Exodus 16

The Word Made Fresh

1On the fifteenth day of the second month after they left Egypt, Israel set out from Elim and came to the wilderness of Sin between Elim and Sinai. 2The people complained to Moses and Aaron, 3and said, “The LORD should have killed us while we were in Egypt. At least we had plenty to eat there, but you have brought us out here to starve us to death!”

4Then the LORD told Moses, “I will make it rain bread. Tell the people to go out every morning and gather enough for the day. I’ll be watching to see how well they follow instructions. 5When they gather it on the sixth day it will be twice as much.”

6Moses and Aaron told the people, “When the sun goes down you will see the evidence that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt. 7In the morning you will see the LORD’s grandeur, and proof that your complaining against the LORD has been heard. Why would you think the two of us are responsible for your discomfort?” 8Moses continued, “When the LORD gives you meat in the evening and as much bread as you can eat in the morning, you will know the LORD has heard your grumbling. You are accusing the LORD, not us!”

9Then Moses told Aaron to summon all the people. “Tell them to come forward and approach the LORD, for the LORD has heard their grumbling.” 10As Aaron began to speak to the people, they looked toward the wilderness, they saw the magnificence of the LORD within the cloud.

11The LORD said to Moses, 12“I have heard the people mumbling. Tell them that at twilight they will have meat, and in the morning bread to eat, and then they will know that I am the LORD their God.”

13As daylight faded quails came and settled on the ground all through their camp. The next morning, the ground all around the camp was covered with dew. 14As the dew evaporated it left fine white flakes on the ground. 15When the Israelites awoke and saw it they had no idea what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. 16The LORD says each of you should gather a half gallon for each person in your family.”

17The people began to wander about and collect some of it. Some gathered a lot, some much less, 18but when they measured it everyone had the same amount, and each person had as much as they needed.

19Moses told them not to try and save any of it for the next day, 20but they paid no attention to him and some of them tried to save part of it for the next day, but it became infested with worms and was inedible. Moses was really angry with them. 21Morning by morning they collected it, each one as much as needed, but when the sun climbed higher and the temperature rose, it melted.

22On the sixth day they collected twice as much – a gallon for each person. When the elders told Moses, 23he said, “This is what the LORD said would happen. Tomorrow is a day of rest, the LORD’s sabbath. Prepare however much you want and keep what is left for tomorrow.” 24So, they did as Moses said, and it was still good the next day, still good and without worms. 25Moses said, “Eat it all today. Today is the LORD’s day of rest, and today you will find none has fallen overnight. 26Gather it for six mornings, but on the seventh, the day of rest, there will be none.”

27On the seventh day, though, some of the people went out to gather and found nothing. 28The LORD said to Moses, “How long will they refuse to do what I tell them to do? 29Look! I have given you the sabbath, and that is why I give you twice as much food on the sixth day. Tell them to stay home on the seventh day!” 30So, the people rested on the seventh day.

31They called it “manna.” It was like coriander seed. It was white, and it tasted like honey wafers. 32Moses told them, “The LORD has told us to keep an omer of it for posterity, so that future generations can see the food the LORD gave us in the wilderness when you were brought out of Egypt.”

33Moses told Aaron, “Collect an omer of the manna in a jar and keep it for the LORD as a reminder for our children’s children.” 34Just as the LORD ordered, Aaron kept it with the sacred artifacts.

35The people of Israel ate manna for forty years through the wilderness, until they came to the border of Canaan.

36An omer (a half gallon) is a tenth of an ephah (five gallons).

Commentary

1-3: From the oasis they move eastward into the Sin wilderness. They have been gone from Egypt about a month now, having departed around the 15th landscape; they are becoming restless and begin to complain that Moses has taken them away from a place where they at least had plenty to eat.

4-8: God tells Moses that God will “rain bread from heaven” for them. Each day they will be able to gather enough for the day and on the sixth day there will be twice as much as they need so as to test them (although there is as yet no law concerning the Sabbath).  God obviously has even more to say, for Moses and Aaron tell the people they will have meat to eat that evening and bread in the morning. You are complaining, they say, against the LORD, not against us servants of the LORD.

9-12: Moses tells Aaron to summon the people. They look toward the wilderness of Sinai and see the glory of God in the cloud. In verse 11, God tells Moses to tell the people they will receive meat in the evening and bread in the morning. Perhaps verses 11 and 12 should have been placed right before verse 6.

13-21: In the evening the camp is inundated by a migration of quails. The text doesn’t say they ate any of the birds; the chronicler is too much in a hurry to move on to the real miracle that will take place in the morning. After all, everybody has seen a quail. The next morning, though, as the dew evaporates, there is on the ground a “fine flaky substance” that they have never seen before. Moses tells them it is the promised bread. They are instructed to gather a certain amount per person. Some of them gather more, some less, but somehow, they all wind up with the same amount – a second miracle. Moses tells them not to keep it overnight, but some don’t listen, and it turns rank. There is no accumulating this stuff, no stockpiling, no hoarding; it is how God wants us all to live in the world, don’t you think? God wants us to just take as much as we need for the day and no more. If everybody lived like that …

22-26: On the sixth day they gather twice as much, and Moses tells them to eat what they need and then to boil or bake enough for the next day because there will be none on the seventh day. He explains that the seventh day is commanded by God to be a day of solemn rest. Apparently, the fine flaky substance can be eaten raw – in which case it spoils overnight – or boiled or baked, in which case it is preserved for another day. Furthermore, he tells them, there won’t be any of that stuff (they still don’t know what to call it) on the ground tomorrow.

27-30: It takes some people awhile to figure things out. They went out on the seventh day to gather more stuff, but there wasn’t any. Moses and God go “tut, tut.” The people finally figure out they can take the day off.

31-36: They wind up calling it “manna,” which means “what is it?” Here are its qualities: it is white; flaky; in flakes the size of coriander seeds; it melts in the sun; it spoils overnight unless boiled or baked; it tastes like wafers made with honey. Moses tells them that the LORD wants Aaron to put some of it in a jar to be kept in perpetuity (he must have baked it hard) and placed “before the LORD.” That usually means in front of the Ark of the Covenant, but there is no ark as yet. Perhaps the covenant mentioned in verse 34 is a written form of 15:26 and serves as the “testimony” until they are given the Ten Commandments. In any case we are told that the manna appears every morning until they enter the land of Canaan 40 years later.

Takeaway

The manna in the desert appeared every morning until their journey was over. It is like the sun, is it not, which appears every morning until this journey we call earthly life is over?