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Basic Bible: God Sends Quail and Plague

Numbers 11:24-35

“And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord” (v. 24). The words which Moses delivered to the people are recorded in verses 18-20. Moses told them to prepare for tomorrow because the Lord would give them flesh to eat for one full month. Moses told them that the flesh would be loathsome to them because they had despised the Lord and wept before Him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?

In verse 25, the Lord did with the elders that which He said that He would do in verse 17. He spoke to Moses while the elders were present. The Lord came down in a cloud and placed the spirit that was on Moses upon the elders. The location of the cloud was above the tabernacle. The physical location of the cloud should be noted because that which follows in verses 26 through 29.

Two men, Eldad and Medad, who were of the elders remained in the camp. The cloud did not hover above Eldad and Medad but the spirit rested upon them and they prophesied in the camp. Their prophesying was reported to Moses. Joshua, one of Moses’ young men, thought it improper that Eldad and Medad should prophesy. Moses rebuked Joshua, saying, “Enviest thou for my sake?” It was Moses’ desire that the Lord would place His spirit upon all of His people. Moses recognized that Eldad’s and Medad’s prophesying was because they had been moved by His spirit. The spirit of prophesying comes upon all whom God chooses.

The names, Eldad and Medad, mean “beloved of God” and “beloved.” The picture before us is that of the Lord placing His spirit upon all whom He loves. Is this not a picture of that which the Lord places upon all New Testament believers?

In verse 31, the word which the Lord spoke to Moses came to pass. The Lord supplied the flesh which would feed all Israel for thirty days. Moses told the people that this would happen in verse 25. That which was prophesied came to pass.

A wind from the Lord deposited quail from the sea round about the camp. The sea would have been the Red Sea. The Lord gathered up the quail from a distance of more than 20 miles away and caused them to fall and pile up to a height of three feet (2 cubits) about the camp. The people gathered quail for two days and one night. There were six hundred thousand men of military age who gathered up the birds (see v. 21). The least that any gathered was ten homers. The volume of an homer, depending upon the source, is somewhere between two quarts and a gallon. The number of birds gathered would have been in excess of 25 million.

While the flesh of the birds was yet between their teeth (flesh was between their teeth for thirty days), the wrath of the Lord was kindled and He smote them with a great plague. This wrath is not the wrath of verse 10. The wrath of the Lord in verse 10 was kindled by the complaints of the people. The wrath of verse 33 was kindled by the actions of the people.

New Testament believers know the Lord to be long-suffering and slow to anger. The Lord, figuratively, turned His cheek in verse 10. In verse 33, the Lord did not turn His cheek. Those who lusted for the flesh perished and were buried at that place Kibroth-hattaavah which literally means Graves of the Craving.

New Testament believers know the Lord to be a God of second chances. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9). There are no second chances for them who do not come to repentance. Second chances ended for all of them at Kibroth-hattaavah who still desired flesh after thirty days. They were buried in the wilderness. All who found the flesh to be loathsome journeyed to Hazeroth, a place of second chances.

Israel buried its dead and moved on. Believers are to do the same. When we confess our sins, we find forgiveness because Christ is lets His blood be our covering.

New Testament believers, like the children of Israel, sin both knowingly and unknowingly. We ever need to confess and be forgiven. We cannot cleanse ourselves.

The Apostle Paul’s instruction to believers at the church in Thessolanica holds for today. We are to pray without ceasing and to give thanks to God in all things. It is the will of God that we so do.

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