Problem: God miraculously provided quail for the people to eat. However, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against them, and He struck them with a great plague so that many of them died (v. 33). How could the wrath of God be aroused against the people for eating the very meat that He had miraculously provided?
Solution: It is necessary to see the judgment of God in light of events which led up to it. In Numbers 11:1–3, we find that the people of God began to complain. In fact, the text indicates that they were acting like people who had suffered some misfortune. Numbers 11:1 says, “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord.” This was a direct rejection of God’s provisions for them. They had apparently forgotten the bondage from which they had been rescued. This attitude displeased God, and He brought judgment upon them as a disciplinary act.
In verse 4, the people began to complain again because they wanted meat to eat instead of the manna which God was providing for them. They had apparently not learned the lesson, and their attitude displeased God again. In fact, verse 10 says, “Moses also was displeased.” God brought disciplinary judgment upon them again, this time by giving them exactly what they asked for. In response to their disobedient and ungrateful attitude, God told Moses to tell the people, “Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat … until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, `Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?’ ” (Num. 11:18–20)
Even after this warning they did not get the point. When God brought the quail, verse 32 says, “And the people stayed up all that day, all that night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail.” The lust and unrepentant attitude of the people brought the judgment of God upon them. Verse 34 states, “So He called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.” So, God did not bring judgment on the people for eating the quail, but because of their lustful and ungrateful hearts.