The Orthodox Pages



Part 10

23rd January 2014
































































































































































At our last talk we finished with the Book of Exodus which gave us the history of the Israelite people from before their exodus from Egypt where they were in bondage until their mass exodus from Egypt and their life in the Sinai desert where God made a covenant with them to be their only God, who would guide and protect them and make them into a powerful nation in exchange for their complete obedience to his laws and statutes. The visible sign of this agreement were the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written by God's hand and the Book of the Covenant with all the other laws and ordinances written by Moses. Exodus ends with the inauguration of the tabernacle of the covenant where the ark with the stone tablets was kept. All this happened at Sinai and from the time they left Egypt until the tabernacle only one year had passed. There still remains another 39 years until they will enter the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey which God promised to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as an inheritance and permanent homeland for Israel.
The third book of the Old Testament is called Leviticus. It received this name because it contains mainly the liturgical duties of the Levites who were the priestly tribe. The book is actually the handbook of the priests and contains the various sacrifices for various sins and atonements, the feasts that are to be kept, ordinances for bodily hygiene, for lepers and how to protect themselves from them and how they are to be received back into society once their cure has been verified by the priests. The priests therefore had not only the liturgical duties of the tabernacle but extra duties similar to health officers. Leviticus contains all the religious laws given at Sinai, but in a more detailed format plus some others laws of a more social character.
The Book tells us nothing of the Israelite's journey and in fact has only two historical facts. The ordination of Aaron as the highpriest and his first two sons in the office of priest and a terrible punishment that befalls them and a punishment of a blasphemer.
For us Christians Leviticus doesn't make for a good read; the laws on sacrifices are strange to us because all the sacrifices of the Old Testament have long be replaced with the saving sacrifice of our Lord on the Cross. Even as the priest's handbook, Leviticus offers nothing to us Christian priests other than an explanation to why our vestments and vessels should reveal the divine greatness of God and that during the divine services the priests and the vessels of the Christian church should reflect the divine glory of God as they did in the Old Testament. The roots of Christianity may be the Jewish faith, but when comparing the two, the Jewish religion was based on fear of being punished with death whereas the Christian faith is based on love and forgiveness. Thus we will pass over most of the 27 chapters of Leviticus and only look at certain passages which I feel will be of some interest to you.
In chapter eight we are told of Aaron's ordination as the high-priest and his two eldest sons Nadab and Abiou, as priests. The completion of the ceremony lasted seven days and on the eighth day they officially begun their duties by offering sacrifices. Once the sacrifices had been made on the altar which was in the court, Moses leads Aaron for the first time into the tabernacle and to the holy of holies where the ark was kept. They then came out again and blessed the people, and a fire came out of the tabernacle and devoured the whole burnt offering that was on the altar of sacrifices. The people seeing that the sacrifices had been eaten by divine fire were astonished and fell on the faces.
Next it was the duty of Aaron's sons to offer incense. For this the law said they were not to offer God strange fire, in other words they were not to use just ordinary and common fire for the incense, but take coals from a specific place that had been sanctified. In this case, they should have taken fire from the sacrificial altar because it came from heaven and remained burning. Instead they used common fire for the incense, which was seen as an irreverent act and thus had to be punished. A fire or lightning bolt came out of the sanctuary and burnt them to a crisp where they were standing. Aaron was angry at what had happened and considered their punishment extremely excessive. Moses explains to him that when the priests touch the holy things and treat the holy things in a common way this reflects on God and his holiness. Thus God is glorified by punishing publicly his ministers who have sinned publicly. Aaron must have accepted their punishment because it then says he remained silent. The burnt bodies were removed from the camp and Moses tells Aaron that he is not allowed to mourn for his sons. The usual outward signs of mourning were to uncover their heads and to tear their clothes. Neither is he allowed to leave the tabernacle to be present at the funeral because any act of mourning would be seen as a protest against God's decision to punish his sons. Apart from this, the anointing oil, the symbol of his being joined to God and the holy joy was still fresh on his body. It was not right to abandon this divine joy for worldly feelings of sadness. God allows the mourning and burial to take place but this is to be done by the people and other relatives. With the two eldest sons dead the two younger sons Eleazar and Ithamar now take their place as priests.
In chapter eleven God tells Moses and Aaron which animals are considered clean and may be eaten and which animals are unclean and may not be eaten. Of the four footed beasts the rule is that if the hoof of the animal divides into two, in other words it is cloven-footed and if it chews the cud it may be eaten. Chewing the cud means the ruminant animals that have four compartments of the stomach and after the first chewing session regurgitate the food from the stomach back into their mouths for a second chewing. These are animals like deer, antelope, cattle, sheep and goat. The camel is also an animal that chews the cud but is considered unclean because even though the hoof divides into two, it has a membrane that joins them together. The hare also appears to regurgitate its food, but it doesn't and neither is its foot divided. The hedgehog again appears to chew the cud but its foot is not cloven-footed. The pig on the other hand has a divided hoof, but it does not chew the cud so it also is unclean.
Of the sea creatures, the rule is that if it has fins and scales then it can be eaten, but no fins and no scales then it is unclean. Of the fowls of the air which cannot be eaten are all the birds of prey, the eagle, the mythical griffin, the osprey also known as the sea eagle commonly called the fish hawk, the vulture, the kite, the sparrow, the owl the seagull, the raven, the crow, the falcon, night hawk, the stork, the pelican, the swan, the crane, the lapwing, the hoopoe (old world bird), and the bat and two or three others that I couldn't find the exact English translation.
Of the winged creatures that creep upon four legs they are unclean. Here it refers to flying insects, but as we all know insects have six legs. It seems that the author does not think of the back legs as proper legs because these are not usually for walking but for jumping. This becomes clearer when referring to the insects that can be eaten; its says of the creeping winged insects that go upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; of these you may eat; the locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind and the grasshopper after his kind. All other insects are unclean.
Many people feel that it's rather pathetic that God should be concerned with what people eat. It's true that in the New Testament and specifically in the Acts of the Apostle, these prohibitions are no more valid. Peter, we are told, was very hungry and fell into a trance and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, in which were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. A voice then spoke to him saying "Rise, Peter; kill, and eat." But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spoke to him again saying: "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." It is God then that defines what is clean or unclean and he can make the unclean clean and the clean unclean.
Why then did God forbid the Israelites from eating certain animals? Many other nations ate these forbidden foods and lived healthy lives so it's not as if the meats of these animals were poisonous or harmful. The answer is given a few verses down.
"For I am the Lord your God; and ye shall be sanctified, and ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." In other words the Israelites were the chosen people of God; they were called to be holy just as God is holy. In every respect they had to be clean both inwardly and outwardly. As the chosen people, they had to differ from the other nations and be nourished with only the best meats the earth had to offer. But there is another reason for God prohibiting them certain foods. The forbidden foods are actually a type of continuation of the forbidden fruit of Paradise which was forbidden to Adam and Eve. The forbidden fruit of Paradise was not to deprive them of the fruits of paradise, but to give them the opportunity to exercise their free will, either to follow Godís will or to reject it. It was a simple command, which gave Adam and Eve the opportunity to practice and advance in obedience, virtue and sanctity. They freely chose to ignore God's will and to follow their own will and as a result they separated themselves from Godís likeness and the consequence of their action was that they lost immortality and became mortals that would die.
Here also God forbids certain foods and calls them unclean. As with Adam, God is giving the Israelites an opportunity to exercise their free will by putting their faith to the test. If the Israelites wish to remain God's chosen people they must obey God's will and failing this they will reap the consequences of their own actions.
Chapter twelve speaks of women's uncleanness after giving birth and the period for their cleansing. If a woman gives birth to a male child she is considered extremely unclean for seven days. During this period she will be isolated and no one must touch her otherwise they also will be unclean. On the eighth day the son will be circumcised and after this she will still be considered unclean until the fortieth day, but not as extreme as the first seven days because now she may be touched by others. During the forty days she cannot enter the temple or touch anything holy. Now if she gives birth to a female child the days of her uncleanness are double. The first period of extreme uncleanness will be fourteen days with another sixty six days of lesser uncleanness making a total of eighty days. After the forty days for a boy and eighty days for a girl, the mother is to make an offering at the temple of a whole lamb and a young pigeon or turtledove, but if the mother is poor she can bring as her offering only two young pigeons or two turtledoves. This is the kind of offering made by the Mother of God after her forty days of purification.

We can say that the period of uncleanness is a physiological period of necessity so that the mother can recover completely from childbearing, but why the difference in the sexes, why only forty day for a boy and eighty days for a girl, is God being prejudice towards the female sex? Firstly the period of purification has nothing to do with the woman's recovery because medically there is no difference between giving birth to a boy or girl so the answer must have a religious character. In fact the answer again goes right back to Adam and Eve. A woman who has given birth is unclean because by giving birth she is passing on the consequences of the original sin to the next generation. The consequences of the original sin are disease and death, in other words, the mother is a carrier of disease and a transmitter of death. The difference in the forty days for a boy and eighty for a girl is because original sin came into the world through the female sex. Adam was not really deceived, the woman was deceived and transgressed and then made Adam to transgress with her. As such she has a double transgression on her shoulders, her own and Adam's.
The Christian church has inherited this tradition from the Jewish law, but without the discrimination of the sexes or the necessary sacrifices for purification. From the first day of birth the Priest is called to the family home or the maternity clinic as is more common today, to pray for the newborn child and the speedy recovery of the mother. The prayers for the mother have a penitent character asking for the forgiveness of her sins and one of the prayers also mentions to forgive all the household where the child has been born and them that have touched her. On the eighth day the child is taken for the first time to the Church usually by the father or another member of the family, but not by the mother who is not yet allowed to enter the church. At this occasion the child is sealed with the sign of the Cross and officially receives it's name, imitating thus, our Lord Jesus Christ, who on the eighth day after His birth, was taken to the Temple and duly circumcised according to the Jewish law which He Himself had given through our forefathers and the Prophets and had been observed from the time of Abraham. On the fortieth day the child is again brought to the Temple this time by the mother, who having fulfilled the forty days of purification according to the Law of Moses, is again accounted worthy to enter the Holy Temple. The child at this time is presented to be churched, that is, to begin attending Church. Prayers are said for both mother and child and again the prayers for the mother have a penitent character, or rather refer to her uncleanness e.g.: "In the fulfilment of the forty days, wash clean the impurity of her body and the stain of her soul that being accounted worthy to enter thy holy Temple she may glorify with us thy most holy name..."
Chapter 13 informs the priests how they are to identify leprosy. The first signs are usually patches of paler skin on the body and the hair on the white patch usually turns white. If the hair remains dark then it probably isn't leprosy, but to be sure the priest would separate the person for seven days and look at the patch again; if there is no change in the patch and the hair remains dark then the person is given a bill of cleanness. On the other hand if the priest pronounces that the person has leprosy then he is to live outside the camp until if and when he is cured. If he is cured he will present himself to the priest for verification and if the priest finds that the leprosy has gone the person will offer two bird offerings and some other items. The one bird will be slaughtered and the priest shall sprinkle the person seven times with the blood. The person then has to shave all the hairs from his body and bathe and he is officially clean.
We saw earlier that women were considered unclean when they gave birth because it had to do with the passing on of original sin. Men are not exempt of uncleanness. Chapter fifteen deals with the problem of male emissions. These seem to be divided into three categories; the first two happening whilst wide awake and could be because of some illness and therefore abnormal and the third during sleep commonly known as a wet dream and is considered normal. Whether normal or abnormal it is considered a sin and the person must wash his clothes and himself and he will remain unclean for a whole day. Unclean are considered not only the man but also the things he has touched. If for example he sat on a chair, then someone else sat on it, that person is also unclean and also has to wash his clothes and bathe and will also remain unclean until the evening. All this is to stress the importance of the male semen which is wasted with a fruitless emission. But the reason for the uncleanness is the same as for the woman who gives childbirth. The male semen is what passes on the consequences of original sin in man.
We then come back to women again and their monthly menstrual periods. The woman is unclean during her period for seven days, but if her period lasts longer she is unclean for all the days until her flow of blood stops.
Chapter eighteen defines which marriages are forbidden between relatives. Father with daughter and mother with son, or brother with sister are forbidden. A son cannot marry his father's wife that is not his mother because this would be a dishonour to his father. A man cannot marry his half sister, his granddaughter or his auntie. He cannot marry his son's wife or his brother's wife. A son is not to marry his stepmother's daughter from another marriage or her granddaughter. A man is not allowed to marry two sisters while they are both still alive to avoid jealousy between them. If his wife dies then he is free to marry the sister.
Next follows unethical unions; a man shall not sleep with a woman who is on her period; he shall not sleep with his neighbour's wife. He shall not give any of his descendants to serve strange rulers. A man shall not lie with a man as with a woman for it is an abomination; neither shall he lie with any four footed beast to be polluted with it.
Social laws protecting the poor are also mentioned in Leviticus; when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap the harvest from all the field or when you gather the fruit of your vineyard you shall not gather it a second time, but you shall leave some behind for the poor and the stranger. Vines produce two harvests of fruit, the main harvest of fruit and a second, but much lesser fruit which ripens about a month later; in Cyprus we call these kampanarka meaning little bells.
Another law to protect the poor was that every worker had to be paid at the end of each day and not to be postponed until the other day to receive the reward for his hard work. The wages were just enough to cover the family daily needs and not being paid at the end of the day meant that the family would go without food for that day.
In chapter twenty four we read of the punishment of a blasphemer. The blasphemer was the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father. If you remember during our talk on the Exodus, that many Israelites had intermarried with Egyptians and many Egyptians came out of Egypt together with the Israelites. This half Egyptian was fighting with an Israelite man and during the course of their fighting the Egyptian mentioned the name of God not in a nice way, but as a curse. The man was brought before Moses who had him imprisoned because he didn't know what to do with him. Of all the laws that God gave, there wasn't a law against blasphemy because it was not expected that any Israelite would dare mention the name of God, let alone use his name irreverently. God then spoke to Moses and told him to take him out of the camp and all that heard him blaspheme to put their hands upon his head showing by this that his punishment is by his own head and then for all the congregation to stone him. He was taken out of the camp because no death executions were allowed within the camp. We see this even in Christ's time that he was taken outside the city walls to be crucified.

With this punishment a new law was given, anyone mentioning the name of God will be put to death by stoning. The Hebrew name for God was Yahweh. The ancient Jewish language didnít have any vowels thus the name was written with just four consonants JHWH. Now because of this law forbidding the name to be mentioned, the Jews replaced his name with Adonai meaning master or lord and Elohim the plural for the general term for God. Thus because the Jews stopped pronouncing the name of God as Yahweh, the name came into disuse and as the written form didn't have any vowels they forgot how it was pronounced.
The rest of Leviticus is a repeat of many of the laws given at Sinai and certain threats by God on how he will destroy them if they fail to keep the Commandments and feasts he has ordained for his holy nation.
The next book is the Book of Numbers. It received its name of Numbers because in the first three chapters Moses orders a census of all the men over twenty years old who are able to carry arms and the book gives us the numbers of these men from each tribe of Israel. But even though the numbering of the men takes up a great part of the book, this is not the main content of the book. Numbers continues the story of the Israelites journey from the foot of Mount Sinai where Exodus left off and which was interrupted with the Book of Leviticus, until they pitch camp to the west of Moab, at the river Jordan near Jericho. Chapter thirty three gives us the route and every stop they made on their thirty nine year journey from Egypt to the Jordan River. The journey could have been made in just a few months, but because the people kept falling into sin, God had them wandering from place to place until almost everyone who had left Egypt had died and a new generation took their place. During the journey many punishments will take place not only of the people in general but also of people in high places like the heads of the tribes, the Levites, Mariam, Moses' sister, Aaron and even Moses himself.
But let's begin from the beginning. In Exodus we saw that the Israelites accepted the covenant with God, then they received the law, and the tabernacle was erected where God would dwell among them. Now they must move towards Canaan to take possession of it, but first they must organize and prepare themselves military to become a fighting force. Numbers begins from here and tells us that the Lord spoke to Moses at Sinai and told him to do a census of all the males twenty and over who were able to fight according to each family and tribe. The poll was to be done by Moses himself with the help of Aaron and the head of every tribe which God mentions by name. The total count of the men able to hold arms was 603.550 not including the tribe of Levi who were not to be counted because their role was to look after and protect the tabernacle. When on the move they were responsible for taking down the tabernacle and carrying the frame, the curtains, the furniture, the Ark of the Covenant and everything else connected with the tabernacle and when they came to a stop they were the ones who had to pitch the tabernacle again.
Next follows the order on how they are to pitch their tents around the tabernacle. The entrance of the tabernacle is from the east and there Moses, Aaron, the highpriest and his sons the priests will pitch their tents. On the other three sides would be the other Levi tribes as these serve to protect and guard the tabernacle. The other tribes are now divided into four regiments and according to their rank are to camp after the Levites on the four sides of the tabernacle, thus each regiment will be made up of three tribes each with its own flag and emblem. First is the tribe of Judah who as the line of salvation is ranked first before the tribe of Reuben. To the tribe of Judah are added the tribes of Issachar and Zebulon. All three are Jacob's sons from his first wife Lear. These make up the first regiment and are pitched in the east after Moses' and Aarons' tents. Their total number is 186,400 and is the biggest force of the four regiments. Their banner is a browny orange colour with an emblem of a lion.

To the south is the second regiment from the tribes of Reuben, Symeon and Gad whose total numbers are 151,450. These are sons of Jacob from Lear and her handmaid Zelpha. Their banner is reddish in colour with the emblem of a man. To the west the third regiment of the tribes Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin. Their total numbers are 108,100 and their banner is again a reddish colour with the emblem of a bull. Benjamin is Jacob's youngest son from his wife Rachael. The eldest son from Rachael is Joseph but he is not mentioned as a tribe; instead his house is divided into two tribes from his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. If you remember from a talk a few weeks ago, we saw that the tribes of Symeon and Levi were cursed by Jacob when he blessed each of his sons on his deathbed because they slaughtered the people of Shechem in revenge for the deflowering of their sister Dina, after a treaty of friendship was agreed upon by the two nations. When they reach Canaan every tribe is allocated a territory for its people, but the tribe of Symeon doesn't receive its own land but is allocated an area within the territory of the tribe of Judas. But even without its own land, the tribe of Symeon remains intact. On the other hand the tribe of Levi, which also doesn't receive its own land, is divided and scattered among the other tribes to perform the priestly duties. Thus to make up the twelve tribes the house of Joseph is divided into two and becomes known as Ephraim and Manasseh.
The tribes Dan, Asher and Naphtalim make up the fourth regiment to the north side of the tabernacle and number 157.600. Dan and Naphtalim were sons of Jacob from Rachael's handmaid Balla and Asher from Lear's handmaid Zepha. Their banner is sapphire blue with the emblem of an eagle.
We have seen these four figures before in our study of the Book of Revelation. When John saw the vision of heaven, he saw four angelic beasts each with six wings round about the throne of God. The first angel had the face of a lion, the second the face of a calf, the third a man and the fourth an eagle. In Christian art these creatures symbolize the four Gospels and the Evangelists that wrote them. The symbol of the lion belongs to Mark, the man belongs to Matthew, the calf to Luke and the eagle to John.
As we saw, the tribe of Levi were not counted in the army poll as their roll was to serve God and Israel as the servants and protectors of the tabernacle. But now God tells Moses and Aaron to make a count of all the sons of Levi from a month old and upwards. The tribe of Levi is the smallest of the tribes and the count came to 22,000.
To explain why God asked for a count of the sons of Levi, we have to return to the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. After the tenth plague against Egypt where all the firstborn of Egypt died, God told Israel that because he slew every firstborn in the land of Egypt, every firstborn of Israel had to be offered in sacrifice to him as a ransom to always remind them of what lengths he went to secure their freedom. Of course God didn't expect them to kill and offer their children on the sacrificial altar, he offered them an alternative to pay a money ransom of 5 shekels for each firstborn. 5 shekels was 55.5 grams of silver. Now God tells Moses that the Levites are the ransom for the firstborn of Israel and so they belong to him. But God wants an exact payment to be made so now he tells Moses and Aaron to make a count of all the firstborn of Israel and these came to 22,273. The number comes to 273 more than the Levites so they must make up the difference in shekels of silver. This comes to 1365 shekels of silver or 15k 151.5 grams of silver. We are not told who will be burdened to pay the ransom for the 273; the Jewish rabbis believe that they did the fairest thing and cast lots.
As the tribe that belonged to God for the ransom of the firstborn, the Levites are assigned to the charge of Aaron. They are divided into three groups according to the sons of Levi - Gershon, Kaath, and Merari and each group is assigned its duties to the tabernacle. From these three Levite families only those aged twenty five to fifty were allowed to perform the duties of the tabernacle. The family of Gershon number 7,500 and are to pitch their tents to the west of the tabernacle. Of these only 2,630 were eligible for work. Their duties were to take care of the tent and coverings, the veils and curtains. The family of Kaath number 8,600 and are to pitch their tents to the south. Of these only 2,750 were eligible for work and their duties are the charge of the ark, the table, the candlestick, the altars and all the vessels of the sanctuary. When on the move they were not allowed to directly see or touch the ark or any of the other items. Aaron and his sons would first go in and put the carrying staves for the ark and table and cover everything and the veils and other cloths and skins. Then the Kaath family members would go in and take up the items.
The family of Merari numbered 6,050 and were to pitch their tents to the north. Of these 3200 were eligible for work and their duties were the framework of the tabernacle, the pillars, bars, sockets and cords and the pillars of the court with their bases, pins and cords.
With the army ready and the Levites ready to take charge of the tabernacle the Israelites are ready at whatever moment God gives the signal to resume their journey towards the Promised Land. All these details of the census and preparation take up the first four chapters of Numbers. The next few chapters deal with certain laws on the cleanliness and moral conduct of the army, laws on jealous husbands and wives, the inauguration of the tabernacle and the gifts offered to the tabernacle by the princes of Israel and the celebration of the second Passover.
In Chapter ten God tells Moses to make two silver trumpets. These are necessary to give the signal for the calling of the assembly and the signal to begin the move. If only one trumpet was sounded then that was the signal for only the princes and leaders to assemble, Then with a special sound of the trumpet the first to go forward will be the camp on the east, these being the tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zabulon. With the second sound the tribes on the south will follow; with the third trumpet sound the tribes on the west and with the fourth sound the tribes on the north. The same trumpets were to be used also for war signals and sounding feasts, announcing the new moon and at sacrifices of whole burnt offerings.
So in the second year in the second month on the twentieth day of the month the cloud that was over the tabernacle lifted giving the signal for the Israelites to continue their journey towards the Promised Land. The first camp to the east of the tabernacle set forward. Behind these went the Levi tribe Gershon who carried the tents and curtains of the tabernacle and behind them the other Levi tribe Merari who carried the framework of the tabernacle, the pillars, bars, sockets and cords. The reason for the bearers of the tabernacle to go after the first army regiment was that when they reach their next stop they would have enough time to set up the tabernacle to be ready to receive the ark and other furniture and vessels that would follow after the second army regiment.
With the other army regiments also on the move they headed for the Wilderness of Paran. They would travel during the day and rest at night. After a three day journey the people began to grumble and complain against the Lord. This was a people that quickly forgot the great things they had seen from God. Their faith in him was superficial and deep down they only believed in him if it was to their advantage. Many times we hear of people saying that if they see a sign from God they would believe. The Jews had miracle after miracle and spectacular wonders that we can't even imagine, but still they didn't believe with their heart. I can't help but wonder that if today we had such miracles would the world believe with their whole heart or would their faith in God be shallow like the Hebrews? God is patient and longsuffering, but how long can he hold back his anger? Only after three days of travelling the people begin to murmur sinfully against the Lord, probably because of the difficult and tiring conditions. The Lord heard their murmuring and was exceedingly angry with them that he sent a fire and devoured part of the camp. We are not told how many people died in the fire, but through Moses' intervention the Lord stopped the destruction of his supposedly chosen people. The place was given the name "Burning" because the Lord's fire was kindled against them.
This event should have brought them to their senses, but immediately following this again the people murmured and complained. The mix company that was with them, in other words the Egyptians that came with them from Egypt complained about the lack of choice in their diet. This stirred up the Israelites and together they wept and said: "we remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers also, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic, but now all we have is manna." Eating manna everyday for over a year they were sick at the sight of it. The mention of leeks, onions and garlic serves to stress the ingratitude of the Israelites. They had this wonderful food from heaven, which tasted like wafers of honey and nourished them completely, yet they despitefully look down upon it in favour of onions and garlic.
The Lord was again angry with them for their ingratitude. Moses also hearing their weeping, considered their ingratitude as evil and for the first time he complains to God for burdening him with this offensive nation: "Why have you afflicted me, why have I not found grace in thy sight that you should lay the onslaught of this people upon me? Have I given birth to them that you should say to me to take them into my bosom as a nurse would take her suckling, into the land which you promised to their fathers? Where can I find meat to give unto all this people for they weep unto me, give us flesh that we may eat? I cannot bear this people alone because it is too heavy a burden for me. It is better if you kill me so that I don't have to see what I have to suffer." Moses has come to the end of his tether and wants to be loosed from his responsibility of leadership of this unruly people.

In response to Moses' complaint, God tells him to gather seventy men of the elders of Israel and the scribes and to bring them to the tabernacle. There he will give them of the same spirit that he has given Moses, but not equal, and they will bear and share the responsibility and the onslaught of the people together. Tomorrow he will deal with the complaint of the people for the lack of meat in their diet and for saying that all was well with us in Egypt. He will send them meat to eat not for one day but for a full month until it comes out of their nostrils and they become sick with it. Moses seems surprised at what the Lord has said. There are six hundred thousand footmen without their families, where will so much meat come from to feed them for a whole month; even if they slain all the sheep and oxen it might not be enough or if all the fish in the sea were to be gathered for them it would still not be enough. Moses is not showing disbelief, but rather astonishment at the greatness of the word of God. Something similar happened with the apostles before the miracle of the five loves and two fish which multiplied and fed thousands.
A wind from the Lord brought quails over from the sea and brought then down upon the camp. There was so many that they covered the land a day's journey on the one side and a day's journey on the other side and stacked up a metre high. The people gathered them all day and all night and their greed was so great that each person gathered thousands. Of course they could not eat them all at once and sun dried them to eat later. But the Lord was wroth with the people and while the meat was still in between their teeth he sent upon them a great plague that killed many of them. Thus the place was called the Graves of Lust because there they buried the people that lusted. From here they continued their journey and stopped at Hazeroth.
Here we told of an occasion when Moses' brother Aaron and sister Miriam speak against him because he had taken an Ethiopian woman. Some people believe that this was a second wife whom he took after his wife Zipporah had left him and returned to her father's house. It is though very unlikely that Moses would have taken another wife after he had taken on the leadership of the people and certainly not a woman that was not an Israelite. It would seem that the Ethiopian woman is his wife Zipporah whose family roots could have originated from Ethiopia and then settled in Midian.
Aaron and Miriam thought they had the right to speak against Moses' marriage because they also were prophets and that the Lord spoke to them also and not only exclusively to Moses. It would seem thou that behind their slander was jealousy for Moses' spiritual standing. God tells them to come to the tabernacle and there he came down in a pillar of cloud and reprimands them saying that if they are prophets they are different from Moses because to them he speaks through visions and dreams, but with Moses he speaks mouth to mouth and he has seen the glory of the Lord. To punish them God makes Miriam a leper. Aaron beseeches Moses to pray for her and to forgive them for their sin against him. Moses cries to the Lord and God commands that Miriam is to remain outside the camp for seven days. We are not told directly if Miriam was cured of the leprosy but it would seem she was because the law states that a cured leper was to remain outside the camp for seven days and then is pronounced clean again. Even though both Aaron and Miriam were guilty of slandering Moses only Miriam was punished. It would seem that Aaron escaped punishment because of his position as high priest. Once Miriam was officially cured the Israelites set off from Hazeroth and pitched their tents in the wilderness of Paran.