Numbers Chapter 11

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At this point in the narrative of the Israelite journey to the promised land, they left the wilderness of Sinai for the wilderness of Paran. They are being led by the Lord, according to his time and way. I imagine that there were those who were not willing to understand that the Lord had reasons for leading them the way He did. Like a child who cries, “Are we there yet?” from the back seat on a long drive, there had to be some who would murmur among the Israelites. We learn in this chapter, what the Lord did to deal with it, or in other words, to teach the Israelites.

1 And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
2 And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched.
3 And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the Lord burnt among them.

When the Lord heard the complaints of the people, He did not accept it. He was leading them and providing for them, in a way that they should have been grateful for, but they would not see the larger picture in this. I think that the Lord had to deal with these individuals, so they would not cause an uprising rebellion and major apostasy within the camp. The fire of the Lord went through the camp and consumed those who complained. The people begged for Moses to help them, and when he prayed to the Lord, the fire was taken away. Taberah became the name of this area where they camped.

4 And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
8 And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.

It talks here about a mixed multitude among them, which may have been others who were not of Israelite blood, or those who were both of Israelite and Egyptian blood. This mixed multitude began to turn to the worldly ways of lusting, which I think means that they began to have strong desires to please themselves. Then the Israelites, being affected by this lusting, began to murmur about the desire for something other than manna to eat. They cried to have the kinds of food they had eaten in Egypt, rather than the same thing day after day. In this complaint, they had forgotten that the Lord was giving them a miracle from heaven, that would give them all that was necessary to sustain their lives. I am one who doesn’t need a lot of variety in my food, but I understand the desire for a change every once in a while. My kids often complain of the food in front of them, or that they want for more. It is a trait of the natural man in us, to want for foods that will bring us greater satisfaction. The miracle of manna would have been a difficult trial for them to experience, even with the amazing blessing that it was. In 1 Nephi 17, Nephi speaks to his brothers when they murmur about him building a boat, which he had been commanded by God to build. He reminds them of the Israelite journey.

30 And notwithstanding they being led, the Lord their God, their Redeemer, going before them, leading them by day and giving light unto them by night, and doing all things for them which were expedient for man to receive, they hardened their hearts and blinded their minds, and reviled against Moses and against the true and living God.
31 And it came to pass that according to his word he did destroy them; and according to his word he did lead them; and according to his word he did do all things for them; and there was not any thing done save it were by his word.

The Lord was watching over them, and blessing them daily. As they hardened their hearts, they were punished and others were reminded of who was leading them. We are imperfect ourselves and I am sure that each of us falls into murmuring at one time or another. Doctrine and Covenants 59:7 teaches us, “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” We would do well to find ways to remember the blessings of the Lord in our lives.

10 Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.
11 And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?
12 Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?
13 Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.
14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

Moses heard the cries of the people, and was not happy with it. The Lord was angered by the complaints. Moses complained also, that he had to carry the burden of the people. He felt like a father which was expected to care for his own children, but with all the people of Israel. He was not enough to handle this alone. He prayed basically, that he would rather be killed in that moment, then see his own failure in leading the people on his own. He felt incapable of doing the thing that he had been called to do. I know that many feel inadequate to bear their callings, as Moses was feeling. If we become overburdened with our responsibilities, we too can turn to the Lord for help. The Lord will be there to help us with our burdens.

16 And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.
18 And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.
19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;
20 But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
21 And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month.
22 Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?
23 And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.

Moses was commanded to gather seventy elders, to help him with the work. Some would need to be called to lead them. Together the seventy would share the burden of leadership with Moses. They would receive a portion of the Lord’s spirit, which had been given to Moses. This is a part of the true organization of the Lord’s church, and it continues in His order of the priesthood even today.

Next, Moses was commanded to prepare the people, because the Lord would provide meat for them for a whole month and it would become disgusting to them. This came because they had murmured and complained against the Lord. Moses questioned how it would be possible to provide that much meat, and if it would require all the flocks they had, to be killed. The Lord responded by telling Moses if he wondered if the Lord was unable to do this thing, Moses would see if he could. This is a reminder to Moses, that all things are possible by God. It is a reminder to us, that the promises of the Lord will be fulfilled because He has the power to do all things.

24 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.
25 And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
26 But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.
27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!
30 And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.

Moses gathered the seventy from the people, as he had been commanded. The Lord came to him, as he had promised, and gave the spirit to the elders. When this was done, they prophesied with the spirit of God. Two of the men, Eldad and Medad, who had received the spirit but instead of going to the tabernacle, they went about in the camp. Moses was told of them by a young man, and Joshua, one who was in the service of Moses, told Moses he should stop them from doing this. Moses told him that He would like it if God would have all people be prophets, and would give them His spirit. If God wanted to impart the power to prophesy on others, He had a reason for it. Who was Moses, or Joshua, to question the workings of the Lord.

31 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.
32 And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.
33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.
34 And he called the name of that place Kibroth-hattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.
35 And the people journeyed from Kibroth-hattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.

The Lord brought a wind from the sea, which carried quail to the camp. There were so many that they were covering the ground for a day’s journey on either side. They gathered the quail from that day through the following day and divided them in the camp. As they ate, the Lord sent a plague among them. Many died who had lusted for the meat, and the place was called Kibroth-hattaavah for them. Israel then moved from this place, to Hazeroth.

This is a good example of our need to pray and plead for things according to the will of God. When we have been provided for, and yet, we still beg for those things that we do not have, we are deserving of a lesson on gratitude for what we have already. In Alma 29:4 we read, “I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life”. The Lord has the power to give and take. If our best learning may come from an experience such as this one, the Lord will give us the opportunity to learn. God is good to those who are righteous and faithful. We do not need to have all the things that others have, or that we have even had before, if He has provided enough to sustain us. I am very grateful for the Lord’s hand in my life, and I hope to remember this lesson at those times when I may want for other things I do not need.

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