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Wednesday, November 29th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 11

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-35

Numbers 11:7 . The manna. See Exodus 14:15. and 31. Bdellium. See Genesis 2:12. Exodus 28:19.

Numbers 11:16 . Gather unto me seventy men of the elders. The Hebrews always had elders, as appears from Exodus 1:3. and 21. These were afterwards called the Sanhedrim, or grand council of the nation. It was composed of princes, generals, and priests. The highpriest was the president by office. Our Saviour honours them as sitting in Moses’s seat. Matthew 23:2.

Numbers 11:25 . In a cloud. It is common for the poets to represent the gods as descending in a rainbow, or a cloud, and always as diffusing ambrosial perfumes through the air.

Ambrosiæque comæ divinum vertice odorem Spiravere. Æneid, lib. 1. 5:403.

Numbers 11:27 . Prophesy. These endowments would have continued, if they had cherished the gift.

Numbers 11:31 . Brought quails from the sea. They are not, it would seem, the quails mentioned in Exodus 16:0., for those were sent in the wilderness of Sin, on the fifteenth day of the second month, before the ark arrived at mount Sinai. And the camp did not break up from before Sinai, till the second day of the twentieth month. Consequently the Israelites were twice fed with quails.


No sooner did the tutored host of Israel leave Sinai, and feel the fatigues of wading through the sandy desert, than they began to utter complaints against the Lord, because of the hardships they sustained. When they murmured for bread and water, the Lord had compassion on them, and supplied their wants. But now, when they murmur against the manna, and against the unavoidable fatigues of their situation, he sends a fire from heaven to burn the leaders of the revolt, as he consumed Nadab and Abihu. To murmur against God when he is seeking to do us the greatest good, is a crime which heaven will not excuse. It was a repetition of the sin of their fathers when they said, can he give us bread also? Psalms 78:20. The mixed multitude among the Hebrews, recollecting the luxuriant living of Egypt, and loathing the manna, began to lust for flesh: and the mischief spread through all the camp. The people wept for flesh. How dangerous in the church of God are unregenerate characters! When any murmuring or contention happens, instead of composing the affairs with calmness and prudence, they indulge in a virulence of temper, and a severity of language, which would make the unregenerate ashamed. They disunite the affections of the faithful, and make the house of God a state of contention and strife. Let them beware of that fire which burnt in the utmost parts of the camp; for a fire is already kindled which can never be quenched.

A murmuring and a discontented people make the best of magistrates and ministers willing to retire from office, or even weary of life. Greatness has its calamities; and the arduous duties of public life require support and comfort. It is so also with ministers of the gospel, whose lot is cast with a contentious and dissatisfied people. They dare not run from their charge; but nature oppressed would ask relief; and life embittered is not desirable. But God who appointed Moses seventy elders to succour him in his charge, will not forget his afflicted servants. Let them keep their eye on the promise, and the dark and cloudy day shall be succeeded with the sunshine of peace and divine repose.

The Lord having caused the excellent spirit which rested on Moses, to rest on the elders, they all prophesied; or broke forth into an extemporaneous effusion of discourse or song, as the Spirit aided them. Eldad and Medad, modestly abiding at home, were seized with the same spirit, and could not refrain from speaking. Hence we may mark, that the liberty of prophesying was allowed from the beginning of the world. It is objected, that Christ’s church is already filled up with properly appointed ministers, and that all others attempting to pray or preach in any public way are fanatics and heretics. But will the objectors affirm, that all ministers so appointed are pure characters, and that they daily live in the spirit of their ministry? If these enquiries be not affirmed, will they venture to affirm that God has made an unconditional covenant with any order of men, to be his ministers for ever, whether they believe or disbelieve; whether they be righteous or wicked; whether they be idle or diligent. I incline to think that the priests themselves only affect to believe these dogmas; and sooner than persecute men whose motives are pure in doing good, I would rather pray with Moses, that all the Lord’s people were prophets. God graciously heard the prayers of Moses, and succoured him under the cares of government: he heard also the murmuring prayers of those who loathed the manna, and lusted for flesh, and he answered them in anger. He gave them up to the lusts of their own heart; he suffered them to riot in gluttony and excess: and disease and death were the immediate fruits. Christians; poor men who earn your bread from day to day, as the Israelites gathered the manna, be content and happy with your lot. You have health and innocence in the labours of life. You have a little of earth, and a little of heaven too. Lust not for riches; for fine houses, for sumptuous banquets, and the glory of this world that passeth away. If you desire worldly good out of the way of providence, he may glut you with it in his anger; and then every blessing is changed into a curse.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/numbers-11.html. 1835.
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