And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
And he gave them their desire: and sent leanness withal into their soul (Prayer book Version). These people longed for food of a luxurious character; they asked for it, received what they asked, and discovered that self-indulgence nourished appetite into passion, which carried them away beyond all possibility of self-restraint. Indulgence involved loss of moral power. Feed the body and you will inevitably starve the soul, bring "leanness into the soul." "The gratification of wilful and presumptuous desire begets only an intenser sense of want." Chateaubriand tells how the "Meschacebe, soon after leaving its source among the hills, began to feel weary of being a simple brook, and so asked for snow from the mountains, water from the torrents, rain from the tempests, until, its petitions granted, it burst its bounds, and ravaged its hitherto delightsome banks. At first the proud stream exulted in its force, but seeing ere long that it carried desolation in its flow, that its progress was now doomed to solitude, and that its waters were forever turbid, it came to regret the humble bed hollowed out for it by nature, the birds, the flowers, the trees, and the brooks, hitherto the modest companions of its tranquil course." In Numbers 11:4 we are told that "the mixed multitude that was among them fell a-lusting," and the Israelites joined them in crying for flesh to eat. What ought they to have done?
I. SINFUL DESIRES WILL SOMETIMES ARISE EVEN IN GOOD MEN. Wanting what is not provided, or what is contrary to the Divine will, under the urgings of bodily passion, is a constant experience. It is even illustrated in the idea of making bread out of stones, to satisfy hunger, which came to Jesus in the wilderness. Every man must take account of the fact that his bodily passions may at any time become temptations.
II. SINFUL DESIRES MUST BE REPRESSED WITHIN SAFE LIMITS. And this we do by refusing to let them say anything or do anything. Compelled silence soon weakens them. That power of self-mastery a man may have and hold if he gains it in the first occasion of struggle with uprising desires; but it is very hard to win again if once it is lost.
III. SINFUL DESIRES INDULGED GAIN RUINOUS MASTERY. The common law of wanting to do a thing again which we have once done acts in this. And all indulgence tends to weaken moral power. Illustrated by the drunkard and by the devil possessions (Legion) of the New Testament. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.