I might be just asking the obvious or maybe I'm just being unnecessarily nit-picky but which plague among the Israelites is Psalm 106:14-15 discussing about?

The surrounding scripture verses (Psalm 106:16-18) refer to discipling Korah, Dathan and Abiram due to their actions in Numbers 16:1-40. Based on the context of surrounding scripture verses (Psalm 106:16-18), it seems that Psalm 106:14-15 is discussing the events associated with Numbers 16:41-50 verses which is:

-Israelites grumbling due to the discipling of Korah, Dathan and Abiram

-and subsequent judgement & discipling from God in the form of the plague

Psalm 106:11-18

11 The waters covered their adversaries; Not one of them was left. 12 Then they believed His words; They sang His praise. 13 They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, 14 But craved intensely in the wilderness, And [n]tempted God in the desert. 15 So He gave them their request, But sent a [o]wasting disease among them. 16 When they became envious of Moses in the camp, And of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord, 17 The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, And engulfed the [p]company of Abiram. 18 And a fire blazed up in their [q]company; The flame consumed the wicked.

However, the Psalm 106:14-15 verses do Not seem to exactly correlate with Numbers 16:41-50 because

a) Psalm 106:14 mentions the Israelites' craving intensely which does Not seem to correlate with Numbers 16:41 which mentions the Israelites' grumbling against Moses and Aaron regarding the discipling Korah, Dathan and Abiram due to their actions

b) Psalm 106:15 mentions that God affirmatively responded to their request, but for the Numbers 16:41-50 case, there is No request from the Israelites for anything

Therefore, would it be correct to say that Psalm 106:14-15 is just a general overall quasi-collective summarization of Israelites numerous quarrels with God and His appointed leaders, Moses and Aaron as mentioned in Exodus Numbers, etc.?

Or Is Psalm 106:14-15 specifically referring to Numbers 16:41-50's mentioning the Israelites' grumbling against Moses and Aaron regarding the discipling Korah, Dathan and Abiram due to their actions, etc.?

2 Answers 2


Psalm 106 New International Version

14In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wilderness they put God to the test.
15So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

a wasting disease
Strong's 7332: Leanness, wasting, scantness

They craved food. God fed them. In opposition, God also made them sick and scrawny. It was specific and served as a contrast.

God did similarly in Isaiah 10:

16Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors;
under his pomp a fire will be kindled
like a blazing flame.

God punished the strong Assyrian warriors by making them scrawny.


KJV (or LEB) are better translations for the purpose of answering your question, because they do not try to medicalize the underlying MT:

רָזוֹן בְּנַפְשָׁם

rāzôn bənap̄šām

which just means "leanness in their [inner life/soul/life/throat]"

The word nefesh has a core concrete meaning of "throat/gullet" but in most situations the abstract meaning is intended, so it is translated as "inner life" or "life" and sometimes "soul". In the LXX it is translated as psyche.

Psalm 106:14–15 (KJV 1900)

But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; But sent leanness into their soul.

Psalm 106:14–15 (LEB)

And they ⌊craved intensely⌋ in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. So he gave to them their request, but he sent leanness into their souls.

One criticism of KJV and LEB is that in many cases where nefesh is translated as soul, it carries some metaphysical baggage -- e.g. the Hebrew nefesh need not be eternal or disembodied, and may be a reference to "inner self" instead. However there really isn't a better English word in many cases.

One could try to medicalize "leanness in the nefesh", but I would not advise translating the Bible this way as it requires playing doctor based on scant symptoms that are described in a book of poetry.

Bottom line, this could be purely a spiritual condition, a sense of lack and dissatisfaction represented as a hunger of the inner self, or it could be a throat problem.

I believe this is a reference to Numbers 11.4-6:

Numbers 11:4–6 (KJV 1900)

And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:

But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.

The bold clause in numbers is: נַפְשֵׁ֥נוּ יְבֵשָׁ֖ה

nap̄šēnû yəḇēšâ

which means "our nefesh is dry". Thus this could be interpreted as "our soul is dry" or it could be interpreted as "our throat is dry", but from the context - there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes - what they clearly mean is that they are sick of having nothing but manna in their throats. Thus they have a hunger for something new.

In either case, the "leanness" or "lack in the throat" is a reference to Numbers 11.6.

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