Devotionals Archive

Daybreak: Numbers 11:1-35

Dec 23, 2020

“And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.” (Numbers 11:17)

“I can’t hold this sheetrock up any longer!”

“You have to. I can’t hold it alone!”

“But it’s too heavy for me!”

“Please, just a while longer. It’s almost secured!”

Screwing sheetrock to a ceiling is a task in itself. Add to that, my only available help was merely five feet tall and she just happened to be my wife.

As a handyman, I have learned that having the right tools goes a long way in getting the job done in a timely manner. One particular evening, though, I had opted not to rent the sheetrock hoist because I figured that, since there were only a few sheets, my wife and I could easily and more economically accomplish the task. I failed to take into consideration her height and the fact that you lose strength in your arms when they are held above your head for extended periods of time — thus slowly weakening them.

I muscled the four-by-eight-foot sheets to the back of the house, and once I had the correct measurements and cuts made, I called on the help of my wonderful wife. Like a trooper, she climbed on the ladder while I stood on the floor (I’m six feet four inches). The ceiling in the sunroom was low, so I figured we could hold it while I quickly secured it in spots — surely that wouldn’t take long. That’s when the weight of the sheet hit me. I failed to account for the full weight of that sheet resting on my one arm and my vertically-challenged wife. After trying several times to get one sheet in place, and lots of verbal encouragement along the lines of, “Don’t move,” and “Hold it right there,” we decided that I needed some additional support. I enlisted a friend of mine to help with the remaining sheets later in the week. The weight of the sheetrock hadn’t changed, but we were able to share the load and the job went much better.

Moses carried an incredible burden while leading the Children of Israel from Egypt. It seemed that no matter how much God blessed, the majority of the people chose to complain — about their diet, of all things. They failed or chose not to enjoy their newfound freedom but, instead, they heaped such a tremendous burden on Moses that it led to the passage we read today.

Moses realized that the burden was too great. Instead of trying to carry it alone, he went to the Lord and told Him, “I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.” God fully understands our human limitations and frailties, and He is always ready to provide what we need. In this case, the seventy elders were called before the Lord and He literally transferred to them a portion of the burden Moses was carrying. With the lighter responsibilities, Moses was able to better perform his role as leader.

We, too, face a myriad of burdens in life. We were not designed to carry such heavy loads on our own, and when we go to God for help, He is ever faithful to provide the support we need. Sometimes the help comes from someone in the family of God who helps shoulder our cares. Other times, the Lord provides a new perspective, which enables us to view our burden in a new light. Sometimes He simply provides more grace to endure. Whichever way He chooses to provide, we can rest secure in knowing that He will.


Chapter 11 opens with the consuming fire of God falling on those in the “uttermost parts of the camp.” Despite God’s providential care, the Children of Israel had found cause to complain, and Moses had to implore the Lord to spare their lives. A study of the wilderness wanderings reveals an almost continuous complaining about problems and difficulties encountered along the way by this newly freed people, and Moses’ prayerful intervention for them. Time and again, God affirmed Moses’ leadership by responding to his prayers.

Over a year had passed since God answered their need for food by miraculously providing manna from above. Initially, Israel welcomed this wonderful gift and ate with grateful hearts. The manna provided all the necessary vitamins and minerals to sustain life. Still, the Children of Israel had grown tired of the same diet, even though it was miraculous, and began longing for the various foods they had eaten while in Egyptian bondage.

Verse 4 mentions the mixed multitude that was traveling with the Children of Israel. One commentator says that the word in the original resembles our “riff raff ” and denotes a mob of people scraped together. These people accompanied the Jews when they left Egypt, possibly out of fear of more judgments to come, or as an opportunity to get out of slavery and servitude while their Egyptian masters were busy burying their dead.

Moses had a choice to make. As leader, he could have crushed the complaint authoritatively, or he could have intimidated them into internal submission. He also could have joined with the complainers and thus forfeited his role as leader. It is noteworthy that Moses chose none of these options. Instead, he took the situation to God, who initiated a shared responsibility of leadership, appointing seventy elders who aided Moses in meeting the numerous needs of the Children of Israel.

God knew that Moses possessed the strength of character necessary to share the load of leadership. When we read of Joshua’s counsel to Moses to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying, we encounter the humble response from Moses, “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” There was no envy in the heart of Moses. He wanted the best for the people of God and if that meant shared responsibilities, he did not question the Lord’s decision.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.   The journey from Sinai to the plains of Moab
     A.   The journey to Kadesh-Barnea
            2.   The complaining at Taberah (11:1-3)
            3.   The failure at Kibroth-hattaavah (11:4-35)
                   a.   The manna rejected (11:4-9)
                   b.   Moses’ complaint and request (11:10-15)
                   c.   The appointment of seventy elders (11:16-30)
                   d.   The provision of quail and plague (11:31-35)

A Closer Look

  1. What did the Israelites crave? Why?
  2. Why were the people plagued as they ate the quail the Lord provided?
  3. Name some ways you can be used by the Lord to help bear someone else’s burden.


Burdens and stresses of life come to all of us. As we acknowledge our need of the Lord, He is ever faithful to provide the support we need. Let us learn to take our problems to the Lord first, and to be content with the solution He provides.

Reference Materials