patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Saturday, November 12, 2011

please go ahead and kill me

Kris commented at the breakfast table this morning, apropos of nothing, that it was surprising that the Bible didn’t contain that story, common in myths, in which someone prays for—and gets—something that turns out to be a curse, not a blessing.

“You know, like Midas’ touch turning everything, and eventually Midas himself, to gold. That sort of thing happens a lot in myths.”

I thought immediately of how I hated being told to “be careful what I pray for” by fellow believers and wondered where in scripture, if anywhere, this enthusiasm-dampening sentiment might have come from.

“What about the Israelites in the desert telling Moses, ‘We’re sick of this manna! We want meat!’”? I asked Kris. “So God made quail rain from the sky, so many quail that they couldn’t eat it all and were buried in rotten, stinking meat.”

And we talked about how that story functioned in about the same way.

Later, I looked up the story of the quail—found in Exodus 16 and Numbers 11—and found it better than most myths I’ve read. Listen to Moses’ spectacular complaint about the job God has given him:
“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” (Numbers 11: 11-15 TNIV)
Wow! And God’s response is even better. As Moses it to the Israelites,
“The Lord heard you when you wailed, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!’ Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” (Numbers 11:18-20)
The story is also interesting in its instruction. The Israelites’ error is not so much praying for the wrong thing or praying injudiciously as it is rejecting the Lord, who, Moses reminds them, is among them.


  1. It's probably a misquoting of "Be careful what you wish for," which is the point of a lot of fables, isn't it?