The punishment of the murmurers stopt by the prayer of Moses, ver. 1 - 3.
The fresh murmuring of the people, ver. 4 - 6.
The description of manna, ver. 7 - 9.
The murmuring of Moses, ver. 10 - 16.
God's answer, ver. 16 - 23.
The appointment of the seventy elders, ver. 24 - 30.
Quails sent with a plague, ver. 31 - 35.
1: Complained - Or, murmured, the occasion whereof seems to be
their last three days journey in a vast howling wilderness, and thereupon
the remembrance of their long abode in the wilderness, and the fear of many
other tedious journeys, whereby they were like to be long delayed from
coming to the land of milk and honey, which they thirsted after.
The fire of the Lord - A fire sent from God in an extraordinary manner,
possibly from the pillar of cloud and fire, or from heaven.
The uttermost parts - Either because the sin began there among the mixed
multitude, or in mercy to the people, whom he would rather awaken to
repentance than destroy; and therefore he sent it into the skirts and not
the midst of the camp.
2: The people - The murmurers, being penitent; or others for fear.
3: Taberah - This fire; as it was called Kibroth - hattaavah from
another occasion, (Nu 11:34,35,33:16). It is no new
thing in scripture for persons and places to have two names. Both these
names were imposed as monuments of the peoples sin and of God's just
4: Israel also - Whose special relation and obligation to God should
have restrained them from such carriage. Flesh - This word is here taken
generally so as to include fish, as the next words shew. They had indeed
cattle which they brought out of Egypt, but these were reserved for
breed to be carried into Canaan, and were so few that they would scarce
have served them for a month.
5: Freely - Either without price, for fish was very plentiful, and
fishing was there free, or with a very small price. And this is the more
probable because the Egyptians might not taste of fish, nor of the leeks
and onions, which they worshipped for Gods, and therefore the Israelites,
might have them upon cheap terms.
6: Our soul - Either our life, as the soul signifies,(Ge 9:5), or our body, which is often signified by the
soul. Dried away - Is withered and pines away; which possibly
might be true, through envy and discontent, and inordinate appetite.
7: As coriander - seed - Not for colour, for that is black, but for
shape and figure. Bdellium - Is either the gum of a tree, of a white and
bright colour, or rather a gem or precious stone, as the Hebrew doctors
take it; and particularly a pearl wherewith the Manna manifestly
agrees both in its colour, which is white, (Ex 16:14), and in its
figure which is round.
8: Fresh oil - Or, of the most excellent oil; or of cakes
made with the best oil, the word cakes being easily supplied out of
the foregoing member of the verse; or, which is not much differing,
like wafers made with honey, as it is said (Ex 16:31). The nature
and use of Manna is here thus particularly described, to shew the
greatness of their sin in despising such excellent food.
10: In the door of his tent - To note they were not ashamed of
11: Not found favour - Why didst thou not hear my prayer, when I
desired thou wouldest excuse me, and commit the care of this unruly people
to some other person.
12: Have I begotten them? - Are they my children, that I should be
obliged to provide food and all things for their necessity and desire?
14: To bear - The burden of providing for and satisfying them.
Alone - Others were only assistant to him in smaller matters; but the
harder and greater affairs, such as this unquestionably was, were brought
to Moses and determined by him alone.
15: My wretchedness - Heb. my evil, my torment, arising from the
insuperable difficulty of my office and work of ruling this people, and
from the dread of their utter extirpation, and the dishonour which thence
will accrue to God and to religion, as if, not I only, but God also were
16: To be elders - Whom thou by experience discernest to be elders
not only in years, and name, but also in wisdom and authority with the
people. 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 the judgment among them, consisted of seventy men.
17: I will come down - By my powerful presence and operation.
I will put it on them - That is, I will give the same spirit to them which
I have given to thee. But as the spirit was not conveyed to them from or
through Moses, but immediately from God, so the spirit or its gifts were
not by this means impaired in Moses. The spirit is here put for the
gifts of the spirit, and particularly for the spirit of prophecy, whereby
they were enabled, as Moses had been and still was, to discern hidden
and future things, and resolve doubtful and difficult cases, which made them
fit for government. It is observable, that God would not, and therefore
men should not, call any persons to any office for which they were not
18: Sanctify themselves - Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel, in
the way of his judgments. Prepare yourselves by true repentance, that you
may either obtain some mitigation of the plague, or, whilst your bodies are
destroyed by the flesh you desire and eat, your souls may be saved from the
wrath of God. Sanctifying is often used for preparing, as(Jer 6:4,12:3).
In the ears of the Lord - Not secretly in your closets, but openly and
impudently in the doors of your tents, calling heaven and earth to witness.
20: At your nostrils - Which meat violently vomited up frequently
doth. Thus God destroys them by granting their desires, and turns even
their blessings into curses. Ye have despised the Lord - You have lightly
esteemed his bounty and manifold blessings, you have slighted and distrusted
his promises and providence after so long and large experience of it.
Who is among you - Who is present and resident with you to observe all
your carriage, and to punish your offences. This is added as a great
aggravation of the crime, to sin in the presence of the judge. Why came
we forth out of Egypt? - Why did God do us such an injury? Why did we so
foolishly obey him in coming forth?
21: Six hundred thousand footmen - Fit for war, besides women and
children. That Moses speaks this as distrusting God's word is evident;
and that Moses was not remarkably punished for this as he was afterward
for the same sin, (Nu 20:12), may be imputed to the different
circumstances of this and that sin: this was the first offence of the kind,
and therefore more easily passed by; that was after warning and against more
light and experience. This seems to have been spoken secretly: that openly
before the people; and therefore it was fit to be openly and severely
punished to prevent the contagion of that example.
24: Moses went out - Out of the tabernacle, into which he entered to
receive God's answers from the mercy - seat. The seventy men - They are
called seventy from the stated number, though two of them were lacking,
as the Apostles are called the twelve, (Mt 26:20), when one of that
number was absent. Round the tabernacle - Partly that the awe of God
might be imprinted upon their hearts, that they might more seriously
undertake and more faithfully manage their high employment, but principally,
because that was the place where God manifested himself, and therefore there
he would bestow his spirit upon them.
25: Rested on them - Not only moved them for a time, but took up his
settled abode with them, because the use and end of this gift was perpetual.
They prophesied - Discoursed of the word and works of God in a marvellous
manner, as the prophets did. So this word is used,(1Sa 10:5,6,Joe 2: 28,1Co 14:3). Yet were they not hereby
constituted teachers, but civil magistrates, who together with the spirit of
government, received also the spirit of prophesy, as a sign and seal both to
themselves and to the people, that God had called them to that employment.
They did not cease - Either for that day, they continued in that exercise
all that day, and, it may be, all the night too, as it is said of Saul,(1Sa 19:24), or, afterwards also, to note that this was a continued
gift conferred upon them to enable them the better to discharge their
magistracy; which was more expedient for them than for the rulers of other
people, because the Jews were under a theocracy or the government of
God, and even their civil controversies were decided out of that word of
God which the prophets expounded.
26: In the camp - Not going to the tabernacle, as the rest did,
either not having seasonable notice to repair thither: or, being detained
in the camp by sickness, or some urgent occasion, not without God's special
providence, that so the miracle might be more evident. Were written - In
a book or paper by Moses, who by God's direction nominated the fittest
27: Told Moses - Fearing lest his authority should be diminished by
their prophesying; and thereby taking authority to themselves without his
28: One of his young men - Or, one of his choice ministers, which
may be emphatically added, to note that even great and good men may mistake
about the works of God. Forbid them - He feared either schism, or
sedition, or that by their usurpation of authority, independently upon
Moses, his power and esteem might be lessened.
29: Enviest thou for my sake - Art thou grieved because the gifts and
graces of God are imparted to others besides me? Prophets - He saith
prophets, not rulers, for that he knew was absurd and impossible.
So we ought to be pleased, that God is glorified and good done, tho' to
the lessening of our own honour.
30: Into the camp - Among the people, to exercise the gifts and
authority now received.
31: A wind from the Lord - An extraordinary and miraculous wind both
for its vehemency and for its effects. Quails - God gave them quails once
before, (Ex 16:13), but neither in the same quantity, nor with the same
design and effect as now. From the sea - Principally from the Red - sea,
and both sides of it where, by the reports of ancient Heathen writers, they
were then in great numbers, and, no doubt, were wonderfully increased by
God's special providence for this very occasion. Two cubits high - Not as
if the quails did cover all the ground two cubits high for a day's journey
on each side of the camp, for then there had been no place left where they
could spread them all abroad round about the camp; but the meaning
is, that the quails came and fell down round about the camp for a whole
day's journey on each side of it, and that in all that space they lay here
and there in great heaps, which were often two cubits high.
32: Stood up - Or rather rose up, which word is often used for
beginning to do any business. All that night - Some at one time, and some
at the other, and some, through greediness or diffidence, at both times.
Ten homers - That is, ten ass loads: which if it seem incredible, you
That the gatherers here were not all the people, which could not be
without great inconveniences, but some on the behalf of all, while the rest
were exercised about other necessary things. So the meaning is not, that
every Israelite had so much for his share, but that every collector
gathered so much for the family, or others by whom he was intrusted.
That the people did not gather for their present use only, but for a good
while to come, and being greedy and distrustful of God's goodness, it is not
strange if they gathered much more than they needed.
That the word, rendered homers, may signify heaps, as it doth,(Ex 8:14,Jdg 15:16,Hab 3:15),
and ten, is often put for many, and so the sense is, that every one
gathered several heaps. If yet the number seems incredible,
it must be farther known,
That Heathen and other authors affirm, in those eastern and southern
countries quails are innumerable, so that in one part of Italy, within
the compass of five miles, there were taken about an hundred thousand of
them every day for a month together. And Atheneus relates, that in
Egypt, a country prodigiously populous, they were in such plenty, that
all those vast numbers of people could not consume them, but were forced to
salt and keep them for future use. They spread them - That so they might
dry, salt and preserve them for future use, according to what they had seen
33: Chewed - Heb. cut off, namely from their mouths. A very
great plague - Probably the pestilence. But the sense is, before they had
done eating their quails, which lasted for a month. Why did God so sorely
punish the peoples murmuring for flesh here, when he spared them after
the same sin, (Ex 16:12). Because this was a far greater sin, and
aggravated with worse circumstances; proceeding not from necessity, as that
did, when as yet they had no food, but from mere wantonness, when they had
Manna constantly given them; committed after large experience of God's
care and kindness, after God had pardoned their former sins, and after God
had in a solemn and terrible manner made known his laws to them.
34: Kibroth - hattaavah - Heb. the graves of lust, that is, of the
men that lusted, as it here follows. And it notes that the plague did not
seize upon all that eat of the quails, for then all had been destroyed, but
only upon those who were inordinate both in the desire and use of them.