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Deeper Commentary


Exo 16:1 They took their journey from Elim-
After one stop over to camp by the Red Sea (Num. 33:10,11). This stop next to the Red Sea was perhaps to help them reflect further upon the wonder of their deliverance through that sea.

And all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt-
"All the congregation" could be stressing the totality of deliverance. Although it is possible some Israelites preferred Egypt and remained in Egypt, they were not now part of the congregation. Crossing the Red Sea, like baptism for us (1 Cor. 10:1,2), defined who was in the congregation.

Exo 16:2 The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron in the wilderness-
Israel continually "murmured" against Moses (Ex. 15:24; 16:2,7,8; 17:3; Num. 14:2,27,29 cp. Dt. 1:27; Ps. 106:25; 1 Cor. 10:10). Nearly all these murmurings were related to Israel's disbelief that Moses really could bring them into the land. Likewise Israel disbelieved that eating Christ's words (Jn. 6:63) really could lead them to salvation; and their temptation to murmur in this way is ours too, especially in the last days (1 Cor. 10:10-12). The Hebrew for "murmur" is the word for "stop", and is usually translated in that way. The idea is that they didn't want to go further on the journey; they wanted to return to Egypt. Despite the wonder of the Red Sea deliverance. Their hearts truly were in Egypt. This sense of not wanting to go onwards towards the Kingdom, to put a brake on God's saving process, is the same temptation which in essence afflicts all God's people who have started the journey with Him.

Presumably the food taken with them from Egypt was now exhausted, and perhaps they had found fish to eat during their encampment by the Red Sea mentioned in Num. 33:10,11.

Exo 16:3 and the children of Israel said to them, We wish that we had died by the hand of Yahweh in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots, when we ate our fill of bread, for you have brought us out into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger-
The number of firstborn males after Israel left Egypt was remarkably small (around 20,000, Num. 3:43). Women in most primitive societies have an average of 7 births. this would mean that given a total population of around 2,800,000 on leaving Egypt (Ex. 12:37), there should have been around 400,000 firstborn males. But instead, there is only a fraction of this number. Why? Did all Israel eat the Passover? Were many in fact slain. My suggestion- and this is well in the category of things you will never know for sure and can only ponder- is that many Hebrew firstborns died on Passover night. Israel were warned that if they did not properly keep the Passover, “the Destroyer” Angel would kill their firstborn (Ex. 12:23). “The Destroyer” is mentioned in 1 Cor. 10:10: “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the Destroyer” (olothreutes; this is a proper noun in the Greek). Who was the Destroyer? If Scripture interprets Scripture, it was the ‘Destroyer’ Angel of Passover night. In similar vein Heb. 11:28 speaks of “He (the Angel) that destroyed (Gk. olothreuo) the firstborn”. Very soon afterwards, the people reminded Moses of this incident: “Would to God we (maybe this is the emphasis) had (also) died by the hand of the Lord (a phrase often associated with Angel’s work at Passover: Josh. 4;24; Is. 11:11; 19:16; Dan. 9:15; Heb. 8:9) in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pot (Young’s Literal) and when we did eat bread” (Ex. 16:3). They weren’t just saying they wished they had died in Egypt; they wished they had died by the hand of the Lord. Sitting by the flesh pot and eating bread is perhaps a reference to eating Passover that night, when in (perhaps) 90% of Hebrew families the firstborn had slumped down in death. They wished they too had died that Passover night. They felt Moses was going to kill them as, by implication, they blamed him for killing the firstborn. 

Moses had been weak and discouraged in the same way, accusing God of wanting to do them evil rather than save them (Ex. 5:23). And now this was what the people concluded in the desert, when they complained Yahweh had brought them into the desert to slay them. Moses would have found patience with them, because he would have realized that this same desperate conclusion, in the heat of desperation, was what he too had been guilty of. It is awareness of our own failures which provides the basis for others in theirs. God is without that aspect; His patience with human sin is therefore the more wonderful than ours.

Exo 16:4 Then Yahweh said to Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from the sky for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law, or not-
Ex. 5:13 speaks of the 'daily work quota' of Israel under Egyptian abuse. But the phrase is used of their daily work for Yahweh, in collecting manna (Ex. 16:4) and serving in the tabernacle (Lev. 23:37). They were being reminded that they had changed masters when they crossed the Red Sea, just as Paul says happens when we are baptized (Rom. 6). And the Red Sea crossing represented baptism into Jesus (1 Cor. 10:1,2). Like us, Israel were not radically free to do as they pleased. What happened was that they changed masters; hence the appeal to Pharaoh to let God's people go, that they may serve Him rather than Pharaoh. We too will only find ultimate freedom through this servitude to God's ways, and will finally emerge into the radical liberty of the children of God in the Kingdom age (Rom. 8:21).   

"A day's portion" is literally 'a word for a day'. "Portion" is dabar, the common word translated "word". Their obedience to the commandments relating to this gift of bread was to be a test of their obedience to God's word. 

Exo 16:5 It shall come to pass on the sixth day, that they shall prepare that which they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily-
Israel's wilderness journey is a clear enough type of our own path after baptism. They were fed with manna one day at a time- this is so stressed (Ex. 16:4,19,20). There was to be no hoarding of manna- anything extra was to be shared with others (Ex. 16:8; 2 Cor. 8:15). But we live in a world where the financial challenges of retirement, housing, small family size [if any family at all]... mean that there appears no other option but to 'hoard manna' for the future. To some extent this may be a reflection of the way that life in these very last days is indeed quite different to anything previously known in history; but all the same, we face a very real challenge. Are we going to hoard manna, for our retirement, for our unknown futures? Or will we rise up to the challenge to trust in God's day by day provision, and share what's left over? "Give us this day our bread-for-today" really needs to be prayed by us daily.

Exo 16:6 Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, At evening, then you shall know that Yahweh has brought you out from the land of Egypt-
The stress is upon "Yahweh". The people wanted to perceive Moses as the one who had brought them out of Egypt, perhaps attributing the Red Sea deliverance to some ability to work magic which they supposed he had. Despite all the stress upon Yahweh as their deliverer, they preferred to think it was all due to a man. We have here a window onto the mindset which human nature so easily slips into; attributing God's clear action in our lives to human power.

Exo 16:7 and in the morning, then you shall see the glory of Yahweh-
I will suggest on :14 that when the cloud of glory went up from them in the morning, the manna was revealed. The glory of Yahweh was therefore not simply a visible aura of Divine light, but His glory was revealed in providing food for them at the very time of their rebellion. For His glory is in His grace to sinners.

Because He hears your murmurings against Yahweh. Who are we, that you murmur against us?-
Israel’s rejection of Moses was a rejection of the God who was working through Moses to redeem them. Thus Korah and his followers “strove against Moses... when they strove against Yahweh” (Num. 26:9 cp. 16:11). Moses understood that when Israel murmured against him, they murmured against Yahweh (Ex. 16:2,7; Num. 17:5; 21:5). They thrust Moses away from them (Acts 7:27,39) - yet the same word is used in Rom. 11:2 concerning how God still has not cast away Israel; He has not treated them as they treated Him through their rejection of Moses and Jesus, who manifested Him. "Who are we...?" has the flavour of Moses' first response to his Divine commissioning: "Who am I?". Through the experience of their complaining and murmuring, he was further humbled.

Exo 16:8 Moses said, Now Yahweh shall give you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to fully satisfy you-
It's twice emphasized in Ex. 16:8,12 that the manna would completely fill them. In the morning, said Moses, you shall be filled. So the families were to have one big meal a day. Most rural African cultures likewise survive quite happily on one big meal in the morning. The manna gave complete satisfaction; and Jesus commented on this when He said that through His word we would be completely filled, we would eat and not hunger, drink and not thirst.

Because Yahweh hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him. And who are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against Yahweh-
Israel's murmurings about the lack of food did not discourage Moses, because he now better perceived the degree to which he was manifesting God. Here we see the beginnings of some real humility in Moses, due to his appreciation of God manifestation in him.

Exo 16:9 Moses said to Aaron, Tell all the congregation of the children of Israel, ‘Come near before Yahweh, for He has heard your murmurings’-
"Come near before Yahweh" is usually translated "offer [sacrifice] before Yahweh", and is translated that way multiple times. Although rarely (Ex. 16:9; Lev. 9:5) it is used of the congregation coming near before Yahweh. But the congregation didn't generally want to come before Yahweh, and so He chose just the Levites to come before Yahweh (Num. 8:10; 16:9 s.w.). It was God's intention that all Israel should be His servants, a nation of priests. But He changed and ammended His approach, and chose just the Levites for this. We see here how open God is to change, so that by all means He may have relationship with His people. Under the new covenant, all believers are part of a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5) as He initially intended even under the old covenant. And yet there is always the tendency to leave the priestly work to specialists rather than perceiving our personal call to do it. 

Exo 16:10 It happened, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of Yahweh appeared in the cloud-
The Angel dwelt in the cloud, which at that time stood ahead of them in the surrounding desert. But it seems now that Angel revealed himself more, so that the glory of Yahweh visibly appeared through the cloud. But see on :14.

Exo 16:11 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
Moses wrote the Pentateuch, but there may well have been a Divinely inspired editor who added comments like this.

Exo 16:12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At evening you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread: and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God’-
Israel were to be filled with the manna, so that they would know that "I am Yahweh your God" (Ex. 16:12). This was to be the meaning of the manna. There was a daily manifestation of God's glory along with the manna (Ex. 16:7 cp. 12). The daily sense of living with God's glory is so vital for each of us in our deeply personal spirituality. We know that faith comes from hearing God's word; so our feeding on God's word should lead us to know Yahweh. There was something intensely personal about the teaching of the manna: "He fed thee (singular- not "ye") with manna, that he might make thee know that (every) man (lives spiritually) by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" (Dt. 8:3).

Exo 16:13 It happened at evening that quail came up and covered the camp; and in the morning the dew lay around the camp-
"The quail was among the ancient Egyptians the emblem of safety and security". In which case we marvel at God's grace; assuring His rebellious people of their security at the very point of their rebellion against Him. Num. 11:31 says they were brought by a wind, and we have noted how Angel-winds had brought the plagues and driven back and forth the waters of the Red Sea. They were being taught how the essence of God's previous work for them (at their deliverance from the world and Red Sea baptism) was continuing for them. Ps. 78:28 stresses that God thoughtfully made the birds settle immediately around their tents- as if delivering food to their door, showing such grace at the very time of their murmuring against Him.

Exo 16:14 When the dew that lay had gone, behold, on the surface of the wilderness was a small round thing, small as the frost on the ground-
The dew would have come from a low lying cloud, and when it lifted the manna was revealed. The cloud of dew may have been part of the cloud of glory, through which the glory of God was to be revealed (:7). The glory of Yahweh was therefore not simply a visible aura of Divine light, the so called shekinah glory, but His glory was revealed in providing food for them at the very time of their rebellion. For His glory is in His grace to sinners.

Exo 16:15 When the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, What is it? For they didn’t know what it was. Moses said to them, It is the bread which Yahweh has given you to eat-
As noted on :14, the provision of manna was the revelation of God's glory, in that He was being gracious to sinners. But they didn't perceive His glory in providing food for their needs; just as they didn't perceive His glory in the Lord Jesus, who taught that the manna, the bread of God, represented Himself.

Exo 16:16 This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded: Gather of it everyone according to his eating; an omer a head, according to the number of your persons, you shall take it, every man for those who are in his tent-
An omer is three pints, about 1.5 liters. The Mosaic command to give, every man according to the blessing with which God had blessed him (Dt. 16:17), is purposely similar in phrasing to the command to eat of the Passover lamb, every man according to his need; and to partake of the manna (cp. the Lord Jesus), every man according to his need (Ex. 12:4; 16:6,16). According to the desperation of our need, so we partake of Christ; and in response, according to our blessing, we give, in response to the grace of His giving.  


Exo 16:17 The children of Israel did so, and gathered some more, some less-
They failed the test of simple obedience to the regulations given. They were to gather enough for their families. But some gathered more than that. See on :18.

Exo 16:18 When they measured it with an omer, he who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack. They gathered every man according to his eating-
This states that the Israelites in the wilderness went out and gathered manna, they returned and measured it with an omer measure, and found that each person had the same omer of manna. The Jewish Midrash strayed from the Bible text, claiming that the stronger men gathered more manna and gave to the weaker, so that everyone had the same. This is a twist of the actual Biblical text; and yet Paul alludes to the idea in 2 Cor. 8:15 in order to make a point to his audience- that the wealthy should support the poorer. He does so in the same spirit as a Christian might quote the Koran in order to make a point to a Moslem- but this doesn’t mean that the Christian believes the Koran is God’s word. Paul and the Bible writers weren’t so on the back foot all the time that they as it were footnoted their allusions to incorrect beliefs with comments to the effect that “Now this is not actually what happened”.

Exo 16:19 Moses said to them, Let no one leave of it until the morning-
The Lord alludes to this in bidding us take no anxious thought for tomorrow (Mt. 6:34). They were not to store it up for the next day, but trust in God's provision each day. And again, the Lord's prayer alludes to this, in asking for the bread of today to be given us. The implications of these principles are huge, larger for us than for any other generation- living as we do in an age where we generally have no personal agricultural provision for our food, and must plan our savings in order to survive. Nothing was to be left until morning, just as with the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:10 s.w.). See on :24,29.

Exo 16:20 Notwithstanding they didn’t listen to Moses, but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and became foul: and Moses was angry with them-
"Foul" is s.w. "stink", used of the results of some of the plagues upon Egypt (Ex. 7:18,21; 8:14). Again we see the theme of a disobedient Israel being treated as Egypt, and experiencing their judgments. For their hearts were in Egypt.

Exo 16:21 They gathered it morning by morning, everyone according to his eating. When the sun grew hot, it melted-
As discussed on :22, it could be that this means that when they measured what they had gathered, they found it was just enough for their needs. We note too that they were encouraged to be morning people, to gather the food in the morning, before the sun was high in the sky.

Exo 16:22 It happened that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one, and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses-
There is an apparent confusion as to whether Moses had told them on the sixth day to gather twice as much. I suggest that when they measured what they had gathered, they found it came to two and not one omer. And Moses then explained why this was the case (:23).

Exo 16:23 He said to them, This is that which Yahweh has spoken, ‘Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to Yahweh. Bake that which you want to bake, and boil that which you want to boil; and all that remains over lay up for yourselves to be kept until the morning’-
This was so that they did not bake nor boil on the Sabbath- even though the legislation about the Sabbath had not yet formally been given. But clearly the law of Moses was a codification of previously existing conceptions and Divine requirements. 

Exo 16:24 They laid it up until the morning, as Moses asked, and it didn’t become foul, neither was there any worm in it-
I suggested on :19 that not storing manna for the next day was the basis of the Lord's command to not worry about tomorrow, and not to think we must prepare against it. But what we are to do is instead store up against the eternal tomorrow of God's Kingdom, which was represented by the Sabbath of rest, the seventh day of the creation week (Heb. 4:9).

Exo 16:25 Moses said, Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahweh. Today you shall not find it in the field-
These were the words of Moses on the first Sabbath after the manna was given. That morning, they were told to eat "that" which they had gathered on the previous day.

Exo 16:26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day is the Sabbath. In it there shall be none-
The concept of the Sabbath may have been around prior to the time of Moses. But Israel in Egypt had not kept it, and so they are now being helped to get into the rhythm of keeping it- through the manna being given in double rate on the sixth day. We note how gentle God is in preparing the way towards obedience.

Exo 16:27 It happened on the seventh day, that some of the people went out to gather, and they found none-
Their disbelief and disobedience is quite astonishing. The miracle of the Red Sea obviously meant little to them; and Pentecostalism needs to note that it is simply not Bible teaching that dramatic miracles are required in order to believe. Israel had such miracles, and clearly were unaffected beyond an initial "Praise God!", no matter how sincerely that was felt at that moment.

The manna represented the word of God and the salvation which comes through its revelation of Christ (Jn. 6). Israel could gather it on six days of the week, but not on the seventh. The seventh day represents the Kingdom of God (Heb. 4:9; cp. how the manna ceased as soon as they entered Canaan, representing the Kingdom). Yet on the seventh day Israel sought to collect manna (Ex. 16:27), but found none- as the foolish virgins of the new Israel will seek the oil of the word when it is no longer available.

Exo 16:28 Yahweh said to Moses, How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?-
See on :27. Again, their disobedience is presented in terms of how Pharaoh and the Egyptians had sinned. For it was Pharaoh who had "refused" to obey God's commandment to let Israel go (s.w. Ex. 4:23; 7:14). Indeed, "How long do you refuse...?" was the very phrase addressed to Pharaoh (Ex. 10:3). Israel never left Egypt in their hearts, and acted as Egyptians, worshipping their gods still (Ez. 20:8).And so they are spoken to as the Egyptians they really were.  

Exo 16:29 Behold, because Yahweh has given you the Sabbath, therefore He gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days. Everyone stay in his place. Let no one go out of his place on the seventh day-
There are a number of similarities between the record of the gathering of the manna and that of the Passover. They were to gather the manna according to the size of their families, and the collection was to be organized by the head of the house. Nothing was to be left until morning (Ex. 12:10 = Ex. 16:19,20). They were to not go out of their houses [to get manna] on the seventh day, as Israel had to remain at home on Passover night. This is all the language of the Passover. The lamb represented Jesus, and so did the manna. In John 6 the Lord says that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life; and He says the same about eating His words, which He has likened to the manna (Jn. 6:63). The idea may also be that they were to keep every seventh day as if it were a mini Passover, a celebration of the exodus deliverance. No wonder Paul compares the weekly breaking of bread service in Corinth to the Passover (1 Cor. 5:8).

Exo 16:30 So the people rested on the seventh day-
The Divine record is being very generous to them. Because some of them didn't rest that seventh day (:27). 

Exo 16:31 The house of Israel called its name Manna, and it was like coriander seed, white; and its taste was like wafers with honey-
"Manna", literally "What is it?", suggests they never really grasped what it was. It was the revelation of Yahweh's grace to them, in that despite their deep apostacy and unbelief, He was daily feeding and saving them. And so the Lord Jesus likens Himself to the manna in Jn. 6, seeing that He was likewise not comprehended by Israel. The taste was as of "fresh oil" (Num. 11:8). The freshness of the taste was to demonstrate that it had been created specifically for them every morning.

Exo 16:32 Moses said, This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded, ‘Let an omer-full of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt’-
"An omer" is LXX "the omer", suggesting that the pot in which it was placed contained an omer in volume. If the pot of manna was to be kept "hidden" within the ark in the most holy place, briefly visited once / year by the High Priest alone, we wonder how this could be 'seen' by subsequent generations. Was the high priest on their behalf to report back to them about it each year? I suggest however that God's purpose is open, and He changes the details as the Divine-human encounter progresses. Maybe it was initially His view that the pot of manna be kept in a more openly accessible place, but He withdrew the witness into the ark in the most Holy, as He perceived Israel's hardness of heart.

Exo 16:33 Moses said to Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer-full of manna in it, and lay it up before Yahweh, to be kept throughout your generations-
The manna, which went bad after only 12 hours, was miraculously preserved. It was a testimony to God's grace. He gave them manna at the very time that they rebelled against Him; and had as it were immortalized this piece of very temporary manna. The message was that His grace can likewise immortalize the weak human beings whom His grace engages with.   

Exo 16:34 As Yahweh commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept-
It was to be "before the Testimony" and yet somehow visible to all Israel (:32). I suggest that God's primary intention was that the place of "the testimony" was to be regularly opened to the common people, or the pot of manna regularly displayed to them. It was intended to be in front of the ark, or the tables of the covenant [both of which could be termed "the Testimony"], perhaps not even in the Most Holy Place; but it ended up being placed inside the ark (Heb. 9:4), and became known as the "hidden manna" (Rev. 2:17), when it was intended to be a public, openly beheld witness. But as Israel retreated from God, so it seems to me did Yahweh as it were retreat from His people, hiding Himself  ever deeper within the ark, the Most Holy place etc.  

Exo 16:35 The children of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land. They ate the manna until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan-
This could suggest that we feed on the Lord Jesus and His word throughout our journey to the Kingdom, but then there will spiritual sustenance of a completely different nature. We will have no need of spiritual nutrition in the sense we required it during the journey there. The Bible is often not precise with figures and numerics, as was the case with all Semitic writings. God didn't feel the need to defend Himself against petty critics. And so here, the actual period was one month less than 40 years (Ex. 16:1 cp. Josh. 5:10-12). 

Exo 16:36 Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah-
Roughly 1.5 liters or three pints. Here and :35 would be examples of where a later, Divinely inspired editor [Ezra?] added explanatory words to the Pentateuch.