Israelites Continue Complaining During Exodus

God Gives the Israelites Qual Meat and a Great Plague

Moses in the Clouds with Biblical Scrolls
After the golden calf incident, Moses went up to the mountain again to humbly ask God's forgiveness. God confirmed His promise to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land and other details concerning His covenant. This time, Moses was instructed to write the words on stone tablets. This was the seventh and last time Moses ascended the mountain, and again was there for 40 days and nights. When he returned, his face shone so brightly that the people were afraid to approach him, so he covered his face with a veil while he taught them the words of the Lord.

On the first day of the first month of the second year after their departure from Egypt, the tabernacle was constructed. “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up.” Also in that first month, God instructed Moses to keep the Passover, which was observed on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the first day of the second month, God instructed Moses to take a census of all the Israelites by tribe (except the Levites), and every tribe was organized and encamped around the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:17, 34-37; Numbers 1:1; 9:1,2,11,15-23)

“Now it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. And the children of Israel set out from the Wilderness of Sinai on their journeys; then the cloud settled down in the Wilderness of Paran.” (Numbers 10:11-12)

The tribes of Israel were now well organized, and this was the first advancement made in several months. There had been some hard lessons, but now they had specific written laws and ordinances, and the presence of God was continually obvious, as a cloud by day and the appearance of fire by night. They left Mount Horeb, but three days into the journey, the complaining began again. God's anger was ignited, and the “fire of the Lord” incinerated some of the disgruntled people on the outer edge of the camp. The people wailed to Moses, and when Moses interceded for them, the fire ceased. Moses called the name of the place Taberah, a burning.

Then the unthinkable happened. “And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness. And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust. Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” (Psalm 78:17-19 KJV) People began sniveling and grumbling, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:4-6)

Indeed, the manna had continued to be available every day, but now the people were belligerent about that. They gathered it, ground it up and made fried cakes with it, yet complained about it. Moses was reaching the end of his patience and went to the Lord with his frustration. “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now.” (Numbers 11:14, 15) God then instructed Moses to select and assemble 70 men of the elders, and stated that He would give to them His Spirit, to lighten Moses' burden.

Moses' feelings of exasperation mirrored God's. God then told Moses to tell the people to get ready, because He had heard their complaints, and He had a plan to give them meat. “You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, 'Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?'” (Numbers 11:19, 20).

The Lord caused wind to bring thousands and thousands of quail from the sea, and they were easily caught. People stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, gathering the birds. As they began to stuff the meat into their mouths, the Lord struck the people with a great plague. Moses called the name of the place Kibroth Hattaavah, meaning the graves of lust, and there they buried the people who were out of their minds with out-of-control appetites. From that place they traveled to Hazeroth, where they camped. (Numbers 11:31-35)

Written by: Pete Miller