Numbers 10:11 – 12:16 It’s finally time to leave Sinai and make the short trip to Promised Land…but unfortunately this short trip will not be without incident.
Numbers 10:11 – 12:16 It’s finally time to leave Sinai and make the short trip to Promised Land…but unfortunately this short trip will not be without incident.
“Papa’s Bible Stories” brings the Bible to life for your kids. For each episode, I pick a Bible story to talk to my very own kids about. The stories are entirely Bible-based, scripture is quoted at every opportunity, and the kids are always pointed to the Bible as the authority. And we’re not afraid of having a little fun too! It is my hope and prayer that your kids will be excited to explore God’s Word for themselves after hearing each and every episode. #bible #stories #kids #children #adventist #sda
The Israelites had been camping at the bottom of Mt. Sinai for almost a year. And a lot had happened while they’d been there…you kidzos remember – God had come down onto the mountain in billowing smoke and lighting and fire and spoke the 10 commandments to all the Israelites, then God had made a covenant with all the Israelites that if they would follow His commandments, His laws, and His directions that the Israelites would be His people, then the whole golden calf craziness happened, then the tabernacle had been built and God’s shining presence came to stay in the most holy place, then the priests had been consecrated and the services in the tabernacle began. And after a year, the Israelites were finally ready to continue on their journey to their original destination when they had left Egypt – the Promised Land…the land of Canaan…which by the way the border to Canaan was only an 11 day journey away. Yah…that’s right…this whole time that they’ve been camping at Mt. Sinai they have been just a week and a half away from the Promised Land. And as the Israelites got packed and ready for this short trip to Canaan, I’m sure that they were looking forward to an uneventful journey…just 11 days of walking through the mountains and they’d be there. I mean nothing crazy could possibly happen in just 11 days…could it? I mean…it was just 11 days after all…right? Well…actually yes…apparently a lot of unfortunate things can happen in just 11 days…as we’re going to find out.
When the day finally arrive for the Israelites to leave Mt. Sinai, the priests blew their trumpets which told the Israelites it was time to get going. Then the pillar of cloud (which I’m sure you kidzos remember that God is in the cloud and that the cloud had lead them from Egypt to Mt. Sinai) started to lead the Israelites in the direction they should go…which apparently was in the direction of a place called the Wilderness of Paran. And for a couple of days the Israelites made their way through this wilderness without any issues.
But on the 3rd day, the problems began. The Israelites began to complain. Now the Bible doesn’t say exactly what they were complaining about…but more than likely they were complaining about how hard the journey was. You see, while back in Egypt the Israelites had been used to working really hard…but for the last year at Mt. Sinai they’d basically been just sitting around. They hadn’t had to actually do very much. In fact they didn’t even have to work to get their food…because as I’m sure you kidzos remember just before they reached Sinai God started giving them manna…which would just miraculously appear each morning on the ground right outside their tents. So after sitting around for so long…many of the Israelites probably weren’t used to working very hard…which meant that they probably weren’t have a good time lugging all their stuff around. And on top of that, the place that the pillar of cloud was taking them (the Wilderness of Paran) wasn’t a nice flat easy-to-travel area…but it had all kinds of steep and rocky mountains…which would not have been any fun even in the best of times. And so after 3 days of this, the Israelites started to complain.
And the Bible says, “when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused.” (11:1) Ok well…that doesn’t sound good. It seems that the complaining was a pretty big deal to God. And it’s not really that difficult to understand. You see, while the Israelites had complained before (remember kidzos that the Israelites did a whole bunch of complaining on the way to Mt. Sinai), this time was different. This time there was a covenant…the Israelites had agreed in writing and in blood that they would follow God wherever he would lead them. And now they were complaining about a decision that God had made for them…which wasn’t just complaining anymore…now it was rebellion. And if God was going to continue to lead the Israelites, then unfortunately something had to be done about this rebellion.
And the Bible says that, “the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.” (11:1) Apparently the people on the outermost parts of the camp were the main complainers…and God sent fire to kill them. The Israelites, seeing what was happening, quickly went to Moses to ask him to plead with God to stop. And the Bible says that Moses, “prayed to the LORD, [and] the fire was quenched.” (11:2) With Moses’ prayer, the crisis was averted.
And with that, one would think that the Israelites would have gotten the clear message that complaining maybe wasn’t the best idea. But apparently they didn’t get the message…because the Israelites just found something else to complain about. And the Bible says, “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: "Who will give us meat to eat? (5) We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; (6) but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!"” (11:4-6) Wow…so after complaining about the journey…now the Israelites were complaining about the food. The manna that God was freely providing them was apparently not good enough. And apparently when they were in Egypt they had eaten like kings…. Wait a second…that doesn’t make any sense…the Israelites were slaves in Egypt…surely they weren’t eating like kings while they were slaves. So what are the Israelites complaining about exactly?
Well this is where the Bible starts talking about the mixed multitude in the camp. You see, not everyone in the camp was in fact an Israelite. Apparently a group of non-Israelites (who were probably mostly Egyptians) had come out of Egypt with them. One could imagine that it had something to do with the plagues that just about destroyed Egypt. The mixed multitude always camped towards the outside of the camp, and apparently they were the ones who often lead in the complaining. You notice that the Bible says here that the mixed multitude yielded to intense craving…and from the mixed multitude the complaining spread to the rest of the Israelites…even though what they were complaining about missing wasn’t anything that they’d had in the first place. You know kidzos, complaining has a tendency to spread. And so the complaining got really bad…to the point where all the people were “weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent.” (11:10) Everyone was weeping and crying for meat.
And the Bible says, “Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused;” (11:10) Yah I’m sure you kidzos guessed that that was going to happen…just like last time the Israelites complained, God got angry. But not only was God angry, but the Bible says that “Moses also was displeased.” (11:10) In fact, Moses was very upset. And we can understand this too…I mean just 5 minutes ago the Israelites had seen what had happened to the complainers…they’d been burned up…and Moses had had to plead with God to stop. But even after seeing that…the Israelites were still complaining…and not just a little bit of complaining but almost all of them were outside their tents crying! What was Moses supposed to do? And so, needing to let God know how he felt, Moses said to God, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? (12) Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,' to the land which You swore to their fathers? (13) Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, 'Give us meat, that we may eat.' (14) I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.” (11:11-14) Moses was completely out of energy to deal with the Israelites anymore…and he was asking God for help. What was God going to do?
Well, now God had two problems to deal with…the meat-starved complaining Israelites and also an exasperated Moses. And God dealt with these two problems at the same time. And God said to Moses, “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. (17) Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.” (11:16-17) So God wanted Moses to find some help. And he got Moses to pick out 70 elders from the Israelites…the idea being that these 70 elders would help him lead the Israelites…help him to judge in fights among the Israelites…and help Moses keep control of the Israelite’s complaining.
And with Moses’ problem addressed, God moved on to the complaining Israelites. And God said to the them through Moses, “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, "Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt." Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. (19) You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, (20) 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?" '” (11:18-20) So, to punish the Israelites for complaining about no meat, God was going to…give them a whole bunch of meat? That doesn’t sound right, does it?
Well, this would seem to be one of those times that God decided that the Israelites’ punishment would be to get exactly what they were asking for.
And indeed, the next day the Bible says that, “a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day's journey on this side and about a day's journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground.” (11:31) So God caused a really strong wind to blow a whole bunch of quail (which remember kidzos that quail are like small chickens) over the camp. There was so many quail that you could walk for a whole day in any direction from the camp and there would still be quail everywhere. And all the quail were somehow stuck flying only about 3 and a half feet above the ground…so they were very easy to catch. And the Israelites spent all day, all night, and all the next day catching all the quail that they could. And they caught a whole bunch of quail.
And many of the Israelites spread out the quail all over the camp to dry them out so that they could eat them over time. And for those people, indeed after a month of eating quail they found the quail to be disgusting…just like what God had said would happen. But for other people in the camp (more than likely the mixed multitude), well they just couldn’t wait to satisfy their meat craving and instead of drying out the quail…they started to eat the quail right away. And for those people, the Bible says that, “while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague.” (11:33) And many of those people ended up dying. Boy…this complaining thing sure doesn’t seem to be working out for the Israelites.
And with the whole quail lesson hopefully learned, the Israelites then continued on their journey to a place called Hazeroth. But at Hazeroth, belief it or not, there was even more complaining to be done. Though this time, it wasn’t the people in the camp…it much closer to home for Moses. The Bible says that, “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?"” (12:1) So, we haven’t heard about Miriam for a little while…do you kidzos remember who Miriam is? That’s right, Miriam was Moses’ sister…the one who had helped to save Moses from the river all those years ago. So apparently, Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ very own sister and brother, didn’t very much like the fact that Moses, their important leader, had married someone who was not an Israelite. These kinds of things used to really bother people back then. And because of this, Miriam and Aaron were going around telling people, hey Moses isn’t the only show in town…we’re prophets too…God speaks to us too just like Moses. And ya know what…it’s time for us to start calling the shots a little more often. And what they were trying to do was get people to start listening to Moses less..and start listening to Miriam and Aaron more. And this must have hurt Moses very deeply.
And the Bible says that, “the LORD heard it.” (12:2) And even though this was Moses’ family, God could not let Miriam and Aaron keep talking about Moses like this. God had put Moses in place as the leader of the Israelites, and any doubt that Miriam and Aaron were spreading about that fact had to be addressed. And so, God was going to set the record straight. And God called the three of them – Moses, Miriam, and Aaron – to the tabernacle of meeting. And when they got there the pillar of cloud came down to the tabernacle and then God called Miriam and Aaron forward. And then God said to them, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. (7) Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. (8) I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?” (12:6-8) So basically what God is saying is that yes indeed the two of you…you are prophets…indeed I speak to you in dreams and visions. But Moses, he has seen what I look like…I speak to him face-to-face…like I’m having a regular conversation. Moses is more than just a prophet. And the two of you know there is a difference between you and your brother. But that didn’t make you think twice about telling the people that you are the same as Moses?
And after saying this to Miriam and Aaron, the pillar of cloud left the tabernacle. And then the Bible says that, “suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.” (12:10) Now, we haven’t talked too much about leprosy yet…but suffice it to say that it was a terrible disease back in those days. When you caught it your skin would turn white, and then you would lose feeling all over your body. Then you would get big sores all over your body, you’re hands and feet would stop working, you’re fingers and toes would fall off…maybe even your nose would fall off, and to top it all off you’d eventually go blind. It was like you turned into a zombie. It was a terrible disease…one that everyone was super afraid of catching. And when Aaron saw his sister with this terrible disease, Aaron turned to Moses and plead for his sister’s life, and he said to Moses, “Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned.” (12:11)
Aaron realized that he and Miriam had made a big mistake. They had thought themselves equal with Moses, but that just wasn’t the case…and they should have known better…and they shouldn’t have started complain behind Moses’ back. And realizing this, Aaron was asking Moses for forgiveness…in the hopes that if Moses forgave them then maybe God would take away his sister’s leprosy. And of course, though it had really hurt Moses…he forgive them. And the Bible says that Moses went to God and plead for his sister and said, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!” (12:14) And God did heal Miriam. But she did have to stay outside the camp for 7 days. And out of respect for Miriam, the whole Israelite camp waited for the 7 days until God healed her of the leprosy she was let back into the camp again.
And after continuing their journey for a little while, finally, the Israelites did indeed arrive at the edge of Canaan, at a place called Kadesh. It had been a short journey in distance…but unfortunately it had also been a long journey in all the wrong ways. Many people had tragically died on what should have been a short 11-day journey from Mt. Sinai to the edge of Canaan. Would the Israelites learn from this experience? Would they learn to listen to God’s instructions and to trust that God would provide for them…even as the arrived at the Promised Land? Well, the Israelites would very shortly have another opportunity to show their obedience and trust in God…would they take it? Well, we’ll find out all about it…next time.