So the people of Israel are in the wilderness and they start grumbling. God hears them and gets angry. Moses soothes God, and God calms down.
But the crowd starts crying and complaining: “Who will give us meat to eat? Remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the scallions, the onions and the garlic!” All we have is manna.
Well, God gets angry again. And this time, Moses has had it. “Why have you placed the burden of this entire people on me?” he says to God. Where am I going to get meat for everyone? This is just too much. You might as well kill me.
So God tells Moses to get seventy men from the elders of the people and God will make them prophets too, so they can share Moses’ burden.
Then God “extends some of the rushing-spirit that is upon him” and, while this spirit is on the seventy elders (temporarily), they “act like prophets.” God tells these men to say to the people: You want meat? I’ll give you meat, until it comes out of your nose! And he sends flocks of quail in a rushing wind that sweeps them from the sea. The quail spread out all over the camp!
Everyone goes and gathers the quail – and the meat poisons people!
Next, Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses. They say they’re criticizing him because he took a Cushite wife. (And Moses was over 80 at the time!)
But the real reason is they’re jealous because God speaks only through him. “Is it only, solely through Moses that God speaks? Is it not also through us?”
God comes down in a column of clouds and stands at the entrance to the Ohel Moed, where Moses, Aaron and Miriam are.
Listen, says God. There are prophets and there are prophets. Some prophets I speak to in visions or dreams. But not Moses. “Mouth to mouth I speak with him, in plain sight, not in riddles.”
So God gets angry at Miriam and Aaron and gives Miriam the skin disease, tzaraat (see Tazria – what about skin disease? for more info about this disease.)
Moses asks God to spare Miriam, and God says alright, after seven days. So Miriam is shut up for a week.
Food for Thought
Moses had a tough job. How would you have liked to be in his shoes?