The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Numbers
Meanwhile, the people were assailing the Lord with complaints, and be-moaning their hard lot. The Lord was roused to anger when he heard it, and sent a fire which burnt up the outlying part of the camp.
Whereupon the people had recourse to Moses; and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire died down.
It was this divine punishment by fire which gave the place its name, the Place of Burning.
They were still accompanied by a crowd of mixed breed;✻ and these infected the Israelites by their example, as they sat there lamenting; If we had but meat to feed on! they said.
How well we remember the fish that Egypt afforded without stint, the cucumbers, the melons, leeks and onions and garlic!
Our hearts faint within us, as we look round, and nothing but manna meets our eyes.
(This manna was a food that looked like coriander-seed, its colour like bdellium.
The people would go round gathering it, and grind it in the mill or bray it in a mortar; then they would cook it in pots, making it into rolls that tasted like bread kneaded with oil.
Every night, as the dew fell on the camp, the manna fell there too.)
From household after household Moses heard these complaints, as the men sat bemoaning themselves at their tent doors, till he could bear it no longer, that the Lord’s displeasure should be provoked so grievously.
Lord, he said, why dost thou treat me thus? How is it that I have fallen out of favour with thee? Must I carry a whole people like a weight on my back?
I did not bring this multitude of men into the world; I did not beget them; and thou wouldst have me nurse them in my bosom like a child, till they reach the land promised to their race.
Where am I to find meat for such a host as this? And that is the complaint they bring me; they would have meat for their food.
I cannot bear, alone, the charge of so many; it is too great a burden for me.
If I may not have my way in this, then in mercy, I beseech thee, rid me of these miseries by taking my life away.
Whereupon the Lord said to Moses, Choose out for me seventy Israelites of ripe age, men already known to thee as elders and officers of the people, bring them to the door of the tabernacle that bears record of my covenant, and let them stand there at thy side.
I will come down and converse with thee there; taking away some of the spirit which rests upon thee and giving it to them instead, so that they may share with thee that charge over the people which thou canst not support unaided.
And say to the people, You must purify yourselves in readiness for the banquet of meat you will have to-morrow. I have heard you complaining that no meat is given you; that you were better off in Egypt. And now the Lord will give you meat to feed on,
not for one day or two, for five days or ten, or for a score of days,
but for a whole month, till it comes out at your nostrils, and you are sick with surfeit. That shall be your reward for disowning the Lord that dwells among you, and lamenting, here in his presence, that you ever left Egypt behind.
Why, said Moses, here is a people that counts six hundred thousand foot-soldiers; wilt thou promise them meat for a whole month?
If all the flocks and herds were slaughtered, would that be enough for them? Nay, if all the fish in the sea could be brought into one place, would they even so be content?
And the Lord’s answer was, Has my arm lost its power? Thou wilt see for thyself, in a little, whether this promise of mine comes true.
So Moses went back to the people, and told them what the Lord had said. Then he chose seventy of the elders of Israel, and ranged them in a half-circle at the tabernacle door.
And when the Lord came down, hidden in the cloud, to converse with him, he took some of the spirit which rested upon Moses and gave it to the seventy elders instead; whereupon they received a gift of prophecy which never left them.✻
This same spirit rested even upon two men, Eldad and Medad, who were still in the camp; their names were enrolled among the rest; but they had never gone out to the tabernacle.
There in the camp they fell a-prophesying, and a messenger ran to bring Moses tidings of it.
At this, Josue the son of Nun, that was Moses’ favourite servant, cried out, My lord Moses, bid them keep silence.
What, said he, so jealous for my honour? For myself, I would have the whole people prophesy, with the spirit of the Lord resting on them too.
So Moses went back to the camp, and the elders of Israel with him.✻
And now the Lord sent a wind that brought a flight of quails over the sea, and drove them down where the camp was, a day’s journey away on each side; quails that hovered only two cubits above the ground.
All that day and that night and the next day the Israelites busied themselves gathering in the quails, which lay so thick that a man made nothing of gathering a hundred bushels; then they spread them out to dry, round the camp.
They had meat between their teeth yet, and the supply had not begun to fail, when suddenly a grievous plague fell on them, sentence of the divine anger they had provoked;
and the place was called ever after, The Graves of Greed, from the men that lay buried there whose greed was their undoing. From the Graves of Greed they made their way to Haseroth, and there encamped.
The Holy Bible