Numbers 11

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Read Numbers 11

Fire From the Lord

11 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the Lordhad burned among them.

Quail From the Lord

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.

10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. 32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lordburned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.

Go Deeper

As we read Numbers 11, we see that Moses is in a tough spot. On one hand, he witnesses the glory of the Lord in ways that few have lived to tell about. The Lord spoke to him through a burning bush, performed incredible miracles through his staff, and convened with him on Mount Sinai to the point that his face was shining upon his descent. On the other hand, Moses is tasked with leading a grumbling, obstinate people whose memories (and manners) constantly fail them.  

The Israelites, too, have experienced the wonders of God. They walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground. They saw Pharaoh’s chariots washed away. They followed a pillar of fire through an unforgiving desert and managed to find enough water to support a caravan of a million people. God even saw to provide them food each morning on the ground as they awoke.  

And still they grumbled. And still they wished to return to the place where chains were wrapped around their wrists.  

In retrospect, it is easy for us to read this story and understand how shortsighted and ungrateful the Israelites are becoming. They had grown tired of manna and wanted meat. They moaned outside their tents for meat, burdening Moses with the task of taking their pleas before the Lord. The “bad guys” in the story are clear to see.  

But we have trouble seeing these same characteristics in our own stories. God has provided us plenty of food, shelter, friends, a church home, and community. Still, we want more. It isn’t enough. God has provided vehicles, a job, access to clean water, and clothing. Still, we want better. Too often, our complaining doesn’t line up with God’s provision. 


  1. What is God’s first reaction to the complaining? 
  2. How does the Lord help solve Moses’ leadership challenge? 
  3. God gives the Israelites exactly what they ask for, but at what cost to them?

Memorize This

As you practice gratitude this week, commit the following verse to memory:

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

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9 thoughts on “Numbers 11”

  1. Studies have repeatedly shown that practicing gratitude rewires our brain in a positive way. On the other hand, grumbling/complaining sucks the life out of us, and once we drift into a negative mindset, it spreads like wildfire into our relationships. We’ve all known people and been people that coddle complaining. Numbers 11 paints a vivid picture of the grumbling Israelites and their fate which led to severe consequences. Hebrews 10:31 reminds us “ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” What was the difference between how the people complained and how Moses complained? One commentator suggests that “The people complained to one another and nothing was accomplished. Moses took his complaint to God who could solve the problem.” Especially as Christ followers who bear the light of our risen Lord, let’s be mindful of our words and speak love, life, hope, and peace as we spread the fragrance of Christ everywhere we go.

  2. As sarcasm is my second language, I tend to smile when I see the Lord use it to make a point.

    In V23, after Moses is questioning how God is going to provide meet for so many people, the Lord simply asks, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”

    It is a great reminder that we serve a BIG God.

    What problems do we have that the Lord’s arms are too short to resolve?

  3. This passage reminds of the fun ‘80s song, “So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt” by Keith Green!

    “So you wanna go back to Egypt
    Where it’s warm and secure
    Are sorry you bought the one way ticket
    When you thought you were sure
    You wanted to live in the land of promise
    But now it’s getting so hard
    Are you sorry you’re out here in the desert
    Instead of your own back yard”

    “What? Oh no, manna again?!”

    Dear God, please keep me from longing to go back!

  4. BUT GOD! He is such a good and gracious God. He does not like complaining, which we do so very well. Is your glass half full or half empty? I have most always been the glass is going to overflow with all rainbows and sunshine, mostly. I tried to help everyone pull themselves up by their bootstraps and have come to realize in the last 10ish years that “I cannot do it for them”. This is hard because I want to fix things and make everyone happy (yes I am in regen again). God is so good, beyond words good, what do we really have to complain about? Am I guilty of complaining, absolutely but does that fix anything absolutely not! We have to be a part of the solution not of the grumbling problem. We as individuals have to go before God each day with our grumbles and have Him help us with the solution. You have to let the Holy Spirit convict you of what you need to purify and get rid of so that you can be part of the solution. If you dont change your grumbling complaining ways your will be stuck in the desert “wandering” for years like the Israelite’s. We have to abide, rest, be quiet, trust so that as we do we can see the fruit and others can too. Who wants to be a Christ follower of grumpy, complainers?

    God Your are so amazing, wonderful, magnificent, brilliant, generous, beautiful, loving but want me to be obedient kind of Father. Thank You for me pushing my self reliance, and desires down to be what You need/want me to be today in these minutes. God thank You for the picture and words that You give me to see from Your Word that coming to You with my complaints is ok but then I need to look to what the Holy Spirit is guiding me to do for myself in those situations. God I just want to praise You!! I want to dance, adore, rejoice, be still, and drink in Your presence today in all the minutes for this day in Jesus name amen.

  5. Diane Frances Rogers

    Guilty of complaining. Not about what I do or don’t have, but about others complaining. God provides in all situations, yet some complain because they don’t like their job, so God provides a new job and yet they complain about the difficulties in the new job. When are we going to be content? Take our/your problems to the One who can do something about them. Peace comes in knowing God, trusting God, abiding in God.

  6. Yes I often complain about ‘others’ who are always complaining…it’s a burden to hear…I like how Moses took it to God who could do something about it. Quite disturbing the outcome though!

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