Reference: Numbers 11:1-6
Heart of the Story: “The Rabble” were non-Israelites whose complaints influence Israelites in the Exodus to complain.
Back Story: When the Israelites left Egypt, some non-Israelites went with them. Most scholars believe that the rabble were not Israelites; but opportunists who opted to leave Egypt when the Israelites slaves were allowed to leave. Probably this event took place in the second year after the Exodus. By this time, God was feeding the Israelites and rabble with manna.
Story Line: Soon afterward, a group of individuals called “the rabble” began to complain about the hardships they encountered. One complaint by the rabble was that they craved food other than manna. Hearing the rabble complain, the Israelites joined their complaints. Both groups wailed and said: If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never have anything but manna (Numbers 11:4-6).
In response, God did two things: 1) he gave the people quail to eat and 2) he killed all complainers which include the group on non-Israelites named “the rabble.” The Israelites buried all those who God killed. The name of this place was Kibroth Hattaavah and it appears to be about 45 miles northeast of Mount Sinai.
Pondering Relationships: By this time, the Israelites were very aware that their were non-Israelites in their midst. Apparently, the Israelites accepted their presence. In this instances, we see that the Israelites went along with “the rabbles” behavior. I don’t believe that God killed the rabble because they were non-Israelites. Rather, God killed the total group (rabble and Israelites who complained) because they rejected the manna as a source of food.
I imagine all the individuals in the Exodus were a little tired of manna after a year or so. There was only so many ways, manna could be prepared. The error on their part was not being thankful for God’s food gift; but, bitterly complaining about it. This passage is telling us that we should be grateful, rather than complaining, about the gifts God gives us.
Reflection: About 30 years ago I attended a certain church. By the time of this incident, I had been attending about 5 years. One night I received a telephone call from a relatively new church member. He began to tell me all the things that were wrong with the preacher. I listened and mentally agreed with some things and some I disagreed with; however, I didn’t refute anything he said. At the end of his descriptions, he asked me to join a group who was trying to oust the preached. My answer was “No, thank you, I do not want to go this direction.” I always wondered why he joined the church if he disliked the pastor so much. There were plenty of other churches of that same denomination in the community. I think he would have qualified as “the rabble.”
Reflection: Garlic stinks and when eaten often causes bad breath. Christians who consume garlic-type foods can have bad breath when they witness to others.
Copyright: November 3, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth
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