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Numbers 11:16-25

Context
The Response of God

11:16 1 The Lord said to Moses, “Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know are elders of the people and officials 2  over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting; let them take their position there with you. 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 3  all by yourself.

11:18 “And say to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves 4  for tomorrow, and you will eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing 5  of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat, 6  for life 7  was good for us in Egypt?” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat. 11:19 You will eat, not just one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 11:20 but a whole month, 8  until it comes out your nostrils and makes you sick, 9  because you have despised 10  the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why 11  did we ever come out of Egypt?”’”

11:21 Moses said, “The people around me 12  are 600,000 on foot; 13  but you say, ‘I will give them meat, 14  that they may eat 15  for a whole month.’ 11:22 Would they have enough if the flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? If all the fish of the sea were caught for them, would they have enough?” 11:23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? 16  Now you will see whether my word to you will come true 17  or not!”

11:24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. He then gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and had them stand around the tabernacle. 11:25 And the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to them, and he took some of the Spirit that was on Moses 18  and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, 19  they prophesied, 20  but did not do so again. 21 

1 sn The Lord provides Spirit-empowered assistance for Moses. Here is another variation on the theme of Moses’ faith. Just as he refused to lead alone and was given Aaron to share the work, so here he protests the burden and will share it with seventy elders. If God’s servant will not trust wholeheartedly, that individual will not be used by God as he or she might have been. Others will share in the power and the work. Probably one could say that it was God’s will for others to share this leadership – but not to receive it through these circumstances.

2 tn The “officials” (שֹׁטְּרִים, shottÿrim) were a group of the elders who seem to have had some administrative capacities. The LXX used the word “scribes.” For further discussion, see R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 69-70.

3 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.

4 tn The Hitpael is used to stress that they are to prepare for a holy appearance. The day was going to be special and so required their being set apart for it. But it is a holy day in the sense of the judgment that was to follow.

5 tn Heb “in the ears.”

6 tn Possibly this could be given an optative translation, to reflect the earlier one: “O that someone would give….” But the verb is not the same; here it is the Hiphil of the verb “to eat” – “who will make us eat” (i.e., provide meat for us to eat).

7 tn The word “life” is not in the text. The expression is simply “it was for us,” or “we had good,” meaning “we had it good,” or “life was good.”

8 tn Heb “a month of days.” So also in v. 21.

9 tn The expression לְזָרָה (lÿzarah) has been translated “ill” or “loathsome.” It occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible. The Greek text interprets it as “sickness.” It could be nausea or vomiting (so G. B. Gray, Numbers [ICC], 112) from overeating.

10 sn The explanation is the interpretation of their behavior – it is in reality what they have done, even though they would not say they despised the Lord. They had complained and shown a lack of faith and a contempt for the program, which was in essence despising the Lord.

11 tn The use of the demonstrative pronoun here (“why is this we went out …”) is enclitic, providing emphasis to the sentence: “Why in the world did we ever leave Egypt?”

12 tn Heb “the people who I am in their midst,” i.e., among whom I am.

13 tn The Hebrew sentence stresses the number. The sentence begins “600,000….”

14 tn The word order places the object first here: “Meat I will give them.” This adds to the contrast between the number and the statement of the Lord.

15 tn The verb is the perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive, carrying the sequence from the preceding imperfect tense. However, this verb may be subordinated to the preceding to express a purpose clause.

16 sn This anthropomorphic expression concerns the power of God. The “hand of the Lord” is idiomatic for his power, what he is able to do. The question is rhetorical; it is affirming that his hand is not shortened, i.e., that his power is not limited. Moses should have known this, and so this is a rebuke for him at this point. God had provided the manna, among all the other powerful acts they had witnessed. Meat would be no problem. But the lack of faith by the people was infectious.

17 tn Or “will happen” (TEV); KJV “shall come to pass unto thee.”

18 tn Heb “on him”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

19 tn The temporal clause is introduced by the temporal indicator וַיְהִי (vayÿhi), which need not be translated. It introduces the time of the infinitive as past time narrative. The infinitive construct is from נוּחַ (nuakh, “to rest”). The figurative expression of the Spirit resting upon them indicates the temporary indwelling and empowering by the Spirit in their lives.

20 tn The text may mean that these men gave ecstatic utterances, much like Saul did when the Spirit came upon him and he made the same prophetic utterances (see 1 Sam 10:10-13). But there is no strong evidence for this (see K. L. Barker, “Zechariah,” EBC 7:605-6). In fact there is no consensus among scholars as to the origin and meaning of the verb “prophesy” or the noun “prophet.” It has something to do with speech, being God’s spokesman or spokeswoman or making predictions or authoritative utterances or ecstatic utterances. It certainly does mean that the same Holy Spirit, the same divine provision that was for Moses to enable him to do the things that God had commanded him to do, was now given to them. It would have included wisdom and power with what they were saying and doing – in a way that was visible and demonstrable to the people! The people needed to know that the same provision was given to these men, authenticating their leadership among the clans. And so it could not simply be a change in their understanding and wisdom.

21 tn The final verb of the clause stresses that this was not repeated: “they did not add” is the literal rendering of וְלֹא יָסָפוּ (vÿloyasafu). It was a one-time spiritual experience associated with their installation.



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