The people despise Yahweh's blessing of Manna
1 And when the people complained, it displeased Yahweh: and Yahweh heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire [Eish] of Yahweh burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp [at the edge of the machaneh].
Habitual complainers ...lack of vision -
Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.1 Cor. 10: 10
"And consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp"
- The words "them that were" are in italics, indicating that the words are not found in the original... Eliminate them, and the statement reads that the fire consumed in, or to, the uttermost parts of the camp. It swept through the tents of the people, destroying as it did so, until a trail of blackened tents spread to the uttermost confines of the camp.
The statement does not necessarily mean that people were destroyed by the fire, but rather (with thewords in italics eliminated) their tents. ...There had been complaining before which was not so severly punished...Exod. 14:11-15;15:24-26; 16:2-4,9,20,27-28; 17:2-4), but
now that the people had entered into covenant relationship with Yahweh, entailed
greater responsibility to obey.
The Numbers Expositor
16 And Yahweh said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
17 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.
It should be noted that this is a completely different incident and arrangement from the appointment of captains of thousands, hundreds and tens to judge the people, though both are similar complaints by Moses.
God promised an abundance of meat for a whole month, so that it would surfeit and nauseate them. Even Moses was incredulous, and questioned how it could possibly be done. This gives us an insight into Moses - a man of great faith and dedication, but still struggling with the natural limitations of the flesh.
We must learn, we must believe - that with God all things are possible. Moses was rebuked, but not punished. There is a difference between a struggling faith and a rebellious unbelief.
God gave Israel the meat they cried for, to manifest His power, but He also smote them with a very great plague. And they called the place Kibroth-hattaavah - the graves of lust - summing up the whole natural history of mankind, that toward which all fleshly things tend - the graves of lust.