A March of Faith…the People Moving Numbers 10:11-12:16, cont’d.
Numbers 11 The Rabble Murmuring (manna & quail)
Numbers 11-12:16-The people murmur and complain about various matters.
Numbers 11:1-First they complain about adversity. Evidently their complaints were unfounded and it angered the Lord…so, He sent His judgment upon them through a fire that broke out in the camp and killed those that were complaining. They named that place “Taberah”, which means “burning”.
Numbers 11:4-Some of the “rabble” (cf. Exod. 12:38-a "mixed multitude"...included other people who had settled in Egypt, Semites and some Egyptians…they now became a source of trouble for Moses) became greedy, not satisfied with what God had provided. They did not have the spiritual heritage or religious practices of the Israelites. Their attitudes influenced the Israelites. Complaints about the food, the manna began to spread. They claimed to remember the food that they had for “free” in Egypt.
Numbers 11:10-15-Moses complains to the LORD...he is unhappy that he has such a huge burden to bear. He suggests that God must not favor him…since He has given him this difficult task. He tells God that he cannot do what is expected of him. Moses asks God to just kill him if He is not going to help him.
Numbers 11:16-20-God's reply...He will take of the "Spirit who is upon you, and put Him upon them". And, He will give them meat until it comes out of their noses.
Numbers 11:21-When Moses tells God that he does not know how He is going to provide so much meat, God responds: "Is the LORD's power limited?"
Numbers 11:24-30-The Elders prophesied when the Spirit was put upon them.
Numbers 11:31-35-God sends the quail for food.
Quails—The Israelites were twice relieved in their privation by a miraculous supply of quails, (1) in the wilderness of Sin (Ex. 16:13), and (2) again at Kibroth-hattaavah (q.v.), Num. 11:31. God “rained flesh upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea” (Ps. 78:27). The words in Num. 11:31, according to the Authorized Version, appear to denote that the quails lay one above another to the thickness of two cubits above the ground. The Revised Version, however, reads, “about two cubits above the face of the earth”, i.e., the quails flew at this height, and were easily killed or caught by the hand. Being thus secured in vast numbers by the people, they “spread them all abroad” (11:32) in order to salt and dry them.
These birds (the Coturnix vulgaris of naturalists) are found in countless numbers on the shores of the Mediterranean, and their annual migration is an event causing great excitement.
Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers. Logos Bible Software
Ver. 31.—A wind from the Lord. A wind Divinely sent for this purpose. In Ps. 78:26 it is said to have been a wind from the east and south, i. e. a wind blowing up the Red Sea and across the Gulf of Akabah. And brought quails from the sea. On the “quails” (Hebrew, salvim—probably the common quail) see Exod. 16:13. The Septuagint has in both places ἡ ὀρτυγομήτρα, “the quail-mother,” the sense of which is uncertain. These birds, which migrate in spring in vast numbers, came from the sea, but it does not follow that the camp was near the sea. They may have been following up the Gulf of Akabah, and been swept far inland by the violence of the gale. Let them fall by the camp. Rather, “threw them down on the camp.” יִּטַשׁ עַל הַמַּחֲנֶה. Septuagint, ἐπέβαλεν ἐπὶ τὴν παρεμβολήν. Either the sudden cessation of the gale, or a violent eddying of the wind, threw the exhausted birds in myriads upon the camp (cf. Ps. 78:21, 28). Two cubits high upon the face of the earth. The word “high” is not in the original, but it probably gives the true meaning. The Septuagint, ὠσεὶ δίπηχυ ἀπο τῆς γῆς is somewhat uncertain. The Targums assert that the quails “flew upon the face of the ground, at a height of two cubits;” and this is followed by the Vulgate (“volabant in aere duobus cubitis altitudine super terram”) and by many commentators. This idea, however, although suggested by the actual habits of the bird, and adopted in order to avoid the obvious difficulty of the statement, is inconsistent with the expressions used here and in Ps. 78. If the birds were “thrown” upon the camp, or “rained” upon it like sand, they could not have been flying steadily forward a few feet above the ground. It is certainly impossible to take the statement literally, for such a mass of birds would have been perfectly unmanageable; but if we suppose that they were drifted by the wind into heaps, which in places reached the height of two cubits, that will satisfy the exigencies of the text: anything like a uniform depth would be the last thing to be expected under the circumstances.
Thomas, W. (1910). Introductory Essay on the Authenticity and Authorship of the Book of Numbers. In H. D. M. Spence, Exell Joseph S. (Eds.), Numbers (pp. 111–112). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, Logos Bible Software
Numbers 12 The Sibling Rivalry (Aaron & Miriam)
Numbers 12:1-16-Miriam and Aaron speak out against Moses
The verb “spoke” is feminine singular, indicating that Miriam led in this criticism of the fact that Moses had married a foreign, Cushite woman. The woman could have been Ziporah but it is more likely a second marriage after her death. But the real problem is jealousy. Moses was the most humble man on earth (11:29; 12:3; Matthew 11:29). When God heard their words He became angry and called the three of them together. God tells them that he speaks through the prophets with dreams and visions, but with Moses, He speaks face-to-face (openly, not in riddles)…even allowing Moses to see His “form” (means: likeness, representation). Because she was the one who incited this incident, Miriam was stricken with leprosy. Since it had been a public sin…her punishment was public, as well.
An Act of Disobedience…the People Deciding Numbers 13:1-20:13
How long did it take Israel to walk from Mt. Sinai to Kadeshbarnea?
There are eleven days' journey from Horeb, by the way of Mount Seir, to Kadeshbarnea. Not that the Israelites came thither in eleven days from Horeb, for they stayed by the way at Kibrothhattaavah, a whole month at least, and seven days at Hazeroth; but the sense is, that this was the computed distance between the two places; it was what was reckoned a man might walk in eleven days; and if we reckon a day's journey twenty miles, of which See Gill on Jonah 3:3, the distance must be two hundred and twenty miles. But Dr. Shaw (e) allows but ten miles for a day's journey, and then it was no more than one hundred and ten, and indeed a camp cannot be thought to move faster; but not the day's journey of a camp, but of a man, seems to be intended, who may very well walk twenty miles a day for eleven days running; but it seems more strange that another learned traveller (f) should place Kadeshbarnea at eight hours, or ninety miles distance only from Mount Sinai. Moses computes not the time that elapsed between those two places, including their stations, but only the time of travelling; and yet Jarchi says, though it was eleven days' journey according to common computation, the Israelites performed it in three days; for he observes that they set out from Horeb on the twentieth of Ijar, and on the twenty ninth of Sivan the spies were sent out from Kadeshbarnea; and if you take from hence the whole month they were at one place, and the seven days at another, there will be but three days left for them to travel in. And he adds, that the Shechinah, or divine Majesty, pushed them forward, to hasten their going into the land; but they corrupting themselves, he turned them about Mount Seir forty years. It is not easy to say for what reason these words are expressed, unless it be to show in how short a time the Israelites might have been in the land of Canaan, in a few days' journey from Horeb, had it not been for their murmurings and unbelief, for which they were turned into the wilderness again, and travelled about for the space of thirty eight years afterwards. Aben Ezra is of opinion, that the eleven days, for the word "journey" is not in the text, are to be connected with the preceding words; and that the sense is, that Moses spake these words in the above places, in the eleven days they went from Horeb to Kadesh.
Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible,
For an aerial view (Google Earth) of the area of Mt. Sinai and a possible location of Kadeshbarnea following the instructions below:
Exactly what is a day's journey? Contrary to some opinions, a day's journey was a fixed distance; it did not vary with the terrain. True, how far anybody can go in a day varies dramatically with the person and with the terrain encountered. The expression can be meaningful in communication, however, only if it refers to a conventional fixed distance known by all. How far any given person travelled in a day is irrelevant. The Israelites took months to travel the eleven days' journey from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea! The question remains, how far was a day's journey? Nobody knows for sure, but we can be fairly confident of establishing a range of possibilities. We will take the position found in The Illustrated Bible Dictionary , which says, “Presumably a day's journey was between eighteen and twenty-five miles” (ed. Douglas 1980, p. 369). Using this range as our guide leads us to search for Kadesh Barnea somewhere between 200 (198 to be precise) and 275 miles walking distance from Mount Sinai along the most logical route…
The reader is encouraged to dust off Google Earth and paste these coordinates into it: 27 50 38 35 35 25. Zoom in or out as needed to an eye altitude of about 8 miles (12 kilometers). You are looking at the western edge of the Mount Sinai camping area. Now make sure Roads is enabled and you will see a faint yellow line running through the camping area. This line marks out the path of a road running generally east-west and which connects two major north-south highways. Remembering that modern roads are built where the terrain presents the least hindrance to human movement, you can conclude that this road marks out the route the Israelites would have taken. Follow this road towards the east until it meets Highway 80.10 From here to the top of the plateau is another four miles. For those who don't have access to Google Earth, Figure 6 shows the route they would have taken…
Finally, we are ready to narrow down the location of Kadesh Barnea: it must lie east of Canamalia. If our theory as to the location of Canamalia's northern and southern borders along natural topographic features is correct, then the eastern border of Canamalia was a mere 11 miles or so in length, lying roughly between the modern towns of Al Hasa in the north and Jurf Al Darawish26 to the south. Now we're getting somewhere. But we're not done. We can narrow our search down much further.
What one requirement above all others is essential to life? You're right. Water. The presence of water at Ain el-Qudeirat is a major factor in its selection as the front-runner in the eyes of traditionalists. Naturally, a ready supply of water will attract other people, too; how the Israelites were able to monopolize the supply remains an open question. Was it the fear factor mentioned earlier? Kadesh Barnea was in or near Amalekite territory, and we remember what happened at Rephidim. Then there's the other “thing” that talks as loud as fear — money. The Israelites came loaded to the gills with treasure from Egypt, their cart axles bending under the weight; perhaps they leased the site in perpetuity.
So fire up your Google Earth and looky here: 30 48 37 36 00 34. You have an area of about three square miles covered with trees. Trees mean water. Figure 10 provides a view of the trees from about 5 miles in altitude.
Numbers 13:1-14:39 The Investigative Reconnaissance (Kadeshbarnea)
Having arrived at Kadeshbarnea, the Lord instructs Moses to send out spies into the Promised Land.
Numbers 13:25-33-The Divided Report
Numbers 13:1-22-The spies sent out.
Moses gives them detailed instructions on what they are to look for. One man from each of the twelve tribes was included. Moses called “Hoshea”, Joshua. “Hoshea” means “salvation”. To Hosea is prefixed an abbreviation of God’s covenant name (Yahweh) which He gave to Israel…which produces us the name “Joshua”. Joshua means “God is salvation.”
Numbers 13:2-33-The spies return.
The spies are sent into the Promised Land and return with their report…only Caleb (tribe of Judah) and Joshua (Hoshea, tribe of Ephraim) gave a positive report. They were leaders among the people. God tells them to spy out the land “which I am going to give to the sons of Israel”. Their lack of faith in this promise from God led to their failure to enter the land. Their report about the land was that it was everything that God had said it would be, “it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit”. They all had the same facts…but only Caleb and Joshua also had faith (14:11). All the other 10 spies saw was the size of the people, they were giants…they “gave a bad report”. What made it bad was not what they saw, but what they believed about what they saw. Caleb and Joshua saw the giants…but, they also remembered that God made the giants. And Caleb believed that with God he could surely overcome whatever would try to stop him. The other 10 men said, “they are too strong for us” (:31). Joshua and Caleb said, “we shall surely overcome it” (:30). The other 10 men saw themselves, “in our own sight” (:33). But Joshua and Caleb saw themselves in God’s sight.
Prayer: Lord, help me to remember that You are greater than any giant that I will ever encounter. Give me the faith of Joshua and Caleb.