Bamidbar Eleven: Meat and Prophecy

“The people were looking to complain, and it was evil in the ears of the Lord. The Lord heard and His anger flared, and a fire from the Lord burned among them, consuming the extremes of the camp (Numbers 11:1).” From this opening line, it seems that the people didn’t have a specific reason to complain, but rather that they were searching for things to nitpick about, and as a result, God was angry at them for their behavior. Moses intervenes on behalf of the people, and God puts out the fire, but the people are quick to return to their complaints. “We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now, our bodies are dried out, for there is nothing at all; we have nothing but manna to look at (Numbers 11:5-6).” This falls in line with the saying ‘the grass is always greener’, but goes to new extremes. The people are actually missing the circumstances of Egypt, when they were slaves, and are wishing for it over the challenges of freedom.

“Moses heard the people weeping with their families, each one at the entrance to his tent. The Lord became very angry, and Moses considered it evil. Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated Your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in Your eyes that You place the burden of this entire people upon me (Numbers 11:10-11)?” The burden of leadership is a heavy one, and Moses has a largely thankless job. The people complain, God orders, and Moses is left as an intermediary, trying to moderate between the two. God responds to this complaint, and has Moses create a council of elders so that he doesn’t have to lead alone anymore. He also gives the people meat. Except in this case, the answer of their prayers is a punishment. “But even for a full month until it comes out your nose and nauseates you. Because you have despised the Lord Who is among you, and you cried before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt (Numbers 11:20)?'” The people are getting what they asked for and then some, and God once again shows His powers and capabilities.

So, the elders have the spirit of God in them along with Moses. “Now two men remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the second was Medad, and the spirit rested upon them. They were among those written, but they did not go out to the tent, but prophesied in the camp. The lad ran and told Moses, saying, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!’ Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant from his youth, answered and said, Moses, my master, imprison them!’ Moses said to him, ‘Are you zealous for my sake? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would bestow His spirit upon them (Numbers 11:26-29)!'” This is such a powerful anecdote. Moses is confident and secure enough in himself and his leadership that he doesn’t feel the need to hoard his relationship with God. Rather, he wants everyone to have a piece of this relationship, and would consider it a blessing if they did. So many leaders today could stand to learn from this, instead of focusing only on maintaining their own supremacy. In this, Moses is a prime example of a forward thinking leader, and of a selfless person.

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