The Israelites Complaining:
The Israelites complained in hearing the Lord and “when he heard it his wrath flared up so that the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp.” (Num. 11:1) But, Moses prayed and the fire died out. The “foreign elements among them were so greedy for meat that even the Israelites lamented again, ‘Would that we had meat for food!'” (Num. 11:4) The Israelites complained, “we see nothing before us but his manna.”
The Manna and the Complaining for Meat:
“Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it, and ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, and boiled it in pots, and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.” (Num. 11:7-9) The manna fell like the dewfall, just as we hear in the liturgy of the Eucharist as Mass. Moses likewise complained to the Lord, “Where can I get meat to give to all this people? For they are crying to me, ‘Give us meat for our food.’ I cannot carry all this people by myself, for they are too heavy for me.'” (Num. 11:13-14) Moses takes his complaining to the Lord to the extreme saying, “If this is the way you will deal with me, then please do me the favor of killing me at once, so that I need no longer face this distress.” (Num. 11:15) Moses is ready for death rather than face the Israelites’ complaining any more.
The 70 Elders:
The Lord then tells Moses that He will bestow some of His Spirit upon the Elders so that Moses will not have to bear the Israelites alone. The Lord tells the Moses to tell the people: “Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, when you shall have meat to eat.” (Num. 11:18) Further, He says: “Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you..” (Num. 11:19-20) The Lord promises to provide meat for them, reminiscent of Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse that His flesh is “meat indeed.” It is of particular importance too that the spirit if conferred upon the 70 Elders through the laying on of hands. The ordination rite is passed, like today in the Christian dispensation for Holy Orders, through the bishops’ laying-on of hands of the priests and bishops. So too, was it in the days of Moses and the 70 Elders.
“And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and it brought quails from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of the earth.” (Num. 11:31) The Lord provided flesh and meat for the Israelites to eat.
Aaron and Miriam Complain against Moses:
Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ sister, complain against the intimacy that Moses enjoys with the Lord. They use the pretext of him marrying a “Cushite woman” to complain against him. Yet, Moses was the “meekest man on the face of the earth.” The Lord addresses Aaron and Miriam directly saying He speaks “face to face” with Moses. “Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?” (Num. 12:8) In the Lord’s anger, He afflicts Miriam with leprosy. Moses again intercedes for her, and the Lord let her be afflicted for 7 days, and to stay outside the camp with the affliction, “only then may she be brought back.”
The Twelve Scouts and the “Bad Report”:
The Lord tells them to send one scout from each tribe to the land of Canaan. The scouts reported back: “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Yet the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anakim there.” (Num. 13:27-28) The large, giant people live there. Most of the scouts are intimidated and advise against taking the land that the Lord has promised. So, they “spread discouraging reports among the Israelites.” They said, “And all the people we saw there are huge men, veritable giants [the Anakim were a race of giants]; we felt like mere grasshoppers, and so we must have seemed to them.” (Num. 13:32-33)
The Israelites Panic and Joshua Responds:
The Israelites panicked and said, “Let us appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” Yet, Joshua tore his garments saying, “If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us in and give us that land, a land flowing with milk and honey. But do not rebel against the Lord! You need not be afraid of the people of that land; they are but food for us!” (Num. 14:8-9)
The Ten Complaints, and None shall enter the Promised Land:
Despite all of the signs and wonders the Lord worked for them in releasing them from bondage in Egypt, yet the Israelites “have put me to the test ten times already and have failed to heed My voice, not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their fathers. None of these who have spurned Me shall see it.” (Num. 14: 22-23) The Israelites’ grumbling and testing of the Lord leads Yahweh to declare that no one of that generation shall enter the Promised Land. The Lord declares that, “Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall.” “Forty days you spent in scouting the land; forty years shall you suffer for your crimes: one year for each day.” (Num. 14:34) Thus, the Lord condemns the Israelites to wander the desert for 40 years.
The Ten Tests Against the Lord by the Israelites:
1. Rejection of Moses and message (Ex. 5:15-6:9)
2. Complains and loses faith at the shores of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:10-12)
3. Murmurs at the bitter waters of Marah (Ex. 15:22-25)
4. Murmurs against hunger, so God provides manna (Ex. 16:1-36)
5. Murmurs and tests the Lord at Massah; God provides water from the rock (Ex. 17:1-19)
6. The Golden Calf Incident (Ex. 32:1-35)
7. Complaints against God at Taberah (Num. 11:1-3)
8. Demanding meat, so God provides quail (Num. 11:4-35)
9. Miriam and Aaron question and rebel against Moses (Num. 12:1-16)
10. Revolt after the bad report from the spies (Num. 14:1-38)
Only Caleb and Joshua Shall Enter the Promised Land:
Caleb and Joshua believed in the Lord and in the Promised Land, so they alone of this ‘wicked generation’ shall enter the Promised Land. The people felt “great remorse,” yet they still tried to seize the Promised Land. Moses advised against it as they had disobeyed the Lord. And so, “the Amalekites and Canaanites who dwelt in that hill country came down and defeated them..”