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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 11

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

Verse 1


This Chapter contains a melancholy relation of Israel's disobedience, and the LORD'S displeasure. The people murmur. Moses' meekness forsakes him; and in his fretfulness he ventures to expostulate with GOD. The lust of Israel is gratified, but the LORD'S judgment follows.

Numbers 11:1

What could the people find occasion to murmur at? A people so fed, so led, so protected! Reader! if the LORD'S dispensations towards you are at anytime trying, pray for grace to be kept from murmuring. But search the cause. If sin be found heavy, depend upon it afflictions will be light, There is a needs be for every trial. That is a sweet prayer of Job's, Job 34:31-32 . The LORD'S displeasure at the people plainly proves the transgression. Reader! do you remark the mighty difference between complaining to GOD and complaining against GOD! We have a beautiful instance of the former, Psalms 77:0 . And an awful example of the latter, Psalms 78:19-20 , etc.

Verse 2

Is not Moses here a type of the ever-blessed JESUS? Reader! do not fail to learn from hence, in all thy trials, and under all thy transgressions, to go to JESUS. 1 John 2:1-2 .

Verse 3

Taberah means a burning.

Verse 4

Observe, the murmuring begins with the mixed multitude, but it doth not end there. Israel also is soon infected. How necessary that precept, Ephesians 5:11 . My soul! are not all the lusts of a corrupt nature of the same kind? Romans 3:9 .

Verse 5

Observe, to what a desperate state of daring impiety the soul may be led, when no longer under the restraints of grace. See an awful instance in the case of Jonah, Numbers 4:8-9 . How could Israel be so lost, as to talk of their pleasures and enjoyments in Egypt, when they had so long groaned under their oppressive bondage? Exodus 1:8-14 . The melons were probably the same fruit which the Arabians call Baltechim. They grow on the banks of the Nile, in the rich clayey earth. The Egyptians found this fruit useful, both for meat, drink, and medicine.

Verses 6-9

See how wretched a state the mind of man is capable of being reduced to by sin! To speak lightly and contemptuously of angel's food, which fell around their tents, without labour on their part to procure, and without pains to gather. Is there not a spiritual illustration of this passage? May we not be said to be lusting after the flesh pots in Egypt, and thinking slightly of heavenly food, when we prefer anything that is our own by nature, to the sweet gifts and graces which are alone in CHRIST JESUS, the heavenly bread, which came down from heaven? Joh_6:28-36; Joh_6:48-60 .

Verse 10

Paul's advice on this subject is very earnest, 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 . But what I would most earnestly beg the Reader to keep in view in this history is, the spiritual illustration of it by Paul. He calls it spiritual meat; and positively explains it, in the Chapter I have just referred to, in reference to the LORD JESUS. Hence the LORD'S anger was greatly kindled at the people's contempt of it. And the reason is obvious. It was in effect despising his rich salvation, and preferring the Egyptian bondage to the freedom of the gospel. Reader! how stands the case with your soul? Do you prefer the bread of life in the wilderness state with JESUS for your portion, to all the luxuries of Egypt in the carnal enjoyment of sin for a season? May the LORD give you and me the faith spoken of. Hebrews 11:24-26 .

Verses 11-15

Let us pause over these verses to lament the corruptions and imperfections of our poor fallen nature, which we behold even in so great a man as Moses bursting forth so unseemly. Alas! what is man in his highest attainments, when left but for one moment void of the preserving grace of GOD! Dearest JESUS! may every renewed view of the universal corruption, either in myself or others, tend to endear thee to my heart! Sweet is that scripture, Isaiah 45:22-25 .

Verse 16

There is no immediate reason given why the number appointed should be seventy; but it is remarkable that the LORD JESUS in after ages appointed seventy disciples by way of aid to the apostles. And the Sanhedrim, which was the great court of the Jews, consisted of the same number. Luke 10:1 .

Verse 17

Not that the LORD lessened the influences of his HOLY SPIRIT on the mind of Moses, in order to impart the same to others. There is enough in GOD to supply all. One sun warms and enlightens the whole world. Reader! how sweet the thought; there is enough in our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Sun of righteousness, to warm and enlighten all his people. And though he hath been, and still is, and ever will be, supplying out of his fullness the millions of his churches, in all ages and in eternity itself; yet has he, in himself, the same unlessened fulness. Hebrews 13:8 ; Colossians 2:9 .

Verses 18-20

Reader! behold in this instance the awfulness of having our appetites, according to the wishes of our corrupt nature, gratified. Was not that prayer of Agar founded on a conviction of this? Proverbs 30:8-9 . There is but one object in the universe but what cloys in enjoyment, and that is JESUS. Reader! depend upon it the more you know, the more you enjoy, the nearer you approach him, and the longer you live upon him, and in him, the more will you desire him. See the frame of the church, Song 1-8.

Verses 21-22

Reader! do not overlook the weakness of Moses' faith in this instance. Is this the same person who at the LORD'S command fetched water from the very rock? Learn from hence what man is when left to himself, and what the same man may be when supported by divine aid. Philippians 4:13 .

Verse 23

It is very profitable to convert this question into a prayer when we plead at any time with GOD. Isaiah 59:1 .

Verses 24-25

Reader! do not forget that the same Almighty GOD is now frequently descending by the influences of his HOLY SPIRIT on the minds of his people, for their sanctification; for this is among the ascension gifts of the LORD JESUS. John 14:16-17 . Neither overlook the evidence this passage, among others which occur in the Bible to the same effect, carries with it of the agency of the HOLY GHOST, 1 Samuel 10:6 .

Verse 26

Observe, that those persons were written, that is appointed to this service, and then the blessing is the same. It is very precious to have our names enrolled among the LORD'S people. See what a distinguishing mark of approbation the Redeemer puts on this, Luke 10:20 .

Verse 27

Doth not the conduct of those who were displeased on this occasion correspond to the party spirit of later ages? Let JESUS be but glorified, and his real disciples will never despise the poverty or weakness of the instrument. See Paul's maxim on this subject, Philippians 1:15-18 .

Verses 29-30

Oh! what a lovely feature of character doth Moses manifest in this instance! And is it not the wish and prayer of every true follower of the LORD? Romans 10:1 . Is not the Reader reminded of an interesting scene in the ministry of JESUS in this transaction? See Luke 9:49-50 .

Verses 31-32

If, as some have thought, these quails were the same in nature and genus as the locusts, which came up at the command of GOD into the land of Egypt, the blessing was doubly grateful: that what, in the one instance, proved so destructive, should in the other become so nourishing. Exodus 10:12-15 .

Verse 33

Reader! behold again in this instance the awful consequence in having our carnal, ungovernable appetites gratified. LORD! do thou regulate our inordinate affections, and bring every thought and desire into captivity to the obedience of CHRIST. 2 Corinthians 10:5 .

Verse 34

Kibroth Hattaavah means the graves of lust, 1 Corinthians 10:6 .

Verse 35


MY soul! pause over this Chapter, and behold in Israel's murmuring and disobedience the picture of thine own heart. How often hast thou repined at thy GOD'S appointment, when matters have for a short space appeared a little thwarting to flesh and blood? Many a time since grace renewed thy heart hast thou looked back to the days of thine unregeneracy, and like Israel, to the flesh pots of Egypt, seemed to think, in an angry hour, it was better with thee then than now. LORD! give me grace to admire and adore, in the reviews of thy forbearance and long-suffering, how unchangeable thy love is to thy people. Well may it be said concerning the sovereignty of thy tender purposes, as thou didst to the church of old, I am the LORD, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

But my soul, chiefly in the view of this Chapter, do thou contemplate him in his everlasting priesthood, whom Moses personated when the people cried unto him in their distress, and he prayed unto the LORD. Yes! thou ever precious JESUS! thou wert made our great High Priest with an oath; and our GOD and FATHER hath in the most solemn manner anointed thee to be our priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec. Help me then in all my afflictions and distresses by reason of sin, to be looking unto thee who art mighty to save. Help me also to be feeding on thee by faith, and never, never slight or despise this heavenly manna; nor covet the flesh pots of a carnal appetite. May a gracious GOD and FATHER take of his HOLY SPIRIT, and put upon me, as upon the seventy elders: and may this be my happiness under such gracious influence, to be living in the constant apprehension of the knowledge and enjoyment of the mystery of GOD, and of the FATHER, and of CHRIST.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Numbers 11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/numbers-11.html. 1828.
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