So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers?’” Numbers 11:11-12 NASB
Nurse – It happens to the best of us. There comes a point where we just can’t put up with the obstinacy, stupidity or rebelliousness of others. Oh, we might still “love” them, but truthfully, we’ve had enough. We wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them walk off the end of the earth (maybe). I mean, how long do we have to put up with this? (You might recall that Yeshua said much the same thing about His own disciples.) That day came for Moses too, and how Moses speaks to YHWH about his feelings is very helpful for all of us when we arrive at the end of the line.
Notice a few of the opening feelings. Moses begins with his frustration. “Lord, why are You being so hard on me?” How often have you voiced the same complaint? Why do I have to carry these idiots? What made me their Good Samaritan? Lord, don’t You realize how exhausting this is for me? Why don’t I get a vacation? Moses’ fulfillment of the second great commandment is of no concern at this moment. The neighbor can go fend for himself! We rationalize this with the convenient psychological excuse that we need to take care of ourselves if we are going to be any good for someone else.
In Hebrew, the phrase “this people” is quite derisive. These burdensome, stiff-necked ex-slaves are not my people. They are someone else’s people, in this case, God’s people. I am not one of them anymore. I’ve had it! When did you reach that point where you drew a line in the sand and stepped on the other side? Was it when they didn’t agree with you? Was it when they insulted you or ignored you or asked for one too many favors? When did your life become a display of us and them? Moses draws the line. He is the righteous one. They are the sinful ones. Certainly God sees that!
“Did I conceive all these?” is an expression of contempt of lineage. “Look, Lord. These are Your people, not mine. I was pretty happy on the back side of the wilderness with all those sheep. They followed me. But not these. Oh, no! These are Your people, God, so You will have to be responsible for them now. I’ve done my part.” Sound familiar?
And now we come to our linguistic investigation. Moses recalls God’s commandment. It is saehu veheqeka ka’asher yisa haomen (“Carry them in your bosom like a nurse”). But it doesn’t quite say that. The word omen is a masculine noun derived from the verbal root ‘mn. So the underlying Hebrew meaning can’t be a female nurse. Rambam suggests “guardian” rather than nurse. Some English translations replace “nurse” with “foster father.” But all of this glosses the deeper insight. The root ‘mn is the basis of Hebrew ideas like faithfulness, fidelity, steadfastness, nourishment, support and truth. You would recognize the same root in the word amen. The haomen is someone who behaves in ways that express God’s unwavering love and concern for His creation, Man. Moses isn’t being asked to act like a nurse or even a foster father. He is being asked to act like God! That’s what it means to carry the obstinate, the ignorant, the foolish, the rebellious. To act like God would act! No more, no less. When God asks us to carry the load for someone else, He is asking us to act in His place with His intentions in His way. Why would He do that? How could anyone be expected to do that?
Oh, that answer is easy. Because He did it for you.
Topical Index: nurse, foster father, haomen, ‘mn, faithfulness, Numbers 11:11-12