The nation of Israel--a company of over three million men, women and children, along with their enormous flocks of sheep, herds of goats, and "very much cattle"--was on the move! After their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, they began heading South into the Sinai Peninsula. Now, one month later, they arrived at the oasis of Elim in the barren, wind-swept Desert of Sin, just a short distance North of Mt. Sinai.
After pitching their tents beneath the shade of the palm trees, groups of people gathered all throughout the Camp to discuss the situation. It looked serious. All the food they'd brought with them from Egypt had finally run out, and here they were in the middle of the barren Desert of Sin. It was a real test of their faith, and it showed that most of them had little or no faith!
In one corner of the Camp, a crowd of men and women had gathered around the tent of Nabal Baal-e'Aiker, who was angrily complaining, "I never saw such a dreary, barren, desolate plain in all my life! There's not even one blade of grass growing here!"
"But God will provide for us!" replied Caleb, one of the princes of Judah. "He promised He would get us to the Promised Land, and He will!--And look! It's a beautiful oasis! It has 12 springs and ..."
"Huh! A lot of good that will do us!" Nabal jeered. "All our food has run out and we're about to starve to death!"
The crowd angrily agreed with Nabal, but Caleb cried out, "But our God is a God of miracles! Look! Just one month ago He miraculously led us out of cruel slavery in Egypt! He destroyed Pharaoh's armies in the Red Sea! Surely He will also ..."
But the people were not in any mood to listen and have faith!--And soon several large groups of people from all quarters of the Camp began massing together in front of Moses' tent, boldly complaining against Moses and Aaron. Pushing his way to the front of the crowd, Nabal shouted at Moses, "Why did you lead us all out into this desert?--To starve us to death?! If we were going to die, we would rather have died beside our cooking-pots in Egypt where at least our bellies were full! But what are we going to eat now, Moses?!"
The Lord heard their murmurings and complaints and was very upset at their lack of faith! Here He had promised He would take them to the Promised Land, but they just didn't believe His promises! They didn't believe He could supply them the food they needed, and were desiring to return to the "security" of Egypt, even if it meant becoming slaves again!--Or even dying there!
Nevertheless, the Lord knew that the outlook in this barren desert was very discouraging, so He mercifully overlooked their doubting, complaining attitude--this time--and said to Moses, "This very evening you will have meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, for I will rain down bread from Heaven for you!"
So Moses and Aaron told the Israelites, "At evening you will know that it was the Lord Who brought you out of the land of Egypt!--It wasn't just Aaron's and my idea! For He has heard your grumbling against Him and will send you meat and bread!--And it is the Lord you are grumbling against, really!--Because, after all, what are Aaron and I?" Sure enough, that evening, a strong wind swept such vast numbers of quail into the Camp that they covered the ground! All the millions of the Children of Israel now had meat for several days! But the greatest miracle was to occur that night! While they slept, in the cool of the desert air, a wet mist condensed as dew upon the ground. In the morning the dew lay all about the camp, and when it evaporated, all the rocks and sand of the entire desert plain looked mysteriously white, as if covered by a fine, thin layer of frost or snowflakes!
Upon seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, "Manna? Manna?" which means "What is this?"
Moses answered, "This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat! Now gather it before the sun rises hot and it melts away! Let each family gather enough so that they will each have about two quarts of it per person to eat for the day. You may either bake or boil it, however you please."
So the people went out and gathered the thin, round flakes of manna into containers, until they had enough. Then they took it to their tents to bake. Some ground it between millstones while others pounded it into flour in a mortar. Then they cooked it in pans and made it into small flat loaves.
Nabal exclaimed to his wife, "This is the most delicious food I've ever eaten in my life! It tastes just like wafers made with honey, only better!"
"Yes!" she replied, "it tastes like it was cooked in fresh vegetable oil, and mixed with that tasty, aromatic spice, coriander seed, that only the rich Egyptians could ever afford to buy!"
Caleb came over, eating a manna cake, and said, "I told you the Lord would provide! Not only is He going to get us to the Promised Land like He promised, but all the way there we're going to be eating the finest bread and cakes on Earth!--Bread from Heaven, Angel's food!"
For nearly a whole year the people didn't complain about food any more, for the manna was so delicious and nutritious, and they knew it was absolutely miraculous how the Lord supplied it! But when they arrived at Kibroth-hattaavah, complaining broke out again! It began amongst the foreigners, the Egyptians who had come out of Egypt with the Hebrews. They had been used to eating quite a bit of meat, and began to complain that they didn't have more! Soon their murmuring spread and the entire Israelite camp was all complaining about not having enough meat! Then they started to complain about all the other food they didn't have!
Nabal was quickly caught up in the murmuring, but Caleb said, "Nabal, can't you see? You're just being greedy!--We do have meat from time to time! We have herds and flocks and have beef and mutton and ..."
"Yeah, but we have to kill them only sparingly!" Nabal sneered. "We're just not getting enough meat to suit my tastes! Can God spread a table in the desert? He gave us bread, but can He also provide meat for His people? I doubt it! But if He can, how about sending us some more of that delicious quail He gave us back in Elim!?"
The murmuring and complaining grew to such a state that finally all the people in the camp stood in the doors of their tents, moaning and wailing. "I wish that we had meat for food!" they lamented. "We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlics!" They even began to complain about their Heavenly bread, moaning, "But now we are famished; all the Lord gives us is this...this awful manna! Oh, how much better off we were back in Egypt!"
The Lord heard them and was very angry this time, and commanded Moses, "Tell the people: 'You have wept in My ears, crying, Can God give us meat to eat? Therefore I will give you meat to eat! Tomorrow you shall have meat to eat!--Enough for a whole month! You'll eat quail meat until it comes out your nostrils and you get sick of it! For you have turned against My Will, in crying out, Why did we ever leave Egypt?'"
That evening the Lord stirred up the East wind, and a blustering storm swept through the Israelite Camp. Then the miracle happened! Untold millions upon millions of quail, migrating over the Gulf of Aqaba, were caught up in the wind and swept directly down into the Israelite camp! As Psalm 78:27-28 says, "the Lord rained meat down upon them like dust for multitude, and fowl like the sand of the sea!"
For miles around the Camp, the ground was thick with quails! All day, all that night, and all the next day the people gathered them in! There were so many millions of them that even those who gathered the least amount got 100 bushels full! That evening, tens of thousands of bonfires burned through the Camp as everyone sat down to cook and feast on their meat! The quails were meant to last them a month, but many people just went wild with greed, and devoured bird after bird, till they were so stuffed and full that they became deathly sick!
Nabal cackled with glee, smacking his lips as he glutted himself with quail that evening!--But by the next morning, he--along with thousands of others like him--was dead! As the Bible says, "They ate and were filled to overstuffing! The Lord brought them what they craved, then slew the fattest of them! Therefore, that place was named Kibroth-hattaavah ("graves of greed"), because they buried the greedy murmurers there." (Psalm 78:29-31; Numbers 11:33-34)
My name is James Arendt. I was raised in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois, served in the USAF from 1970 to 1974, and became a full-time missionary for Christ living 40 years in Japan, 3.5 years in Russia, and a few months in other countries such as Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China where I also served the King of Kings, Jesus, as an Ambassador for His Kingdom.
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