The People of Israel Demand Meat to Eat
1 The people began complaining out loud to the Lord about their troubles. When the Lord heard them, he became angry, and fire from the Lord began to burn among them. It destroyed some people on the outskirts of the camp. 2 The people cried out to Moses, Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. 3 That place was called Taberah [Fire] because fire from the Lord burned among them there.
4 Some foreigners among the Israelites had a strong craving for ⌊other kinds of⌋ food. Even the Israelites started crying again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 Remember all the free fish we ate in Egypt and the cucumbers, watermelons, leeks, onions, and garlic we had? 6 But now we’ve lost our appetite! Everywhere we look there’s nothing but manna!”
7 (Manna was ⌊small⌋ like coriander seeds and looked like resin. 8 The people would go around and gather it, then grind it in a handmill or crush it in a mortar. They would cook it in a pot or make round loaves of bread out of it. It tasted like rich pastry made with olive oil. 9 When dew fell on the camp at night, manna fell with it.)
10 Moses heard people from every family crying at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became very angry, and Moses didn’t like it either. 11 So he asked, “Lord, why have you brought me this trouble? How have I displeased you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Am I their mother? Did I give birth to them? Are you really asking me to carry them in my arms—as a nurse carries a baby—all the way to the land you promised their ancestors with an oath? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep crying for me to give them meat to eat. 14 I can’t take care of all these people by myself. This is too much work for me! 15 If this is how you’re going to treat me, why don’t you just kill me? I can’t face this trouble anymore.”
16 The Lord answered Moses, “Bring me 70 Israelite men who you know are leaders and officers of the people. Take them to the tent of meeting, and have them stand with you. 17 I’ll come down and speak with you there. I’ll take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will help you take care of the people. You won’t have to take care of the people alone. 18 Tell the people to get ready for tomorrow. They must be set apart as holy. Then they will eat meat. I, the Lord, heard them crying and saying, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!’ So I will give them meat. 19 They won’t eat it just for one or two days, or five, or ten, or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month, until it comes out of their ears and they’re sick of it. This is because they rejected the Lord who is here among them and cried in front of him, asking, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’ ”
21 But Moses said, “Here I am with 600,000 foot soldiers around me. Yet, you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if all the flocks and herds were butchered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”
23 The Lord asked Moses, “Is there a limit to the Lord’s power? Now you will see whether or not my words come true.”
24 Moses went out and told the people what the Lord said. He gathered 70 of the leaders of the people and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the ⌊column of⌋ smoke and spoke with him. He took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the 70 leaders. When the Spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied, but they never prophesied again.
26 Two men, named Eldad and Medad, had stayed in the camp. They were on the list with the other leaders but hadn’t gone with them to the tent. The Spirit came to rest on them, too, and they prophesied in the camp.
27 Then a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 So Joshua, son of Nun, who had been Moses’ assistant ever since he was a young man, spoke up and said, “Stop them, sir!”
29 But Moses asked him, “Do you think you need to stand up for me? I wish all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.”
30 Then Moses and the leaders went back to the camp.
31 The Lord sent a wind from the sea that brought quails and dropped them all around the camp. There were quails on the ground about three feet deep as far as you could walk in a day in any direction.
32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered the quails. No one gathered less than 60 bushels. Then they spread the quails out all around the camp.
33 While the meat was still in their mouths—before they had even had a chance to chew it—the Lord became angry with the people and struck them with a severe plague. 34 That place was called Kibroth Hattaavah [Graves of Those Who Craved ⌊Meat⌋] because there they buried the people who had a strong craving ⌊for meat⌋.
35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people moved to Hazeroth, and they stayed there.