
23 And the LORD said to Moses, 33"Is the LORD's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether 34my word will come true for you or not."
24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. 35And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent.
25 Then 36the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.
26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they 37had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp.
27 And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp."
28 And 38Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, "My lord Moses, 39stop them."
29 But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? 40Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!"
30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Quail and a Plague

31 Then a 41wind from the LORD sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits[b] above the ground.
32 And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten 42homers.[c] And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.
33 43While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and 44the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague.
34 Therefore the name of that place was called 45Kibroth-hattaavah,[d] because there they buried the people who had the craving.
35 46From Kibroth-hattaavah the people journeyed to 47Hazeroth, and they remained at 48Hazeroth.

Numbers 11 Commentary

Chapter 11

The burning at Taberah. (1-3) The people lust for flesh, and loathe the manna. (4-9) Moses complains of his charge. (10-15) Elders appointed to divide the charge. Flesh meat promised. (16-23) The Spirit rests on the elders. (24-30) Quails are given. (31-35)

Verses 1-3 Here is the people's sin; they complained. See the sinfulness of sin, which takes occasion from the commandment to be provoking. The weakness of the law discovered sin, but could not destroy it; checked, but could not conquer it. They complained. Those who are of a discontented spirit, will always find something to quarrel or fret about, though the circumstances of their outward condition be ever so favourable. The Lord heard it, though Moses did not. God knows the secret frettings and murmurings of the heart, though concealed from men. What he noticed, he was much displeased with, and he chastised them for this sin. The fire of their wrath against God burned in their minds; justly did the fire of God's wrath fasten on their bodies; but God's judgments came on them gradually, that they might take warning. It appeared that God delights not in punishing; when he begins, he is soon prevailed with to let it fall.

Verses 4-9 Man, having forsaken his proper rest, feels uneasy and wretched, though prosperous. They were weary of the provision God had made for them, although wholesome food and nourishing. It cost no money or care, and the labour of gathering it was very little indeed; yet they talked of Egypt's cheapness, and the fish they ate there freely; as if that cost them nothing, when they paid dearly for it with hard service! While they lived on manna, they seemed exempt from the curse sin has brought on man, that in the sweat of his face he should eat bread; yet they speak of it with scorn. Peevish, discontented minds will find fault with that which has no fault in it, but that it is too good for them. Those who might be happy, often make themselves miserable by discontent. They could not be satisfied unless they had flesh to eat. It is evidence of the dominion of the carnal mind, when we want to have the delights and satisfaction of sense. We should not indulge in any desire which we cannot in faith turn into prayer, as we cannot when we ask meat for our lust. What is lawful of itself becomes evil, when God does not allot it to us, yet we desire it.

Verses 10-15 The provocation was very great; yet Moses expressed himself otherwise than became him. He undervalued the honour God had put upon him. He magnified his own performances, while he had the Divine wisdom to direct him, and Almighty power to dispense rewards and punishments. He speaks distrustfully of the Divine grace. Had the work been much less he could not have gone through it in his own strength; but had it been much greater, through God strengthening him, he might have done it. Let us pray, Lord, lead us not into temptation.

Verses 16-23 Moses is to choose such as he knew to be elders, that is, wise and experienced men. God promises to qualify them. If they were not found fit for the employ, they should be made fit. Even the discontented people shall be gratified too, that every mouth may be stopped. See here, I. The vanity of all the delights of sense; they will cloy, but they will not satisfy. Spiritual pleasures alone will satisfy and last. As the world passes away, so do the lusts of it. 2. What brutish sins gluttony and drunkenness are! they make that to hurt the body which should be its health. Moses objects. Even true and great believers sometimes find it hard to trust God under the discouragements of second causes, and against hope to believe in hope. God here brings Moses to this point, The Lord God is Almighty; and puts the proof upon the issue, Thou shalt see whether my word shall come to pass or not. If he speaks, it is done.

Verses 24-30 We have here the fulfilment of God's word to Moses, that he should have help in the government of Israel. He gave of his Spirit to the seventy elders. They discoursed to the people of the things of God, so that all who heard them might say, that God was with them of a truth. Two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, went not out unto the tabernacle, as the rest, being sensible of their own weakness and unworthiness. But the Spirit of God found them in the camp, and there they exercised their gift of praying, preaching, and praising God; they spake as moved by the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God is not confined to the tabernacle, but, like the wind, blows where He listeth. And they that humble themselves shall be exalted; and those who are most fit for government, are least ambitious of it. Joshua does not desire that they should be punished, but only restrained for the future. This motion he made out of zeal for what he thought to be the unity of the church. He would have them silenced, lest they should occasion a schism, or should rival Moses; but Moses was not afraid of any such effects from that Spirit which God had put upon them. Shall we reject those whom Christ has owned, or restrain any from doing good, because they are not in every thing of our mind? Moses wishes all the Lord's people were prophets, that he would put his Spirit upon all of them. Let the testimony of Moses be believed by those who desire to be in power; that government is a burden. It is a burden of care and trouble to those who make conscience of the duty of it; and to those who do not, it will prove a heavier burden in the day of account. Let the example of Moses be followed by those in power; let them not despise the advice and assistance of others, but desire it, and be thankful for it. If all the present number of the Lord's people were rendered prophets, or ministers, by the Spirit of Christ, though not all agreed in outward matters, there is work enough for all, in calling sinners to repentance, and faith in our Lord Jesus.

Verses 31-35 God performed his promise to the people, in giving them flesh. How much more diligent men are in collecting the meat that perishes, than in labouring for meat which endures to everlasting life! We are quick-sighted in the affairs of time; but stupidity blinds us as to the concerns of eternity. To pursue worldly advantages, we need no arguments; but when we are to secure the true riches, then we are all forgetfulness. Those who are under the power of a carnal mind, will have their lusts fulfilled, though it be to the certain damage and ruin of their precious souls. They paid dearly for their feasts. God often grants the desires of sinners in wrath, while he denies the desires of his own people in love. What we unduly desire, if we obtain it, we have reason to fear, will be some way or other a grief and cross to us. And what multitudes there are in all places, who shorten their lives by excess of one kind or other! Let us seek for those pleasures which satisfy, but never surfeit; and which will endure for evermore.

Cross References 48

  • 1. Deuteronomy 9:22
  • 2. Psalms 78:21
  • 3. [Numbers 16:35; Leviticus 10:2; 2 Kings 1:12; Psalms 106:18; Revelation 13:13]
  • 4. [Numbers 21:7]
  • 5. [James 5:16]; See Numbers 16:45-48
  • 6. Deuteronomy 9:22
  • 7. See Exodus 12:38
  • 8. Numbers 14:1
  • 9. Psalms 78:18; Psalms 106:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6
  • 10. [Numbers 21:5; Exodus 16:3; Acts 7:39]
  • 11. Exodus 16:14, 31
  • 12. Exodus 16:16-18
  • 13. [Exodus 16:31]
  • 14. Exodus 16:13, 14
  • 15. [Zechariah 12:12-14]
  • 16. [1 Kings 19:4; Jonah 4:1-4, 9]
  • 17. Isaiah 40:11; [Deuteronomy 1:31]
  • 18. [Isaiah 49:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:7]
  • 19. Genesis 50:24; Exodus 13:5
  • 20. [2 Kings 7:2; Matthew 15:33; Mark 8:4; John 6:7, 9]
  • 21. Exodus 18:18; Deuteronomy 1:9, 12
  • 22. [Exodus 24:1, 9]
  • 23. Deuteronomy 1:15; Deuteronomy 16:18
  • 24. ver. 25; Numbers 12:5; Genesis 11:5; Genesis 18:21; Exodus 19:20
  • 25. [2 Kings 2:9, 15; Nehemiah 9:20]
  • 26. Exodus 18:22
  • 27. Exodus 19:10
  • 28. See ver. 5
  • 29. [Psalms 78:29; Psalms 106:15]
  • 30. Numbers 21:5
  • 31. Exodus 12:37; [Numbers 1:46; Exodus 38:26]
  • 32. [ver. 13]
  • 33. Isaiah 50:2; Isaiah 59:1
  • 34. Numbers 23:19; Ezekiel 12:25; Ezekiel 24:14
  • 35. ver. 16
  • 36. ver. 17
  • 37. [1 Samuel 20:26; Jeremiah 36:5]
  • 38. Numbers 26:65; Exodus 24:13; [Numbers 13:8]; See Numbers 13:16
  • 39. [Mark 9:38; Luke 9:49]
  • 40. [1 Corinthians 14:5]
  • 41. Exodus 16:13; Psalms 78:26-28; Psalms 105:40
  • 42. Exodus 16:36; [Ezekiel 45:11]
  • 43. Psalms 78:30, 31
  • 44. [Numbers 16:49]
  • 45. Deuteronomy 9:22
  • 46. Numbers 33:17
  • 47. Numbers 12:16; Numbers 33:17, 18
  • 48. Numbers 12:16; Numbers 33:17, 18

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Taberah means burning
  • [b]. A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
  • [c]. A homer was about 6 bushels or 220 liters
  • [d]. Kibroth-hattaavah means graves of craving

Chapter Summary


This chapter informs us of the complaints of the people of Israel, which brought the fire of the Lord upon them, and consumed many of them; and which, at the intercession of Moses, was quenched, and the place from thence called Taberah, Nu 11:1-3; and of the lusting of the mixed multitude after flesh, to increase which, they called to mind their food in Egypt; and to show their folly and ingratitude in so doing, the manna is described, Nu 11:4-9; and of the uneasiness of Moses, and his complaints of the heavy burden of the people upon him, Nu 11:10-15; and to make him easy, it is promised, that seventy of the elders of Israel should partake of his spirit, and assist in bearing the burden, Nu 11:16,17; and that the people should have flesh to serve them a whole month, Nu 11:18-20; at which last Moses expressed some degree of unbelief, Nu 11:21-23; however God fulfilled his promise with respect to both. Some of the spirit of Moses was taken and given to seventy elders, who prophesied, and two men are particularly taken notice of, who did so, Nu 11:24-30; quails in great numbers were brought by a wind to the people; but while they were eating them wrath came upon them, and they were smitten with a plague, whence the place was called Kibrothhattaavah, Nu 11:31-34; and from thence they removed to Hazeroth, Nu 11:35.

Numbers 11 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.