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Numbers 11:11-35

Context
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! 11:15 But if you are going to deal 10  with me like this, then kill me immediately. 11  If I have found favor in your sight then do not let me see my trouble.” 12 

The Response of God

11:16 13 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 14  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 15  all by yourself.

11:18 “And say to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves 16  for tomorrow, and you will eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing 17  of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat, 18  for life 19  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, 20  until it comes out your nostrils and makes you sick, 21  because you have despised 22  the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why 23  did we ever come out of Egypt?”’”

11:21 Moses said, “The people around me 24  are 600,000 on foot; 25  but you say, ‘I will give them meat, 26  that they may eat 27  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? 28  Now you will see whether my word to you will come true 29  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 30  and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, 31  they prophesied, 32  but did not do so again. 33 

Eldad and Medad

11:26 But two men remained in the camp; one’s name was Eldad, and the other’s name was Medad. And the spirit rested on them. (Now they were among those in the registration, 34  but had not gone to the tabernacle.) So they prophesied in the camp. 11:27 And a 35  young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!” 11:28 Joshua son of Nun, the servant 36  of Moses, one of his choice young men, 37  said, 38  “My lord Moses, stop them!” 39  11:29 Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for me? 40  I wish that 41  all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 11:30 Then Moses returned to the camp along with the elders of Israel.

Provision of Quail

11:31 Now a wind 42  went out 43  from the Lord and brought quail 44  from the sea, and let them fall 45  near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side, and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about three feet 46  high on the surface of the ground. 11:32 And the people stayed up 47  all that day, all that night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail. The one who gathered the least gathered ten homers, 48  and they spread them out 49  for themselves all around the camp. 11:33 But while the meat was still between their teeth, before they chewed it, 50  the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague.

11:34 So the name of that place was called Kibroth Hattaavah, 51  because there they buried the people that craved different food. 52  11:35 The people traveled from Kibroth Hattaavah to Hazeroth, and they stayed at Hazeroth.

1 tn The verb is the Hiphil of רָעַע (raa’, “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 (laset) 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 participle expresses the future idea of what God is doing, or what he is going to be doing. Moses would rather be killed than be given a totally impossible duty over a people that were not his.

11 tn The imperative of הָרַג (harag) is followed by the infinitive absolute for emphasis. The point is more that the infinitive adds to the emphasis of the imperative mood, which would be immediate compliance.

12 tn Or “my own ruin” (NIV). The word “trouble” here probably refers to the stress and difficulty of caring for a complaining group of people. The suffix on the noun would be objective, perhaps stressing the indirect object of the noun – trouble for me. The expression “on my trouble” (בְּרָעָתִי, bÿraati) is one of the so-called tiqqune sopherim, or “emendations of the scribes.” According to this tradition the original reading in v. 15 was [to look] “on your evil” (בְּרָעָתֶךָ, bÿraatekha), meaning “the calamity that you bring about” for Israel. However, since such an expression could be mistakenly thought to attribute evil to the Lord, the ancient scribes changed it to the reading found in the MT.

13 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.

14 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.

15 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.

16 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.

17 tn Heb “in the ears.”

18 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).

19 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.”

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

21 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.

22 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.

23 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?”

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

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

26 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.

27 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.

28 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.

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

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

31 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.

32 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.

33 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.

34 tn The form of the word is the passive participle כְּתֻבִים (kÿtuvim, “written”). It is normally taken to mean “among those registered,” but it is not clear if that means they were to be among the seventy or not. That seems unlikely since there is no mention of the seventy being registered, and vv. 24-25 says all seventy went out and prophesied. The registration may be to eldership, or the role of the officer.

35 tn The article indicates that the “young man” was definite in the mind of the writer, but indefinite in English.

36 tn The form is the Piel participle מְשָׁרֵת (mÿsharet), meaning “minister, servant, assistant.” The word has a loftier meaning than the ordinary word for slave.

37 tn The verb is בָּחַר (bakhar, “to choose”); here the form is the masculine plural participle with a suffix, serving as the object of the preposition מִן (min). It would therefore mean “[one of] his chosen men,” or “[one of] his choice men.”

38 tn Heb “answered and said.”

39 sn The effort of Joshua is to protect Moses’ prerogative as leader by stopping these men in the camp from prophesying. Joshua did not understand the significance in the Lord’s plan to let other share the burden of leadership.

40 tn The Piel participle מְקַנֵּא (mÿqanne’) serves as a verb here in this interrogative sentence. The word means “to be jealous; to be envious.” That can be in a good sense, such as with the translation “zeal,” or it can be in a negative sense as here. Joshua’s apparent “zeal” is questioned by Moses – was he zealous/envious for Moses sake, or for some other reason?

41 tn The optative is expressed by the interrogative clause in Hebrew, “who will give….” Moses expresses here the wish that the whole nation would have that portion of the Spirit. The new covenant, of course, would turn Moses’ wish into a certainty.

42 sn The irony in this chapter is expressed in part by the use of the word רוּחַ (ruakh). In the last episode it clearly meant the Spirit of the Lord that empowered the men for their spiritual service. But here the word is “wind.” Both the spiritual service and the judgment come from God.

43 tn The verb means “burst forth” or “sprang up.” See the ways it is used in Gen 33:12, Judg 16:3, 14; Isa 33:20.

44 sn The “quail” ordinarily cross the Sinai at various times of the year, but what is described here is not the natural phenomenon. Biblical scholars looking for natural explanations usually note that these birds fly at a low height and can be swatted down easily. But the description here is more of a supernatural supply and provision. See J. Gray, “The Desert Sojourn of the Hebrews and the Sinai Horeb Tradition,” VT 4 (1954): 148-54.

45 tn Or “left them fluttering.”

46 tn Heb “two cubits.” The standard cubit in the OT is assumed by most authorities to be about eighteen inches (45 cm) in length.

47 tn Heb “rose up, stood up.”

48 sn This is about two thousand liters.

49 tn The verb (a preterite) is followed by the infinitive absolute of the same root, to emphasize the action of spreading out the quail. Although it is hard to translate the expression, it indicates that they spread these quail out all over the area. The vision of them spread all over was evidence of God’s abundant provision for their needs.

50 tn The verb is a prefixed conjugation, normally an imperfect tense. But coming after the adverb טֶּרֶם (terem) it is treated as a preterite.

51 sn The name “the graves of the ones who craved” is again explained by a wordplay, a popular etymology. In Hebrew קִבְרוֹת הַתַּאֲוָה (qivrot hattaavah) is the technical name. It is the place that the people craved the meat, longing for the meat of Egypt, and basically rebelled against God. The naming marks another station in the wilderness where the people failed to accept God’s good gifts with grace and to pray for their other needs to be met.

52 tn The words “different food” are implied, and are supplied in the translation for clarity.



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