11:11 And Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you afflicted 1 your servant? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that 2 you lay the burden of this entire people on me? 11:12 Did I conceive this entire people? 3 Did I give birth to 4 them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your arms, as a foster father 5 bears a nursing child,’ to the land which you swore to their fathers? 11:13 From where shall I get 6 meat to give to this entire people, for they cry to me, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat!’ 7 11:14 I am not able to bear this entire people alone, 8 because it 9 is too heavy for me!
11:17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take part of the spirit that is on you, and will put it on them, and they will bear some of the burden of the people with you, so that you do not bear it 10 all by yourself.
1 tn The verb is the Hiphil of רָעַע (ra’a’, “to be evil”). Moses laments (with the rhetorical question) that God seems to have caused him evil.
2 tn The infinitive construct with the preposition is expressing the result of not finding favor with God (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 12-13, §57). What Moses is claiming is that because he has been given this burden God did not show him favor.
3 sn The questions Moses asks are rhetorical. He is actually affirming that they are not his people, that he did not produce them, but now is to support them. His point is that God produced this nation, but has put the burden of caring for their needs on him.
4 tn The verb means “to beget, give birth to.” The figurative image from procreation completes the parallel question, first the conceiving and second the giving birth to the nation.
5 tn The word אֹמֵן (’omen) is often translated “nurse,” but the form is a masculine form and would better be rendered as a “foster parent.” This does not work as well, though, with the יֹנֵק (yoneq), the “sucking child.” The two metaphors are simply designed to portray the duty of a parent to a child as a picture of Moses’ duty for the nation. The idea that it portrays God as a mother pushes it too far (see M. Noth, Numbers [OTL], 86-87).
6 tn The Hebrew text simply has “from where to me flesh?” which means “from where will I have meat?”
7 tn The cohortative coming after the imperative stresses purpose (it is an indirect volitive).
8 tn The word order shows the emphasis: “I am not able, I by myself, to bear all this people.” The infinitive לָשֵׂאת (lase’t) serves as the direct object of the verb. The expression is figurative, for bearing or carrying the people means being responsible for all their needs and cares.
9 tn The subject of the verb “heavy” is unstated; in the context it probably refers to the people, or the burden of caring for the people. This responsibility was turning out to be a heavier responsibility than Moses anticipated. Alone he was totally inadequate.
10 tn The imperfect tense here is to be classified as a final imperfect, showing the result of this action by God. Moses would be relieved of some of the responsibility when these others were given the grace to understand and to resolve cases.