And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
Eldad and Medad seem instances of unlicensed preaching and prophesying; and this, at a time of scanty knowledge and rare spiritual illumination, was not without its dangers. So thought Joshua, and, jealous for Moses' supremacy, besought him to rebuke them. But the great prophet, wholly wanting in the thought of self, rebuked Joshua instead. "Enviest thou," he said, "for my sake?" and then added, in words of noble hyperbole, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets!"
I. The first thought that occurs to us in reading this scene is the good, felt by the greatest, of zeal and enthusiasm. And the second is, how to discover it, how to encourage it in God's service. But then comes the further question, Have these men the prophet's capacity? Have they that primary want, the prophet's faith? Have they fire, perseverance, and courage? (1) The prophet's faith. Take away from the prophet this faith in the living God, speaking to him, teaching him, encouraging him, in the midst of life's sorrows and temptations, and he is nothing. Give him that belief, and his confidence, his courage, is unshaken (2) There is the prophet's belief in the moral order underlying the established order of things, as the only safe and sure foundation on which peace and prosperity in a nation can be built.
II. The prophetic message, however varied its tone, however startling its communication, is always in substance, as of old, the same: "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
III. "Would that the people of the Lord were all prophets!" Would that we had all more of the fire of enthusiasm, leading us to go forth and act, and learn in acting, not waiting till we have solved all doubts or perfected some scheme of action!
IV. Zeal may often make mistakes, but it is better than no zeal. Truth is not merely correctness, accuracy, the absence of error, nor even the knowledge of the laws of nature. It is also the recognition of the moral and spiritual bases of life, and the desire to promote and teach these among men.
A. G. Butler, The Oxford Review, April 29th, 1885.
References: Numbers 11:29.—H. Melvill, Lothbury Lectures, p. 168; Parker, vol. iv., p. 52; J. Van Oosterzee, Year of Salvation, vol. i., p. 463.
I. The perpetual resurrections of easily besetting sins. (1) Look at the side from which the temptation came. It was distinctly a question of lust. Lust was strong in the people, the love of the satisfaction of the bodily appetites for the sake of the momentary pleasure they bring. Appetite runs swiftly to lust in every one of us; each act of indulgence opens a mouth which craves to be fed. (2) Look at the special season when the easily besetting sin rose up and again made them its slave. There is a backwater of temptation which is more deadly than its direct assaults. Just when the consciousness of a triumph seems to permit and justify disarmament for a moment, the subtle foe with whom you have to deal will steal in on you, and win a treacherous victory.
II. There comes a point in the history of the indulgence of besetting sins when God ceases to strive with us and for us against them, and lets them have their way. (1) God has great patience with the weaknesses and sins of the flesh. But it is a dreadful mistake to suppose that therefore He thinks lightly of them. He regards them as sins that must be conquered and, no matter by what sharp discipline, extirpated and killed. (2)
Hence all the severer discipline by which the Lord seeks to purge them, the various agencies by which He fights with us and for us against their tyrannous power. (3) Let alone by God. "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone," is one among the most awful sentences in the word of God.
III. The end of that way is inevitably and speedily a grave. The grave of lust is one of the most awful of the inscriptions on the headstone of the great cemetery, the world. No ghosts are so sure to haunt their graves as the ghosts of immolated faculties and violated vows. Each act of indulgence makes the grave wider and deeper where the whole breadth of Godlike faculty will at length be buried.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Soul's Exodus and Pilgrimage, p. 279.
References: Numbers 11:31.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 180. Num 11—W. M. Taylor, Moses the Lawgiver, p. 292. Numbers 12:1.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 282. Numbers 12:1-16.—W. M. Taylor, Moses the Lawgiver, p. 307. Numbers 12:3.—H. Wonnacott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 138; J. Van Oosterzee, Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 400; I. Williams, Characters of the Old Testament, p. 79. Numbers 12:6-8.—G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 111. Numbers 12:10.—Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 228. Num 12.—Parker, vol. iii., p. 198. Numbers 13:16.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 340. Numbers 13:18-20.—J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. i., p. 152.
And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched.
And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.
And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.
Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.
And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?
Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?
Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.
I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.
And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.
Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;
But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month.
Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?
And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD'S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.
And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.
And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.
And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!
And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.
And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague.
And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.
And the people journeyed from Kibrothhattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.