“But the people began complaining about their hardships to Adonai. When Adonai heard it, his anger flared up, so that fire from Adonai broke out against them and consumed the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried to Moshe, Moshe prayed to Adonai, and the fire abated. That place was called Tav‘erah [burning] because Adonai’s fire broke out against them.”-Numbers 11:1-3
Today we’re going to take a look at Rebellion Number One as it occurred while the Israelites were marching through the desert.
Right off the bat, verse 1 tells us the people immediately began complaining.
Although we’re not told exactly what the people were complaining about, I think it’s pretty obvious it had to do with the many hours of marching through quite an uncomfortable environment.
Remember the preceding chapter ten ended with the Israelites marching and following the fire-cloud of the Lord.
One question that arises is was the the complaining of the Israelites justified?
Maybe to a degree, it could be argued it was.
Think about it.
We’re talking about a population of around 2-3 million people that included small children, the frail, and the elderly.
They were traveling with possibly hundreds of thousands of animals and they were marching over unpaved, rocky desert terrain that would have been quite challenging for some to walk through.
In addition, in the area where they were located north of Midian, the climate conditions would have been extreme.
I’ve heard some teachers say that during the scorching summers months, the temperature rose to well over 100 degrees and during the winter season at night when it was the coldest, the temperatures may have reached freezing levels.
This was no leisurely Sunday afternoon picnic stroll in the park.
Even under the best of circumstances, things were far from pleasant.
So we’re told the people began to “complain“.
The Hebrew word for “complain” being used here is AL RA.
AL means “complaint“.
RA means “evil“.
Hence, the nature of the “complaining” the people were doing was evil.
Notice the RAH part of the word.
Do you remember the Hebrew term for “evil inclination“?
It is YETSER HARAH.
And the opposite of the “evil inclination” is the “good inclination” which is YETSER TOV in Hebrew.
The whole point being made here is that the people responded to God’s “goodness” with “evil“.
They responded to His TOV with RAH.
And what was the result of this evil complaining?
God punished them by sending fire.
Note we’re told the fire broke out on the “outskirts of the camp“.
In other words, it did NOT shoot out from the Tabernacle like some have imagined.
Now what happens next is extremely important for us to catch.
We’re told that Moses INTERCEDED and God stopped the punishment.
To me, this speaks volumes.
When the people sinned, they needed an intercessor to make prayers for them so that God would halt His divine judgement.
I think it’s also important to note that Moses wasn’t some outside third party who didn’t understand the sufferings the people were going through.
No, he was right there in the midst of all the hardship the people were experiencing and could relate.
Don’t overlook that point folks because it points directly to the intercessory work of Messiah.
Finally, we’re told that the place where the fire broke out was called TABERAH literally meaning “burning”.
This is actually quite common in the Hebrew Scriptures to name places after momentous incidents that occurred there.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way,
just as we are–yet he did not sin.”