The Israelites Complain, 1-3
11:1 When the people complained, it displeased the LORD. When the LORD heard it, his anger burned, and so the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outer parts of the camp. 11:2 When the people cried to Moses, he prayed to the LORD, and the fire died out. 11:3 So he called the name of that place Taberah because there the fire of the LORD burned among them.
Complaints about Food, 4-9
11:4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 11:5 We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 11:6 But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except this manna!” 11:7 (Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. 11:8 And the people went about and gathered it, and ground it with mills or pounded it in mortars; they baked it in pans and made cakes of it. It tasted like fresh olive oil. 11:9 And when the dew came down on the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.)
Moses’ Complaint to the Lord, 10-15
11:10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and when the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly, Moses was also displeased. 11:11 And Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you afflicted your servant? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of this entire people on me? 11:12 Did I conceive this entire people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your arms, as a foster father bears a nursing child,’ to the land which you swore to their fathers? 11:13 From where shall I get meat to give to this entire people, for they cry to me, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat!’ 11:14 I am not able to bear this entire people alone, because it is too heavy for me! 11:15 But if you are going to deal with me like this, then kill me immediately. If I have found favor in your sight then do not let me see my trouble.”
The Response of God, 16-25
11:16 The LORD said to Moses, “Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know are elders of the people and officials over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting; let them take their position there with you. 11:17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take part of the spirit that is on you, and will put it on them, and they will bear some of the burden of the people with you, so that you do not bear it all by yourself.
11:18 “And say to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, and you will eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat, for life was good for us in Egypt?” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat. 11:19 You will eat, not just one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 11:20 but a whole month, until it comes out your nostrils and makes you sick, because you have despised the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we ever come out of Egypt?” ’ ”
11:21 Moses said, “The people around me are 600,000 on foot; but you say, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ 11:22 Would they have enough if the flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? If all the fish of the sea were caught for them, would they have enough?” 11:23 And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you will see whether my word to you will come true or not!”
11:24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. He then gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and had them stand around the tabernacle. 11:25 And the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to them, and he took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but did not do so again.
Eldad and Medad, 26-30
11:26 But two men remained in the camp; one’s name was Eldad, and the other’s name was Medad. And the spirit rested on them. (Now they were among those in the registration, but had not gone to the tabernacle.) So they prophesied in the camp. 11:27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!” 11:28 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his choice young men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 11:29 Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for me? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” 11:30 Then Moses returned to the camp along with the elders of Israel.
Provision of Quail, 31-35
11:31 Now a wind went out from the LORD and brought quail from the sea, and let them fall 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 three feet high on the surface of the ground. 11:32 And the people stayed up all that day, all that night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail. The one who gathered the least gathered ten homers, and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 11:33 But while the meat was still between their teeth, before they chewed it, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague.
David Instone-Brewer (Science and the Bible: Insights for an Ancient Text) notes that Malta is the only place in Europe today that has a 20-day quail-shooting season. This is in April, when the exhausted birds land on the island en route from Africa to Europe. It is possible (writes Instone-Brewer) that quail landed in the Negev in the same way. ‘Three feet high on the surface of the ground’ may refer, not to them piling up on the ground to a depth of three feet, but rather to the fact that they were exhausted and flew just above ground level, so that they could easily be caught.
If this explanation is correct, then we have an instance of a miracle of timing, rather than of complete suspension of natural laws.