Discontent of the People. 1Now the people complained bitterly in the hearing of the LORD;a and when he heard it his wrath flared up, so that the LORD’s fire burned among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp. 2But when the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died out. 3Hence that place was called Taberah,* because there the fire of the LORD burned among them.
4The riffraff among them were so greedy for meat that even the Israelites lamented again,b “If only we had meat for food! 5We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6But now we are famished; we have nothing to look forward to but this manna.”c
7d Manna was like coriander seed* and had the appearance of bdellium. 8When they had gone about and gathered it up, the people would grind it between millstones or pound it in a mortar, then cook it in a pot and make it into loaves, with a rich creamy taste. 9At night, when the dew fell upon the camp, the manna also fell.e
10When Moses heard the people, family after family, crying at the entrance of their tents, so that the LORD became very angry, he was grieved. 11“Why do you treat your servant so badly?” Moses asked the LORD. “Why are you so displeased with me that you burden me with all this people? 12Was it I who conceived all this people? or was it I who gave them birth, that you tell me to carry them at my breast, like a nurse carrying an infant, to the land you have promised under oath to their fathers? 13Where can I get meat to give to all this people? For they are crying to me, ‘Give us meat for our food.’ 14I cannot carry all this people by myself, for they are too heavy for me. 15If this is the way you will deal with me, then please do me the favor of killing me at once, so that I need no longer face my distress.”
The Seventy Elders. 16Then the LORD said to Moses: Assemble for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be elders and authorities among the people, and bring them to the tent of meeting. When they are in place beside you, 17I will come down and speak with you there. I will also take some of the spirit that is on you and will confer it on them, that they may share the burden of the people with you. You will then not have to bear it by yourself.
18To the people, however, you shall say: “Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, when you shall have meat to eat. For in the hearing of the LORD you have cried, ‘If only we had meat for food! Oh, how well off we were in Egypt!’ Therefore the LORD will give you meat to eat, 19and you will eat it, not for one day, or two days, or five, or ten, or twenty days, 20but for a whole month—until it comes out of your very nostrils and becomes loathsome to you. For you have rejected the LORD who is in your midst, and in his presence you have cried, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’”
21But Moses said, “The people around me include six hundred thousand soldiers; yet you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month.’ 22Can enough sheep and cattle be slaughtered for them? If all the fish of the sea were caught for them, would they have enough?” 23The LORD answered Moses: Is this beyond the LORD’s reach? You shall see now whether or not what I have said to you takes place.
The Spirit on the Elders. 24So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. Gathering seventy elders of the people, he had them stand around the tent. 25The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied* but did not continue.
26Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, had remained in the camp, yet the spirit came to rest on them also. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; and so they prophesied in the camp. 27So, when a young man ran and reported to Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” 28Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “My lord, Moses, stop them.” 29But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the people of the LORD were prophets! If only the LORD would bestow his spirit on them!” 30Then Moses retired to the camp, along with the elders of Israel.
The Quail. 31There arose a windf from the LORD that drove in quail from the sea and left them all around the camp site, to a distance of a day’s journey and at a depth of two cubits upon the ground.* 32g So all that day, all night, and all the next day the people set about to gather in the quail. Even the one who got the least gathered ten homers* of them. Then they spread them out all around the camp. 33But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it could be chewed, the LORD’s wrath flared up against the people, and the LORD struck them with a very great plague. 34So that place was named Kibroth-hattaavah,* because it was there that the greedy people were buried.
35From Kibroth-hattaavah the people set out for Hazeroth, where they stayed.
* [11:3] Taberah: means “the burning.”
* [11:7] Coriander seed: see note on Ex 16:31. Bdellium: a transparent, amber-colored gum resin, which is also mentioned in Gn 2:12.
* [11:25] They prophesied: in the sense, not of foretelling the future, but of speaking in enraptured enthusiasm. Such manifestations are mentioned in the early days of Hebrew prophecy (1 Sm 10:10–12; 19:20–21; Jl 3:1) and in the first years of the Church (Acts 2:6–11, 17; 19:6; 1 Cor 12–14).
* [11:31] The heaps of quail lying upon the ground all around the Israelites’ camp suggest the ambiguity of God’s response to the people’s lament for meat in v. 4 and foreshadow the plague which God will now bring upon Israel (v. 33). Their request had been nothing less than a rejection of what God has done for them (v. 20).
* [11:32] Homers: see note on Is 5:10. They spread them out: to cure by drying.
* [11:34] Kibroth-hattaavah: means “graves of greed.”
c. [11:5–6] Nm 21:5; Ex 16:3; Acts 7:39.
d. [11:7–8] Ex 16:14–15, 31; Ps 78:24; Wis 16:20; Jn 6:31.