Spirit of (Bearing) (Part 1) (Numbers 11:17-30)


Kathy L. McFarland


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Spirit of (Bearing)[1] (Numbers 11:17-30)

In our study of the Spirits that the LORD God has revealed to mankind, we will find some with vast and specific details that allow us to know the individual Spirits in deep ways.  Others, not so much; but, to neglect even hints of another part of the Spirit robs the possibilities for new understanding of our LORD God, Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit made up of many different Spirits to accomplish the things He is tasked to do. 

Right from the start, it is important to acknowledge that the Spirit shared between Moses and his 70 advisors remains unnamed in Scripture, unlike many others that we will soon study. However, the responsibilities and movements of this Spirit are significant to Christian leaders today with works that exceed the general works common with the general named Holy Spirit.  It is worthy to contemplate this aspect of the Holy Spirit as an individual Spirit, since it is tasked with specific purposes revealed in the Word of God.  So, I have inserted the activity of this Spirit for its name in order that specified learning about this aspect of God can be learned and separated from the general knowledge we possess of the fullness of the Holy Spirit where all Spirits join into His Oneness of Being. Thus, the Spirit of Bearing is the name chosen for our studies to address the movement of this particular Spirit shared between Moses and his 70 helpers as we seek application that might be helpful in mature Christian leader’s lives.

The Spirit of Bearing is one that we have very little information concerning His responsibilities, activities, and movements.  But, there is such a significant bit revealed in Numbers 11:17-26, that we cannot overlook God’s revelation.  

The Spirit of Bearing is revealed when Moses desperately complains to the LORD God that the burden of leading His people was weakening him.  The LORD God commands Moses to gather seventy men of the elders of Israel to help him carry the burden so Moses would not have to do it alone.

“And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.” (Numbers 11:17)

1. The LORD God sends the Spirit of Bearing to deliver His expectations, requirements, direction, and will concerning works required to be accomplished by those He directs to do the work.

2. Numbers 11:17 clearly shows that the Spirit of Bearing can be placed upon one human being, or divided into different parts and placed on numerous people to help share the burden of works required by the LORD God. It is also very significant that it was not Moses dividing the Spirit but rather, the LORD God.

3.  Further, it is clear that sometimes God trusts one man to be responsible for His works, while He also prepares helpers by sending parts of the same Spirit to them.

4. Note how it is the “elders” that the LORD God instructs Moses to choose.  While the specific assistants were left up to Moses to choose, the job had qualifications which had to be met with those choices.  “Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.” (Numbers 11:16)

            a. Seventy men – Men, not women.[2]  If it could be either sex, the LORD God could have simply called for seventy elders of Israel.  He did not speak in such generalities to Moses concerning the division of labor.  The LORD God wanted 70 men to help Moses with his load.

            There is also a significant pattern of the number “70” throughout the Word of God, beginning with Genesis 10.  These include,[3] but are not limited to:

                        (1) Table of seventy nations in Israel’s world (Gen. 10; cf. Deu. 32:8)

                        (2) Seventy family members of Jacob and his descendants that go down to Egypt (Gen. 46:27; Exo. 1:5; Deu. 10:22) (but Acts 7:14 speaks of five more)

                        (3) Seventy elders of Israel (Exo. 24:1; Eze. 8:11)

                        (4) Seventy escorts up partway of the mountain accompany Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu

                        (5)  Seventy leaders and officials among the people (Num. 11:16)

                        (6) Later, seventy elders of ancient Israel makes up the Jewish council of Sanhedrin; sometimes listed as 70 +1 when Moses is included in the count, that adds another elder to break tie votes.[4]

                        (7) Jesus appoints 70 + the Twelve Disciples to move the Gospel of Christ past the boundaries of Israel (Luke 10:1)

            b. Personally known to be “elders” of the Israelite people – The Hebrew word זָקֵן that denotes "elders” speaks not of just age and maturity, but also designates those that are community leaders that make religious, social, and leadership decisions.[5]  These men to be chosen by Moses, must be known by him and the Israelite people to be leaders already, before the Spirit of Bearing comes upon them to help Moses with his tasks.

            c. Must also be “officers” over them - The Hebrew word שָׁטַר also שֹׁטֵר designates an official that is in a place of authority and leading people with rules.[6]

            These requirements are important for Christian leaders to recognize at all times when the LORD God moves the Spirit of Bearing amongst chosen leaders.  The sharing of duties is not made to lesser folk; rather, helpmates for the leader in charge must be gathered together with skills, responsibilities, and leadership abilities apparent with an established official role amongst the people they will lead already established.  Qualified leaders can then receive the same Spirit as the burdened first leader, so that the works God needs to be accomplished will happen.  It is the Spirit of Bearing that makes this possible.

5. But it should also be noted that the LORD God not only prepares the leaders of His Works through the sharing of the Spirit of Bearing, but also makes provision for the people that will receive benefits of that work, along with necessary discipline, to help support His chosen leaders, as expressed in Numbers 11:18-22:

“And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?” (Numbers 11:18-22)

6.  When the LORD God establishes leadership with His Spirit of Bearing, He also holds expectations for those that will be led by that leadership.

7.  The LORD God reminds Moses that His power is not restricted by the response of the people to the leadership.  He asks Moses “Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not” (Numbers 11:23-24).  All things are possible with the LORD God and He is not dependent upon the response of the leaders or the followers for His Will to be accomplished.  But, with the Spirit of Bearing, leaders are given the support necessary to accomplish the tasks given them by the LORD God.

“And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.” (Numbers 11:24-26)

8. It is significant that Moses’ burden of leadership delivered by the Spirit of Bearing could be divided up to seventy holy men.  While Moses must have been superhuman in his ability to even hold that enormous responsibility supported by the Spirit of Bearing, it seems a testimony to the significant works that the Spirit of Bearing directs.

9. When the Spirit of Bearing is shared with seventy elders, and the Spirit of Bearing rests upon them, they prophesy without ceasing.

10. The sharing of leadership through the Spirit of Bearing causes a notable presence of God to come upon the leaders that reveals the direct resting of the Spirit of Bearing for the shared responsibilities lighting upon them.

11. The leader who shares the Spirit of Bearing among other leaders also testifies to the moving of the LORD God.

12. It is very important to note that not all that received the Spirit of Bearing accomplished the work in the places first designated in the first letter.  While most of the 70 men gathered around the Tabernacle, two wandered outside amongst the people but still within the camp of Israelites. Eldad and Medad still receive the Spirit of Bearing.

13.  It seems significant that recipients of the Spirit of Bearing at the Tabernacle prophesied to the witnesses standing with them at the Tabernacle, while Eldad and Medad prophesied to the witnesses surrounding them in camp. Even more telling is the reaction of Joshua, one of the Tabernacle elders when he discovers Eldad’s and Medad’s activities outside the Tabernacle area:

“And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them! And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.” (Numbers 11:27-30)

14. Though the Spirit of Bearing is shared, and the missions probably identical, the audiences can be different.[7]  Two men are moved by the Spirit of Bearing outside the Tabernacle gathering.[8]

15. It is not the specific task that directs the work; rather, it is the Spirit of Bearing that informs those so moved, shared from the original worker, but destined to go further than possible with just one host.  Thus, it is not acceptable to compare the movements of two different hosts because the Spirit of Bearing might well be directing the work with different approaches in different places even though it derives from specific duties from one host.

16. When it is understood that the same Spirit of Bearing within Eldad and Medad was also in Moses and the other elders, it seems highly unlikely that the prophecy spoken by them differed from that spoken by the others.  In this instance, it was the location, and the witnesses to the prophecy that has changed.[9]

17. Moses gives full authority and credence to the two moved by the Spirit of Bearing that walks in a different path than the others by extolling the blessings that have come to the two men as a result of being chosen to share the burden of Moses through the Spirit of Bearing.

            Works of the LORD God are given to Christian leaders often.  Seldom does the Lord expect Christian leaders to carry out the important works on their own.  Since the days of Moses, the Spirit of Bearing has been shared with specific, mature Christians that can help support the leader they follow, developing into full, living works of God that bring glory to Him.  It is that ultimate goal of the Spirit of Bearing, and all of the Christian leaders guided by Him, for to bring glory to God is the most noblest of tasks made possible by Him through the deliverance of specific Spirits for specific jobs.

Deep Dish Discussion

1.     Why is it important that only qualified leaders share in the responsibilities of their leader, as important works are shared by the Spirit of Bearing?


2.     How can main leaders mess up the sharing of the Spirit of Bearing in the modern church setting?


3.     What difficulties would exist if some women chose to join leadership’s efforts in completing the works shared among many by the Spirit of Bearing?


4.     Can women receive the Spirit of Bearing, or will the Holy Spirit ever share the Spirit of Bearing amongst women?


5.     How can women support leaders without the Spirit of Bearing?


6.     How important is it that leaders pray for the Spirit of Bearing when they grow overwhelmed?  How important is it that those leaders helping hold the hands up of the main leader be aware of weakness and pray directly for the Spirit of Bearing?  How should that prayer be phrased?


7.     What troubles can come when young Christians without the proper leadership experience are assigned important works of assistance and expected to receive the Spirit of Bearing?


8.     How does the modern church neglect the Spirit of Bearing’s important role?


Blumenthal, Fred. "Eldad and Medad." Jewish Bible Quarterly 38,  (2008): 88-92.

Fortune, A. W. Book of Eldad and Modad. Revised ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988.

Patzia, Arthur G. and Anthony J. Petrotta. Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Ryken, Leland, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman et al. Dicitonary of Biblical Imagery. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament). Vol. 1997. electronic ed. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.




[1] While His real name might be the Spirit of Leadership or the Spirit of Work Division or a multitude of other names applied to His specific attributes, the fact that He indeed is a Spirit and part of the Holy Spirit, and that He has specific tasks given Him to accomplish by the LORD God, and those tasks seem unique to Him, the name Spirit of Bearing seems acceptable to delineate between other named Spirits of God for the purposes of our study.

[2] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament), electronic ed., vol. 1997 (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Hebrew 408; Strongs H376. Some feminist theologians might argue that the Hebrew word אִישׁ is a masculine word but can denote the sense of both men and women as representatives of a class of created human beings.  This is unlikely in this case, since the instructions of the LORD God would have been easily converted to include women in the choice given Moses by just dropping the word “men” from the instructions to read “seventy elders of Israel.”  Since God chose not to speak in general terms, it seems clear that it was only men that could fill these important leadership roles.

[3] Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman et al., Dicitonary of Biblical Imagery, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).

[4] Arthur G. and Anthony J. Petrotta Patzia, Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 103.

[5] Swanson, Hebrew 2418; Strongs H2205

[6] Ibid., Hebrew 8853 & 8854; Strongs H8854 & H8853.

[7] Fred Blumenthal, "Eldad and Medad," Jewish Bible Quarterly 38, (2008): 88-92.  Jewish tradition explains this dilemma of two prophesizing outside the Tabernacle by including a story that Moses appointed 72 elders to the job, because it is divisible by twelve (a significant number for Jewish Kabbalists).  Then, according to the story, Moses chooses two to eliminate, which explains why Eldad and Medad perform different tasks than the others.  This tradition is not supported by the Word of God, and qualifies more as a myth, than a teaching based upon the Word of God. But, the idea that the Spirit of Bearing can move different people to perform different functions in different places though originating from one with specific duties is clearly evident from Eldad’s and Medad’s activities.

[8] It is an intriguing contemplation that 68 men moved by the Spirit of Bearing in relationship to the ordered worship in the Tabernacle with 2 of the men outside the religious structures and into the general populace within the camp.  It seems comfortably familiar to modern day when the numerous religious orders, authorities, and gatherings moved by the Spirit of Bearing are compared with the missionary workers moved by the same Spirit.  It would be interesting to see if the ratios are comparable in another study.

[9] A. W. Fortune, Book of Eldad and Modad, Revised ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988), 53.  Tradition suggests that an apocryphal book contains the prophecy of Eldad and Medad which became a lost work, but once was quoted by Hermas (Vis 2:3). And, the Palestine Targums relate Eldad and Medad to the prophecy concerning Gog and Magog in the end of days.  Both of these stories are not supported by the Word of God.  Further, when the Spirit of Bearing is understood, that He is shared by an original leader to others, to help the leader bear and complete the assignments given to him by God, then it becomes most likely that all who share in the specific Spirit of Bearing will have the same tasks, but in different places.

Last modified: Friday, 11 March 2022, 3:58 PM