New Defender's Study Bible Notes
11:1 people complained. The Lord is long-suffering, but there is a limit to His patience when we repeatedly complain about our lot. Our blessings–if we would only stop to evaluate them–are always greater than our difficulties. The people had complained often before, and God had supplied their requests, once even with quail meat (Exodus 16:11-13), as well as the daily manna, but this proved one complaint too many. Likewise, Christian believers today need to heed the apostle’s exhortation to “do all things without murmurings” (Philippians 2:14). Speaking of these very complainers in the wilderness, Paul warns us: “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” (I Corinthians 10:10).
11:3 fire of the Lord. As at Sodom (Genesis 19:24), this fire of the Lord could have been entirely miraculous, or possibly an ignition of gases escaping from the tectonically and seismically active Sinai desert. In either case, it was so timed and used as to convey clearly God’s intense displeasure with this repeated complaining. Taberah means “burning.”
11:6 beside this manna. The account of God’s daily miraculous provision of “manna” (meaning “What is it?” in Hebrew) is in Exodus 16:1-36. Christ described this as a type of His own descent from heaven to bring life to the world (see John 6:38,49-51). As the Israelites came to despise the manna, so their descendants later came to despise Christ (Isaiah 53:3).
11:26 they prophesied. The Holy Spirit empowered these men to “prophesy” just as He had Moses (Numbers 11:17). However, to prophesy does not necessarily mean to predict the future, even though this could be involved on occasion. Rather, it meant essentially, to speak the words given by God under divine inspiration. See II Peter 1:20.
11:31 two cubits high. Critics contend this ironic miracle of the quail, sent in response to the complaint of the people wanting flesh to eat (Numbers 11:4), is physically absurd. The picture, however, is not what it seems at first, with quail stacked three feet high for miles all around. The language permits the more understandable rendering that the quail were easily accessible, flying two cubits about the ground. This was the second time God had providentially directed quail to the camp in great numbers (see Exodus 16:13).
11:33 the wrath of the LORD. Compare Exodus 16:11-13. In the earlier experience the Lord had graciously supplied quail when the people complained, without rebuking them for questioning Him. Now, however, there was no excuse for their lack of faith. In addition, He had given them the law since that first experience, and they had covenanted to obey it. Thus discipline was doubly justified at this point.
11:34 buried the people. The name Kibroth-hattaavah means “graves of lust.” An ancient cemetery was found in the eighteenth century atop a mountain in this region. It had been mentioned also by a Byzantine monk in the fourth century. The tomb inscriptions were in a form of hieroglyphics but had apparently not been made by Egyptians. Many contained engravings of quails.