Grumbling (or murmuring)



The story of the people of Israel during their journey from Egypt to the promised land is studded with grumblings (or murmurings) against God and against Moses and Aaron.

At the waters of Marah, since the waters were bitter, the Israelites “murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15:24).

In the wilderness of Sin “the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:2-3).

At Rephidim the children of Israel murmured against Moses, as it is written: “And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD? And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” (Exodus 17:1-3).

At Taberah it came to pass that “when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1).

At Kibroth Hattaavah “the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes” (Numbers 11:4-6).

At Kadesh, after ten of the twelve spies gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, “all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Numbers 14:1-4).

On another occasion the Israelites murmured because they did not have any food and water and their soul loathed the bread God gave to them (called Manna) and for this reason God sent fiery serpents among them, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died (Numbers 21:4-6).

All these things happened to them as examples, for Paul says: “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10). James confirms that we must not murmur, saying: “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9 - NKJV). Therefore, we must not grumble against God nor against our brothers, beloved, lest we be punished by God. On the contrary, we must be patient in the midst of our sufferings (James 5:7), as James says, and we must take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience (James 5:10), as well as Job who was patient in the midst of his trials (James 5:11).