This verse is the first record of the Israelites complaining during their journey from the Sinai. Up until now the Israelites had obeyed the Lord completely. Now as they were journeying to the Promised Land the complaints began amongst the people. It was not just a single complaint but they complained often.
They were only into their journey for three days when the complaining had begun although we do not know what they were complaining about. For whatever reason there was it comes down to that they did not trust God to provide for them. They had become unthankful that the Lord was leading them to the Promise Land.
God became angry with the people and sent fire to their camps to show them that He was angry. The fire had made the people afraid and they asked Moses to speak to God on their behalf. Moses did pray for them and the fire stopped.
The company that one keeps can affect the attitude that they have. When the Israelites had left Egypt there were foreigners that traveled with them from Egypt. Perhaps they had been slaves also and went with them to find freedom. These foreigners did not know God and therefore did not trust Him. They were used to meat in Egypt and now complained because there was no meat. Then the Israelites began to complain right along with them.
God provided food for them each day and it was called manna. The description of manna can be found in Exodus 16:14-16. There was sufficient supply of the manna and it is said to taste as honey. (Exodus 16:31) The people had grown weary of eating manna and wanted different foods. They missed the different foods that they had in Egypt. How quickly people can forget about the bad things that have happened to them.
The Israelites had lost their grateful attitude they had towards God for rescuing them from the hands of the Egyptians. They were not grateful for the manna that God was providing for them in the desert. They did not thank God for His provision for them. Instead they complained. The manna was good food but they did not want it because they thought of the food that they had in Egypt. It was not the manna that had changed but the people that changed. They had become greedy and selfish.
There is a lesson here for all that greed and selfishness can ruin the benefits that are given and rob them of their happiness. The truth is there is never satisfaction for the greedy. We must always be thankful for the things that God has given us and express our gratitude to Him for His provision.
Moses was chosen by God to lead the Israelite people but now he did not want the burden that they had placed upon him. Moses felt that the responsibilities were too great for him to bear. Moses went to the Lord in prayer and told Him how he felt. Moses had been a faithful servant unto the Lord and had led the people out of the land of Egypt. But Moses felt that he could not do the work of the leader alone. He felt that he was failing to be an able leader of the people. In Moses’ depression he asked God to let him die.
God did not let Moses die but He did answer his prayer for help. God did not expect Moses to do all the work of a leader without any help. The work that Moses was doing was God’s work and He would help him. God told Moses what he must do.
God did not answer Moses’ prayer in the way that he asked but did answer his prayer in a way that he did not expect. God had given Moses His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. God told Moses to gather seventy elders from the people and God would give them His Spirit also. This would give the elders the authority to lead the people and the ability to do what God wanted them to do.
The Elders were not as the priest but had other special tasks to do. There are times in the Old Testament that God would give His Spirit to people to do special tasks for Him. God had given His Spirit to Moses and the people knew that he had the authority of God in the words that he spoke. God also gave the 70 elders His Spirit so the people would know that they had His authority also.
In the New Testament God gives His Spirit to the Christians. The Holy Spirit empowers Christians to do things for God that they could not do on their own. Whenever the Christian needs God’s power and strength he can ask the Holy Spirit to help him.
The people were crying for meat so God promised Moses that He would provide meat for the people. But also God was angry that the people preferred to live in Egypt as slaves so He promised to provide so much meat that they would grow tired of it.
But Moses showed a lack of faith in that he did not believe that God could provide enough meat to feed 600,000 people. Moses was only thinking in a natural way to solve such a great problem. But God was going to solve the problem in a supernatural way, God was going to work a miracle. God did not have anger towards Moses for his doubt but told him to wait and see what He would do.
God told Moses to tell the people to prepare themselves so they would be acceptable to the Lord. The people had to be prepared to receive this wonderful gift from God. The people should have known that God was capable to do what He had promised. They should have been humble and grateful that God had always taken care of them. But instead that were a complaining lot and filled with greed. So they needed to be prepared by changing their attitude. They needed to get their hearts right so God could accept them.
When the Spirit entered into the elders they began to prophesize. This was not done by their own natural means but by the power of the Holy Spirit. This power also fell on Eldad and Medad who were back in the camp. We are not told why they stayed in the camp but when the Spirit came they began to prophesize too. A young man named Joshua went and told Moses what had happened with Eldad and Medad. Moses told Joshua that they were not doing anything wrong.
Even as Joshua was worried about these men prophesizing Moses was not as he was happy that these men had God’s Spirit. Moses was happy that the people were not complaining but were happy also. These men were not foretelling the future or doing the work of a prophet but were praising God. They were speaking of God’s wonders and this encouraged the people too. (1 Corinthians 14:3)
The piles of quail were about a meter high. God provided what He had promised and there were piles of birds everywhere. The people gathered and dried the meat so it could be kept for a long time.
God had given the people what they had wanted but they had not changed their attitude. With the old attitude God could not accept them. God had given them an opportunity to get their hearts right but they had not. Still they were greedy and ungrateful. For this God punished them and many died of the plague. From there the people traveled to Hazeroth which means in Hebrew, “a place to make a home.” This was a temporary home for the Israelites as they traveled to the Promised Land.