Reading 41/341, Numbers 11-13

The longing of the people of Israel for Egypt is a symbol of a Christian who is longing to return to sin, with its pleasures. In memory, when we are tempted, we remember the good and forget the evils of sin, as the Israelites here remember the food and forget the slavery.


The people were murmuring evil in the ears of the Lord, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and devoured in the outlying part of the camp. The people cried to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire abated. The name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burnt among them. The rabble that was among them craved exceedingly, and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, “Who shall give us meat to eat? We remember the fish, which we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic, but now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all except this manna to look at.” The manna was like coriander seed, and the appearance of it as the appearance of bdellium. The people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in mortars, and boiled it in pots, and made cakes of it, and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it. Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, every man at the door of his tent, and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased.

Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? and why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I brought them forth, that you should tell me, ‘Carry them in your bosom’, as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which you swore to their fathers? Where should I get meat to give to all this people? for they weep to me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. If you deal thus with me, please kill me out of hand, if I have found favor in your sight, and let me not see my wretchedness.” The Lord said to Moses, “Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and talk with you there, and I will take from the Spirit which is on you, and will put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you not bear it yourself alone. Say to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, “Who shall give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and you shall eat. You shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it is loathsome to you, for you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come forth out of Egypt?”’” Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ Shall flocks and herds be slain for them, to satisfy them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to satisfy them?” The Lord said to Moses, “Has the Lord's hand grown short? Now you shall see whether my word happens to you or not.”

Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the Tent. The Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was on him, and put it on the seventy elders, and it happened that when the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not keep doing it. Two men remained in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were one the list, but had not gone out to the Tent, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, one of his chosen men, answered, “My lord Moses, forbid them.” Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” Moses went back to the camp, he and the elders of Israel.

A wind came forth from the Lord, which 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, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the earth. The people rose up all that day, and all the night, and all the next day, and gathered the quails. The least anyone gathered was ten homers, and they spread them all out for themselves around the camp. While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great disease. The name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who craved. From Kibroth-hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth, and they dwelt at Hazeroth.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only with Moses? Has he not spoken also with us?” The Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all the men who were on the surface of the earth. The Lord spoke suddenly to Moses, and to Aaron, and to Miriam, “Come out you three to the tent of meeting.” The three came out. The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the Tent, and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forth. He said, “Hear now my words, if there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, I will speak with him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house, with him will I speak face to face, clearly, not in dark speeches, and he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?” The anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed. The cloud removed from over the Tent, and behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow, and Aaron looked at Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, milord, please do not lay sin on us, for that we have done foolishly, and for that we have sinned. Let her not, I pray, be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when they come out of their mother's womb.” Moses cried to the Lord, saying, “Heal her, God, I beg you.” The Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed for seven days? Let her be shut up outside the camp seven days, and after that she shall be brought in again.” Miriam was shut up outside of the camp seven days, and the people did not travel until Miriam was brought in again.

Afterward the people traveled from Hazeroth, and encamped in the desert of Paran. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel, from every tribe of their fathers send a man, everyone a prince among them.” Moses sent them from the desert of Paran according to the commandment of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel. These were their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur; from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori; from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph; from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun; from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu; from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi: from the tribe of Joseph, of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi; of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli; of the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael; from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi. Of the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. These are the names of the men who Moses sent to spy out the land. Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua.

Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up this way by the South, and go up into the hill country, and see the land, what it is, and the people who dwell therein, whether they are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, and what the land is that they dwell in, whether it is good or bad, and what cities they are that they dwell in, whether in camps, or in strongholds, and what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is wood therein, or not. Be of good courage, and bring some of the fruit of the land. Now the season was the season of the first-ripe grapes. So they went up, and spied out the land from the desert of Zin to Rehob, to the entrance of Hamath. They went up by the South, and came to Hebron, and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were there. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) They came to the valley of Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bore it on a staff between two; they brought] also of the pomegranates, and of the figs. That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the children of Israel cut down from there. They returned from spying out the land at the end of forty days. They went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, to the desert of Paran, to Kadesh, and brought back word to them, and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. They spoke to him, and said, “We came to the land where you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it. However the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified, and very big, and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. Amalek dwells in the land of the South, and the Hittite, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite, dwell in the hill country, and the Canaanite dwells by the sea, and along by the side of the Jordan. Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it, for we are well able to conquer it.” But the men who went up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. They brought up an evil report of the land which they had spied out to the children of Israel, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that eats up the inhabitants of it, and all the people who we saw in it are men of great stature.” There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim, and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

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