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34. And he called the name of that place Kibroth. hattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.

34. Et vocatum est nomen loci illius Cibroth-hathaavah: quia ibi sepelierunt populum concupiscentem.

35. And the people journeyed from Kibroth-hattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.

35. De Cibroth-hathaavah profecti sunt populus in Haseroth, et substiterunt in eo loco.

1. And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord. f11 The ambiguous signification of the participle f12 causes the translators to twist this passage into a variety of meanings. Since the Hebrew root ˆwa, aven, is sometimes trouble and labor, sometimes fatigue, sometimes iniquity, sometimes falsehood, some translate it, “The people were, as it were, complaining or murmuring.” Others (though this seems to be more beside the mark) insert the adverb unjustly; as if Moses said, that their complaint was unjust, when they expostulated with God. Others render it, “being sick, (nauseantes,”) but this savors too much of affectation; others, “lying, or dealing treacherously.” Some derive it from the root hnawt, thonah, and thus explain it, “seeking occasion,” which I reject as far fetched. To me the word fainting (fatiscendi) seems to suit best; for they failed, as if broken down with weariness. It is probable that no other crime is alleged against them than that, abandoning the desire to proceed, they fell into supineness and inactivity, which was to turn their back upon God, and repudiate the promised inheritance. This sense will suit very well, and thus the proper meaning of the word will be retained. Thus, Ezekiel calls by the name µynat, theunim, those fatigues, whereby men destroy and overwhelm themselves through undertaking too much work. Still, I do not deny that, when they lay in a state of despondency, they uttered words of reproach against God; especially since Moses says that this displeased the ears of God, and not His eyes; yet the origin of the evil was, as I have stated, that they fainted with weariness, so as to refuse to follow God any further.

And the Lord heard it. He more plainly declares that the people broke forth into open complaints; and it is probable that they even east reproaches upon God, as we infer from the heaviness of this punishment. Although some understand the word fire metaphorically for vengeance, it is more correct to take it simply according to the natural meaning of the word, i.e., that a part of the camp burnt with a conflagration sent from God. Still a question arises, what was that part or extremity of the camp which the fire seized upon? for some think that the punishment began with the leaders themselves, whose crime was the more atrocious. Others suppose that the fire raged among the common people, from the midst of whom the murmuring arose. But I rather conjecture, as in a matter of uncertainty, that God kindled the fire in some extreme part, so as to awaken their terror, in order that there might be room for pardon; since it is presently added, that tie was content with the punishment of a few. It must, however, be remarked, that because the people were conscious of their sin, the door was shut against their prayers. Hence it is, that they cry to Moses rather than to God; and we may infer that, being devoid of repentance and faith, they dreaded to look upon God. This is the reward of a bad conscience, to seek for rest in our disquietude, and still to fly from God, who alone can allay our trouble and alarm. From the fact that God is appeased at the intercession of Moses, we gather that temporal punishment is often remitted to the wicked, although they still remain exposed to the judgment of God. When he says that the fire of the Lord was sunk down, f13 for this is the proper signification of the word [qç, shakang, he designates the way in which it was put out, and in which God’s mercy openly manifested itself; as also, on the other hand. it is called the fire of God, as having been plainly kindled by Him, lest any should suppose that it was an accidental conflagration. A name also was imposed on the place, which might be a memorial to posterity both of the crime and its punishment; for Tabera is a burning, or combustion.

4. And the mixed multitude that was among them. A new murmuring of the people is here recorded: for we gather from many circumstances that this relation is different from that which precedes: although, as evil begets evil, it is probable that after they had begun to be affected by the disease of impatience, they spitefully invented grounds for increased tedium and annoyance. Yet there was something monstrous in this madness, that, when they had just been so severely chastised, and part of’ the camp was even yet almost smoking, and when God was hardly appeased, they should have given way to the indulgence of lust, whereby they brought upon themselves a still more severe punishment. Unquestionably, when they again provoked God by their iniquity, the remains of the fire were still before their eyes; whence it appears how greatly they were blinded by their obstinate wickedness. He states, indeed, that the murmuring first began among the strangers, or mixed multitude, who had mingled themselves with the Israelites, as we have seen elsewhere; but he adds that the whole people also were led into imitation of their ungodly complainings. Hence we are taught, that the wicked and sinful should be avoided, lest they should corrupt us by their bad example; since the contagion of vice easily spreads. At the same time also, we are warned, that it does not at all avail to excuse us, that others are the instigators of our sin; since it by no means profited the Israelites, that they fell through the influence of others, inasmuch as it was their own lust; which carried them away. In the first place, therefore, we must beware that our corrupt desires do not tempt us, and we must put a restraint upon ourselves; and then that the profane despisers of God do not add fuel to the fire.

A question here occurs, whether it is sinful to long for flesh; for if so, all our appetites must. likewise be condemned. I answer, that God was not wroth because the desire of flesh affected the Israelites; but, first, their disobedience displeased Him, because they longed to eat; flesh, as it were, against His will, when He would have them content with the manna alone; and then their intemperance and violent passion. For this reason Moses says that they “lusted a lust,” f14 indicating that they abandoned all self-control, so as to go beyond all bounds. In the third place, their ingratitude displeased Him, which is here adverted to, but openly condemned in the Psalm, where the Prophet reproves them, for that God “had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,” so as to supply them with the “corn of heaven,” and the bread “of angels,” (<197823>Psalm 78:23-25;) and yet, even so they were not restrained from despising so excellent a benefit, and abandoning themselves to lawless intemperance. The rule of moderation, and of a sober and frugal life, which Paul prescribes, is well known; that we should

“know both how to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (<500412>Philippians 4:12.)

Well known, too, is his admonition, that we should

“make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (<451314>Romans 13:14.)

All improper longing is, therefore, to be repressed, so that we should desire nothing which is not lawful; and, secondly, that our appetites should not be excessive. Hence, when he refers elsewhere to this occurrence, (<461006>1 Corinthians 10:6,)he warns us to fear the judgment of God; “to the intent we should not lust after evil things,” thus distinguishing wild and uncontrolled appetites from such as are moderate and well regulated.



When they ask, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” they seek to have it elsewhere than from God, who abundantly supplied them with food, though it was of a different kind. We see, then, that they rebelled with a brutal and blind impetuosity; for necessity was laid upon them by God, that they should eat nothing but manna; against this they struggled like fierce and stubborn beasts, as if they would make God the servant of their lust.

5. We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt. By this comparison with the former mode of living, they depreciate the present grace of God: and yet they enumerate no delicacies, when they speak of leeks, and onions, and garlic. Some, therefore, thus explain it, When such great abundance and variety was commonly to be met with, how painful and grievous must it be to us to be deprived of greater delicacies! My own opinion is, that these lowly people, who had been used to live on humble fare, praised their accustomed food, as if they had been the greatest luxuries. Surely rustics and artisans value as much their pork and beef, their cheese and curds, their onions and cabbage, as most of the rich do their sumptuous fare. Scornfully, therefore, do the Israelites magnify things which, in themselves, are but of little value, in order the more to stimulate their depraved appetite, already sufficiently excited. Still there is no doubt but that those who had been accustomed to a diet of herbs and fish, would think themselves happy with that kind of food. Moreover, to make the matter more invidious, they say in general, that they ate gratis f15 of that, which cost them but little: although such a phrase is common in all languages. For even profane writers testify that all that sea-shore abounds with fish. f16 The fisheries of the Nile also are very productive, and a part: of the wealth of Egypt: whilst the country is so well watered, that it produces abundance of vegetables and fruits. f17

6. But now our soul is dried away. They complain that they are almost wasted away with famine and hunger, whilst they are abundantly supplied with manna; in the same way as they had just been loudly declaring that they had lived in Egypt for a very little money; as if they were affected by a great dearth of provisions, when, by the pure liberality of God, a kind of food was provided for them, more easy to prepare than any other, and so actually prepared without trouble or cost. But such is the malignity and ingratitude of men, that they count all God’s bounty for nothing, whilst they are brooding over their own importunate lusts. Many in their gluttony consume, and bring to naught whatever God bestows upon them: others, in their avarice, dry up the fountain of His liberality, which else would be inexhaustible. But these, in the midst of their abundance, say that they are dry, because insatiable cupidity inflames them, so that God’s blessing, however ample, cannot satisfy them. Thus the rain, washing the hard rock, wets it not within, neither tempers its dryness by its moisture. Since, therefore, a contempt of God’s blessings withers them all, like a hot blast, let us learn to assign them their due honor, that they may be supplied to us in sufficiency. Thus will be fulfilled in our ease:

“The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.”


(<199212>Psalm 92:12-14.)

For Scripture does not so often declare in vain that God satisfies the longing souls, and filleth the hungry with food. They complain that there is nothing before their eyes but manna: as if their loathing of this one excellent and abundant kind of food was actual famine.





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