Hitherto things had gone pretty well in Israel; little interruption had
been given to the methods of God's favour to them since the matter of
the golden calf; the people seemed teachable in marshalling and
purifying the camp, the princes devout and generous in dedicating the
altar, and there was good hope that they would be in Canaan presently.
But at this chapter begins a melancholy scene; the measures are all
broken, God has turned to be their enemy, and fights against them--and
it is sin that makes all this mischief.
I. Their murmurings kindled a fire among them, which yet was soon
quenched by the prayer of Moses,
II. No sooner was the fire of judgment quenched than the fire of sin
breaks out again, and God takes occasion from it to magnify both his
mercy and his justice.
1. The people fret for want of flesh,
2. Moses frets for want of help,
(1.) God promises to gratify them both, to appoint help for Moses
and to give the people flesh,
(2.) He presently makes good both these promises. For,
[1.] The Spirit of God qualifies the seventy elders for the government,
[2.] The power of God brings quails to feast the people,
[3.] The justice of God plagued them for their murmurings,
|The Murmurings of the Israelites.
||B. C. 1490.|
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.
I. The people's sin. They complained,
They were, as it were, complainers. So it is in the margin.
There were some secret grudgings and discontents among them, which as
yet did not break out in an open mutiny. But how great a matter did
this little fire kindle! They had received from God excellent laws and
ordinances, and yet no sooner had they departed from the mount of the
Lord than they began to quarrel with God himself. See in this,
1. The sinfulness of sin, which takes occasion from the commandment to
be the more provoking.
2. The weakness of the law through the flesh,
The law discovered sin, but could not destroy it; checked it, but could
not conquer it. They complained. Interpreters enquire what they
complained of; and truly, when they were furnished with so much matter
for thanksgiving, one may justly wonder where they found any matter for
complaint; it is probable that those who complained did not all agree
in the cause. Some perhaps complained that they were removed from Mount
Sinai, where they had been at rest so long, others that they did not
remove sooner: some complained of the weather, others of the ways: some
perhaps thought three days' journey was too long a march, others
thought it not long enough, because it did not bring them into Canaan.
When we consider how their camp was guided, guarded, graced, what good
victuals they had and good company, and what care was taken of them in
their marches that their feet should not swell nor their clothes wear
we may ask, "What could have been done more for a
people to make them easy?" And yet they complained. Note, Those that
are of a fretful discontented spirit will always find something or
other to quarrel with, though the circumstances of their outward
condition be ever so favourable.
II. God's just resentment of the affront given to him by this sin:
The Lord heard it, though it does not appear that Moses did.
Note, God is acquainted with the secret frettings and murmurings of the
heart, though they are industriously concealed from men. What he took
notice of his was much displeased with, and his anger was
kindled. Note, Though God graciously gives us leave to complain to
him when there is cause
yet he is justly provoked, and takes it very ill, if we complain of him
when there is no cause: such conduct in our inferiors provokes us.
III. The judgment wherewith God chastised them for this sin: The
fire of the Lord burnt among them, such flashes of fire from the
cloud as had consumed Nadab and Abihu. The fire of their wrath against
God burned in their minds
and justly does the fire of God's wrath fasten upon their bodies. We
read of their murmurings several times, when they came first out of
Exod. xv., and xvi., and xvii.. But
we do not read of any plagues inflicted on them for their murmurings,
as there were now; for now they had had great experience of God's care
of them, and therefore now to distrust him was so much the more
inexcusable. Now a fire was kindled against Jacob
but, to show how unwilling God was to contend with them, it fastened on
those only that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. Thus
God's judgments came upon them gradually, that they might take
IV. Their cry to Moses, who was their tried intercessor,
When he slew them, then they sought him, and made their
application to Moses to stand their friend. Note,
1. When we complain without cause, it is just with God to give us cause
2. Those that slight God's friends when they are in prosperity would be
glad to make them their friends when they are in distress. Father
Abraham, send Lazarus.
V. The prevalency of Moses's intercession for them: When Moses
prayed unto the Lord (he was always ready to stand in the gap to
turn away the wrath of God) God had respect to him and his offering,
and the fire was quenched. By this it appears that God delights
not in punishing, for, when he has begun his controversy, he is soon
prevailed with to let it fall. Moses was one of those worthies who
by faith quenched the violence of fire.
VI. A new name given hereupon to the place, to perpetuate the shame of
a murmuring people and the honour of a righteous God; the place was
called Taberah, a burning
that others might hear, and fear, and take warning not to sin as they
did, lest they should smart as they did,
1 Corinthians 10:10.
4 And the mixt 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
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
9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna
fell upon it.
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
These verses represent things sadly unhinged and out of order in
Israel, both the people and the prince uneasy.
I. Here is the people fretting, and speaking against God himself (as it
notwithstanding his glorious appearances both to them and for them.
1. Who were the criminals.
(1.) The mixed multitude began, they fell a lusting,
The rabble that came with them out of Egypt, expecting only the land of
promise, but not a state of probation in the way to it. They were
hangers on, who took hold of the skirts of the Jews, and would go with
them only because they knew not how to live at home, and were disposed
to seek their fortunes (as we say) abroad. These were the scabbed
sheep that infected the flock, the leaven that leavened the whole lump.
Note, A few factious, discontented, ill-natured people, may do a great
deal of mischief in the best societies, if great care be not taken to
discountenance them. Such as these are an untoward generation,
from which it is our wisdom to save ourselves,
(2.) Even the children of Israel took the infection, as we are
The holy seed joined themselves to the people of these abominations.
The mixed multitude here spoken of were not numbered with the children
of Israel, but were set aside as a people God made no account of; and
yet the children of Israel, forgetting their own character and
distinction, herded themselves with them and learned their way, as if
the scum and outcasts of the camp were to be the privy-counsellors of
it. The children of Israel, a people near to God and highly privileged,
yet drawn into rebellion against him! O how little honour has God in
the world, when even the people which he formed for himself, to show
forth his praise, were so much a dishonour to him! Therefore let none
think that their external professions and privileges will be their
security either against Satan's temptations to sin or God's judgments
for sin. See
1 Corinthians 10:1,2,12.
2. What was the crime: they lusted and murmured. Though they had been
lately corrected for this sin, and many of them overthrown for it, as
God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and the smell of the fire was still
in their nostrils, yet they returned to it. See
(1.) They magnified the plenty and dainties they had had in Egypt
as if God had done them a great deal of wrong in taking them thence.
While they were in Egypt they sighed by reason of their burdens, for
their lives were made bitter to them with hard bondage; and yet now
they talk of Egypt as if they had all lived like princes there, when
this serves as a colour for their present discontent. But with what
face can they talk of eating fish in Egypt freely, or for nought, as if
it cost them nothing, when they paid so dearly for it with their hard
service? They remember the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks,
and the onions, and the garlick (precious stuff indeed to be fond
of!), but they do not remember the brick-kilns and the task-masters,
the voice of the oppressor and the smart of the whip. No, these are
forgotten by these ungrateful people.
(2.) They were sick of the good provision God had made for them,
It was bread from heaven, angels' food. To show how unreasonable their
complaint was, it is here described,
It was good for food, and pleasant to the eye, every grain like an
orient pearl; it was wholesome food and nourishing; it was not to be
called dry bread, for it tasted like fresh oil; it was agreeable
(the Jews say,
Wisd. xvi. 20)
to every man's palate, and tasted as he
would have it; and, though it was still the same, yet, by the different
ways of dressing it, it yielded them a grateful variety; it cost them
no money, nor care, for it fell in the night, while they slept; and the
labour of gathering it was not worth speaking of; they lived upon free
quarter, and yet could talk of Egypt's cheapness and the fish they ate
there freely. Nay, which was much more valuable than all this, the
manna came from the immediate power and bounty of God, not from common
providence, but from special favour. It was, as God's compassion, new
every morning, always fresh, not as their food who live on shipboard.
While they lived on manna, they seemed to be exempted from the curse
which sin has brought on man, that in the sweat of his face should
he eat bread. And yet they speak of manna with such scorn, as if it
were not good enough to be meat for swine: Our soul is dried
away. They speak as if God dealt hardly with them in allowing them
no better food. At first they admired it
What is this? "What a curious precious thing is this!" But now
they despised it. Note, Peevish discontented minds will find fault with
that which has no fault in it but that it is too good for them. It is
very provoking to God to undervalue his favours, and to put a
but upon our common mercies. Nothing but manna! Those that might
be very happy often make themselves very miserable by their
(3.) They could not be satisfied unless they had flesh to eat. They
brought flocks and herds with them in great abundance out of Egypt; but
either they were covetous, and could not find in their hearts to kill
them, lest they should lessen their flocks (they must have flesh as
cheap as they had bread, or they would not be pleased), or else they
were curious, beef and mutton would not please them; they must have
something more nice and delicate, like the fish they did eat in Egypt.
Food would not serve; they must be feasted. They had feasted with God
upon the peace-offerings which they had their share of; but it seems
God did not keep a table good enough for them, they must have daintier
bits than any that came to his altar. Note, It is an evidence of the
dominion of the carnal mind when we are solicitous to have all the
delights and satisfactions of sense wound up to the height of
pleasurableness. Be not desirous of dainties,
If God gives us food convenient, we ought to be thankful, though we do
not eat the fat and drink the sweet.
(4.) They distrusted the power and goodness of God as insufficient for
their supply: Who will give us flesh to eat? taking it for
granted that God could not. Thus this question is commented up on,
Can he provide flesh also? though he had given them flesh with
their bread once, when he saw fit
and they might have expected that he would do it again, and in mercy,
if, instead of murmuring, they had prayed. Note, It is an offence to
God to let our desires go beyond our faith.
(5.) They were eager and importunate in their desires; they lusted a
lust, so the word is, lusted greatly and greedily, till they wept
again for vexation. So childish were the children of Israel, and so
humoursome, that they cried because they had not what they would have
and when they would have it. They did not offer up this desire to God,
but would rather be beholden to any one else than to him. We should not
indulge ourselves in any desire which we cannot in faith turn into
prayer, as we cannot when we ask meat for our lust,
For this sin the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly against
them, which is written for our admonition, that we should not
lust after evil things as they lusted,
1 Corinthians 10:6.
(6.) Flesh is good food, and may lawfully be eaten; yet they are said
to lust after evil things. What is lawful of itself becomes evil to us
when it is what God does not allot to us and yet we eagerly desire
II. Moses himself, though so meek and good a man, is uneasy upon this
occasion: Moses also was displeased. Now,
1. It must be confessed that the provocation was very great. These
murmurings of theirs reflected great dishonour upon God, and Moses laid
to heart the reproaches cast on himself; they knew that he did his
utmost for their good, and that he neither did nor could do any thing
without a divine appointment; and yet to be thus continually teased and
clamoured against by an unreasonable ungrateful people would break in
upon the temper even of Moses himself. God considered this, and
therefore we do not find that he chided him for his uneasiness.
2. Yet Moses expressed himself otherwise than became him upon this
provocation, and came short of his duty both to God and Israel in these
(1.) He undervalues the honour God had put upon him, in making him the
illustrious minister of his power and grace, in the deliverance and
guidance of that peculiar people, which might have been sufficient to
balance the burden.
(2.) He complains too much of a sensible grievance, and lays too near
his heart a little noise and fatigue. If he could not bear the toil of
government, which was but running with the footman, how would he bear
the terrors of war, which was contending with horses? He might easily
have furnished himself with considerations enough to enable him to
slight their clamours, and make nothing of them.
(3.) He magnifies his own performances, that all the burden of the
people lay upon him; whereas God himself did in effect ease him of
all the burden. Moses needed not to be in care to provide quarters for
them, or victuals; God did all. And, if any difficult case happened, he
needed not to be in any perplexity, while he had the oracle to consult,
and in it the divine wisdom to direct him, the divine authority to back
him and bear him out, and almighty power itself to dispense rewards and
(4.) He is not so sensible as he ought to be of the obligation he lay
under, by virtue of the divine commission and command, to do the utmost
he could for his people, when he suggests that because they were not
the children of his body therefore he was not concerned to take a
fatherly care of them, though God himself, who might employ him as he
pleased, had appointed him to be a father to them.
(5.) He takes too much to himself when he asks, Whence should I have
flesh to give them
as if he were the housekeeper, and not God. Moses gave them not the
Nor was it expected that he should give them the flesh, but as an
instrument in God's hand; and if he meant, "Whence should God have it
for them?" he too much limited the power of the Holy One of Israel.
(6.) He speaks distrustfully of the divine grace when he despairs of
being able to bear all this people,
Had the work been much less, he could not have gone through it in his
own strength; but had it been much greater, through God strengthening
him, he might have done it.
(7.) It was worst of all passionately to wish for death, and desire to
be killed out of hand, because just at this time his life was made a
little uneasy to him,
Is this Moses? Is this the meekest of all the men on the earth? The
best have their infirmities, and fail sometimes in the exercise of that
grace for which they are most eminent. But God graciously overlooked
Moses's passion at this time, and therefore we must not be severe in
our animadversions upon it, but pray, Lord, lead us not into
|Assistance Provided for Moses.
||B. C. 1490.|
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
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.
We have here God's gracious answer to both the foregoing complaints,
wherein his goodness takes occasion from man's badness to appear so
much the more illustrious.
I. Provision is made for the redress of the grievances Moses complains
of. If he find the weight of government lie too heavy upon him, though
he was a little too passionate in his remonstrance, yet he shall be
eased, not by being discarded from the government himself, as he justly
might have been if God had been extreme to mark what he said amiss, but
by having assistants appointed him, who should be, as the apostle
(1 Corinthians 12:28),
helps, governments (that is, helps in government), not at all to
lesson or eclipse his honour, but to make the work more easy to him,
and to bear the burden of the people with him. And that this
provision might be both agreeable and really serviceable,
1. Moses is directed to nominate the persons,
The people were too hot and heady and tumultuous to be entrusted with
the election; Moses must please himself in the choice, that he may not
afterwards complain. The number he is to choose is seventy men,
according to the number of the souls that went down into Egypt. He must
choose such as he knew to be elders, that is, wise and experienced men.
Those that had acquitted themselves best, as rulers of thousands and
purchase to themselves now this good degree. "Choose such as thou
knowest to be elders indeed, and not in name only, officers that
execute their office." We read of the same number of elders
that went up with Moses to Mount Sinai, but they were distinguished
only for that occasion, these for a perpetuity; and, according to this
constitution, the Sanhedrim, or great council of the Jews, which in
after ages sat at Jerusalem, and was the highest court of judgment
among them, consisted of seventy men. Our Saviour seems to have had an
eye to it in the choice of seventy disciples, who were to be assistants
to the apostles,
2. God promises to qualify them. If they were not found fit for the
employ, they should be made fit, else they might prove more a hindrance
than a help to Moses,
Though Moses had talked too boldly with God, yet God does not therefore
break off communion with him; he bears a great deal with us, and we
must with one another: I will come down (said God) and talk
with thee, when thou art more calm and composed; and I will take
of the same spirit of wisdom, and piety, and courage, that is
upon thee, and put it upon them. Not that Moses had the less
of the Spirit for their sharing, nor that they were hereby made equal
with him; Moses was still unequalled
but they were clothed with a spirit of government proportionable to
their place, and with a spirit of prophecy to prove their divine call
to it, the government being a Theocracy. Note,
(1.) Those whom God employs in any service he qualifies for it, and
those that are not in some measure qualified cannot think themselves
(2.) All good qualifications are from God; every perfect gift is
from the Father of lights.
II. Even the humour of the discontented people shall be gratified too,
that every mouth may be stopped. They are ordered to sanctify
that is, to put themselves into a posture to receive such a proof of
God's power as should be a token both of mercy and judgment. Prepare
to meet thy God, O Israel,
1. God promises (shall I say?)--he threatens rather, that they shall
have their fill of flesh, that for a month together they shall not only
be fed, but feasted, with flesh, besides their daily manna; and, if
they have not a better government of their appetites than now it
appears they have they shall be surfeited with it
You shall eat till it come out at your nostrils, and become
loathsome to you. See here,
(1.) The vanity of all the delights of sense; they will cloy, but not
satisfy: spiritual pleasures are the contrary. As the world passes
away, so do the lusts of it,
1 John 2:17.
What was greedily coveted in a little time comes to be nauseated.
(2.) What brutish sins (and worse than brutish) gluttony and
drunkenness are; they put a force upon nature, and make that the
sickness of the body which should be its health; they are sins that are
their own punishments, and yet not the worst that attend them.
(3.) What a righteous thing it is with God to make that loathsome to
men which they have inordinately lusted after. God could make them
despise flesh as much as they had despised manna.
2. Moses objects the improbability of making good this word,
It is an objection like that which the disciples made,
Whence can a man satisfy these men? Some excuse Moses here, and
construe what he says as only a modest enquiry which way the supply
must be expected; but it savours too much of diffidence and distrust of
God to be justified. He objects the number of the people, as if he that
provided bread for them all could not, by the same unlimited power,
provide flesh too. He reckons it must be the flesh either of beasts or
fishes, because they are the most bulky animals, little thinking that
the flesh of birds, little birds, should serve the purpose. God sees
not as man sees, but his thoughts are above ours. He objects the
greediness of the people's desires in that word, to suffice
them. Note, Even true and great believers sometimes find it hard to
trust God under the discouragements of second causes, and against
hope to believe in hope. Moses himself could scarcely forbear
saying, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? when this had
become the common cry. No doubt this was his infirmity.
3. God gives a short but sufficient answer to the objection in that
question, Has the Lord's hand waxed short?
If Moses had remembered the years of the right hand of the Most
High, he would not have started all these difficulties; therefore
God reminds him of them, intimating that this objection reflected upon
the divine power, of which he himself had been so often, not only the
witness, but the instrument. Had he forgotten what wonders the divine
power had wrought for that people, when it inflicted the plagues of
Egypt, divided the sea, broached the rock, and rained bread from
heaven? Had that power abated? Was God weaker than he used to be? Or
was he tired with what he had done? Whatever our unbelieving hearts may
suggest to the contrary, it is certain,
(1.) That God's hand is not short; his power cannot be restrained in
the exerting of itself by any thing but his own will; with him nothing
is impossible. That hand is not short which measures the waters, metes
out the heavens
and grasps the winds,
(2.) That it has not waxed short. He is as strong as ever he was,
fainteth not, neither is weary. And this is sufficient to
silence all our distrusts when means fail us, Is any thing too hard
for the Lord? God here brings Moses to this first principle, sets
him back in his lesson, to learn the ancient name of God, The Lord
God Almighty, and puts the proof upon the issue: Thou shalt see
whether my word shall come to pass or not. This magnifies God's
word above all his name, that his works never come short of it. If he
speaks, it is done.
|God Promises the People Flesh; The Case of Eldad and Medad.
||B. C. 1490.|
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
We have here the performance of God's word to Moses, that he should
have help in the government of Israel.
I. Here is the case of the seventy privy-counsellors in general. Moses,
though a little disturbed by the tumult of the people, yet was
thoroughly composed by the communion he had with God, and soon came to
himself again. And according as the matter was concerted,
1. He did his part; he presented the seventy elders before the Lord,
round the tabernacle
that they might there stand ready to receive the grace of God, in the
place where he manifested himself, and that the people also might be
witnesses of their solemn call. Note, Those that expect favour from God
must humbly offer themselves and their service to him.
2. God was not wanting to do his part. He gave of his Spirit to the
which enabled those whose capacities and education set them but on a
level with their neighbours of a sudden to say and do that which was
extraordinary, and which proved them to be actuated by divine
inspiration: they prophesied, and did not cease all that day, and (some
think) only that day. They discoursed to the people of the things of
God, and perhaps commented upon the law they had lately received with
admirable clearness, and fulness, and readiness, and aptness of
expression, so that all who heard them might see and say that God
was with them of a truth; see
1 Corinthians 14:24,25.
Thus, long afterwards, Saul was marked for the government by the gift
of prophecy, which came upon him for a day and a night,
1 Samuel 10:6,11.
When Moses was to fetch Israel out of Egypt, Aaron was appointed to be
But, now that God had called Aaron to other work, in his room Moses has
seventy prophets to attend him. Note, Those are fittest to rule in
God's Israel that are well acquainted with divine things and are apt to
teach to edification.
II. Here is the particular case of two of them, Eldad and
Medad, probably two brothers.
1. They were nominated by Moses to be assistants in the government, but
they went not out unto the tabernacle as the rest did,
Calvin conjectures that the summons was sent them, but that it did not
find them, they being somewhere out of the way; so that, though they
were written, yet they were not called. Most think that they declined
coming to the tabernacle out of an excess of modesty and humility;
being sensible of their own weakness and unworthiness, they desired to
be excused from coming into the government. Their principle was their
praise, but their practice in not obeying orders was their fault.
2. The Spirit of God found them out in the camp, where they were hidden
among the stuff, and there they prophesied, that is, they exercised
their gift of praying, preaching, and praising God, in some private
tent. Note, The Spirit of God is not tied to the tabernacle, but,
like the wind, blows where he listeth,
Whither can we go from that Spirit? There was a special
providence in it that these two should be absent, for thus it appeared
that it was indeed a divine Spirit which the elders were actuated by,
and that Moses gave them not that Spirit, but God himself. They
modestly declined preferment, but God forced it upon them; nay, they
have the honour of being named, which the rest have not: for
those that humble themselves shall be exalted, and those are most fit
for government who are least ambitious of it.
3. Information of this was given to Moses
"Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp; there is a conventicle
in such a tent, and Eldad and Medad are holding forth there, from under
the inspection and presidency of Moses, and out of the communion of the
rest of the elders." Whoever the person was that brought the tidings,
he seems to have looked upon it as an irregularity.
4. Joshua moved to have them silenced: My lord Moses, forbid
It is probable that Joshua himself was one of the seventy, which made
him the more jealous for the honour of their order. He takes it for
granted that they were not under any necessitating impulse, for the
spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets, and therefore he
would have them either not to prophesy at all or to come to the
tabernacle and prophesy in concert with the rest. He does not desire
that they should be punished for what they had done, but only
restrained for the future. This motion he made from a good principle,
not out of any personal dislike to Eldad and Medad, but out of an
honest zeal for that which he apprehended to be the unity of the
church, and concern for the honour of God and Moses.
5. Moses rejected the motion, and reproved him that made it
"Enviest thou for my sake? Thou knowest not what manner of
spirit thou art of." Though Joshua was Moses's particular friend and
confidant, though he said this out of a respect to Moses, whose honour
he was very loth to see lessened by the call of those elders, yet Moses
reproves him, and in him all that show such a spirit.
(1.) We must not secretly grieve at the gifts, graces, and usefulness
of others. It was the fault of John's disciples that they envied
Christ's honour because it shaded their master's,
(2.) We must not be transported into heats against the weaknesses and
infirmities of others. Granting that Eldad and Medad were guilty of an
irregularity, yet Joshua was too quick and too warm upon them. Our zeal
must always be tempered with the meekness of wisdom: the righteousness
of God needs not the wrath of man,
(3.) We must not make even the best and most useful men heads of a
party. Paul would not have his name made use of to patronise a faction,
1 Corinthians 1:12,13.
(4.) We must not be forward to condemn and silence those that differ
from us, as if they did not follow Christ because they do not follow
him with us,
Shall we reject those whom Christ has owned, or restrain any from doing
good because they are not in every thing of our mind? Moses was of
another spirit; so far from silencing these two, and quenching the
Spirit in them, he wished all the Lord's people were prophets,
that is, that he would put his Spirit upon them. Not that he
would have any set up for prophets that were not duly qualified, or
that he expected that the Spirit of prophecy should be made thus
common; but thus he expresses the love and esteem he had for all the
Lord's people, the complacency he took in the gifts of others, and
how far he was from being displeased at Eldad and Medad's prophesying
from under his eye. Such an excellent spirit as this blessed Paul was
of, rejoicing that Christ was preached, though it was by those who
therein intended to add affliction to his bonds,
We ought to be pleased that God is served and glorified, and good done,
though to the lessening of our credit and the credit of our way.
6. The elders, now newly ordained, immediately entered upon their
when their call was sufficiently attested by their prophesying, they
went with Moses to the camp, and applied themselves to business. Having
received the gift, they ministered the same as good stewards.
And now Moses was pleased that he had so many to share with him in his
work and honour. And,
(1.) Let the testimony of Moses be credited by those who desire to be
in power, that government is a burden. It is a burden of care and
trouble to those who make conscience of the duty of it; and to those
who do not it will prove a heavier burden in the day of account, when
they fall under the doom of the unprofitable servant that buried his
(2.) Let the example of Moses be imitated by those that are in power;
let them not despise the advice and assistance of others, but desire
it, and be thankful for it, not coveting to monopolize wisdom and
power. In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
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.
God, having performed his promise to Moses by giving him assessors in
the government, thereby proving the power he has over the spirits of
men by his Spirit, he here performs his promise to the people by giving
them flesh, proving thereby his power over the inferior creatures and
his dominion in the kingdom of nature. Observe,
1. How the people were gratified with flesh in abundance: A wind
(a south-east wind, as appears,
It is uncertain what sort of animals they were; the psalmist
calls them feathered fowl, or fowl of wing. The learned
bishop Patrick inclines to agree with some modern writers, who think
they were locusts, a delicious sort of food well known in those
parts, the rather because they were brought with a wind, lay in heaps,
and were dried in the sun for use. Whatever they were, they answered
the intention, they served for a month's feast for Israel, such an
indulgent Father was God to his froward family. Locusts, that had been
a plague to fruitful Egypt, feeding upon the fruits, were a blessing to
a barren wilderness, being themselves fed upon.
2. How greedy they were of this flesh that God sent them. They flew
upon the spoil with an unsatiable appetite, not regarding what
Moses had told them from God, that they would surfeit upon it,
Two days and a night they were at it, gathering flesh, till every
master of a family had brought home ten homers (that is, ten ass-loads)
at least. David longed for the water of the well of Bethlehem, but
would not drink it when he had it, because it was obtained by
venturing; much more reason these Israelites had to refuse this flesh,
which was obtained by murmuring, and which, they might easily perceive,
by what Moses said, was given them in anger; but those that are under
the power of a carnal mind will have their lusts fulfilled, though it
be to the certain damage and ruin of their precious souls.
3. How dearly they paid for their feasts, when it came into the
reckoning: The Lord smote them with a very great plague
some bodily disease, which probably was the effect of their surfeit,
and was the death of many of them, and those, it is likely, the
ringleaders in the mutiny. Note, God often grants the desires of his
own people in love. He gave them their request, but sent
leanness into their soul,
By all that was said to them they were not estranged from their
lusts, and therefore, while the meat was in their mouths, the
wrath of God came upon them,
What we inordinately desire, if we obtain it (we have reason to fear),
will be some way or other a grief and cross to us. God satiated them
first, and then plagued them,
(1.) To save the reputation of his own power, that it might not be
said, "He would not have cut them off had he been able to supply them."
(2.) To show us the meaning of the prosperity of sinners; it is their
preparation for ruin, they are fed as an ox for the slaughter.
Lastly, The remembrance of this is preserved in the name given
to the place,
Moses called it Kibroth-hattaavah, the graves of lusters
or of lust. And well it had been if these graves of Israel's
lusters had proved the graves of Israel's lust: the warning was
designed to be so, but it had not its due effect, for it follows
For all this, they sinned still.