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Basic Bible: Complaints About Manna

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-23

The text before us centers around manna. Both the children of Israel and the mixed multitude which were with them complained because there was nothing to eat except manna. The people had been eating manna for about one year.

Following their departure from Elim when they came out of Egypt, the Lord gave the children of Israel manna to eat when their food supply ran out (Ex. 16:1). That date would have been between the fifteenth day of the second month of the first year and the third month of the first year [the date of their arrival at the mount in Sinai] (see Ex. 19:1). The date of their complaining in the text before us was shortly after the twenty-third day of the second month of the second year (Num. 10:11, 33).

The children of Israel wept and said, “Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt” (v. 5). They also longed for the produce of Egypt.

Compare these words to that which they uttered one year earlier following their departure from Elim. “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full” (Ex. 16:3).

The two complaints are almost identical. The Lord’s response in the text before us, however, is far different from that which is recorded in Exodus 16. The anger of the Lord was kindled by the complaining multitude (v. 10). This was not the case one year earlier.

When Israel came up out of Egypt, they possessed limited knowledge of the Lord. In the year in which they camped before the mount, the Lord revealed Himself to Israel by giving them all of the instruction set forth in Leviticus. The Lord faithfully provided for their physical needs by causing manna to fall from heaven six days each week. Israel did not acknowledge the blessings of the Lord. They lusted for that which they had left behind. The Lord heard that which was in their hearts and He was provoked to anger.

Anger is an emotion common to all men. That said, different individuals express anger in different manners. New Testament believers, having the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16), are empowered by the Holy Spirit to respond in a manner like unto that of the Lord. The Lord did not lash out at them who provoked Him. He, figuratively, turned His cheek by supplying the flesh which they demanded. In so doing, the Lord warned them that they would have more flesh to eat than they wanted and that they would find it loathsome.

Moses reacted to Israel’s complaints by complaining to the Lord (v. 11-15). Moses wanted to know why that the Lord had tasked him with the responsibility of meeting the needs of the people. Moses pleaded, “. . . let me not see my wretchedness.”

The Lord heard Moses’ plea and responded. The Lord instructed Moses to enlist others (elders and officers) to help him. The elders and officers were to come to the tabernacle where the Lord would come down and take of the spirit that was upon Moses and place it upon them. The Lord instructed Moses to deliver His words to the people.

The words which the Lord gave to Moses to speak to the people reveal His anger. Moses was to tell them that the Lord would give them flesh to eat and that they would eat flesh for a full month. They would eat it until it came out of their nostrils and was loathsome to them (v. 20). Moses was to tell them why the Lord was angry. He was to tell them that they had despised the Lord and wept before Him, saying, “Why came we forth out of Egypt?”

Before doing as the Lord instructed him to do, Moses questioned God. Moses knew that the Lord said that He would supply flesh sufficient to feed all of the people for a full thirty days but he questioned how that the Lord might do it. Moses visualized the size of the flocks and herds which would be necessary to feed the six hundred thousand adult male population of Israel for one month and asked the Lord if all the fish of the sea would be sufficient.

The Lord answered with the question: “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?” The Lord then declared that Moses would see whether or not His word shall come to pass.

Moses questioned the Lord and the Lord answered: Wait and see. The Lord would do as He said. The manner in which He would do it, however, was not by slaughtering the flocks and herds or by gathering the fish of the sea. Moses would have to wait and see. In the meantime, Moses was to tell Israel to prepare themselves for that which was to come.

New Testament believers wait for our Lord and Savior to return. We do not understand how that “the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed” (I Cor. 15:52), but we, like Moses, are to tell all people to prepare for that day.

Let us do as the Lord has said.

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