top of page

ELDAD AND MEDAD

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

They did not need to go anywhere to receive the spirit of prophecy; they already had it in their hearts. They prophesied in the camp, among the people, to instruct them and to comfort them with the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey.

By Bing AI

The Torah tells us about the mysterious episode of Eldad and Medad, who prophesied in the camp, while the other 70 elders went to the tent of meeting. Who were these two men, and what was their message?


One way to approach these questions is to connect them to the theme of the land flowing with milk and honey, which was mentioned earlier in this parsha, when the spies were sent to explore the land of Canaan. The land flowing with milk and honey represents the nurturing and compassionate aspect of G-d, who provides for His people like a mother feeds her child.

This can be seen from the verse in Exodus 3:8, where G-d says: וָאֵרֵד לְהַצִּילוֹ מִיַּד מִצְרַיִם וּלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ מִן הָאָרֶץ הַהִוא אֶל אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה וּרְחָבָה אֶל אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ - And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of Egypt, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. The word וארד - and I have come down - implies that G-d lowered Himself, as it were, to empathize with the suffering of His people, and to rescue them from their bondage. The word וארד also has the same numerical value as dad - 14 - hinting at the connection between G-d's love and the land flowing with milk and honey.


Eldad and Medad were also sons of love, who loved G-d and His Torah, and who were loved by G-d and His people. They did not seek honor or authority, but rather humbled themselves and remained in the camp. They did not need to go to the tent of meeting to receive the spirit of prophecy, for they already had it in their hearts. They prophesied in the camp, among the people, to instruct them and to comfort them. They were like breasts (dudim) that gave milk to the thirsty souls of Israel. This is what Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes in his commentary on Numbers 11:26:

שמשון רפאל הירש על במדבר יא:כו

ואלדד ומידד נבאו במחנה. שני אלה היו בני אהבה, שאהבו את ה' ואת תורתו, ואהובים היו לפני ה' ולפני עמו. לא בקשו כבוד או שררה, אלא השפילו את עצמם ונשארו במחנה. לא היו צריכים ללכת לאהל מועד לקבל את רוח הנבואה, כי כבר היתה בלבם. הם התנבאו במחנה, בין העם, להורות להם ולנחמם. הם היו כדדים שנתנו חלב לנפשות הצמאות של ישראל.

And Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp. These two were sons of love, who loved G-d and His Torah, and who were loved by G-d and His people. They did not seek honor or authority, but rather humbled themselves and remained in the camp. They did not need to go to the tent of meeting to receive the spirit of prophecy, for they already had it in their hearts. They prophesied in the camp, among the people, to instruct them and to comfort them. They were like breasts (dudim) that gave milk to the thirsty souls of Israel.


What did they prophesy? The commentary of Yonatan ben Uziel tells us that each one shared a separate prophecy. Eldad shared the prophecy that Moses would die and Joshua would lead the nation to the Holy Land, whereas Medad said that the quail would arise and overtake the Jewish camp and cause havoc, as we indeed read later on in the chapter. They both prophesied together regarding the war of Gog and Magog and the End of Days. This is what he writes in his translation of Numbers 11:26:

יונתן בן עוזיאל על במדבר יא:כו

וְאֶלְדָּד וּמֵידָד נִבְאוּ בַמַּחֲנֶה וְאֶלְדָּד אָמַר משׁה מת ויהושׁע מכניס את ישׂראל לארץ ומידד אמר עוף יעלה מן הים ויתן במחנה שׁלשׁה ימים ושׁלשׁה לילות ויהיו העם אוכלים עוף עד שׁיוצא מאפיהם ועוף בשׁני אוזניהם

And Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, and Eldad said: Moses will die and Joshua will bring Israel into the land, and Medad said: Birds will rise from the sea and be given to the camp for three days and three nights, and the people will eat birds until they come out of their noses and birds in their two ears.


How can we understand these prophecies? They seem to be negative and pessimistic, announcing the death of Moses, the plague of quail, and the war of Gog and Magog. How are they related to the land flowing with milk and honey, and to the love of G-d and His people?


One way to explain them is to see them as messages of hope and consolation, rather than doom and gloom. They were telling the people that even though they would face many challenges and hardships in their journey to the land, G-d would not abandon them or forsake them. He would always be with them, guiding them, protecting them, and providing for them. He would also fulfill His promise to bring them to the land flowing with milk and honey, where they would enjoy His blessings and His presence. They were also preparing them for the future events that would take place in the land, such as the leadership of Joshua, the conquest of Canaan, the establishment of the monarchy, the exile and return, and ultimately, the final redemption. They were giving them a glimpse of G-d's plan for history, which is based on His love for His people and His desire for their good.


This is also how we can understand why Joshua was upset by their prophecy, and why Moses was not. Joshua was zealous for Moses' honor, and he could not bear to hear that he would die and be replaced by him. He also feared that their prophecy would undermine Moses' authority and cause dissension among the people. He wanted to imprison them or silence them, as he thought they were false prophets or rebels. Moses, on the other hand, was humble and selfless. He did not care about his own honor or position, but only about G-d's will and glory. He recognized that Eldad and Medad were true prophets who spoke by G-d's spirit. He also rejoiced that G-d had bestowed His spirit upon more people than he had expected. He wished that all G-d's people were prophets, that G-d would bestow His spirit upon them. He saw Eldad and Medad as his allies and partners in leading and teaching Israel.


This is what Rashi writes in his commentary on Numbers 11:26:

רש"י על במדבר יא:כו

וישארו שני אנשים במחנה. לא היו שני אלו מחוסרי המדות, אלא שהיו מתענבים בעצמן, אמרו לא ראויין אנו להתעלות בשררה, לפיכך לא הלכו לאהל מועד. ולמה נתנבאו במחנה? לפי שהיו רוח הקודש שורה עליהם משעת כתיבתן, ולא היו יודעים שיהיו בהם נבואה, וכשבא הרוח התחילו מתוך דבורם לדבר בנבואה. ומה היו מתנבאים? אלדד אמר משה מת ויהושע מכניס את ישראל לארץ, ומידד אמר שלשת אלפים אנשים מתים בעוף

And two men remained in the camp. These two were not lacking in qualities, but they were humbling themselves. They said: We are not worthy to be exalted in authority, therefore they did not go to the tent of meeting. And why did they prophesy in the camp? Because the holy spirit rested upon them from the time of their writing, and they did not know that there would be prophecy in them, and when the spirit came they began from their speech to speak with prophecy. And what were they prophesying? Eldad said: Moses will die and Joshua will bring Israel into the land, and Medad said: Three thousand men will die from the quail. In conclusion, we have seen how Eldad and Medad were related to the land flowing with milk and honey, both literally and figuratively. They were sons of love, who loved G-d and His Torah, and who were loved by G-d and His people. They were like breasts (dudim) that gave milk to the thirsty souls of Israel. They prophesied about the future events that would take place in the land flowing with milk and honey, where G-d would show His love and care for His people. They also had a connection to Joseph, who was associated with the land flowing with milk and honey, and to Moses, who was their half-brother and leader, and who was also associated with the land flowing with milk and honey. Thus, we can appreciate the role and significance of Eldad and Medad in this parsha, and how they teach us about G-d's love and His plan for His people. May we merit to see the fulfillment of their prophecies, and to enter the land flowing with milk and honey, speedily in our days. Amen.

3 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All

Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page