In the Book of Numbers we read about Moses and the seventy elders of Israel gathering before the LORD, all of whom prophesied as a result of the Spirit:

Numbers 11:24-26: "So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again. But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the tent), and they prophesied in the camp*" (emphasis added).

Why do we not read of any admonition against Eldad and Medad, who stayed in the camp? Maybe we are to understand they were infirmed? Or was their presence perhaps optional?

  • You won't see it in the English, but the Hebrew differentiates between the 70 and the 2. The first word of Deut: 11:26 is "u-isharu"/ And-they-are-remaining two-of(-) mortals in-camp.... The two mortals never went 'tent-ward' when the Spirit was poured out on the 70 aish/men. Spirit also came to rest on these two mortals within the camp. Making 72 total, not 70, who were blessed. tblue May 27 at 13:12
    – tblue
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 4:04
  • @tblue That is the way I read it as well. I suspect that the Spirit being poured out on them also indicates they may have had some good reason to remain in the camp, and that Moses understood that (Num. 11:29).
    – Xeno
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 4:10
  • The two mortals/anashim weren't invited to the gathering of the 70 aish/men....Spirit chose to add the 2 to the blessing. That's the way I read it, thus far. :) No excuse needed.
    – tblue
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 4:39

3 Answers 3


Numbers 11:26

However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.

The "but" and "yet" showed that this was not the usual business. This event was bookended by two events. The first bookend was described in

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

God was proving a point here. Eldad and Medad did not show up at the tabernacle. Nevertheless, God could reach them.

The second bookend was in

27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Moses often reflected the feelings and judgements of God. Moses did not rebuke Eldad and Medad because God was being gracious and generous at this point. God could bless them wherever they were.

  • I just realized something while reading my OP: "[Moses] gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent." In other words, Moses chose 70 out of all of them. Therefore, it may be the case that these two simply were not chosen, but were still obedient and faithful to God. Thus, their prophesying - and without any penalty for not being chosen. Does that sound plausible to you?
    – Xeno
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 20:49
  • Yes, it does :)
    – user35953
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 20:55

Here’s how I see it: we see the Lord gave Moses the instruction “ASSEMBLE for me seventy of the elders of Israel… and BRING them to the tent of meeting. WHEN they are IN PLACE beside you, I will come down…”

Then we read “So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. GATHERING SEVENTY elders of the people, he HAD THEM STAND AROUND THE TENT. The Lord then came down…”

It’s pretty obvious that the Lord has always been exact with His commands and He Who does not lie, would not have come down to Moses, had Moses not actually GATHERED exactly SEVENTY elders right there IN PLACE beside him around the tent. So, we can deduce that at that time there were already 70 around the tent of meeting, and therefore Eldad and Medad were additional two who were registered, or “had been on the list” (perhaps “were” or “had been” indicated that they ended not being chosen by Moses).

  • Hi NickS, welcome to BH.SE - thanks for contributing! Please do take the Site Tour to learn more about the SE format and how it may be different to other site formats you're familiar with. I'm not entirely clear on how you begin with "it's pretty obvious that the Lord has always been exact with his commands", note that these two men did not attend, and yet the Lord seems to have put his spirit upon them. Are you saying the Lord specified 70 but then intended to put his spirit on these two extras anyway?
    – Steve can help
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 12:46
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    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 12:46

Looking at the original translation of the word "remained" in Numbers 11:26 (per Strong's Concordance), we can see that they didn't remain in the camp, but were "left behind."

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Somewhere along the way of Moses' gathering, the message wasn't passed on to Meldad and Edad, hence their absence. However, we can surmise that their absence was of no fault of their own. Rather, it could've been Moses'.

Hence why God was gracious to them, and why Moses was lenient when Joshua called the two absentees out in Jnumbers 11:28.

Take note as well that Jews had the habit of rounding up numerical values. That's why, even in Jesus' death, they considered the Resurrection the third day even if the full 24 hours hadn't passed yet.

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