Number 10 records the first time the Israelites broke camp and moved from place to place. They now have to execute the plan that was presented, to form the ranks and manage the movement of the temple and, of course, all the people. No doubt this was a stressful time. It’s interesting to see Jethro mentioned indirectly, though with a different name: “Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law.” (Numbers 10:29).
Chapter 11 begins, “Now the people complained…” they actually whined about the manna that was provided for them, “But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:6 Pretty incredible, but again, with the stress of moving and no clear path in sight, I have some sympathy for the people. Moses does as well and argues with the Lord,
The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me–if I have found favor in your eyes–and do not let me face my own ruin.” Numbers 11:10-12,15
The Lord tells Moses to gather some leaders and he will give them “some of the power of the Spirit” and share the burden. He will also give them meat. Now this is truly funny:
You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month–until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it–because you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and you have wailed before hime, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” Numbers 11:19-20
Of course, I think it’s funny because I’m not living in the desert and listening to Moses or the rumors from my neighbors. Nor am I hungry or threatened in any way. From my vantage point this if humorous, but this is far from comedic, this is real life and the struggles are very real.
From the Desert of Paran, Moses sent 12 men, one from each tribe, to explore Canaan and provide a report. It’s an amazing land, “but the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” (Numbers 13:28). Caleb declared, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it,” but the people were frightened and it seems like the other 10 exaggerated the story to spread fear among the people.
It’s interesting to note there is so much fear. Perhaps the overwhelming desire for routine clouded their judgment. How many times have I seen shadows and reacted in fear when all along the Lord was showing me a land of opportunity. I wonder.