The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, is from the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers. The text is Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 and begins with the “rabble” complaining about the Manna and a lack of meat. There is some question about who the rabble are. Are they the others who left Egypt with the people of Israel, or does this rabble include the people of Israel? Later in the text, it is clear the whole of the assembly was a great burden to Moses, not just a certain group or segment.

The LORD has provided them with food in the wilderness—a great blessing! This Manna is also referred to as the bread of life, a title Jesus uses for Himself in John 6. This is a miraculous and beautiful provision of the LORD for His people but now they complain about it. This complaining is a rejection of the LORD and all He has done to rescue them, guide them, and provide for them as He leads them to the Promised Land.

So, because of the great burden of dealing with this stubborn, hardheaded people, Moses asks God to kill him at once (verse 15). Note how Moses does not ask God to kill or wipe out the people. At other times when God threatens to wipe out this people and start over with Moses, it is Moses who jumps between God and the people and pleads on their behalf—he acts as a mediator between the people and God. From our standpoint as pastors, this provides an important example. There are times when the people God has placed in our charge are a great burden. However, we do not pray God would “wipe them out” in whatever way we might imagine. We may pray for God to take us or, “Come LORD Jesus quickly!!”

However, we do not pray God would “wipe them out” in whatever way we might imagine. We may pray for God to take us or, “Come LORD Jesus quickly!!”

The last section of the pericope seems disconnected without the rest of chapter 11 (verses 31-35) and the account of the LORD sending the quail for meat. In our verses, Moses delivers the words of God to the people. Then the seventy elders, along with Eldad and Medad, begin to prophesy, which must have added a lot of weight to the words Moses spoke to them. Note that this was a temporary manifestation of the Spirit, and they did not continue as “prophets.”

11:4 וְהָאסַפְסֻף (ve-ha-saf-Suf) “the rabble”

הִתְאַוּוּ (hit-av-Vu) root: אוה (aw-vaw) Hithpael: “to crave; long for; lust after; desire; to incline”

תַּאֲוָה (ta-a-Vah) “craving; appetite; lust”

11:5 הַדָּגָה (had-da-Gah) “fish”

חִנּם (chin-Nam) “freely; costing nothing; without cost”

הַקִּשֻּׁאִים (hak-kish-shu-Im) “cucumbers; melons”

הָאֲבַטִּחִים (ha-a-vat-ti-Chim) “melons; watermelons”

הֶחָצִיר (he-cha-Tzir) “leek”

הַבְּצָלִים (hab-be-tza-Lim) “onions”

הַשּׁוּמִים (hash-shu-Mim) “garlic”

11:6 יִבֵשָׁה (ye-ve-Shah) “dry; dried out; dried up”

הַמָּן (ham-Man) “manna; the/this manna”

11:10 וַיִּחַר (vai-yi-char) root: חרה (khaw-raw) Qal: “to be kindled; burn”

רָע (Ra) root: רע (Ra) Qal: “to be evil; displeasing”

11:11 הֲרֵעֹתָ (ha-re-O-ta) root: רעע (raw-ah) Hiphil: “to cause injury/hurt; do something bad to someone”

חֵן (chen) “favor; acceptance”

מַשָֹּא (mas-Sa) “load; burden”

11:12 הָרִיתִי (ha-Ri-ti) root: הרה (haw-raw) Qal: “to conceive”

בְחֵיקֶךָ (ve-chei-Ke-cha) from: חֵיק (khake) “bosom; lap”

הָאֹמֵן (ha-o-Men) root: אמן (aw-man) Qal: “attendant; nurse; guardian”

הַיֹּנֵק (hai-yo-Nek) from: יוֹנֵק (yaw-nak) “nursing child; suckling child”

11:13 מֵאַיִן (me-A-yin) “whence; where”

לָתֵת (la-Tet) root: נתן (naw-than) Qal, Infinitive: “to give”

11:14 כָבֵד (cha-Ved) “difficult; heavy; hard”

11:15 כּכָה (Ka-chah) “thus; then”

11:16 וְשֹׁטְרָיו (ve-sho-te-Rav) “officers; civil servants”

וְהִתְיַצְּבוּ (ve-hit-yatz-tze-Vu) root: יצב (yaw-tsab) Hithpael: “to take a stand; stand; station oneself”

11:24 וַיֵּצֵא (vai-ye-Tze) root: יצא (yaw-tsaw) Qal: “to go out”

11:25 בֶּעָנָן (be-a-Nan) “clouds; cloud; in the cloud”

וַיָּאצֶל (vai-Ya-tzel) root: אצל (aw-tsal) Qal: “to take away” This could also be a Hiphil form meaning: “To set apart.”

11:28 מְשָׁרֵת (me-sha-Ret) Piel, Participle: “to serve; minister; assistant”

מִבְּחֻרָיו (mib-be-chu-Rav) “youth; choice man”

כְּלָאֵם (ke-la-Em) root: כלא(kaw-law) Qal: “to restrain; stop; to forbid”

11:29 הַמְקַנֵּא (ham-kan-Ne) root: קנא (kaw-naw) Piel: “to be jealous; be zealous”


Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29.

Lectionary Podcast- Prof. Ryan Tietz of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29.