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Reasons People Complain

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Complain: A Definition

To complain is to express dissatisfaction or annoyance about something or someone. The reasons the Israelites complained while in the wilderness for 40 years can be compared to some of the same reasons we complain. Read and see for yourself.

After Moses delivered the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt, they complained on 14 different occasions during their time in the wilderness. When people complain, they sometimes say things that are not true or logical. For example, the Israelites complained so bitterly that they said they wanted to return to Egypt where they had been enslaved for hundreds of years.

If their complaints were categorized, they would fall into three distinct areas.

  1. Fear of danger
  2. Fear of shortages
  3. Life's inconveniences

After finding out about the Israelites' complaints and the reasons for them, we should examine why we complain. We might be able to see that our complaints fall into at least one or all three of the same areas as the Israelites' complaints.

Fear of Danger

The Israelites had never experienced freedom before because they had been in slavery in Egypt all their lives. Now that they were in the wilderness, they were afraid of enemies. Because they couldn't complain to the enemies that they feared, they complained to those closest to them. They complained to Moses and Aaron who were responsible for taking care of them.

Too often we complain to the wrong people rather than to the people we fear or to those who might cause us harm. The best thing to do if we fear danger is to take our complaints to God who can and will handle all our complaints in the best possible way.


Even though the Israelites were slaves, they were able to plant their own gardens that had squash, garlic, onions, cucumbers, leeks, and other vegetables. They didn't have those foods as they traveled in the wilderness. In fact, they indicated they wanted to go back so they could eat the foods they left behind.

They complained because they didn't have a food supply. Even after God gave them manna from heaven, they still complained. Then God gave them quail to eat.

Like the Israelites, we complain when we experience a shortage of money, friends, success and other things. We complain when we don't have everything we want.

It is much better to thank God for what we have than to complain about what we don't have.

Life's Inconveniences

The Israelites complained about a lot as they traveled for 40 years in the wilderness. (See the chart below). In the books of Exodus and Numbers that cover most of the wandering in the desert, we see that they "grumbled, murmured and complained."

Most of the things the Israelites grumbled about were minor in comparison to the inconveniences they encountered when they were enslaved, but they didn't see it that way. That did not keep them from complaining. Even Aaron and Miriam, Moses' own siblings complained about their brother having a Cushite wife. God punished Miriam with leprosy and put her outside the camp for seven days, according to Numbers 12:1-16. Because Aaron was a priest, he did not receive the same punishment.

In our own lives, we complain about minor things such as long lines at Starbucks, the Post Office, DMV, or the grocery store. We complain about traffic jams and bad weather. So, what are we to do about our complaints?


Whenever you are thinking about complaining, determine if the cause of your complaint is based on fear of some danger, some shortages, or life inconveniences. Try to eliminate the cause of the stress in order to ultimately eliminate the complaint.

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Exodus 5:1-22

Complaint that Moses made things worse for them with Pharaoh.

Exodus 14:11-12

General complaint for Moses to leave them alone.

Exodus 15:22

Complaint about bitter water.

Exodus 16:1-4

Complaint about being hungry.

Exodus 17:1-4

Complaint about being thirsty.

Exodus 32:28

People complain that Moses was on mountain too long.

Numbers 11

Compliant about food they were getting.

Numbers 12:1-16

Aaron and Miriam complain about their brother's leadership.

Numbers 14:1-10

People complain about the difficulty of entering the promised land.

Numbers 14:10

People complained against Moses and wanted to kill him and select another leader.

Numbers 16

Key leaders rebel against Moses.

Numbers 16:41

Moses is accused of killing God's people.

Numbers 20:1-5

Complain because of no water.

Numbers 21:4-5

People complain about God and Moses.




For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Why did the Israelites complain about Moses and Aaron?
    • They didn't like them.
    • They were jealous of them.
    • They couldn't complain to their enemies that they feared.
  2. How many times did the people complain while in the wilderness?
    • 2
    • 7
    • 14
  3. Who complained against Moses and was punished with leprosy and put out of the camp?
    • Aaron
    • Miriam
    • Key leaders
  4. How long was the person put out of the camp for complaining against Moses?
    • 1 day
    • 3 days
    • 7 days

Answer Key

  1. They couldn't complain to their enemies that they feared.
  2. 14
  3. Miriam
  4. 7 days


Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on January 16, 2018:

Tim, wonderful words of wisdom, as usual! No complaints here!

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on January 15, 2018:

Thank you, as always, Reverend. Complaints aren't useful. I was always taught: save your strength for things you can make a different in, and don't worry about those you really can't.

In Christ, we learn to let things go.

However, we are imperfect beings, so occasionally, we fall short.

Interestingly enough, I've known people who have faced chronic diseases, some grumble and blame everyone, others tend to enjoy every breath they have. This second group represent the ones who take life as it is. I often think of Job when I encounter those folk.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on January 15, 2018:

Mr. Happy, first of all, I like your name. Thank you for reading and for your positive comments. Thank you also for sharing your admission in the last paragraph about how you complain along with your opinion about certain issues. Therefore, I have no complaints about your feedback.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on January 14, 2018:

"Too often we complain to the wrong people rather than to the people we fear or to those who might cause us harm." - So, very true. We should always be careful whom we direct our anger/dissatisfaction towards.

"We complain when we don't have everything we want." - That is often true and that is a matter of the Ego. The Ego can never be satisfied. If You buy a gigantic house, You will want a million dollar car. When You get that, You will want a yacht. If You get a yacht, You will want a personal plane ... On and on it goes: the Ego has no limits. It will always want more.

Now, I must say that I often complain. I complain about social issues, political issues and often environmental issues. When I complain though, I also give my opinion about how we can fix whatever I am complaining about. In other words, we don't want to simply complain. We also have to come up with solutions and be ready to work at fixing things when we complain about them

Food for thought - thank You for your piece of writing.

All the best!

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