The Israelites' Sin and Punishment
Numbers 11:31-35
And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp…

I. THEIR SIN many consider a trifle. Certainly it was not of that character which the judgment inflicted on them would lead us to anticipate. We read here of no enormous transgression, or daring violation of God's law. All they were guilty of, was a strong desire for something which God had not given them. "Something evil," you will say perhaps, but not so; it was one of the most harmless things they could have desired. The Lord had provided them with manna for their support; they were weary of manna and wanted flesh. "The children of Israel," we read, "wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?"

1. You see, then, the nature of the sin we have before us. It is a sin of the heart — coveting, desiring; and that not slightly, but very eagerly, with the full bent of the mind. It is not spiritual idolatry, though it is like it. That is making too much of what we have; this is making too much of what we want.

2. Look at the cause or spring of Israel's sin. Their desire for flesh was a desire springing up amidst abundance. It had its origin, not in their necessities, but m their vile affections, their own unsubdued, carnal minds.

3. Observe next the occasion of Israel's sin. Oh, dread the mixed multitude. Stand in fear of worldly-minded professors of Christ's gospel. They will teach you to lust for the things you now despise. They will drive, if not the fear, yet the peace of God from your hearts, and all they will give you in exchange for it will be a craving, aching soul, a share in their own restlessness and discontent.

4. Mark the effect of their sin, its immediate effect, I mean, on their own minds. It made them completely wretched. The truth is, the mind of man cannot long bear a strong and unchecked desire. It must be gratified or have a prospect of being gratified, or it consumes the soul. Perhaps we may say, this is one main ingredient in the misery of hell — a longing, and a longing, and a longing still, for something that can be never had.

5. Notice one thing more in this craving of the Israelites — its sinfulness or guilt. Wherein, then, did its sinfulness lie? In the twentieth verse, God tells us. He pronounces it a contempt of Himself. Moses is commanded to go to the weeping people, and say to them, "Ye have despised the Lord which is among you." And how had they despised Him?In three respects.

1. They had low thoughts of His power. "Who," they asked, "shall give us flesh to eat?" Who can give it?

2. And their conduct involved in it a making light of His goodness. They had evidently lost sight at this time of all He had done for them, or if not so, they lightly esteemed what He had done.

3. And then there was also here a despising of God's authority.


1. He granted their desire. We are told again and again that it displeased Him, that His anger was kindled greatly against the people on account of it; but how does He show His displeasure? He begins with giving them the very thing they wish for; He works a miracle to give it them; He gives it them to the utmost extent of their desires, and beyond them. But what was God really doing all this while? He was only vindicating His aspersed honour.

2. The Lord took vengeance on these Israelites, and this in a fearful manner and at a very remarkable time. It is often the will of God to make our sin our punishment. We eagerly crave something; He gives us what we crave, and when we have it, He either takes away from us all our delight in it, and so bitterly disappoints us, or else He causes it to prove to us a source of misery.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: A wind from Yahweh went out and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, about a day's journey on this side, and a day's journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the earth.

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