Numbers 11:1 Commentary

Num 11:1 And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
Num 11:2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down.

In this passage Israel is journeying through the wilderness. They begin complaining for an unspecified reason. Likely they are weary of traveling in such a harsh environment. At this point, over a year has elapsed since leaving Egypt (Num 9:5).

Like in many other verses, when God hears then God responds. The phrasing appears to be information coming to God and eliciting a reaction. This would be as opposed to eternal knowledge of these events. In this case, God responds in anger (the anger is kindled) and then God burns the outer camps.

The people then appeal to Moses, who has interceded on their behalf in the past. Moses prays and the fire stops. God has responded to prayer.

If God had eternal knowledge of all events, the scene plays oddly:
1. God eternally and intimately knows the people will complain.
2. God waits for the exact moment the complaints start (or crescendo).
3. For some reason, it is this very point and not before that God becomes angry.
4. God, knowing Moses will pray and abate the punishment, proceeds with punishment until after Moses prays.

Why does God only react after events occur? Does His knowledge change or does He gain better insight into the situation? And why doesn’t God take known future prayers into consideration? Why does the text, if it believes God has eternal knowledge of all future events, address this possibility?

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