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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 11

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

Verses 1-15

Numbers 11:2 And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched.

Numbers 11:2 Comments - Moses was faithful to his office, just like Jesus.

Hebrews 3:2, “Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.”

Numbers 11:3 And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.

Numbers 11:3 Word Study on “Taberah” PTW says the name “Taberah” means, “burning.”

Numbers 11:4 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?

Numbers 11:4 Comments - This could be called the lust of the flesh.

Numbers 11:5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:

Numbers 11:5 Comments - Egyptian writings describe the city of Rameses as a very prosperous city full of such vegetables. The ISBE says, “Goodwin ( Rec. of Past, Old Series, VI, 11) [23] gives an Egyptian letter describing the “city of Rameses-Miamun,” which appears to be Zoan, since it was on the seacoast. It was a very prosperous city when this letter was written, and a pa-khennu or ‘palace city.’ It had canals full of fish, lakes swarming with birds, fields of lentils, melons, wheat, onions and sesame, gardens of vines, almonds and figs.” [24]

[23] C. W. Goodwin, Records of the Past: being English Translations of the Assyrian and Egyptian Monuments, vol. 6 (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1876), 11-12.

[24] C. R. Conder, “Raamses, Rameses,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).

The Scriptures tell us that the Israelites helped build the cities of Pithom and Raamses (Exodus 1:11); so they were possibly supplied with vegetables for their labour.

Exodus 1:11, “Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.”

In addition, the Israelites lived in the land of Goshen, which was the most fertile part of Egypt. They farmed and planted these same crops in their land.

Comments These foods of Egypt now desired by the children of Israel symbolic the delicacies of this world. Sometimes believers look back after salvation and desire the pleasant aspects of this world, forgetting that these pleasures were embedded in a life of bondage. There are many pleasures in this world to be desired; however, these carnal interests quench our desire for the things of God.

Numbers 11:4-6 Comments Israel’s Hunger for their Local Foods - How often my wife has longed for her country’s foods after leaving the Philippines for the mission field in Africa. There is something about us that longs for the foods that we were raised with. But when I try some of her foods, I find them distasteful and long for my Southern cooking which my mother raised me with. In the same way the children of Israel longed for the food that they were used to eating. Their taste buds cried out for what it was accustomed to eating.

Numbers 11:11 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?

Numbers 11:11 Comments - This bitterness to die is similar to other people in the Bible:

1. Job:

Job 3:20-22, “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?”

2. Elijah:

1 Kings 19:4, “But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”

3. Jonah:

Jonah 4:3, “Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.”

4. The children of Israel:

Numbers 20:3, “And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!”

Verses 16-30

The Appointment of Seventy Elders Numbers 11:16-30 records the commandment of the Lord for Moses to appoint seventy elders over the children of Israel. Moses has already appointed twelve leaders, one over each tribe. He now appoints an additional seventy elders. The dual role of the numbers “twelve” and “seventy” is first seen in the twelve sons of Jacob and their initial clan of seventy souls who journeyed into Egypt under the leadership of Joseph (Exodus 1:5). The second time these two numbers plan a role in Israel’s redemptive history is in Exodus 15:27 when Israel came from the Red Sea an encamped at Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees. These two numbers will again be seen together in the foundation of the early Church when the Lord appoints twelve apostles and an additional seventy disciples (Luke 10:1).

Exodus 1:5, “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.”

Exodus 15:27, “And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.”

Luke 10:1, “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.”

Numbers 11:16-30, which records the appointment of seventy elders to assist Moses, gives us tremendous insight into the ministry of helps which we read about in 1 Corinthians 12:28. In our church congregations, a pastor looks for a men or women of character in order to place in positions of Christian service. God told Moses to gather men that he knew to be elders. A pastor cannot know whom to appoint by exemplary character except those who are already working within his congregation in some capacity. Thus, the ministry of helps is the first steps toward promotion in the Kingdom of Heaven.

1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

This passage also teaches us that those in the ministry of helps receive of the same type of anointing of their pastor. God will anoint us with the Spirit of Christ Jesus when we serve faithfully in our local church.

Notice that the anointing is for service and not for our own self-interests. With this anointing comes a “burden.” We have been called to help carry the burden of our spiritual leaders. Without the willingness to carry a part of this burden we cannot partake of the anointing.

Numbers 11:16 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 thee.

Numbers 11:17 “whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them” Comments - God told Moses to pick out individual whom he knew. This tells us that Moses was looking for men of character.

Numbers 11:17 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.

Numbers 11:17 “they shall bear the burden of the people with thee” - Comments - When the anointing is given to someone for the work of the ministry, there is also a burden that comes upon a person, a weight of responsibility. Paul, the apostle felt this weight.

Romans 9:1-3, “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:”

Numbers 11:23 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.

Numbers 11:23 “Is the LORD'S hand waxed short?” Comments - Note a similar description of the Lord’s hand in Isaiah 50:2.

Isaiah 50:2, “Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all , that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.”

Numbers 11:24 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.

Numbers 11:24 “and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people” - Comments - It is interesting to note that just as God called seventy nations at the tower of Babel to serve as the foundation for the nations of the earth, so did God call seventy souls to found the nation of Israel (Exodus 1:1-7). We know that Moses called seventy elders to establish the laws of the nation of Israel (Exodus 24:1, Numbers 11:24-25). Jesus trained seventy disciples to carry the Gospel to the world (Luke 10:1; Luke 10:17).

Numbers 11:29 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!

Numbers 11:29 Comments - The prophecy by Moses in Numbers 11:29 was again prophesied in Joel 2:28-32 and it was fulfilled beginning in Acts 2:16-21, on the day of Pentecost. In this dispensation of the church, God did put His Spirit within all believers.

Verses 31-34

Numbers 11:34 And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.

Numbers 11:34 Word Study on “Kibrothhattaavah” PTW says the word “Kibrothhattaavah” means “graves of lust.”

Comments - Those who lusted most and were most evil in the wilderness fell soon enough.

James 1:14, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Numbers 11". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/numbers-11.html. 2013.
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