King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Numbers 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)

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The burning at Taberah

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.

2 And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched.

3 And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.

The people lust for flesh, and loathe the manna

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?

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:

6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.

7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.

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.

9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.

Moses complains of his charge

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 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?

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?

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.

14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.

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.

Elders appointed to divide the charge. Flesh meat promised

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.

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.

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.

19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;

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?

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.

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?

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.

The Spirit rests on the elders

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.

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.

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.

27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.

28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.

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!

30 And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.

Quails are given

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.

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.

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.

34 And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.

35 And the people journeyed from Kibrothhattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Fatigue. Heb. simply, “and the people were like those who complain of evil, or who seek pretexts, inwardly, in the ears of the Lord.” S. Jerom explains this evil to mean the fatigue of the journey, which lasted for three days together. C. — Hence, some who were ready to lay hold of every pretext, took occasion to murmur, and to contrast their present wearisome life with the false pleasures of Egypt. The people of that country were now desirous of returning, and prevailed upon many of the Hebrews to join with them, v. 4. H. — They were chiefly those who were farthest from the ark, the dregs of the people; though some pretend that the uttermost part means the principal men of the camp. See Gen. xlviii. 2. “The fire devoured one part of the camp.” Sept..

Ver. 2. Up, as rain is by the earth. Amos ix. 5.

Ver. 3. The burning. Heb. tabherah. Ch. — Calmet uses no reason for confounding this station with that mentioned, v. 34.

Ver. 4. For, seems, however, to connect the burning of some with the destruction of many more, who had eaten the quails, as if both judgments took place at the same encampment. Sept. render the Heb. “and a mixt rabble among them, desired greatly; and sitting, cried, as well as the Israelites, and said,” &c. H. — A mixt multitude. These were people that came with them out of Egypt, who were not of the race of Israel: who, by their murmuring, drew also the children of Israel to murmur: this should teach us the danger of associating ourselves with the children of Egypt; that is, with the lovers and admirers of this wicked world. Ch. — This verse may relate a different history from the preceding ones, as the punishment was of another kind. D. — The murmurers were burnt to death. H.

Ver. 5. Fish. The Nile abounds in fish, which they might catch freely. The fish of the lake Mœris, brought a considerable revenue to the king of Egypt. Herod. ii. 149. The Hebrews had dwelt also near the Mediterranean Sea. Fish was formerly in greater esteem than it is at present. The priests of Egypt abstained from it, (Herod. ii. 37,) and the people from such as had scales, and from eels, because they believed they were sacred. (ib. C. lxxii.). Porphyrius and Ovid even maintain that they refrained from all fish, as well as the Syrians. But they had not probably carried their superstition so far, in the days of Moses. — Garlic. These things are much more delicious and wholesome in hot countries. The Greeks fed much on cucumbers and garlic. Aristophanes. — The Turks still delight in them, eating the former raw with sour milk, (which would be very dangerous in our climate), and onions, which are as good as our pears. Spon. Bellon. iii. 18, &c. The wounded Machaon feasts upon onions, &c. Iliad ix. The Egyptians afterwards scrupled to eat leeks and onions. C. — Porrum & cepe nefas violare…O sanctas gentes! quibus hæc nascuntur in hortis—Numina. Juven. Sat. xv. But in the earlier ages Moses represents them as accustomed to such food. H.

Ver. 6. Dry, like people quite worn out for want of food. Ps. ci. 5. 12. Lamen. iv. 8. — Nothing. An exaggeration. We are disgusted with this light food. C. — They wished not only for the taste, but also for the colour, of other meats. M. — How often do we imitate their folly, when we are disgusted with the bread of life! H.

Ver. 7. Bdellium. Bdellium, according to Pliny, (l. xxi. c. 9,) was of the colour of a man’s nail, white and bright; (Ch.) or like wax, (B. xii. 9,) between white and yellow. It might resemble a tarnished pearl or ivory in colour, and coriander-seed in shape.

Ver. 8. Oil; or, when unprepared, like flour and honey. Ex. xvi. 31. C.

Ver. 10. By. Heb. “for.” Jonathan and others endeavour to excuse their ancestors, by saying that they wept because they were forbidden to marry their near relations. — His tent. Some explain the Heb. of the tent of Moses. But the Israelites more probably staid at home.

Ver. 12. Nurse. We often read of men nursing or watching over others. 4 K. x. 5. Est. ii. 11. Thus kings shall nurse the Church. Isai. xlix. 23. C. — All who have authority should treat their subjects with love. M.

Ver. 14. For me. Had he not the judges, whom Jethro advised him to appoint? But all matters of consequence were still brought to Moses. He was made answerable for all things.

Ver. 15. Evils. Heb. “my misfortune.” The Rabbins say their, or thy, was formerly written, but corrected by the scribes. C. — Moses fears the anger of God falling upon the people. H. — It is very wonderful that the Heb. text here retains the feminine pronoun att, instead of atta; thy, thee; as if Moses were addressing himself to some woman; and this absurd peculiarity is more absurdly accounted for, by saying that Moses was “so exasperated during this his address to the divine Being, as to be incapable of pronouncing both syllables!” The same mistake occurs, 1 K. xxiv. 19. Kennicott i. 412. God does not reprehend Moses as guilty of any disrespect or pusillanimity. H. — The holy man prays with due submission to the will of the most High. W.

Ver. 16. Seventy men. This was the first institution of the council or senate, called the Sanhedrim, consisting of seventy, or seventy-two senators or counselors. Ch. — Calmet calls this in question. Dissert. on the Police, &c. Moses chose these senators from among the officers, whom he had before set over the people, (Ex. xviii.) or from those who had superintended their affairs in Egypt, according to the Rabbins, (Ex. iii. 14,) who say that the traditions explaining the law were entrusted to them. Jarchi, &c. — Ancients; a title of authority in the East. See Gen. l. 7. It was not so necessary that they should be far advanced in year, as that they should be men of prudence and of consummate virtue. These qualifications received a great increase, when they were filled with the spirit of God. C. — They were thus authorized to decide controversies peremptorily, and to consult God, like Moses, being endued also with a prophetic spirit. M.

Ver. 17. Thy spirit. S. Augustine (q. 18) reads “of the spirit which is on thee;” (Sept.) referring it to the indivisible spirit of God, so that these ancients received what was sufficient for them, while Moses suffered no diminution. Thus one lamp communicates light to another, without being impaired. Orig. hom. 6. Theodoret (q. 18,) also adds, that a person confers baptism on thousands, and yet loses no part of the grace himself. Selden (Syn. ii. 4,) shews that the Jews explain this spirit of a certain emanation of divine light, or inspiration, which causes the prophets to speak. They have not in general, a distinct belief of the blessed Trinity. “I will make an increase of the spirit, which is upon thee, and will place it upon them.” Chal. v. 25.

Ver. 18. Sanctified. Prepare yourselves to receive flesh. The word is often used in this sense. Jer. vi. 4, &c. Onkelos. — Cease to murmur, and bewail your sin. C.

Ver. 20. Of days complete. So two years of days, means two full years. 1 Mac. i. 30. — Loathsome to you. “Indigestible” Sym. “Bilious.” Sept. “Till it become loathsome to you, and a source of scandal, (Chal.) or of dispersion, as some translate the Heb.

Ver. 21. People, able to bear arms. H. — In all there were above two millions. C.

Ver. 22. Fishes. Moses does not distinguish them from flesh, no more than S. Paul does 1 Cor. xv. 39. Fish was not formerly allowed on fasting days. C.

Ver. 23. Unable: Heb. “shortened.” Sept. “insufficient.” Moses had expresed his astonishment, not his doubts; though the words might convey the latter idea to us more than his behaviour in C. xx. 10. But God sees the heart. — To pass. Hebrew may be also, “hath called thee;” (C.) Sept. “shall come upon thee,” and execute the thing, as soon as thou shalt promise it. H.

Ver. 25. Afterwards. Some give a contrary meaning to the Heb., with the Sept., Syr., &c.: “They prophesied, (on that occasion) but they did not continue” to do so; except when they were favoured with the influence of the spirit. When it was requisite, they were enabled to declare God’s will and his praise to the people. C. — Saul is said to have prophesied when he praised God, 1 K. x. 5. 10. M.

Ver. 26. Forth, being lawfully hindered, (C.) or out of humility. S. Jer. ep. 127.

Ver. 27. Man. The Rabbins say, without proof, that he was Gersom, the son of Moses, and that the two prophets were half-brothers of the lawgiver, and foretold his death and the persecutions of Gog, &c. C. — Hermas (11. 2.) refers to some of their predictions: “The Lord is nigh to those who are converts.” See Ps. xxxiii. 19. H. — But they prophesied probably, by announcing only, as men inspired, the praises of God and sentiments of piety, without diving into futurity. C. — Theodoret (q. 21) thinks they were not of the 70 judges, but equal in dignity to them. Cotelier.

Ver. 28. Chosen among the seventy, and designed, from his youth, to be the general, and successor of Moses; the Heb. may be understood in all these senses. See Ex. xvii. 10. C. — Josue was afraid lest they had assumed this air of authority in opposition to Moses. S. John addressed our Saviour, under the same impressions of zeal, Luc. ix. 49.

Ver. 30. Camp of the people, from the tabernacle, which was in the midst of it. H.

Ver. 31. Sea; the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The wind blew from the south-west to the west with respect to Moses, or from the south with respect to Jerusalem. Ps. lxxvii. 26. Many quails are found about Rinocorura, and some have imagined that these had continued during winter at the bottom of the waters, as they say swallows do. Bochart i. 15. God had sent the Hebrews a similar provision for one day, about the same season of the year. Ex. xvi. 13. — Flew. The Hebrew says simply, “as it were two cubits upon the earth;” whether they were heaped one upon the other to that height, or, as it is more probable, (C). they flew only so much above the ground, an might easily be killed. H. — The Sept. call them ortygometra, the leader, or the largest sort of quails. Suppose twenty of them filled a bushel, or the thirtieth part of a corus, each person would have at least 6,000 quails; and if there were three million people, they must have had 18,000 million such birds. M. — Philo takes notice, that the Jews were very fond of this food; and Aristotle (Anim. viii. 12,) says, their flesh is as good as that of woodcocks. T.

Ver. 32. Cores. Heb. “Chomarim,” each of contained 100 gomers. One gomer was the daily allowance of manna for each person, and of course their must have been sufficient quails for one hundred days. But Moses tells us that each one collected at least ten times that quantity, or as much has he could eat for 1,000 days. Bochart therefore supposes, that only each family, of ten people, gathered so much: or the Heb. should be rendered heaps, as the core, or chomer, is not a proper measure for birds, but for corn and liquors. The Sept. Syr. &c. have “heaps.” We need not have recourse to a new creation of these birds, as their numbers are very surprising. Plin. x. 23. In Italy above 100,000 have been caught in one day, within the space of 5,000 paces. Blond. The Psalmist compares the number brought on this occasion, to the dust, or to the sand of the sea-shore. Ps. lxxvii. 27. — Dried them in the sun, having first salted them, as the Egyptians did. C. Athenæus. — Many quails are found in Egypt, and around the Arabian Gulf. Josep. iii. D.

Ver. 33. Plague of fire, v. 3, Ps. lxxvii. 21. C. a Lapide. — Failed, after the month was expired. M. — They had been accustomed to live upon manna, which was a light food, during the space of a year; and now eating greedily of this flesh, their stomachs were overcharged, and they died of an indigestion. C. — The Rabbins say, God punished their gluttony by death, and obliged the rest of the Hebrews to abstain from all flesh, except from that of the peace-offerings, till they entered the promised land. Seld. Syn. ii. 4.

Ver. 34. The graves of lust; or the sepulchres of concupiscence: so called from their irregular desire of flesh. In Heb. Kibroth Hattaavah. Ch. — Hence S. Augustine observes that, “it is not a matter of so much moment to be heard by God. For some he hears in his wrath, granting their requests, while he refuses to comply with some petitions of his friends.” D.