Graves of Craving
“Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving” (Numbers 11:34).
The story of the quail in Numbers 11 is a fascinating description of our cravings. We are vulnerable to cravings that do not serve us. Indulging our cravings for immediate satisfaction does not lead to a fulfilling life but to ever diminishing pleasure. Is there a key to conquering the cravings that are destroying us?
The story is about the Israelites’ foolish desire for food. Finding the miraculous veggie manna provided for them boring, they complained about it and begged for meat. God became angry and gave them what they desired even though it was not God’s plan for them. The Israelites’ greed in collecting and gorging on the improperly processed quail caused them to be struck with a deadly plague. The complaining Israelites did not submit to receive from God that which would prove beneficial to them. Instead, they were controlled by their cravings, and they died. Rejecting the miraculous food, they craved excessive amounts of meat, and God allowed them to suffer the results of gratifying their appetites.
The story tells us that God was angered when the people complained and gorged on quail, which prompted Him to send a plague as a rebuke to their gluttony. Is this something God would do—slay people over a food craving? Perhaps another way of reading the story is to see the judgment as apocalyptic—a revelation or prophecy of human nature. I cannot help but notice that those who had the craving were buried in a place called Kibroth-hattaavah, which means “graves of craving” (Numbers 11:34).
Could it be that our cravings bury us?
In this light, the story is an accurate critique of our cravings. When we get caught up in our cravings, we miss out on the greater enjoyments of life. Whenever we indulge such appetites, we mute the everlasting desire provided by God. When we resist the greater blessings of life to satisfy momentary cravings, it makes any satisfaction empty and void. Settling for our cravings is not truly living. I think the story in Numbers 11 is thus an accurate criticism of human nature. The people in the story preferred immediate satisfaction to the supernatural provision of manna from heaven, and they were granted their wish. God gave the people what they wanted, revealing their moral defect.
Overcoming addictions and cravings is difficult. When I changed to a fully plant-based lifestyle, I had to completely overhaul my eating habits, but I eventually experienced a fuller quality of life. I understand that meat cravings are real. Meat consumption, however, has been known to contribute to heart disease, stroke, cancer, and obesity, and it can also lead to other diseases. Those consuming excessive amounts of meat should be aware of these scientific facts. Such awareness is also needed for other cravings and addictions we experience. It is not hard to see from the story that cravings and disease are the natural results of placing our own gratification at the center of our being. Sin is a self-centered craving, a rupture in an other-centered life, a refusal to rely on God’s promises. Whenever our desire becomes self-centered, it becomes destructive. The story of the quail is a kind of a wisdom for life.
From this simple story, I have learned that it is best to avoid getting caught up in my cravings. If I do, I will miss out on a greater satisfaction that I have not yet comprehended—like the fuller life that was provided through the manna. Instead of becoming immersed in my feelings and momentary drives, I must focus on the supernatural provisions and wonders of life. Of course, no miracle manna appears for me as it did for the Israelites, but the principles of appreciating the simple things God has provided and relying on His power to help me overcome still apply. Every day, I can become more mindful of the wonderful provisions and the meaning of life, refusing to become consumed by my cravings. Instead of focusing on my cravings, whatever they might be, I can focus on living with a loving God. With divine help, we can all conquer the cravings and addictions that we know are not good for us; if we are not careful, these cravings will bury us.
Craig Ashton Jr.
2 Responses to “Graves of Craving”
Great article reminding us of the dangers of giving in to our cravings and the importance of staying focused on the greater blessings of life.
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