(1) And when the people complained . . . —Better, And the people were as those who complained (or murmured), (which was) evil in the ears of the Lord. The LXX. has, “And the people murmured sinfully before the Lord.” Comp. 1 Corinthians 10:10 : “Neither murmur ye as some of them also murmured.”
And consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.-Better, and devoured at the extremity of the camp. Most commentators have remarked, and justly, upon the great severity of the Divine judgments which were inflicted after the giving of the Law, as compared with those which were inflicted before it. Reference may be made in illustration of this point to Exodus 14:11-14; Exodus 15:24-25; Exodus 16:2-8; Exodus 17:3-7. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews argues from the just recompense of reward which every transgression and disobedience received under the Law, the impossibility of the escape of those who neglect the great salvation of the Gospel. See Hebrews 2:2-3. Comp. also Hebrews 10:28-29; Hebrews 12:25.
Who shall give us flesh to eat?—The word basar, which is rendered flesh, seems here to include—it may be to have primary reference to—fish. It is used of fish in Leviticus 11:11, and it is obvious from Numbers 11:22 that it was understood by Moses in this general signification. Cp. the use of flesh (1 Corinthians 15:39).
My wretchedness.—Or, my evil. This is one of the eighteen places in which the scribes are said to have altered the text, and to have substituted my for Thy.
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.
I will take of the spirit which is upon thee . . . —These words do not imply that there was any diminution of the gifts bestowed upon Moses, but that a portion of those spiritual gifts was bestowed upon the seventy. Rashi compares the mode of bestowal with the manner in which the other lamps of the Sanctuary were lighted at the golden candlestick without diminishing the light from which theirs was taken.
Round about the tabernacle.—This does not necessarily imply that the seventy men were placed so that they surrounded the whole of the tent of meeting. Comp. Exodus 7:24, where the word means on both sides of the river; also Job 29:5, where the same word is rendered about.
And gave it unto . . . —Better, and put it upon, as in Leviticus 2:15.
They prophesied, and did not cease.—Better, they prophesied, but did so no more. Comp. Genesis 8:12; Exodus 11:6; 2 Samuel 2:28; so the LXX. The word prophesy does not necessarily denote the prediction of future events. It is elsewhere employed to denote the celebration of the praises of God, either with the voice or with instruments of music. (Comp. 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Kings 18:29; 1 Chronicles 25:1-3; Jeremiah 29:26.)
And let them fall.—Better, and scattered them (or, spread them out). Comp. 1 Samuel 30:16 : “They were spread abroad upon all the earth,” or, over all the ground.
Round about.—See Note on Numbers 11:24.
As it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.—Or, about two cubits over (or, above) the ground. Had the quails lain upon the earth in a heap for any considerable time, life could only have been preserved by miraculous interference with the ordinary laws of nature, and the Israelites were not allowed to eat of that which had died of itself. Quails commonly fly low, and when wearied with a long flight might fly only about breast-high. On the other hand, the more obvious interpretation of the words is that the quails were spread over the ground, and covered it in some places to the height of two cubits. They were probably taken and killed immediately on their descent, as the following verse seems to indicate, and then spread out and dried and hardened in the sun. Some think that the word which is here rendered quails denotes cranes.
Numbers 11:35And the people journeyed from Kibrothhattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.