The children of Israel were not happy with Moses and Aaron leading them to the Promised Land from Egypt. They constantly kept murmuring and complaining that they preferred the old life of slavery, compared to their experience in the wilderness, which would lead them to a life of freedom in the Promised Land of Israel.
The children of Israel were slaves in Egypt and were made to work hard for long hours for about 400 years. Hence they knew nothing about any other form of living and kept looking back to that familiar form of living and complained and murmured when things were different. Not having known freedom, they did know about why it was good, hence did not look forward to it.
Here are some of the instances recorded in the Book of Numbers where the children of Israel committed the sin of murmuring and complaining.
- Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:4-6)
- Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased. (Numbers 11:10)
- But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (Numbers 13:31-14:3)
- Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord (Numbers 14:36-37)
- Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (Numbers 21:4-5)
The above image is taken from here.
In Numbers 11:5 the children of Israel say that they “ate freely in Egypt”. It is possible that the Egyptians took care of providing the slaves prepared food so that the slaves did not have to worry about preparing food and would work long hours as the Egyptians wanted them to work. So except for food they did not know about any other pleasant things of life that God had freely provided.
In the Wilderness God had miraculously provided Manna every day and they could not see the miraculous provision of God and only craved for the food that they had been familiar with in Egypt. So instead of looking forward to a life of freedom in the Promised Land of Israel flowing with Milk and Honey they were looking back to a life of slavery in Egypt. They called the miracle daily provision of Manna by God as “worthless bread”.
They were slaves in Egypt and did not know what true freedom is like. So they were not prepared to take the land provided to them by God and thought of themselves as grasshoppers and the inhabitants of the land as giants and hence gave the children of Israel a bad report. The report of 10 spies discouraged more than 600,000 able bodied males above the age of 20 from going forward and owning the land that God had given them.
Application to our day
To us Egypt represents the World. So we should not focus on following and doing the things of the World. Just as the children of Israel were called to the Promised Land of freedom we should seek to do things that are in accordance with God’s way for our life and be liberated from being bound to the things of the World.
Lessons we can learn
Some of the lessons we can learn from the murmuring of children of Israel
- We should not constantly complain because God is displeased with complaining.
- We should not yield to intense craving.
- We should not look back into the past but look forward to the ways that God leads us into.
About this Post
This post is adapted from the Term Paper that I submitted to World Video Bible School as a part of my study of Leviticus-Numbers-Deuteronomy Course.
You can read about the Life of Moses in Exodus from the earlier course of Exodus.
You can read about The God I believe in here.
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