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11:1 And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
11:2 And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched.
11:3 And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.
11:4 And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? 11:5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: 11:6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
11:7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
11:8 And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
11:9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.
11:10 Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.
11:11 And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? 11:12 Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? 11:13 Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.
11:14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
11:15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.
11:16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
11:17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.
11:18 And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.
11:19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; 11:20 But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? 11:21 And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month.
11:22 Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them? 11:23 And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD's hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.
11:24 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.
11:25 And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
11:26 But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.
11:27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
11:28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
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! 11:30 And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
11:31 And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
11:32 And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.
11:33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague.
11:34 And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.
11:35 And the people journeyed from Kibrothhattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.

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King James Bible:Numbers
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Numbers
Book: Numbers
Chapter: 11

The burning at Taberah. (1-3) The people Lust for Flesh, and
loathe the Manna. (4-9) Moses complains of his charge. (10-15)
Elders appointed to divide the charge. Flesh meat promised.
(16-23) The Spirit rests On the elders. (24-30) Quails are
given. (31-35)

1-3 Here is the people's Sin; they complained. See the
sinfulness of Sin, which takes occasion from the commandment to
be provoking. The weakness of the Law discovered Sin, but could
not destroy it; checked, but could not conquer it. They
complained. Those who are of a discontented Spirit, will always
find something to quarrel or fret about, though the
circumstances of their outward condition be ever So favourable.
The Lord heard it, though Moses did not. God knows the secret
frettings and murmurings of the Heart, though concealed from
men. What he noticed, he was much displeased with, and he
chastised them for this Sin. The Fire of their wrath against God
burned in their minds; justly did the Fire of God's wrath fasten
On their bodies; but God's judgments came On them gradually,
that they might take warning. It appeared that God delights not
in punishing; when he begins, he is soon prevailed with to let
it fall.

4-9 Man, having forsaken his proper Rest, feels uneasy and
wretched, though prosperous. They were weary of the provision
God had made for them, although wholesome Food and nourishing.
It cost No Money or care, and the labour of gathering it was
very little indeed; yet they talked of Egypt's cheapness, and
the Fish they ate there freely; as if that cost them nothing,
when they paid dearly for it with hard service! While they lived
On Manna, they seemed exempt from the Curse Sin has brought On
Man, that in the sweat of his Face he should eat Bread; yet they
speak of it with scorn. Peevish, discontented minds will find
fault with that which has No fault in it, but that it is too
good for them. Those who might be happy, often make themselves
miserable By discontent. They could not be satisfied unless they
had Flesh to eat. It is evidence of the dominion of the Carnal
mind, when we want to have the delights and satisfaction of
sense. We should not indulge in any desire which we cannot in
Faith turn into Prayer, as we cannot when we ask meat for our
Lust. What is lawful of itself becomes evil, when God does not
allot it to us, yet we desire it.

10-15 The provocation was very great; yet Moses expressed
himself otherwise than became him. He undervalued the honour God
had Put upon him. He magnified his own performances, while he
had the Divine Wisdom to direct him, and Almighty power to
dispense rewards and punishments. He speaks distrustfully of the
Divine Grace. Had the work been much less he could not have gone
through it in his own strength; but had it been much greater,
through God strengthening him, he might have done it. Let us
pray, Lord, lead us not into Temptation.

16-23 Moses is to choose such as he knew to be elders, that is,
Wise and experienced men. God promises to qualify them. If they
were not found fit for the employ, they should be made fit. Even
the discontented people shall be gratified too, that every mouth
may be stopped. See here, I. The vanity of all the delights of
sense; they will cloy, but they will not satisfy. Spiritual
pleasures alone will satisfy and last. As the world passes away,
So do the lusts of it. 2. What brutish sins gluttony and
drunkenness are! they make that to hurt the body which should be
its health. Moses objects. Even true and great believers
sometimes find it hard to trust God under the discouragements of
second causes, and against Hope to believe in Hope. God here
brings Moses to this point, The Lord God is Almighty; and puts
the proof upon the issue, Thou shalt see whether my Word shall
come to pass or not. If he speaks, it is done.

24-30 We have here the fulfilment of God's Word to Moses, that
he should have help in the government of Israel. He gave of his
Spirit to the seventy elders. They discoursed to the people of
the things of God, So that all who heard them might say, that
God was with them of a Truth. Two of the elders, Eldad and
Medad, went not out unto the Tabernacle, as the Rest, being
sensible of their own weakness and unworthiness. But the Spirit
of God found them in the Camp, and there they exercised their
Gift of praying, preaching, and praising God; they spake as
moved By the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God is not confined to
the Tabernacle, but, like the wind, blows where He listeth. And
they that humble themselves shall be exalted; and those who are
most fit for government, are least ambitious of it. Joshua does
not desire that they should be punished, but only restrained for
the future. This motion he made out of zeal for what he thought
to be the unity of the Church. He would have them silenced, lest
they should occasion a Schism, or should rival Moses; but Moses
was not afraid of any such effects from that Spirit which God
had Put upon them. 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 wishes all the Lord's people were
prophets, that he would Put his Spirit upon all of them. Let the
Testimony of Moses be believed By those who desire to be in
power; that government is a Burden. It is a Burden of care and
trouble to those who make Conscience of the duty of it; and to
those who do not, it will prove a heavier Burden in the Day of
account. Let the Example of Moses be followed By those in power;
let them not despise the advice and assistance of others, but
desire it, and be thankful for it. If all the present number of
the Lord's people were rendered prophets, or ministers, By the
Spirit of Christ, though not all agreed in outward matters,
there is work enough for all, in Calling sinners to Repentance,
and Faith in our Lord Jesus.

31-35 God performed his promise to the people, in giving them
Flesh. How much more diligent men are in collecting the meat
that perishes, than in labouring for meat which endures to
Everlasting Life! We are quick-sighted in the affairs of time;
but stupidity blinds us as to the concerns of eternity. To
pursue worldly advantages, we need No arguments; but when we are
to secure the true riches, then we are all forgetfulness. Those
who are under the power of a Carnal mind, will have their lusts
fulfilled, though it be to the certain damage and ruin of their
precious souls. They paid dearly for their feasts. God often
grants the desires of sinners in wrath, while he denies the
desires of his own people in Love. What we unduly desire, if we
obtain it, we have reason to fear, will be some way or other a
grief and Cross to us. And what multitudes there are in all
places, who shorten their lives By excess of one kind or other!
Let us seek for those pleasures which satisfy, but never
surfeit; and which will endure for evermore.

Post-Modern D’var Torah: Bamidbar(Numbers) 11

Moses is frustrated, not by the pleas of the Jewish people, but by his sharing in their condition. Their wandering through the desert is as much a spiritual attainment as it is a nomadic lifestyle. They are transported by clouds, protected from heat and villains, they consume no more and no less than they need. They are engaged in a spiritual project encased in exile. They are beyond harming others, they experience no harm themselves, they live as a community of monks. This is an impossible condition for human society, the abstention from excess is evidently driving the Jewish people insane, and though the Mana is perfect they can neither consume it in excess and wealth nor furiously waste it. Rav Bataille explicates in the Accursed Share(1) that human culture must produce, consume and ‘spend’ the excess. The Problem of the Jews in the desert then- First, they are incapable of hoarding, trading or producing food and goods, thus the excess consumption which human beings require as individuals is gone, this is the virginal life. Second, they produce nothing and so can neither sacrifice nor waste. There is no room in the desert for massive parties, feasts or orgiastic celebrations, these are the cornerstones of human culture collectively, with no sacrifice or wasteful celebration the social order suffers. Though all of their dietary needs are met, the Jews psycho-social state is suffering under the weight of ascetic purity.


Who are the new prophets? Myriad voices and interpretations of the multifaceted performance of the Divine Will.  

Why are they apart from the others? They expound the esoteric doctrine.

Why does violence follow those preaching outside? They preach aloud the esoteric doctrine, in plain speech so that they are overheard.

Further, there is no reason to understand anger as anger, the nature of the divine is total emptiness, within that emptiness reside the totality of language. To say the Lord is angry is to comment on a performative aspect for the benefit of the community, it is no more the nature of the Lord than the cover of a book represents the totality of its contents. to take the word of the Lord at its word is to radically limit the ineffable nature of the Lord by reducing the magnificent Prime Mover to a conceivable being.

What is God’s anger? Upaya: a performance, how is it performance? the Jews have done nothing wrong and are not being punished, there is no lesson as such to be learned, rather the tale depicts the fundamental trajectory of human society, we must want, and to live in a society of want is to appease want through sacrifice. this is another performance.  

What is the lesson? That human society requires a consumption that the ascetic-perfect life denies, and while it is not apart from the Godly essence, the Lord presented the Jews first with a perfect state, and then with our excess and spectacle driven society. Ergo the path of holiness, apart from the society of excess, (or the Spectacle of Rav Debord) is one in which –born on a bed of clouds- wanders the desert with neither desire nor satisfaction, but a perfect stillness of self.

“42: The spectacle corresponds to the historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life.”(2)

The social order of the Jews is upset by the order of Mana, they cannot consume excess and as such they complain, gods anger is ultimately a gift, the quail and the slaughter of the meat eaters is a single event, which brings the stalled and ennui-driven lives of the Jews back into the world of consumption and excess, the world of living beings. To consume no more than one needs and to be perpetually satisfied is to lead a virginal life, a life of abstention, it is a monastic-ascetic project and it is one which the Jews could not endure. The gift of quail is the orgy maintaining humanity on the social level (need for consumptive excess) the mass death is the sacrifice continuing society (accursed share), how could the accursed share be produced if there is no product or commodity? There are two trends that this chapter observes, the first is the human need for indulgence, and the concurrent impossibility of man in society to follow the path of the ascetic, and the second is the revelation of the multifaceted nature of the Divine Will. As it manifests in a rainbow of meaning, the various preachers and prophets are forced to present diffuse and conflicting accounts, or even to transgress and reveal the nature of the esoteric proscriptions.


1 Bataille, Georges. The Accursed Share. Vol. 1-2. New York: Zone, 1991

2Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone, 1995. (29)

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