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Not mindful of the punishment by fire, Israel still did not mend their ways, but soon again began to murmur against God. As so often before, it was again the mixed multitude that rebelled against God and Moses, saying: "Who shall give up flesh to eat? We remember the fish that we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna before our eyes." But all this murmuring and these complaints were only a pretext to sever themselves from God, for first of all, they actually possessed many herds and much cattle, enough plentifully to satisfy their lusting after flesh if they had really felt it; and manna, furthermore, had the flavor of every conceivable kind of food, so all they had to do while eating it was to wish for a certain dish and they instantly perceived in manna the taste of the desired food. It is true that manna never gave them the flavor of the five vegetables they mentioned, but they should have been grateful to God for sparing them the taste of these vegetables injurious to health. Here they showed their perversity in being dissatisfied with measures for which they should have been grateful to God. Manna displeased them because it did not contain the flavor injurious to health, and they also objected to it because it remained in their bodies, wherefore they said: "The manna will swell in our stomachs, for can there be a human being that takes food without excreting it!" God had, as a special mark of distinction, given them this food of the angels, which is completely dissolved in the body, and of which they could always partake without injury to their health. It is a clear proof of the excellent taste of manna that a later time, when the last manna fell on the day of Moses' death, they ate of it for forty days, and would not make use of other food until the manna had been exhausted to the last grain, clearly showing that the taking of any different food was disagreeable. But while manna was at hand in abundance, they complained about seeing before them, morning and evening, no other food than manna. [468]

The true state of affairs was that they had a lurking dissatisfaction with the yoke of the law. It is certain that they had not had in Egypt better food for which they now longed, for their taskmasters, far from giving them dainties, gave them not even straw for making bricks. But in Egypt they had lived undisturbed by laws, and it was this unrestrained life that they desired back. Especially hard for them were the new laws on marriage, for in Egypt they had been accustomed to marry those closely related by blood, from whom they were now obliged to separate. They now trooped together in families, and awaiting the moment when Moses, about to leave the house of study, would have to pass them, they began to murmur publicly, [469] accusing him of being to blame for all the sufferings they had been obliged to bear. Upon his advice, they said, had they abandoned a most fruitful land, and instead of enjoying the great fortune promised to them, they were now wandering about in misery, suffering thirst from lack of water, and were apprehensive of dying of starvation in case the supply of manna should cease. When these and similar abuses were uttered against Moses, one out of the people stepped forth and exhorted them not so soon to forget the many benefactions they had known from Moses, and not to despair of God's aid and support. But the multitude upon this became even more excited, and raged and shouted more violently than ever against Moses. [470] This conduct of Israel called forth God's wrath, but Moses, instead of interceding for the people, began to complain of their treatment of him, and announced to God that he could not now execute the commission he had undertaken in Egypt, namely, to lead Israel in spite of all reverses, until he had reached the promised land. He now begged God to relieve him of the leadership of the people in some way, and at the same time to stand by him in his present predicament, that he might satisfy the people's desire for flesh. [471]

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