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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Numbers 11

 

 

Verses 1-35

SECOND SECTION

The three great uprisings against Moses, and Jehovah’s judgments and compassions. A. The burning of the camp: Taberah. B. The longing for Egypt (the elders, the quails) and the graves of lust. C. Miriam and Aaron at Hazeroth

Numbers 11:1 to Numbers 12:16

How soon it appears that the typical host of God, or the legal military organization of Jehovah is far from being a real army of God, consisting of spiritual men. In a similar way, too, the divine champions of the middle ages showed themselves, and proximately we, too, the protestant contending armies from the Hussites down, remind one of the same. Only the first three days remain externally undisturbed, but inwardly the army had already gathered tinder. But the three uprisings that now appear constitute an undoubted climax: a. Irruptive meeting and burning of the camp b. Home-sickness of the accompanying mixed multitude, spreading like contagion through the entire host, and graves of lust. c. Fanatical exaltation even of pious enthusiasm and of the priesthood, of Miriam and of Aaron against the prophetic integrity of Moses and the non-suiting of the Aaronitic priesthood along with the leprosy of Miriam. Thereupon, of course, should follow the last and almost universal insurrection of the people in consequence of the report of the spies that had been sent to Canaan, expressed in the double form of despondency and obstinacy, and which provoked the divine judgment: this generation shall perish in the desert. Yet the history of this insurrection is so comprehensive that we must treat of it in a section by itself.

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A.—TABERAH (PLACE OF BURNING). THE MUTINY AND THE BURNING OF THE CAMP. Numbers 11:1-3

1[FN1] And when the people [FN2]complained,[FN3] it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and [FN4]consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp 2 And the people cried unto Moses; and [FN5]when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was [FN6]quenched 3 And he called the name of the place [FN7]Taberah: because the fire of the Lord burnt among them.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Numbers 11:1-3. The revelation of destruction begins small, viz., with ambiguous utterances of a murmuring disposition, as at something evil; a disposition that reaches the ears of God, not as prayer, but as unsanctified utterances. The punishment is as obscurely expressed as is the charge of fault. Although the narrator knows that a fire of Jehovah has gone forth from His wrath, the terrified people know nothing of it when a conflagration appears at the extremity of the camp, burning ensues in the extremest tents. Then the people also cry to Moses, while he in deliberate fashion makes his effective intercession. The mysterious connection between the fire of displeasure, of distraction, of anger and outward misfortune of every sort, especially ruinous conflagration, is an ancient and ever new history. Taberah was no encampment but the burnt place at the first encampment, the graves of lust (see Numbers 23:16-17). So Keil against Knobel.

HOMILETICAL HINTS

Religious and moral causes of many conflagrations: discontent, excitement, want of spiritual wakefulness and moral vigilance. The modern Taberah, or the crowd of conflagrations of the present time. [Moses was one of those worthies who by faith quenched the violence of fire ( Hebrews 11:34) M. Henry.—Tr.].

B.—THE HOMESICKNESS FOR EGYPT AND THE GRAVES OF LUST (THE ELDERS AND THE QUAILS). Numbers 11:4-35

4And the [FN8]mixed multitude that was among them [FN9]fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also [FN10]wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? 5We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic: 6But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, [FN11]besides this manna, before our eyes 7 And the manna was 8as coriander seed, and the [FN12][FN13]colour thereof as the ccolour of bdellium. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and [FN14]baked it in [FN15]pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of [FN16]fresh oil 9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.

10Then Moses heard the people weep [FN17]throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly; [FN18]Moses also was displeased 11 And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou [FN19]afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? 12Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a [FN20]nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? 13Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat 14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me 15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

16And 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 [FN21]tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee 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 18 And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat 19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days nor 20 twenty days; But even a [FN22]whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? 21And Moses said, The people, among whom I Amos, are six hundred thousand footmen; 22and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a 4 whole month. Shall [FN23]the flocks and mthe herds be slain for them, to suffice them; or shall all the fish 23 of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them? 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.

24And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered [FN24]the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the [FN25]tabernacle 25 And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy [FN26]elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, [FN27]and did not cease 26 But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp 27 And there ran a young Prayer of Manasseh, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, [FN28] one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them 29 And Moses said unto him, [FN29]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 30 And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.

31And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, [FN30]as it were a day’s journey on this side, and 5 as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth 32 And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they [FN31]spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp 33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great [FN32]plague 34 And he called the name of that place [FN33]Kibroth-hattaavah: 35because there they buried the people that lusted. And the people journeyed from Kibroth-hattaavah unto Hazeroth; and [FN34]abode at Hazeroth.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[ Numbers 11:15. הָרֹג infin. absol. repeated after the same verb, expresses here impetuous procedure, killing at once. Ewald, § 280 b.

Numbers 11:25. וְלֹא יסָפוּ is correctly rendered by the LXX, καὶ οὐκ ἔτι προσέθεντο; the A. V. has the support of the Vulgate.

Numbers 11:27. הַנִּעַר, the article denotes that the noun is taken in a generic or universal sense; comp. הַפָלִיט Genesis 14:13 הַֽחֲמֹר Exodus 4:2, Ewald, § 277, a: Green, § 245, 5. So the Greek and we say “the hireling seeth the wolf coming,” John 10:12.

Numbers 11:28. מִבְּחֻרָיו: Lange, Keil, Fuerst, Lex. sub. voc. take בְּחֻרִים as equivalent to בְּחֻרוֹת ( Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 12:1) the plural for the abstract “youth,” from a root בָּחַר “to mature.” This is favored by the Chald, Parap. and many interpreters. The LXX. renders it έκλεκτόσ, Vulg. electus e pluribus, thus taking it as Kal. pass. part. from בָּחַר “to choose” (so Drusius). This agrees with the first mention of Joshua, Exodus 17:9, where, first chosen of Moses himself at Rephidim, he is deputed to choose combatants to fight the Amalekites. The word may even refer to the seventy now gathered, and affirm that Joshua was one of those chosen. “He was nearly forty years old when he saw the ten plagues,” Smith’s Bib. Dict. art. Joshua. He might at this period be called a young man (so the A. V.). But adopted as Moses’ servant not earlier than in his fortieth year, he could not be said to have served him “from his youth” (Maurer, Lange, Keil). It would anyway be unsuitable to so describe a service of such recent commencement. The rendering “from his chosen ones” or elite seems preferable. Comp. בָּחוּר, Psalm 89:20.

Numbers 11:32. According to the K’thibh הַשְׂלוָ; according to the K’ri הַשְׂלָיו—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The occasion of the second, greater visitation. The sullen temper of the congregation was not subdued by the first visitation, but assumes now a particularly dangerous, elegiac character. Not only will the people not go forward, but they will return home to the flesh pots. The God-forgetting yearning after pleasure, after the fancied, idealized pleasure of the world, that has become a sympathetic power of seduction, has, by the spirit of faith, been justly taken as an allegorical type of all kindred outbreaks of base despondency in the church of God. “Looking back and longing for the flesh-pots of Egypt” is the expressive name for this. In thinking of their present troubles and privations, they entirely lost sight of the great deliverance from Egyptian bondage and of all Jehovah’s miraculous guidance to the present time. On the other hand, the idea of the enjoyments of Egypt, in which the people had had but a very meagre share, swells in their imagination into an illusive picture of lavish delights in the lap of abundance. [“The mixed multitude,” with whom the discontent began, may have had a large share in the abundance of Egypt; and even the Israelites themselves doubtless had abundance of the things enumerated in the text.—Tr.].

2. The outburst of wicked longing. The children of Israel wept again; comp. Exodus 16:3, which tells of an occasion when they wept before, at least inwardly. Now, however, the weeping becomes almost a litany. First, as regards the object of their longing: meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic [see the corresponding articles in Smith’s Bib. Dict., and Knobel and Keil in loc. The Author passes them with a similar reference.—Tr.]. Second, the subjective disposition: feeling of debility—nothing but manna is here; why unsatisfying? On the manna see on Exodus 16:14 [and Smith’s Bib. Dict.]—All the branches of the tribes catch the contagion,—they weep before the doors of their tents.

3. The guilt of the people before Jehovah and the distress of Moses. The question, how did Jehovah’s wrath express itself? presents no difficulty to the exegetes that write: “The whole bearing of Moses shows, that two things excited his displeasure at once, not only the people’s inconsiderate insurrection against Jehovah, but also Jehovah’s inconsiderate (!) anger at the people (Kurtz, Keil). As if Moses as a prophet had not felt the whole wrath of Jehovah in his inmost soul, and that with the feeling that all was up, or that it seemed to be all up with this people and his whole mission to them.

And, in fact, this was one of the greatest defeats of the people of God, a moment far more disconsolate than the history of the golden calf, or the destruction of Jerusalem; a moment that, in reference to the despair of the people of God, repeated itself as a type in the crucifixion of Christ, and in reference to the feeling of Moses, repeated itself in the feeling of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Was Moses to go to Canaan, conquer the promised land, found the kingdom of God, with the people in this state of mind? If the character of heathenism reveals itself in a longing of the fleshly mind for the lost golden age, for the old saturnalia, so here there burst forth an intensified heathenism in Israel itself; an elegiac retrorsum, by which at a later period Israel lost the New Testament, by which the more recent Romanticism made of its longing for the Middle Ages an elegiac poesy, and which just in the most modern tendencies of the present time takes the form of an absolute retrorsum.

But if Moses does not here simply rush in with intercession, as he did at Sinai when the Golden Calf was set up, the explanation Isaiah, that the present trial is much greater, and becomes a temptation to himself by reason of his sympathy for the gloominess and lamentation of the sorrowing people. It would really seem to him now as if it were impossible, with this pitiful people, to found a kingdom of God. Corresponding to this is his complaint to Jehovah, Numbers 11:11. Shall he bear the burden of this whole people, i. e., the burden of a people that weighs so heavily? That seems to him in conflict with the compassion of God. The people behave like a screaming, self-willed infant in swaddling-clothes. No prophet can, in this way, bear a whole nation into the inheritance of a great promise of world-wide importance. On this Knobel makes the characteristic remark: “the author has a fancy for making him use such vehement language to God,” (p51). Jehovah understands his Moses better. He must really be helped. The thing of first importance is to raise up again the courage of the people! Moses would rather die than see the people go to ruin in this condition. His mood reminds one of Hagar in the desert; she cannot see her languishing child die. They weep to me, he complains; his heart is ready to break.

4. The first relief. The prospect of miraculous help that Moses now enjoys is increased sevenfold. The order for Moses to summon before the Tent seventy men of the elders of Israel, that are at the same time officers, is joined with the announcement to the people: to-morrow, and from to-morrow onwards for a whole month shall ye eat flesh—eat to loathing.

It is evident that the present has nothing to do with the seventy associate judges whom Moses instituted at Sinai ( Exodus 17), as Keil has clearly proved in opposition to Knobel. Still less has it any connection with laying the foundation of the Sanhedrim of later times. See the particulars in Keil in loc. But it is also evident that the present has nothing to do with prophesying men in general; least of all would speaking with tongues have been of any service to the people in their then situation. The appointment of the men relates to the promise given to the people: to-morrow ye shall eat flesh. Jehovah will put on the seventy men of the spirit which is upon Moses. A distribution of the spirit into seventy parts is out of the question. Keil justly rejects this representation, as also a similar one of Calvin’s (it was a “sign of indignation” against Moses), and appeals to Theodoret’s explanation: from one flame a thousand may be kindled without diminishing the former. Just as little, according to the context, has the present anything to do with a general and abiding appointment, as has already been remarked. But to the promise of enjoying flesh for an entire month is joined already a slight threat: until it come out at your nose is explained by the addition: and it be loathsome to you. Keil takes this literally: their vomiting shall not only drive the flesh out of their mouth, but also out of their nose. Moses still doubts: six hundred thousand men shall have enough meat for an entire month? That would require them to slaughter all their herds. The addition: or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, is not without significance as to their place of encampment. But Jehovah demands of Moses unconditional faith in His omnipotence, and therewith in His promise. Moses believes and obeys.

The seventy men stood round about the Tent in a semi-circle (thus Keil interprets סְבִיבֹת, Numbers 11:24), and the sign with which Jehovah effected the spiritual anointing consists in this, that He comes down on him with the cloud, that at other times rose directly up. That the cloud was not moved by the wind is a negation of importance only to that supra-naturalism that supposes it must deny secondary causes. There was even a strong south wind used, not only to bring on the abundance of quails, but also to cast them on the camp. Moses understood the harmonia præstabilita between the kingdom of nature and the kingdom of grace under divine illumination. It was a solitary factor in the history of the world, as was the passage through the Red Sea. The army of God must go on and on, and it has gone onward from that day to the present. The inspired hope blazed up anew in Moses, and in the whole troop of his assistants. The latter prophesied in this solitary situation, and not again afterwards. What they prophesied is for our informant something too plain to need statement. The fire of hope even flew from the Tabernacle and the main gathering away over the camp. Two of the men that had been summoned had remained in the camp, Eldad (“God is friend”) and Medad (friendship); but even there they began to prophesy. On hearing this Joshua showed great zeal; they seemed not to be ordained by his honored master; Moses should forbid them. The great answer of Moses: wilt thou be a zealot for me? has been disregarded by all hierarchs from that time to the present. It is clear to the sincere prophet that at this moment Joshua is not zealous for God. It has been usual at this place to call to mind the sons of Thunder ( Mark 9:38); many a confessionalist may as properly be called to mind. Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them! Moses now returns into the camp with the elders, also the people are to sanctify themselves against the following morning.

5. The quails and the graves of lust. Comp. Exodus 16. “Here, too, is meant a spring migration from south to north that happens in the second month, or about May ( Numbers 10:11). The wind was from the south-east ( Psalm 78:26), and blew from the Elanitic gulf. Quails depend much on the wind in their flight; especially in harvest, when they are very fat, on the north wind,” etc. (Knobel). Thus the wind that Jehovah sent spread the quails over the camp a day’s journey hither and a day’s journey thither, that must mean: in every direction, or in length and breadth, but not: “so that on both sides they fell to the ground a day’s journey in breadth” (Keil), thus right and left by the camp. Moreover the representation about two cubits above the face of the earth, is not to be taken as meaning that they “lay two cubits deep piled on one another.” A flight of quails never so fatigued might spread itself over the ground; still it would not fall as if dead, one on another, two cubits deep. Literally then it would need to mean: two days’ journey in length and breadth they lay two cubits on tap of each other. That would have been provision for many years; but then, too, it would have crushed in the tents of the Israelites. Therefore Keil adds: naturally not everywhere in the space indicated, but primarily near the camp, and in spots about two cubits high. But a literal construction does not permit this restriction. Here even the Vulgate, along with many Rabbins, stands up for a vivid and natural construction: volabant in aere duabus cubitis altitudine super terram, against the construction of Keil, who follows Michaelis. Bochart represents an explanation still more supra-naturalistic: the quails lay perhaps in rows two cubits deep, so that the Israelites in gathering them may have gone between. But it is certainly allowable to understand the verb נָטַשׁ as meaning, not a literal throwing, but flinging, in the way that a strong wind would do. Had they been spread out a day’s journey on either side of the camp, then the gathering could not have been done in two days and the intervening night. He that gathered least gathered ten homers; according to the reckoning of Thenius nearly two bushels [Dresden measure. See Smith’s Bible Dictionary, art. Weights and Measures. See ibid., art. Quails: “There is every reason for believing that the ‘homers’ here spoken of denote simply ‘a heap:’ this is the explanation given by Onkelos and the Arabic versions of Saadias and Erpenius, in Numbers 10:31.” Considering the uncertainly about Hebrew measures of this early date, we cannot look to the homer as a definite factor in judging of this aecount. The phenomenon seems to have been a two days’ flight of quail. The unique Hebrew phrase literally translated is: as the way of a day thus, and as the way of a day thus. The comparison implied in כֹּח, “thus, or Song of Solomon,” may be to the description of the flight of quail in the preceding clause. The phrase seems better suited to describe the passage of the quail than anything else. דֶּרֶךְ, “a way,” as a rule, takes its definition from the subject with which it is joined. Comp. Job 38:19; Job 38:24-25; “the way of light,” “the way of lightning.” In the present case, then, it would not denote a space or area at all, but a course or flight. The only measure of the phenomenon, then, is that enough was gathered for a month’s use for this mighty multitude. Unless “a way” be restricted to the quails for its definition, we have no definition. For it cannot be decided whether the “day’s journey” means that of a multitude, or of a Prayer of Manasseh, or of a man on a camel (see Bush in loc.). It agrees with this view when it is stated that the people stood up all that day and all the night and all the next day, and they gathered the quails. The passage lasted two days and the intervening night, and so long the “killing” lasted. Israelites would not gather what had died of itself ( Leviticus 22:8).—Tr.] When it is said that the provisions were heaped about the camp, it does not mean that the quails fell only about the camp. The camp itself formed a narrow circuit, the periphery of the quail-fall a wider: but the quail-fall covered both.

The narrative hastens on to the judgment. The flesh was yet between their teeth: that can mean: hardly had they begun to eat the flesh; but it may also mean, it had not yet ceased. Only the latter can be intended, for otherwise the whole feeding would have been illusory. The explanation: “they had not yet chewed it,” mars the vivid expression. Keil and Knobel differ widely in regard to the mortal punishment. “This overthrow (מַכָּה) must not be regarded as the effect of an immoderate use of the quails, and because quails feed on things that are noxious to men, so that the use of their meat brings on convulsions and dizziness (see the proofs in Bochart, Hieroz. II, p. 657 sqq.), as Knobel supposes, but an extraordinary judicial punishment brought on the people by God for their lusting” (Keil). The text takes the medium between these two, even by the expression graves of lust, and with the remark: there they buried the people that lusted. Indeed, the connection between sin and punishment, strong appetite and intemperance (especially, we may suppose, among the rabble, with whom the commotion originated), appears here too plain for one to suppose that it will glorify the miracle to rupture this connection with violence.

[The nausea resulting from a month’s consecutive use of quails had nothing to do with the mortality attending the present use. Keil, with whom many agree, is right in referring the latter to a direct judgment of God. The text says nothing of greedy or immoderate use of the meat. It was the moral quality of the lusting that was punished. The nausea, moreover, would be no proof of immoderate use of the food, except in the sense that every-day use of such meat is immoderate. It is a familiar fact among bird-hunters (or often alleged to be such) that no one can eat a pheasant daily for a month. Revolting makes it impossible. We may suppose the same would be true of quails in the east, especially considering also the cuisine of the desert.—Tr.]

6. Supplementary remarks. The slighting of the manna occasions a repeated description of it ( Numbers 11:4-8; comp. Exodus 16; Numbers 21:5). In regard to the relation of these seventy men out of the elders to the elders that Moses appointed, Exodus 19, the following distinctions appear manifest: (1) judges and prophets; (2) standing officers, and those that were called to render an extraordinary assistance. The number seventy goes all through the Holy Scripture as symbolical of the total of the nation. According to the expression of Moses, Numbers 11:22, about the fish of the sea, we must suppose that the locality “graves of lust” was not far from the Elanitic gulf. The remark of Keil: what could be the use of such a detour? overlooks the difficulties that a great expedition had to encounter in the desert, seeing it was conditioned on pasturage and springs. The situation of the graves of lust is unknown, and there are only indefinite conjectures in regard to Hazeroth.

[E. H. Palmer (Desert of the Exodus) thinks he has identified Kibroth-hattaavah. He thus describes his discovery (p 212 sq.): “A little further on, and upon the water-shed of Wady el Hebeibeh, we came to some remains which, although they had hitherto escaped even a passing notice from previous travellers, proved to be among the most interesting in the country. The piece of elevated ground which forms this watershed is called by the Arabs Erweis el Ebeirig, and is covered with small inclosures of stones. These are evidently the remains of a large encampment; but they differ essentially in their arrangement from any others which I have seen in Sinai or elsewhere in Arabia; and on the summit of a small hill on the right is an erection of rough stones surmounted by a conspicuous white block of pyramidal shape. These remains extend for miles around, and, on examining them more carefully during a second visit to the Peninsula with Mr. Drake, we found our first impressions fully confirmed, and collected abundant proofs that it was in reality a deserted camp. The small stones which formerly served, as they do in the present day, for hearths, in many places still showed signs of the action of fire, and on digging beneath the surface, we found pieces of charcoal in great abundance. Here and there were larger inclosures marking the encampment of some person more important than the rest, and just outside the camp were a number of stone heaps, which, from their shape and position, could be nothing else but graves. The site is a most commanding one, and admirably suited for the assembling of a large concourse of people.

“Arab tradition declares these curious remains to be ‘the relics of a large Pilgrim or Hajj caravan, who in remote ages pitched their tents at this spot on their way to ‘Ain Hudherah, and who were soon afterwards lost in the desert of the Tih, and never heard of again.’

“For various reasons, I am inclined to believe that this legend is authentic, that it refers to the Israelites, and that we have in the scattered stones of Erweis el Ebeirig real traces of the Exodus.

“Firstly: they are said tahu, to have ‘lost their way,’ the Arabic verb from which the name Tih, or ‘Wilderness of the Wanderings’ is derived. Secondly: they are described as a Hajj caravan. At the first glance this would seem an anachronism, as the word is employed exclusively by the Muslims, and applied to their own annual pilgrimage to Mecca. But this very term owes its origin to the Hebrew Hagg, which signifies ‘a festival,’ and is the identical word used in Exodus 10:9 to express the ceremony which the children of Israel alleged as their reason for wishing to leave Egypt—namely: ‘to hold a feast unto the Lord in the wilderness.” It could not apply to the modern Mohammedan Hajj caravan, for that has never passed this way, and would not under any circumstances find it necessary to go to ‘Ain Hudherah; but the children of Israel did journey to Hazeroth, and the tradition is therefore valuable in determining the latter site, as well as their subsequent route on leaving the Peninsula. The length of time which has elapsed since the events of the Exodus furnishes no argument against the probability of this conclusion, for there are other monuments in the country in even better preservation, and of a date indisputably far anterior. It is a curious fact that, if you ask twenty different Arabs to relate to you one of their national legends, they will do so in precisely the same words, thus showing with what wonderful precision oral tradition is handed down from generation to generation among them.

“These considerations, the distance (exactly a day’s journey) from ‘Ain Hudherah, and these mysterious graves outside the camp, to my mind prove conclusively the identity of the spot with the scene of that awful plague by which the Lord punished the greed and discontent of His people ( Numbers 11:33-35).”

The same author identifies Hazeroth with ‘Ain Hudherah as Robinson and others before him. But previous travellers have looked at it only from a distance. Palmer explored the very spot and thus describes it: “Through a steep rugged gorge, with almost perpendicular sides, we looked down upon a Wady-bed that winds along between fantastic sandstone rocks, now rising in the semblance of mighty walls or terraced palaces, now jutting out in pointed ridges—rocky promontories in a sandy sea. Beyond this lies a perfect forest of mountain peaks and chains, and on their left a broad white wady leads up toward the distant mountains of Tih. But the great charm of the landscape lies in the rich and varied coloring; the sandstone, save where some great block has fallen away and displayed the dazzling whiteness of the stone beneath, is weathered to a dull red or violet hue, through which run streaks of brightest yellow and scarlet, mixed with rich dark purple tints. Here and there a hill or dike of greenstone, or a rock of rosy granite, contrasts or blends harmoniously with the rest; and in the midst, beneath a lofty cliff, nestles the dark green palm-grove of Hazeroth,” ibid. p217. See Bartlett:From Egypt to Palestine, Chap. XIII.—Tr.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Numbers 11:4. The beginning of the pathological ill-humor proceeds from a common, dubious crowd that joined in the exodus from Egypt, probably people attached by marriage, bastards, servants, fortune-seekers of every sort. Any way, the theocratic-classical conception of the rabble, the mongrel mass, the scrapings הָאסַפְסֻף) presents itself here as quite justified. The more recent morality justly forbids our calling the humbler people a rabble; but on the other hand the eternal morality of the word of God is also justified that forbids our calling the rabble the nation.

[“Hence we are taught, that the wicked and sinful should be avoided, lest they should corrupt us by their bad example; since the contagion of vice easily spreads. At the same time we are warned, that it does not at all avail to excuse us, that others are the instigators of our sin; since it by no means profited the Israelites, that they fell through the influence of others, inasmuch as it was their own lust which carried them away.” Calvin in loc. See his entire comment on chap11, which is admirable for its practical applications.—Tr.]

HOMILETICAL HINTS

The longing for the flesh pots of Egypt. The illusions regarding a bondage from which they had hardly more than escaped. Nunquam retrorsum.

The complaint of Moses. The fearful burden rolled on the hearts of those that are faithful by the frivolity and worldly-mindedness of the mass of the nation. The awakening of men of enthusiastic hope in Jehovah’s miraculous help.

Two kinds of despair: despair of human help, from which issues new hope in God’s miraculous help; and despair of God’s help, which also deprives human help of its power. The quails, or the way of all animals under the providence of God.

Eldad and Medad, or those inspired of God beside those ordained, and the contrast between Joshua’s judgment and that of Moses (comp. Luke 9:49-50).

The punishment in granting earthly good that is impatiently sought after; or the graves of lust. [See M. Henry on Numbers 11:4-35.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - And the people were as those that complain of evil in the ears of Jehovah.

FN#2 - Or, were, as it were, complainers.

FN#3 - Heb. it was evil in the ears of.

FN#4 - devoured in the region (De Wette and Zunz: at the extremity) of the camp.

FN#5 - omit when.

FN#6 - Heb. sunk.

FN#7 - That Isaiah, A burning.

FN#8 - rabble.

FN#9 - Heb. lusted a lust.

FN#10 - Heb. returned and wept.

FN#11 - only on the manna our eyes (are turned, Zunz).

FN#12 - Heb. eye of it as the eye of.

FN#13 - appearance.

FN#14 - boiled.

FN#15 - the pot.

FN#16 - oil cakes.

FN#17 - by.

FN#18 - and in the eyes of Moses it was evil.

FN#19 - done evil to.

FN#20 - Prayer of Manasseh -nurse.

FN#21 - Tent of Meeting.

FN#22 - Heb. month of days.

FN#23 - small and great cattle (De Wette, and commonly: sheep and cattle).

FN#24 - omit the.

FN#25 - Tent.

FN#26 - men, the elders.

FN#27 - but not longer (De Wette: since then not again; Bunsen, Luther, as the A. V, see Text. and Gram.).

FN#28 - from his youth up [from his elite; see Text. and Gram.—Tr.].

FN#29 - Art thou jealous.

FN#30 - Heb. as it were the way of a day.

FN#31 - spread themselves out round about the camp.

FN#32 - De Wette: overthrow.

FN#33 - That Isaiah, The graves of lust.

FN#34 - Heb. they were in, etc.

 


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Numbers 11:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/numbers-11.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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