What is the real complaint in Numbers 11? What did Moshe hear vs. what did God hear?
“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. The people therefore cried out to Moshe, and Moshe prayed to the LORD and the fire died out. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them.” (Numbers 11:1–3 NASB)
God heard the people complaining of “adversity” and the people didn’t believe that God had their best interest at heart. We don’t know the exact nature of the complaints in Numbers 11:1-3 that upset God so much.
Human beings have a tendency to murmur and hope they won’t be heard and also at tendency to murmur and hope that they will be heard. God’s judgement was take out the murmurers.
It’s easy to blame the “mixed multitude” for these complaints, but the Torah (Genesis–Deuteronomy) says that it was Israel who complained. The “mixed multitude” may have joined in to the complaints but there’s nothing written that indicates these complaints were instigated by the “mixed multitude.” It’s human nature to blame “the other” for your nation’s problems.
“The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? ‘We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.'”(Numbers 11:4–6 NASB)
This complaint was heard by Moshe directly. They were complaining because they didn’t have access in the desert to the types of foods they had in Goshen, which was located in the fertile Nile delta.
“Now Moshe heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly, and Moshe was displeased.” (Numbers 11:10 NASB)
First God is displeased with murmuring and now Moshe is expressing displeasure at hearing the people murmuring. God wanted Moshe to hear these complaints about the lack of fish, onions, garlic, etc. What will happen if God takes away our luxury from us? If we complain, God will hear it. If you hear people complaining, don’t join in.
What is Moshe complaining about? Moshe is not complaining about what he does not have. He is complaining to God about how he feels inadequate to the task of taking care of all these people.
“So Moshe 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 laid the burden of all this people on me? Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’? ‘Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ ‘I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.'” (Numbers 11:11–15 NASB)
Moshe has been teaching and guiding the people of Israel for a year at this point and the burden was hard on him. Moshe wasn’t complaining for himself but because of the people. God knows what we can handle and we can often handle more than we think we can but if we reach our limit, God is just and able to help us bear it.
“The LORD therefore said to Moshe, ‘Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.'” (Numbers 11:16 NASB)
God knew this burden was difficult for Moshe and God specifically told Moshe to choose 70 elders to help him.
After a year, Moshe knew the people well enough to choose the 70 elders to help him. Moshe did not choose novices. He chose people who he knew cared about their people. We don’t know their names but God gave them His Spirit, the same Spirit He gave to Moshe, to help Moshe with the burden of shepherding the people.
“The LORD said to Moshe, Is the LORD’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.'” (Numbers 11:23 NASB)
Moshe then called the 70 to come to the Tabernacle to receive their anointing and told the people to consecrate themselves.
“So Moshe went out and told the people the words of the LORD. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.” (Numbers 11:24–25 NASB)
These men didn’t speak prophesy until God’s Spirit came upon them, and they didn’t have to do it again.
“But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And 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. So a young man ran and told Moshe and said, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moshe from his youth, said, ‘Moshe, my lord, restrain them.’ But Moshe said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!’ Then Moshe returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel.” (Numbers 11:26–30 NASB)
Even though these two men didn’t show up, they were still given their assignment. Why they weren’t at the Tabernacle at the appointment time is not recorded, it is not our business to know.
God came to them even though they didn’t come to them. Also as Joshua was jealous, in a sense for Moshe, there’s a similar incident when the 12 Apostles were jealous because there was a person speaking in Yeshua’s name who wasn’t among their group. Yeshua’s reaction was similar to Moshe’ reaction. Rather than rebuking the “outsider,” Moshe and Yeshua encouraged them.
Moshe wanted all people to have God’s Spirit on them. The people who have been much easier to lead if they did.
“Now there went forth a wind from the LORD 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, all around the camp and about two cubits deep on the surface of the ground.” (Numbers 11:31 NASB)
The quail were a 12 hour’s distance away then converged on the Tabernacle. They were piled up 36 inches high and they easy pickings on the ground, not flying around. The people were told to only gather up enough manna for one day’s meal at every day, except Shabbat (Exodus 16). Yet the Scripture says the minimum amount of quail gathered by each person was 10 omers, which is far more than one person would need for one days’ meal. There was certainly a spirit of gluttony, desire and food lust here.
“So the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had been greedy.” (Numbers 11:34 NASB)
The NASB Hebrew Dictionary translates Kibroth-hattavah as “graves of desire.” Their gluttony and unreasonable desires killed them.
Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.