From Eternity Past


Chapter 33—The Terrible Murmurings of God's People

This chapter is based on Numbers 10 to 12.

The government of Israel was characterized by thorough organization, wonderful for its completeness and simplicity. God was the center of government, the sovereign of Israel. Moses stood as leader to administer the law in His name. A council of seventy was afterward chosen to assist Moses in the general affairs of the nation. Next came the priests, who consulted the Lord in the sanctuary. Chiefs, or princes, ruled over the tribes. Under these were “captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens.” Deuteronomy 1:15. EP 262.1

The Hebrew camp was separated into three great divisions. In the center was the tabernacle, the abiding place of the invisible King. Around it were stationed the priests and Levites. Beyond these were encamped all the other tribes. EP 262.2

The position of each tribe was specified. Each was to march and to encamp beside its own standard, as the Lord had commanded. Numbers 2:2, 17. The mixed multitude that had accompanied Israel from Egypt were to abide upon the outskirts of the camp, and their offspring were to be excluded from the community until the third generation. Deuteronomy 23:7, 8. EP 262.3

Strict order and thorough sanitary regulations were enforced, measures indispensable to the preservation of health among so vast a multitude. It was necessary also that perfect order and purity be maintained. God declared: “The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy.” Deuteronomy 23:14. EP 262.4

In all the journeyings of Israel, “the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them, ... to search out a resting place for them.” Priests bearing silver trumpets were stationed near. These priests received directions from Moses, which they communicated to the people by the trumpets. It was the duty of the leaders of each company to give definite directions concerning all the movements to be made, as indicated by the trumpets. EP 263.1

God is a God of order. Everything connected with heaven is in perfect order; thorough discipline marks the movements of the angelic host. Success can attend order and harmonious action now no less than in the days of Israel. EP 263.2

God Himself directed the Israelites in their travels. The place of their encampment was indicated by the descent of the pillar of cloud; and so long as they were to remain in camp, the cloud rested over the tabernacle. When they were to continue their journey, it was lifted high above the sacred tent. EP 263.3

Only eleven days’ journey lay between Sinai and Kadesh, on the borders of Canaan. With the prospect of speedily entering the land, the hosts of Israel resumed their march when the cloud gave the signal. What blessings might they not expect, now that they had formally been acknowledged as the chosen people of the Most High? EP 263.4

With reluctance many left the place where they had encamped. The scene was so closely associated with the presence of God and holy angels that it seemed too sacred to be left thoughtlessly, or even gladly. At the signal from the trumpeters, however, all eyes were turned anxiously to see in what direction the cloud would lead. As it moved toward the east, where were only mountain masses huddled together, black and desolate, a feeling of sadness and doubt arose in many hearts. EP 263.5

As they advanced, the way became more difficult. Their route lay through stony ravine and barren waste, “a land of deserts and of pits,” “a land of drought and of the shadow of death,” “a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt.” Jeremiah 2:6. Their progress was slow and toilsome, and the multitudes were not prepared to endure the perils and discomforts of the way. EP 264.1