Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Numbers 11:29

But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Bigotry;   Eldad;   Envy;   Inspiration;   Medad;   Moses;   Prayer;   Trouble;   Unselfishness;   Zeal, Religious;   Scofield Reference Index - Holy Spirit;   Thompson Chain Reference - Selfishness-Unselfishness;   Unselfishness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Courts of Justice;   Desert, Journey of Israel through the;   Envy;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Eldad;   Manna;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Holy spirit;   Joshua the son of nun;   Moses;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Holy Spirit;   Joel, Theology of;   Prophet, Prophetess, Prophecy;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Discontent;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Eldad;   Medad;   Prophet;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Joel;   Joshua;   Moses;   Numbers, the Book of;   Prophet;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Eldad;   Meat;   Spirit;   Tabernacle;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Eldad;   Moses;   Numbers, Book of;   Prophecy, Prophets;   Prophet;   Tabernacle;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Winter ;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Eldad;   Elder;   Joshua;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Law of Moses;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Eldad;   Elders;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - On to Canaan;   Moses, the Man of God;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Eldad;   Envy;   Joel (2);   Medad;   Prophecy;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Eldad and Medad;   Joshua (Jehoshua);   Sanhedrin;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Enviest thou for my sake? -

Moses, the minister of God,

Rebukes our partial love,

Who envy at the gifts bestow'd

On those we disapprove.

We do not our own spirit know,

Who wish to see suppress'd

The men that Jesu's spirit show,

The men whom God hath bless'd.

Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets -

Shall we the Spirit's course restrain,

Or quench the heavenly fire?

Let God his messengers ordain,

And whom he will inspire.

Blow as he list, the Spirit's choice

Of instruments we bless;

We will, if Christ be preached, rejoice,

And wish the word success.

Can all be prophets then? are all

Commission'd from above?

No; but whome'er the Lord shall call

We joyfully approve.

O that the Church might all receive

The spirit of prophecy,

And all in Christ accepted live,

And all in Jesus die!

Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy Scriptures, by Charles Wesley, M. A., and Presbyter of the Church of England. Bristol, 1762. 2 vols. 12mo.

These sentiments are the more particularly remarkable as they come from one who was sufficiently bigoted to what was called ecclesiastical orders and regularity.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/numbers-11.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Moses said unto him, enviest thou for my sake?.... Lest his authority should be weakened, and his honour lessened, because they began not to prophesy in his presence, and at the tabernacle, and among the rest of the elders, and so seemed not to have received of the Spirit that was upon him, and to be independent of him:

would God that all the Lord's people were prophets; this is not to he understood in the most absolute sense, as if Moses wished that every individual person among the people of Israel were prophets, as the word may signify a set and order of men, and an office in the church or state, as ministers of the word extraordinary or ordinary; for then there would be none to prophesy to, or to teach and instruct; and so likewise not rulers, or helps and assistants in government, for then there would be none to be governed; but it is to be taken comparatively, and is designed to show how far Moses was from an envious spirit at the gifts of others, that he could wish, if it was the will of God, and consistent with the order of things, that every man had as great or greater gifts than he had, qualifying them for public service and usefulness; such was the modesty and meekness of Moses: there is a sense indeed, in which all the Lord's people, all good men, are and should be prophets, and for which by the grace of the Spirit of God they are qualified; and should act as such, by praying and singing praises, which are sometimes meant by prophesying, and by spiritual conferences in private with one another, building up each other on their most holy faith, and by teaching and instructing all under their care in their families:

and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them; the gifts of it, which are necessary to fit men for public service in church or state, or for private usefulness, 1 Corinthians 12:7.

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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.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/numbers-11.html. 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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!

Enviest thou for my sake — Art thou grieved because the gifts and graces of God are imparted to others besides me? Prophets - He saith prophets, not rulers, for that he knew was absurd and impossible. So we ought to be pleased, that God is glorified and good done, tho' to the lessening of our own honour.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/numbers-11.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

THE MAGNANIMOUS LEADER

‘And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets!’

Numbers 11:29

Eldad and Medad seem instances of unlicensed preaching and prophesying; and this, at a time of scanty knowledge and rare spiritual illumination, was not without its dangers. So thought Joshua, and, jealous for Moses’ supremacy, besought him to rebuke them. But the great prophet, wholly wanting in the thought of self, rebuked Joshua instead. ‘Enviest thou,’ he said, ‘for my sake?’ and then added, in words of noble hyperbole, ‘Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets!’

I. The first thought that occurs to us in reading this scene is the good, felt by the greatest, of zeal and enthusiasm.—And the second is, how to discover it, how to encourage it in God’s service. But then comes the further question, Have these men the prophet’s capacity? Have they that primary want, the prophet’s faith? Have they fire, perseverance, and courage? (1) The prophet’s faith. Take away from the prophet this faith in the living God, speaking to him, teaching him, encouraging him, in the midst of life’s sorrows and temptations, and he is nothing. Give him that belief, and his confidence, his courage, is unshaken. (2) There is the prophet’s belief in the moral order underlying the established order of things, as the only safe and sure foundation on which peace and prosperity in a nation can be built.

II. The prophetic message, however varied its tone, however startling its communication, is always in substance, as of old, the same: ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’

III. ‘Would that the people of the Lord were all prophets!’—Would that we had all more of the fire of enthusiasm, leading us to go forth and act, and learn in acting, not waiting till we have solved all doubts or perfected some scheme of action!

IV. Zeal may often make mistakes, but it is better than no zeal.—Truth is not merely correctness, accuracy, the absence of error, nor even the knowledge of the laws of nature. It is also the recognition of the moral and spiritual bases of life, and the desire to promote and teach these among men.

Rev. A. G. Butler.

Illustration

(1) ‘Though man breaks down under the weight of responsibility, God does not. He bore Moses and the people in his strong loving arms, and carried them all in the days of old. He supplied them with the food they craved, and touched with a Divine fire the men whom He had chosen to aid his servant. Oh, that that sacred fire might again descend, not only on those who gather for special service, but on those who remain in the camp of the home or the daily business, that so all the Lord’s servants might be prophets! No man of God, who was truly such, could be other than glad if that were so.’

(2) ‘God knew how broken Moses was in body and spirit—what had been the strain of the last two years. He had no word of rebuke for His complaining, fainting servant. He saw he needed human support and sympathy, as well as Divine, and so appointed and equipped the seventy Elders as his assistants. Faithful but lonely and downcast heart, tell Him all—all thy complaint. He is most gracious and tender, and will not fail to understand and help.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/numbers-11.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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!

Ver. 29. That all the Lord’s people.] This is not meant of a sacrifically teaching others, but a political discoursing unto others. {See Trapp on "Numbers 11:25"}

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-11.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Numbers 11:29

Eldad and Medad seem instances of unlicensed preaching and prophesying; and this, at a time of scanty knowledge and rare spiritual illumination, was not without its dangers. So thought Joshua, and, jealous for Moses' supremacy, besought him to rebuke them. But the great prophet, wholly wanting in the thought of self, rebuked Joshua instead. "Enviest thou," he said, "for my sake?" and then added, in words of noble hyperbole, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets!"

I. The first thought that occurs to us in reading this scene is the good, felt by the greatest, of zeal and enthusiasm. And the second is, how to discover it, how to encourage it in God's service. But then comes the further question, Have these men the prophet's capacity? Have they that primary want, the prophet's faith? Have they fire, perseverance, and courage? (1) The prophet's faith. Take away from the prophet this faith in the living God, speaking to him, teaching him, encouraging him, in the midst of life's sorrows and temptations, and he is nothing. Give him that belief, and his confidence, his courage, is unshaken (2) There is the prophet's belief in the moral order underlying the established order of things, as the only safe and sure foundation on which peace and prosperity in a nation can be built.

II. The prophetic message, however varied its tone, however startling its communication, is always in substance, as of old, the same: "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

III. "Would that the people of the Lord were all prophets!" Would that we had all more of the fire of enthusiasm, leading us to go forth and act, and learn in acting, not waiting till we have solved all doubts or perfected some scheme of action!

IV. Zeal may often make mistakes, but it is better than no zeal. Truth is not merely correctness, accuracy, the absence of error, nor even the knowledge of the laws of nature. It is also the recognition of the moral and spiritual bases of life, and the desire to promote and teach these among men.

A. G. Butler, The Oxford Review, April 29th, 1885.

References: Numbers 11:29.—H. Melvill, Lothbury Lectures, p. 168; Parker, vol. iv., p. 52; J. Van Oosterzee, Year of Salvation, vol. i., p. 463.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/numbers-11.html.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Enviest thou; art thou grieved because the gifts and graces of God are imparted to others besides me? Compare John 3:26. He saith

prophets, not rulers, for that he knew was absurd and impossible.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". 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

29.Enviest thou for my sake — Do you think this act is derogatory to my dignity, and disrespectful to my office as the human head of Israel?

All’ were prophets — This strongly expressed wish evinces the unselfishness of Moses, his freedom from unholy ambition, and his desire for the spiritual well-being of all the people.

Put his Spirit upon them — This may be regarded as prophetic of the dispensation more distinctly announced by Joel, (Joel 2:28,) proclaimed by John the Baptist as at hand, (Matthew 3:11,) promised by Jesus Christ, (John 14:16,) and ushered in by the coming of the Comforter on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2. All who enjoy the fulness of the Spirit most earnestly desire the universal diffusion of this unspeakable gift — “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Compare John 4:14; John 7:37-39; Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 5:18. This desire of Moses, in view of the spiritual desolation of the world, even in Israel, is only an anticipatory outbreaking of the prayer for more labourers which Jesus taught his disciples. Matthew 9:37-38, notes.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". "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 11:29. Enviest thou for my sake? — Art thou grieved because the gifts and graces of God’s Spirit are imparted to others besides me? Or rather, Art thou jealous for my sake? Art thou afraid that their exercising these prophetic gifts will be a diminution of my honour? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets — That they were all so inspired by his Spirit as to be enabled to speak to his praise, and to the edification of others! He saith prophets, not rulers, for that, he knew, could not be. Thus we see, though Joshua was Moses’s particular friend and confidant, and though he said this out of respect for Moses, whose honour he was very unwilling to see lessened by the call of those elders, yet Moses reproves him, as Christ did the disciples on the occasion just mentioned, and, in him, all who are of such a spirit. “We must take care,” says Henry, “that we do not secretly grieve at the gifts, graces, or usefulness of others, and that we be not forward to condemn and silence those that differ from us, as if they did not follow Christ, because they do not follow him with us. Shall we reject those whom Christ has owned? or restrain any from doing good because they are not in every thing of our mind? Moses was of another spirit; so far from silencing these two, and quenching the spirit in them, he wishes that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that he would put his Spirit upon them. Not that he would have had any to set up for prophets who were not duly qualified; or that he expected the spirit of prophecy to be made thus common; but he thus expresseth the love and esteem he had for all the Lord’s people, the complacency he took in the gifts of others, and how far he was from being displeased at Eldad and Medad’s prophesying from under his eye. Such an excellent spirit as this blessed Paul was of; rejoicing that Christ was preached, though it were by those who therein intended to add affliction to his bonds, Philippians 1:16. We ought to be pleased that God is served and glorified, and good done, though to the lessening of our credit and the credit of our way.”

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/numbers-11.html. 1857.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Enviest thou . . . ? Figure of speech Erotesis. App-6. Art thou jealous for me?

would God. "God" should be in italics. Figure of speech Eonismos. App-6.

put His spirit. This is the definition of a true prophet. Compare Numbers 11:17, and Numbers 12:6.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/numbers-11.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(29) Enviest thou for my sake?-Better, Art thou zealous for me? or, Art thou displeased on my account? (Comp. Numbers 25:13; 1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14.)

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/numbers-11.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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!
Enviest
1 Corinthians 3:3,21; 13:4; Philippians 2:3; James 3:14,15; 4:5; 5:9; 1 Peter 2:1
would
Acts 26:29; 1 Corinthians 14:5; Philippians 1:15-18
that the
Matthew 9:37,38; Luke 10:2
Reciprocal: Genesis 30:1 - or else I die;  Numbers 12:2 - hath he not;  Numbers 27:20 - put some;  2 Kings 5:3 - Would God;  Isaiah 63:11 - where is he that put;  Luke 2:25 - Holy Ghost;  John 7:18 - seeketh his glory;  Acts 13:45 - they;  1 Corinthians 4:6 - be puffed;  1 Corinthians 4:8 - and I:2 Corinthians 11:1 - Would

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/numbers-11.html.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

"Handfuls of Purpose"

For All Gleaners

"Enviest thou for my sake?"Numbers 11:29

We often justify our worst actions by pleading that they are one on account of others.—The thief may say that he steals in order to save life with the money.—We may claim to be so jealous for the Lord of hosts as utterly to misrepresent his Spirit.—We may be so anxious to honour the institutions of Christianity as to violate all its charities and benedictions.—Infidelity may be opposed in an unchristian spirit.—The great leaders of the Church never feared what is termed competition, simply because their power is not merely official, but is personal and ennobling.—Instead of desiring that the voices of prophesying should be silent Moses expressed a desire that all the Lord"s people were prophets.—Greatness does not depend upon surrounding littleness where moral influence is in question.—Mont Blanc may be the greater because of the depressions which surround it, but this can afford no analogy in the estimate of moral majesty.—When other people become prophets they will more appreciate the prophetic dignity of Moses.—Envy of the kind which is deprecated is a subtle expression of selfishness.—The men who burned with this envy wished their leader to suffer no loss of official supremacy, not knowing that Moses was part only of the great commonwealth, and that the prophetic power of others illustrated and confirmed the prophetic energy which had marked the great legislator.—It is indeed part of the function of a great prophet to make prophets of other people.—Not only was Christ the Light of the world, he invested his disciples with the same character.—Instead of deprecating any possible increase of their light he called upon them to let that light shine before men, and demanded that no light, even though but the glimmer of a candle should be hidden under a bushel.—It is right to protect the authority of great men, but this is best done by excluding every hurtful passion.—Make great men standards of measurement, not discouragements to holy ambition.—Christ, we may reverently say, may put the same inquiry to his Church when men arise with proposals to help the world.—They may call themselves philosophers, reformers, rationalists, or what they please, Jesus Christ is willing that they should work out all their purposes and that they should be tested by the results of their action.—The Church should be generous to all competitors.—Let every man do what he can and he will find in the long run that experience is his best teacher.—There are of course ameliorations which teach the service of influence and which are on no account to be undervalued; in so far as they are helpful Christ will accept the service, and in the degree in which they are genuine they will point to influences beyond themselves.—Call down fire upon no man who does not walk with you.—Instead of envying on account of God"s supremacy, acknowledge the good that is in every man and exhort him to increase it.—Moses would not be an idol to be superstitiously regarded; he would be a leader to be followed, a teacher to be obeyed, an example to be imitated; let us be careful lest our religion amounts to no more than an expression of official envy; when new lights arise let us give them scope; when new voices are heard speaking good things let us listen attentively; our duty is to try the spirits whether they be of God.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/numbers-11.html. 1885-95.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

29.And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? This may be understood in two different ways. Some take it, as if Moses had said, It is no business of yours, if I have suffered any loss: and if anything is taken from me, it would be mine and not yours to grieve and grudge; but I think Moses spoke more simply, as if he had said, Behold, how differently I feel from you; for I, whose cause you suppose yourselves to be promoting, should desire that all were endowed with the spirit of prophecy. So was that foolish jealousy admirably rebuked, which would put a restraint upon God’s blessing, so greatly to be desired by every pious mind. At the same time, we fully perceive the gentleness and humility of Moses, whom no ambition, nor consideration of his personal dignity, prevents from willingly admitting the very lowliest into companionship with himself. If any should object that it is God’s pleasure, in order to enhance the excellency of the gift, that there should be but few prophets in the Church, and consequently that Moses inconsiderately sought for that, which is in repugnance to God’s counsel in this matter, the reply is easy, that, al — though the saints acquiesce in His ordinary dispensations, and are persuaded that the arrangement, which He makes, is the best, yet that it is an act of piety in them to desire to communicate with all others what is given to themselves, so as to be anxious rather to be last of all, than to begrudge perfection to their brethren. In sum, Moses declares that nothing would be more gratifying to him, than that God should diffuse the grace of the spirit of prophecy amongst the whole people, so that all should be partakers of it, from the least to the greatest.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:29". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/numbers-11.html. 1840-57.