Poor Moses is becoming exhausted with all the grumbling Israelites wanting food. Sure, God could simply give the Israelites a cornucopia of munchies, but then they wouldn’t learn anything. Instead, God chooses to teach them by… invading their minds! Numbers 11:16-17 isn’t as bad as when God prevented Pharaoh from letting the Israelites go so he could murder countless innocent Egyptians, but it’s still pretty awful.
Personal autonomy is very important to humans, but not nearly as important as mental autonomy. The free will vs. determinism debate has been raging on in philosophy for centuries, and even if free will turns out to be an illusion, I think most people would agree that it is wrong to purposely alter someone else’s mental faculties against their will. But God doesn’t even bother with permission, he calls for 70 elders from the Israelites to come to the tabernacle so he can alter their mental state and fill their minds with the same stress Moses is coping with.
I’m assuming God is doing this as part of that old proverb, “misery loves company,” and by making other people feel his pain, he thinks Moses will feel better. But to me, it looks like God only made things worse (as usual). Had the Israelites begun to sympathize with Moses of their own free will, I would be okay with this story, but that’s not what’s going on here. This is like being at someone’s birthday party and receiving a phone call that your beloved pet died, and even though nobody at the party really knew your pet, the host canceled the party and kicked everyone out for your benefit. If that happened to me, I wouldn’t feel better, I’d feel worse because I ruined everyone else’s good time; nobody likes a Debbie Downer.
Actually, as the leader of his people, Moses is doing the exact opposite of what he should be doing. Part of being a good leader means quietly handling the burden of your followers.
And oh yes, unless all 70 of those Israelite leaders are Levites, they’re gonna be vaporized the moment they step foot in the tabernacle. That is, unless God is being inconsistent with his rules, and we know he would never do that!