The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 33: From Sinai to Kadesh
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Says the psalmist: "They tempted God in their heart by asking
meat for their lust. Yea, they spake against God; they said,
Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Behold, He smote
the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed;
can He give bread also? can He provide flesh for His people?
Therefore the Lord heard this, and was wroth." Psalm 78:18-21.
Murmuring and tumults had been frequent during the journey
from the Red Sea to Sinai, but in pity for their ignorance and
blindness God had not then visited the sin with judgments. But
since that time He had revealed Himself to them at Horeb.
They had received great light, as they had been witnesses to the
majesty, the power, and the mercy of God; and their unbelief and
discontent incurred the greater guilt. Furthermore, they had
covenanted to accept Jehovah as their king and to obey His authority.
Their murmuring was now rebellion, and as such it must receive
prompt and signal punishment, if Israel was to be preserved from
anarchy and ruin. "The fire of Jehovah burnt among them, and
consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp."
The most guilty of the complainers were slain by lightning from
The people in terror besought Moses to entreat the Lord for
them. He did so, and the fire was quenched. In memory of this
judgment he called the name of the place Taberah, "a burning."
But the evil was soon worse than before. Instead of leading
the survivors to humiliation and repentance, this fearful judgment
seemed only to increase their murmurings. In all directions
the people were gathered at the door of their tents, weeping and
lamenting. "The mixed 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? We remember the fish, which we did
eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks,
and the onions, and the garlic: but now our soul is dried away:
there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes." Thus
they manifested their discontent with the food provided for them
by their Creator. Yet they had constant evidence that it was
adapted to their wants; for notwithstanding the hardships they
endured, there was not a feeble one in all their tribes.
The heart of Moses sank. He had pleaded that Israel should
not be destroyed, even though his own posterity might then become
a great nation. In his love for them he had prayed that his [p. 380] name might be blotted from the book of life rather than that
they should be left to perish. He had imperiled all for them, and
this was their response. All their hardships, even their imaginary
sufferings, they charged upon him; and their wicked murmurings
made doubly heavy the burden of care and responsibility
under which he staggered. In his distress he was tempted even to
distrust God. His prayer was almost a complaint. "Wherefore
hast Thou afflicted Thy servant? and wherefore have I not found
favor in Thy sight, that Thou layest the burden of all this people
upon me? . . . Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this
people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we
may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is
too heavy for me."
The Lord hearkened to his prayer, and directed him to summon
seventy men of the elders of Israel—men not only advanced
in years, but possessing dignity, sound judgment, and experience.
"And bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation," He
said, "that they may stand there with thee. 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
The Lord permitted Moses to choose for himself the most
faithful and efficient men to share the responsibility with him.
Their influence would assist in holding in check the violence of
the people, and quelling insurrection; yet serious evils would
eventually result from their promotion. They would never have
been chosen had Moses manifested faith corresponding to the
evidences he had witnessed of God's power and goodness. But he
had magnified his own burdens and services, almost losing sight
of the fact that he was only the instrument by which God had
wrought. He was not excusable in indulging, in the slightest
degree, the spirit of murmuring that was the curse of Israel. Had
he relied fully upon God, the Lord would have guided him
continually and would have given him strength for every emergency.
Moses was directed to prepare the people for what God was
about to do for them. "Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow,
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. [p. 381] Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten
days, nor twenty days; 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?"
"The people, among whom I am," exclaimed Moses, "are six
hundred thousand footmen; and Thou has said, I will give them
flesh, that they may eat a whole month. 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?"
He was reproved for his distrust: "Is the Lord's hand waxed
short? thou shalt see now whether My word shall come to pass
unto thee or not."
Moses repeated to the congregation the words of the Lord,
and announced the appointment of the seventy elders. The great
leader's charge to these chosen men might well serve as a model
of judicial integrity for the judges and legislators of modern
times: "Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge
righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger
that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but
ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid
of the face of man; for the judgment is God's." Deuteronomy
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