God Provides Manna For The Children Of Israel


Exodus 16

A. God’s promise to provide.

1. The murmuring of the nation against Moses and Aaron, Exodus 16:1-3.

a. The fifteenth day would be one month after leaving Egypt since they left on the fifteenth of the previous month, Exodus 12:18.

b. The next destination for Israel was Mount Sinai, God had an important meeting in mind for them there, and they had to go through the Wilderness of Sin to get to Sinai.

c. The whole congregation began to murmur against Moses and Aaron because they did not have enough food in the desolate wilderness.

i. Their mummering was not completely without merit, they did need to eat, and there was little available for food. The problem was they did not see the big picture, and Moses and Aaron did. They could see where God had brought them from, and where God would take them, all the congregation of Israel could see was the present difficulty.

ii. It was a good thing that Israel was not ruled by a democracy at this point, things would have gone rather badly for Moses and the children of Israel had they listened to ‘majority rule’.

d. ‘When we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full’, as is typical for murmurers, the congregation of Israel has a rather selective memory of the past, they don’t have the big picture that Moses and Aaron did.

e. ‘You have brought us into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly’, how easy it is for murmurers to assign evil motives to those they question! As if Moses and Aaron had nothing better to do than wipe out a whole nation!

3. God announces the coming of bread from heaven to Moses, Exodus 16:4-5.

a. The blessing of bread from heaven came with the responsibility of obedience, and that responsibility would test Israel, and measure their obedience.

i. ‘Manna’ was the name given by murmuring Israel, God almost always called it bread from heaven, Nehemiah 9:15 / Psalm 78:24 / Psalm 105:40. Or angels’ food, Psalm 78:25.

ii. Jesus made it clear where the true bread from heaven comes from, the Father sent Jesus as the bread of God who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world, John 6.32-33.

b. The test would come on the sixth day when they were to gather twice as much, so the seventh day could be received as a day of rest.

4. Moses tells the people about God’s coming provision, Exodus 16:6-8.

a. He hears your complaints against the Lord. Your complaints against the Lord. Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord. The people thought they were murmuring against Moses and Aaron, but really, they were murmuring against the Lord, Exodus 16:2.

b. Moses says that the Lord will give them meat to eat in the evening, the promise God made to Moses of this is not recorded.

B. God’s provision of Manna.

1. God provides quail for meat and bread from heaven, Exodus 16:9-14.

a. The mercy of God is displayed large, instead of answering their complaints with judgement or discipline. God gives them what they need instead.

i. One might think God would be afraid of rewarding their complaining hearts, yet He knows He has plenty of ways to teach them, now, they need food!

b. The quails mentioned here ‘migrate regularly between south Europe and Arabia across the Sinai Peninsula. They are small, bullet-headed birds, with a strong but low flight, usually roosting on the ground or in the low bushes at nightfall. When exhausted, they would be unable to take off again. The birds are good eating, and were a favourite delicacy of the Egyptians’. Cole.

c. The bread from heaven came with the dew each morning, as a ‘residue’ from the dew. It was small, round and fine as frost on the ground. Thus, it was not easy to gather It would have to be ‘swept’ up from the ground.

i. How could they sweep it up off the desert floor and not have dirt in it? Jewish legends say that when God sent manna, He would first send a north wind to sweep the floor of the desert, then a rain to wash it clean. Then the manna would descend.

ii. Exodus 16 further describes the bread from heaven as like coriander seed, about the size of a sesame seed, and sweet like honey. Numbers 11 says it was the colour of bdellium, a pear-like colour. It was either baked or boiled. Exodus 16. Exodus 16:31 / Numbers 11:7 / Exodus 16:23.

iii. What did manna taste like? Jewish legends have their own spin.

‘One only had to desire a certain dish, and no sooner had he thought of it, then manna had the flavour of the dish desired. The same food had a different taste to everyone who partook of it, according to his age, to the little children, it tasted like milk, to the strong youths like bread, to the old men like honey, to the sick like barley steeped in oil and honey.’ But they also say that manna was bitter in the mouth of Gentiles. Ginzberg

d. What was this bread from heaven?

Many have sought to identify with what the Arabs today call ‘mann’, which is formed when ‘a tiny insect punctures the bark of the tamarisk tree, drinks the sap, and exudes a clear liquid that solidifies as a sugary globule when it hits the ground. When the sun comes up, it melts quickly and disappears.’ Buckingham

i. Though the bread from heaven may have been similar to the modern-day manna in the Sinai Peninsula, it wasn’t the same thing. The modern-day manna never appears in great quantities, it doesn’t last year-round, and it is confined to a small geographic region.

e. The purpose of giving the bread from heaven was not only to provide for the material needs of Israel. but to teach them eternal lessons of dependence on God, Deuteronomy 8:3.

When God puts us in a place of need, He wants us to do more than meet the need, He wants to teach an eternal lesson.

i. Feeding Israel through the bread from heaven was an example of God’s way of cooperating with man. Israel could not bring the manna, and God would not gather it for them. Each had to do their part.

ii. ‘Animals are often taught through their food. When they could not be reached in any other way, they have been instructed by their hunger, and by their thirst, and by their feeding.’ Spurgeon.

2. The people call the bread from heaven manna, Exodus 16:15.

a. The name manna, given later in Exodus 16:31 means ‘what’s that?’ and comes from the question asked in this verse.

b. When God’s provision comes, we often do not recognise it as God as promised to meet our needs, not our expectations.

3. Instructions on the gathering of bread from heaven, Exodus 16:16-19.

a. An omer could be as much as a gallon, but early, it may have meant only a ‘cupful’, an imprecise measure.

4. Some of the people fail God’s test, Exodus 16:20-21.

a. Notwithstanding, they did not heed Moses. We can clearly hear and clearly know God’s command, and yet still somehow think ourselves exempt!

i. It bred worms and stank, this is the product of our disobedience!

b. Apparently, bread from heaven had to be gathered and prepared early in the morning, because when the sun became hot, it melted. This was God’s gracious way of forcing a work ethic upon the children of Israel.

5. God provides double on the day before the Sabbath, Exodus 16:22-30.

a. This is the first time God speaks to Israel about the Sabbath, and God essentially ‘forces’ them to keep it by not providing any bread from heaven on the Sabbath day.

b. Despite what God said, some go looking for bread from heaven when He said there would be none, today, people still look for life and fulfilment in places God has said there would be none.

6. God commands some bread from heaven be set aside as a testimony to His provision, Exodus 16:31-36.

a. This pot full of the bread from heaven was later put into the ark of the covenant, referred to here as the Testimony, Hebrews 9:4.

b. As important as it was for God to provide the manna, it was important for God to stop providing it, it was essential that Israel be put again in the position to receive God’s ‘normal’ provision, through hard work.

i. God providing through giving us the means to work and all that goes with it is really no less miraculous than the giving of bread from heaven.