Was Israel destroyed for Gluttony or Lust?

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The following is number 2 in Dirk Anderson’s list of contradictions between Ellen G. Whites writings and the bible:

Ellen White:

“God granted their desire, giving them flesh, and leaving them to eat till their gluttony produced a plague.” –Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 148

The Bible:

“But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.” –Numbers 11:33

His comments:

NOTE: The plague fell before the people could even eat the food. The people were punished for coveting, not gluttony. Coveting is a craving for something forbidden by God. Gluttony is habitual over-eating. Coveting and gluttony are two very different sins. Gluttony is never mentioned in Numbers 11:33-34. The Bible is clear the people died for the sin of craving. They never had a chance to be gluttons because they died while the food was still in their mouth, as the New King James Version says, “before it was chewed.” The Israelites had violated the 10th commandment which forbids man from coveting that which is unlawful for him to have. Because craving or coveting is forbidden by God’s covenant with Israel, God could execute capital punishment upon the lawbreakers. On the contrary, gluttony is not explicitly forbidden in God’s covenant with Israel. So why would God punish people with death for a sin which was not forbidden in His covenant with Israel? God punishes people according to the degree of their sin. If the Israelites’ sin was a violation of God’s covenant with Israel (the 10 commandments) then God was justified in delivering the appropriate punishment for that violation–death in this case. However, gluttony was not a violation of the 10 commandments, and nowhere in the Bible do we find over-eating being punished by death.”

Our Response:

We agree with Mr. Anderson that “coveting” was indeed one of the sins the Israelites committed that day. We disagree, however, that coveting was the only sin. Please notice with us the following verses within this same chapter:

Numbers 11:18-20
(18) And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.
(19) Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;
(20) But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?

Notice the prophecy given. He will give them the flesh they desired, and they shall eat it… “until it come out of your nostrils.” Is this not gluttony? This prophecy was confirmed by a “thus saith the Lord.” Verse 23:

Numbers 11:23
(23) And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.

Mr. Anderson read only verses 32 through 34, and made heavy reference to the parts that speak about the food still within their teeth when they were consumed. Yet, couldn’t the food “yet within their teeth” be so “after” that whole month of gluttony? Yes Mr. Anderson, they did not yet swallow the food “that day” or more reasonably “at that moment.” But prior to that day, they spent the “whole month” eating so much that the food became “loathsome” to them. Still skeptical? Even David tells us they ate the meat until they were “well filled:”

Psalm 78:26-31
(26) He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.
(27) He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:
(28) And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.
(29) So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;
(30) They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths,
(31) The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.

Our critic makes the following comment:

Coveting is a craving for something forbidden by God. Gluttony is habitual over-eating. Coveting and gluttony are two very different sins.

What? Dont you have to covet some food so much that you will over-eat it? Why commit gluttony? Is it not because you “desire” and “lust” after food which has already filled you up? How can one just “mistakenly” over-eat? Does he not “feel” in his tummy that he is full? Obviously, to over eat, he has to lust and desire that food so much so that he will sacrifice his health in order to eat some more.

We are also glad he mentions that gluttony is a “sin.” He goes on to speak of how it is not specifically mentioned in the Decalogue… yet admits it is a sin. Perhaps Mr. Anderson forgot our most famous verse:

“…sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4.

If gluttony truly is a sin, and we know it is (Numbers 11:20, 33, Proverbs 23:20, 21) then that means being a glutton violates God’s Ten Commandment law. And this was already shown above. One must “lust” (violate the tenth commandment) in order to over-eat. The bible teaches that when we break one law, we break them all (James 2:10). Therefore, to commit gluttony means to break the Ten Commandments. Also, the bible teaches that our bodies are the temple of “the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16). What will happen to that person who mistreats his temple, with, perhaps, the sin of gluttony? Paul concludes:

1Corinthians 3:17
(17) If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

So, even if they are different (and we still disagree that they are) whats really the difference? They’ll both lead to the same result… for sin, “is the transgression of the law.”


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About The Author

Edwin Cotto

With over 13 years of experience in apologetics, evangelism and youth directing, Edwin has worked with various ministries both in English and Spanish. Having had the opportunity to travel to various states in the USA, and also to Venezuela and Mexico, he has enjoyed the privilege of conducting evangelistic meetings and apologetics seminars. His education includes training in the Medical Field, Adult Education at Valencia College, Biblical Hebrew with the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, and Evangelism with Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. He is furthering his academic studies in theology while also working as a bible worker for the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Ordained as an elder, Edwin's passion for ministry begins first at home with his wife and kids.

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