Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Numbers 11:16

The Lord therefore said to Moses, "Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Government;   Inspiration;   Jury;   Moses;   Prayer;   Seventy;   Trouble;   Thompson Chain Reference - Moses;   Periods and Numbers;   Seventy;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Courts of Justice;   Desert, Journey of Israel through the;   Manna;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Manna;   Sanhedrin;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Judge;   Ruler;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Age, Old (the Aged);   Elder;   Grace;   Haggai, Theology of;   Leadership;   Moses;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Discontent;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Elder;   Prophet;   Sanhedrim;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Congregation;   Council;   Judges;   Number;   Prophet;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Eldad;   Elder;   Judge (Office);   Meat;   Ordination, Ordain;   Sanhedrin;   Tabernacle;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Elder;   Justice;   Moses;   Numbers, Book of;   Sanhedrin;   Tabernacle;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Numbers (2);   Sanhedrin;   Seventy (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Elders;   Sanhedrin or Sanhedrim;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Judges;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Elder;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Congregation;   El'dad;   Number;   San'hedrin;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Government of the Hebrews;   Judges;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - On to Canaan;   Moses, the Man of God;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Eldad;   Elder in the Old Testament;   Moses;   Number;   Sanhedrin;   Tabernacle;   Writing;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Bemidbar Rabbah;   Conferences, Rabbinical;   Dualism;   Elder;   Eschatology;   Exodus, Book of;   Gerusia;   ;   Midrashim, Smaller;   Ordination;   Police Laws;   Sanhedrin;   Sidra;   Ten;  

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"And Jehovah 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 tent of meeting, that they may stand there with thee. 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. And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow, and ye shall eat flesh; for ye have wept in the ears of Jehovah, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore Jehovah will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you; because that ye have rejected Jehovah who is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? And Moses said, The people among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them? And Jehovah said unto Moses, Is Jehovah's hand waxed short? now shalt thou see whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not."

This paragraph recounts God's answer to Moses' desperate appeal. Help would be supplied by the commissioning of the seventy. Also, the complaint of the people which had precipitated the crisis would also be met. God would give them flesh.

"I will take of the Spirit that is upon thee, and put it upon them ..." (Numbers 11:17). In one sense, the Holy Spirit is somewhat like a fire in that spreading it to others does not diminish the intensity existing in another, just as a flame kindled from one fire does not put out the first. What a lack of discernment there is in the comment by Wade: "The spirit resting on Moses is regarded as a quasi-physical fluid, capable of being divided and imparted to others."[15] One may only wonder as to where such an idea originated.

Later Jewish leaders traced the origin of their Sanhedrin to this place, but it is significant that on a previous occasion, at the suggestion of Jethro, Moses had also appointed a "Seventy." The two events are not to be understood as supplementary accounts of but one.

"Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow ..." (Numbers 11:18). The blessing promised was not to be unmixed, for it would involve a judgment also.

"Ye shall eat ... for a whole month ... until it come out at your nostrils ..." (Numbers 11:19,20). Moses himself was incredulous that even God could do such a thing, as indicated by his protest. However, Moses had enough faith to command the people as God had said. Despite our conviction that sin must be attributed to Moses for his attitude here, many commentators, including especially the Jewish family of writers, "tend generally to exculpate (exonerate) him."[16]

"Is Jehovah's hand waxed short ...?" (Numbers 11:23). Here is one of the great questions that abound in the O.T. The simple meaning of it: "Is anything too hard for God to do?"

Plaut rendered Numbers 11:20 here, as follows; "Oh why did we ever leave Egypt?"[17] It would be only a short time after this that God would declare that whole generation unfit to enter the Promised Land. The feeding of the people with quails is momentarily shelved at this point to make room for the parenthetical account of the giving of God's Spirit to the Seventy.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/numbers-11.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the Lord said unto Moses,.... Without making any reflection upon him, or upbraiding him with his unbecoming speeches to him, but in a kind and tender manner directs for his assistance and case:

gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel; out from among them, such as were not only men in years, but men of gravity, prudence, and wisdom; elders there were among the people in Egypt, Exodus 3:16; and it was from among such as those the seventy men were to be taken; we read of seventy elders before this time, that went up to the mount with Moses, Exodus 24:1; but they are supposed only to be selected for that purpose at that time, and did not continue as a separate body, or in any office: according to this number seventy, the great sanhedrim, or court of judicature the sat at Jerusalem in later times, consisted of seventy persons, with a prince or president at the head of them, as Moses was at the head of those: and so our Lord, besides his twelve apostles, sent out seventy disciples to be assisting in his work and service, Luke 10:1,

whom thou knowest to be elders of the people; either in age, or in some sort of office and authority among them, or, however, to be good and just men, and had a considerable share of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom:

and officers over them; such as Jethro advised to constitute, Exodus 18:21; and it is not improbable that these seventy were chosen out of them:

and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee; and be seen by all the people what honour was done them, what authority was conferred upon them, and what gifts were bestowed on them, qualifying them for their office, in which they were to be treated with respect by them.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/numbers-11.html. 1999.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

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.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/numbers-11.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

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.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/numbers-11.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.

Ver. 16. Gather unto me seventy men.] Here, say some, began the Sanhedrim, that is, the great council of the Jews, consisting of seventy seniors and one president. It continued till the time of Herod the Great, who took it away, and changed the form of it.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-11.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Of whom see Exodus 3:16 5:6 Leviticus 4:15 Deuteronomy 16:18.

Whom thou knowest to be the elders; whom thou by experience discernest to be elders not only in years, and name, and place, but also in wisdom, and gravity, and authority with the people.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/numbers-11.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16.Whom thou knowest to be the elders — Something in addition to mature age is evidently sought, namely, the qualities which properly belong to advancing years — gravity, wisdom, and piety. Out of an existing class of elders the seventy were to be chosen by Moses. See Exodus 24:1.

Officers — Hebrew, shoterim. These were not judges, (Deuteronomy 16:18,) but writers who kept the genealogical registers on which all hereditary succession and ancestral fame depended. Hence the office was fully as dignified as that of a judge. In subsequent times the Levites, the scholastic tribe, supplied most of these scribes. See Exodus 5:6-9, notes. These were brought unto the tabernacle, that they might be first separated from secular employments and then be filled with the Spirit.

After this public inauguration there could be no doubt among the people as to their authority. If this body of elders was designed to be a permanent council — the Sanhedrim of the New Testament — it is remarkable that no further mention is made of it in the Old Testament during the fifteen intervening centuries. Hence we conclude that this senate was designed only to afford temporary relief to Moses amid the extraordinary perplexities of the sojourn in the wilderness.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/numbers-11.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Numbers 11:16. 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 judgment among them, consisted of seventy men.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/numbers-11.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Seventy men. This was the first institution of the council or senate, called the Sanhedrim, consisting of seventy, or seventy-two senators or counselors. (Challoner) --- Calmet calls this in question. (Dissert. on the Police, &c.) Moses chose these senators from among the officers, whom he had before set over the people, (Exodus xviii.) or from those who had superintended their affairs in Egypt, according to the Rabbins, (Exodus iii. 14,) who say that the traditions explaining the law were entrusted to them. (Jarchi, &c.) --- Ancients; a title of authority in the East. See Genesis l. 7. It was not so necessary that they should be far advanced in year, as that they should be men of prudence and of consummate virtue. These qualifications received a great increase, when they were filled with the spirit of God. (Calmet) --- They were thus authorized to decide controversies peremptorily, and to consult God, like Moses, being endued also with a prophetic spirit. (Menochius)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/numbers-11.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

said. See note on Numbers 3:40.

to be = "that [they] be".

tabernacle = tent. Hebrew. ohel. App-40.

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Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/numbers-11.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) Seventy men of the elders of Israel . . . —We find mention made of elders of the people in Exodus 3:16, and of officers (shoterim) in Exodus 5:16;

also of seventy elders in Exodus 24:1. Frequent mention is made in Scripture of the number seventy—a number which is composed of the two sacred numbers seven and ten—the former being the seal of the covenant, and the latter probably denoting perfection. The seventy who were chosen on the present occasion may have consisted of some of those who were appointed as judges at the suggestion of Jethro, but there is no evidence of their identity with any persons previously selected.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/numbers-11.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
seventy
Genesis 46:27; Exodus 4:29; 24:1,9; Ezekiel 8:11; Luke 10:1,17
officers
Deuteronomy 1:15; 16:18; 31:28
Reciprocal: Exodus 5:6 - officers;  Exodus 12:21 - elders;  Leviticus 4:15 - the elders;  Numbers 11:24 - gathered;  Numbers 13:2 - a ruler;  Numbers 16:25 - GeneralDeuteronomy 1:13 - Take;  1 Kings 21:8 - the elders;  Psalm 58:1 - O congregation;  Isaiah 28:6 - for a spirit;  Jeremiah 19:1 - the ancients of the people;  Acts 6:3 - look

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/numbers-11.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

16.And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men. God complies with the request of Moses, by associating with him seventy companions, by whose care and assistance he may be relieved from some part of his labor; yet not without some signs of indignation, for, by taking from him some portion of His Spirit to distribute amongst the others, He inflicts upon him that mark of disgrace which he deserved. I know that some (20) regard it differently, and think that nothing was taken away from Moses, but that the others were endued with new grace, such as Moses had been preeminent for possessing alone before. But, since the words expressly declare that God will make them partakers of that grace which He will take from Moses himself, I by no means admit the truth of this subtle exposition. The passage in Genesis 27:36 is quoted, in which it is said, “Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” but, when God expressly says, “I will separate (21) of the Spirit which is upon thee,” there can be no question but that a diminution is indicated. For, as long as Moses alone was appointed to rule the people, he was so supplied with the necessary gifts of the Spirit, as that his ability should not be inferior to the greatness of the labor. God now promises that the others shall be his companions in such sort, as that He divides His gifts among them all. I have no doubt, then, but that this division comprehends punishment in it; and from hence we may gather a useful piece of instruction, viz., that the greater the difficulty is which God imposes upon any one, the greater is the liberality with which He treats him, in order that he may be sufficient for his charge. Thus it is in His power to work with equal efficiency by one man, as by a hundred, or a thousand; for He has no need of a multitude (of agents,) but, as He pleases, He executes His works sometimes without the aid of men, sometimes by their hands. In sum, God indirectly reproves the gross ingratitude of Moses, whereby he depreciated that marvelous grace which had hitherto shone forth in him; and He declares that he shall not be hereafter so great as he was, in regard to the excellency he derived from the Spirit; inasmuch as he had in a manner thrown away the gifts of the Spirit, by refusing to bear the trouble imposed upon him. Our modesty, indeed, is praiseworthy, if through consciousness of our own weakness we recoil from arduous charges; but it is too absurd for us to withdraw ourselves under this pretext from our duty, and, despising the calling of God, to shake off the yoke.

The word Spirit is here, as frequently elsewhere, applied to the gifts themselves; as if He had said, I had deposited with thee gifts sufficing for the government of the people; but now, since thou refusest, I will distribute his due measure to each of the seventy, so that the grace of the Spirit, which dwelt in thee alone, shall be manifestly dispersed among many. It is now asked how Moses separated the seventy, whether according to his own judgment only, or by the election of the people. It is generally agreed that six were chosen from each tribe, and thus that they were seventy-two; but that for the sake of brevity two were omitted, as amongst the Romans, (22) they spoke of the Centumviri, although they were a hundred and five; for they appointed three for each of the thirty-five tribes. Since the opinion is probable, I leave it undecided; but at the same time I retain the conjecture which I have elsewhere made, (23) viz., that, since the race of Abraham had been increased in an incredible manner in two hundred and twenty years, lest so astonishing a miracle should ever be forgotten, the seventy were elected in accordance with the number of the fathers who had gone down into Egypt with Jacob. And, in fact, this seems to have been with them, as it were, a sacred number; as recalling to their memory that little band from which they had derived their origin. For, before the Law was promulgated, Moses was commanded to take with him seventy to accompany him to the mount, and to be eye-witnesses of God’s glory. Meanwhile, I do not deny that there were two more than the number seventy; but I only point out why God fixed upon this number, viz., to equalize the leaders and heads of the people with the family of Jacob, which was the source of their race and name. In truth, from the fact that, when Hoses went up into Mount Sinai to receive the Tables from the hand of God, he took with him seventy officers, we infer that the number of those who should excel in honor, was already fixed at this, although the charge of governing, which is here spoken of, was not yet committed to them. And it is probable that these same persons who had been appointed leaders, were called to this new and unwonted office, as the words themselves imply. It is indeed certain, that when the Jews returned from the Babylonish captivity, because they were not permitted to appoint a king, they followed the example here set them in the establishment of their Sanhedrim; only this honor was paid to the memory of David and their rings, that from their race they chose their seventy rulers in whom the supreme power was vested. And this form of government continued down to Herod, (24) who abolished the whole council by which he had been condemned, and destroyed the lives of them all. Still, I think that he was not impelled to commit the massacre only out of vengeance, but also lest the dignity of the royal race should be an obstacle to his tyranny.

It must, however, be observed that, although God promises new grace to the seventy men, he would not have them taken indiscriminately from the people in general, but expressly commands them to be chosen from the order of the elders, and heads of the people, being such as were already possessed of authority, and had given proofs of their diligence and virtue. Thus, also, now-a-days, when he calls both the pastors of the Church and magistrates to their office, although He furnishes them with new gifts, still He would not have them raised to their honorable stations promiscuously as they may come first, but chooses rather with reference to their spiritual endowments, wherewith He distinguishes, and commends those whom He has destined to any exalted office. In short, He commands the most fitting to be chosen; but, after they have been elected, tie promises that He will add what is wanting. For this reason He commands that they should station themselves at the door of the tabernacle, that He may there display His grace. Although I think that two other reasons were likewise taken into consideration, viz., that they might know that the office was intrusted to them by God, and might always be mindful of the heavenly tribunal, before which they must be accountable: and also that they might be held in additional reverence by the very associations of the place, and that the people might submit to them as the ministers of God. Now, although God does not at present dwell in a visible tabernacle, yet are we reminded by this example that pastors and magistrates are not duly ordained, unless they are placed in the presence of God; nor rightly inaugurated in their offices, unless when they consecrate themselves to God Himself, and when His majesty, on the other hand, acquires their reverence. Cyprian (25) twists this passage further, but I know not whether on sufficiently firm grounds, to prove that bishops are not to be elected, except with the consent of the whole people.

The above quotation is from a letter written in the names of Cyprian and thirty-six of his brethren, as a reply to inquiries made by the presbyter and people of Leon and Astorga, and the deacons and faithful people in Merida. Cyprian has not cited Numbers 11:16, in any of the works now acknowledged as his, though the argument thus drawn from Numbers 20:25, would have been more reasonably collected from the text, to which Calvin has assumed that he referred.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/numbers-11.html. 1840-57.