Today’s reading begins with the Israelites complaints of Israel about a lack of meat to eat and concludes with the defeat of Israel in battle.
As had been the case in the past, so again the people of Israel complained before God and Moses how they missed being in Egypt and all of the food that they used to enjoy eating while they were there. The people had grown tired of the “what is it?” from God and desired to eat meat once again. God was enraged with their complaints and chose to give them what they wanted. He caused a wind to blow and brought in quail from the direction of the sea. The amount of quail that came up near the camp of Israel was enough to cover the ground three-feet deep. The quail lay on the ground approximately one day’s journey from the camp and when the people began collecting the dead quail. The person who gathered the least of the quail gathered ten homers. For comparison’s sake, a homer was 220 liters. So the smallest amount the was gathered was 2220 liters of quail. That must have been a sight to see.
The desire of the Israelites got the best of them and they couldn’t wait to eat the quail but instead of getting to enjoy the feast set before them, God struck those who were eating with a plague and many people died because of it.
After the plague relating to the quail, there is a brief story that might be easily overlooked but bears at least mentioning. Both Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother complained to him that they were angry that he had married a Cushite woman. My perception of people who are critical of God as described in the Old Testament is that they believe Him to be a racist God because of many of the stories that we will come upon in future texts in the Bible. What those critics tend to overlook is this passage. When Miriam, Aaron, and Moses come before God to discuss this conflict, God strikes Miriam with leprosy for a week because of the words she speaks about her sister in law of a different ethnicity or race. As shown in this passage, God is content with Moses choice for a wife even though she is a member of a different ethnicity and cultural background. Although many people throughout the history of the world have used the Bible to justify their own racist sentiments, it’s obvious from this and other passages in the Bible that God’s destruction of other people groups at the hands of the Israelites wasn’t because of their ethnicity, it was for a different reason altogether. As we will see in future readings, the reason for God’s command to destroy other people groups wasn’t related to their skin color it was because of their gross acts of sin before God.
The LORD called upon Moses to send out spies into the land in which the Israelites were to settle. After being sent out for forty days into the wilderness to spy out the promised, upon their return, many of the men gave a bad report of the promised land. Although the land was abundant in resources, there would be enemies to fight who appeared to many to be stronger than the Israelites. This bad report from the majority of those who had been sent to spy out the land greatly discouraged the people of Israel. Only two of the spies sent out, Joshua and Caleb, returned a good report from the land. These two men had confidence that God would do as He had promised and give the Israelites the land.
God’s anger was kindled against the people of Israel for their lack of faith in His ability to bring them into the land that He had promised to them. He was once again prepared to destroy Israel for their lack of faith, but Moses interceded on behalf of the people. Instead of destroying all of the people who had questioned God, God chose to punish the people who had doubted God by disallowing them from being able to enter into the promised land. Until all those who had lacked faith had perished, the people of Israel would be forced to wander in the wilderness.
Some of the people chose to defy the decision that God had made and instead went up into the promised land and decided to try and take the land in their own strength. Moses tried to dissuade them from doing so, but in their obstinance, the people went up into the land of the Canaanites and the Amalekites and were defeated there.