Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This and the following three chapters recount the successive rebellions of the Israelites after their departure from Sinai; culminating in that by which they brought upon themselves the sentence of personal exclusion from the land of promise.
See the marginal rendering. They murmured against the privations of the march.
The fire of the Lord - Probably lightning; compare Psa 78:21.
In the uttermost parts - Rather, in the end. The fire did not reach far into the camp. It was quickly quenched at the intercession of Moses.
Taberah - i. e. "burning:" not the name of a station, and accordingly not found in the list given in Num. 33, but the name of the spot where the fire broke out. This incident might seem (compare Num 11:34) to have occurred at the station called, from another still more terrible event which shortly followed, Kibroth-hattaavah.
Occurrences at Kibroth-hattavah.
The mixt multitude - The word in the original resembles our "riff-raff," and denotes a mob of people scraped together. It refers here to the multitude of strangers (see Exo 12:38) who had followed the Israelites from Egypt.
The natural dainties of Egypt are set forth in this passage with the fullness and relish which bespeak personal experience.
There is nothing at all ... - literally, "Nought at all have we except that our eyes are unto this manna;" i. e. "Nought else have we to expect beside this manna." On the manna see Exo 16:15 note; on bdellium see Gen 2:12 note.
The weeping was general; every family wept (compare Zac 12:12), and in a manner public and unconcealed.
The complaint and remonstrance of Moses may be compared with that in Kg1 19:4 ff; Jon 4:1-3, and contrasted with the language of Abraham (Gen 18:23 ff) The meekness of Moses (compare Num 12:3) sank under vexation into despair. His language shows us how imperfect and prone to degeneracy are the best saints on earth.
Seventy men of the elders of Israel - Seventy elders had also gone up with Moses to the Lord in the mount Exo 24:1, Exo 24:9. Seventy is accordingly the number of colleagues assigned to Moses to share his burden with him. To it, the Jews trace the origin of the Sanhedrim. Subsequent notices Num 16:25; Jos 7:6; Jos 8:10, Jos 8:33; Jos 9:11; Jos 23:2; Jos 24:1, Jos 24:31 so connect the elders with the government of Israel as to point to the fact that the appointment now made was not a merely temporary one, though it would seem to have soon fallen into desuetude. We find no traces of it in the days of the Judges and the Kings.
Elders of the people, and officers over them - In English idiom, "elders and officers of the people." Both elders and officers appear in Egypt (Exo 3:16; Exo 5:6 ff): the former had headed the nation in its efforts after freedom; the latter were the subordinate, though unwilling, agents of Egyptian tyranny. The two classes no doubt were working together; and from those who belonged to either, perhaps from those who were both eiders and officers, the council of Seventy was to be selected.
I will take of the spirit which is upon thee - Render rather separate from the spirit, etc.; i. e. they shall have their portion in the same divine gift which thou hast.
They prophesied - i. e. under the extraordinary impulse of the Holy Spirit they uttered forth the praises of God, or declared His will. Compare the marginal references.
And did not cease - Rather, and added not, i. e. they prophesied at this time only and not afterward. The sign was granted on the occasion of their appointment to accredit them in their office; it was not continued, because their proper function was to be that of governing not prophesying.
Of them that were written - i. e. enrolled among the Seventy. The expression points to a regular appointment duly recorded and permanent.
Enviest thou for my sake? - (Compare Mar 9:38 ff) The other members of the Seventy had been with Moses (compare Num 6:16, Num 6:24-25) when the gift of prophecy was bestowed on them. They received "of the spirit that was upon him," and exercised their office visibly through and for him. Eldad and Medad prophesying in the camp seemed to Joshua to be acting independently, and so establishing a separate center of authority.
The southeast wind, which blew from the neighboring Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea, brought the quails Exo 16:13.
Two cubits high - Better, "two cubits above the face of the ground:" i. e. the quails, wearied with their long flight, flew about breast high, and were easily secured by the people, who spread them all abroad for themselves Num 11:32, in order to salt and dry them. The quail habitually flies with the wind, and low.
Ten homers - About 55 bushels. Compare Lev 27:16.
Ere it was chewed - Better, ere it was consumed. See Num 11:19-20. The surfeit in which the people indulged, as described in Num 11:32, disposed them to sickness. God's wrath, visiting the gluttonous through their gluttony, aggravated natural consequences into a supernatural visitation.
Num 11:34, Num 11:35
(Kibroth-hattaavah has been identified by Palmer with the extensive remains, graves, etc., at Erweis El Ebeirig, and Hazeroth "enclosures" with Ain Hadherah.)