20 May 2013

Numbers 11:24-30

"Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, ‘My lord Moses, stop them!’ But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!’" (vv. 26-29)


There were 70 chosen ones selected by Moses. They were carefully stationed near to the sacred tent of meeting. The Spirit of God descended on the seventy and they received the gift to 'prophesy' to speak God's message to the rest of the community.

Then 'horror of horrors' the Spirit of God descends beyond the boundary of the sacred tent and beyond the boundary of the seventy chosen ones. Two outsiders, not of the chosen seventy, receive the gift of prophecy. Someone was bound to object! And someone did! Moses, in his wisdom, forbids any interference and welcomes the new factor, 'If only all of the Lord's people were prophets and received the Spirit'.

To Ponder

  • The surprise tactics of the Holy Spirit have a habit of re-emerging throughout biblical and Church history.
  • The first Jewish Christians had to cope with the Spirit descending on outsiders - on those who were not the chosen ones - the Gentile believers.
  • At different times in history the established Church of the day had to cope with the surprise tactics of the Spirit - Franciscans, Quakers, Methodists and Salvationists.
  • Where do we see the surprise tactics of the Holy Spirit today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Prebendary Norman Wallwork

Norman Wallwork is a supernumerary Methodist minister and a retail chaplain in central Exeter. He is also a prebendary or canon of Wells Cathedral.