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Manna And Quail (ch. 16:1 - 36)


Verse 1 tells us that the Israelis left Elim and entered the " Desert of Sin".  How ironic of a name for this desert.  To liberal scholars this helps prove their theory that all these stories are just made up from the over active imagination of men.  Israel wandered in the desert for forty years because of their sin, and that is why the liberal scholars say this desert was so named. 


Among conservative scholars there is debate over many names found in the first five books of the Bible.  For example, was the Desert of Sin named that before Israel entered it, or did it become known as the Desert of Sin long after they left?  Did the Jews call this the Desert of Sin because that is what it was to them?  That's the question that seems hard to answer.      


All that being said, there was a Desert of Sin and also a Desert of Zin .  Sin might be short form for "Sinai", as in Mount Sinai, or the Desert of Sinai , which this Desert of Sin was part of.  So there might well be some logistical reason for the name of this desert.       


Verses 2 and 3 tell us the first sin that these people began to commit, and it was the sin of "complaining".  They told Moses and Aaron, "if only we had died at the hand of the Lord in Egypt."  They continued to say that they had lots to eat in Egypt, but now Moses had brought them into the desert to starve and die.  Complaining actually shows that we don't trust God.  It shows that we have a distaste towards Him. 


Many times when people relocate to another area of the country, they are escaping something in the hopes of finding a better place to live.  Once they get to where they moved to, sometimes things don't turn out as they expect, and they look back from where they came from with fondness, even though things weren't so fond when they actually lived there.  Sometimes in the midst of troubles we forget about the trouble we once had in the place we came from, when in reality, if you moved back, you'd feel the pain just as bad. 


Israel was a community of slaves in Egypt.  They had forgotten about their bondage in their present distress.  I don't want to put Israel down too much here.  They were hungry, and close to starving.  So you can understand their predicament.


God heard Israel's complaints, so in verse 4 God told Moses that "he would rain down bread from heaven" for them to eat.  People would gather enough of this bread to last them for the day.  Verse 5 says that on the sixth day, they were to gather twice as much bread to last over to the seventh day. This is the first clear suggestion of a Sabbath, a day of rest in the Bible.  There might be allusions to a day of rest earlier in the Bible, but this isn't an allusion.  This is very clear.


Back in verse 4 God told Moses that this bread that He would rain down from heaven would be a test.  How was this so?  God would help Israel by supernaturally supplying their needs.  If they could not obey their God in those circumstances, then they could not obey or trust Him in any circumstance.


There are actually two Hebrew words for our English word "test".  One meant "to test by smelling", and this is the Hebrew word that is used here.  God was testing these people in one sense of the word by smelling them.  We will note later that the bread, if it was left over night would smell real bad because it would be full of maggots. Paul sates that we are to be a sweet smell to God, but in many cases Israel was not that sweet smell.   


In verse 6 Moses and Aaron told Israel that in the evening they would know that the Lord was the one who freed them from Egypt.  I believe he says this because the Jews were blaming Moses for leading them out of Egypt.  In reality it was really God, so the one they were complaining to was really God, not Moses, so God would do something about this, this very day.  This is because, as we will see later, God would give them meet in the evening to eat. 


In verse 7 Moses tells the people that in the morning they would see the glory of God.  God's glory would be seen in the heavenly bread that would fall from the sky. 


Also in verse 7 Moses asks, "who are we, that you should grumble against us?"   Moses had just told Israel that it was God who led them out of Egypt, not himself.  So this is why Moses asks the question.  He's basically saying, "why complain to us.  God led you from Egypt, not us.  Complain to Him." 


Complaining is a tendency that is common to all mankind.  We all need to be on the guard.  Complaining does nothing to promote the Kingdom of God.  It actually gets in the way.  Christians should not be complainers.  Complaining tells God that you don't think He is doing a good job with your life, and that's blasphemy in my thinking.


In verse 8 we note that God was going to provide more than bread in the morning.  In the evening He would provide meet for them to eat.  God was planning on feeding these people very well, and they wouldn't even have to hunt for the meat, or bake the bread.  What else would one want.  Well with humans, we always want more than what we presently have.


In verse 9 Moses tells Aaron to tell the people to all gather together. You might wonder how a couple of million people might all gather together.  I don't know for sure, but remember, God led Israel out in divisions.  They were quite organized.  It might well have been that Moses and Aaron spoke to division leaders, who in turn spoke to the people.


Verses 11 and 12 are a repeat of what we already know.  Hebrew writings often repeats itself.  Aaron was to pass the message of God's provision on to the people, which he did.


Verses 13 to 15 tell us the story of quail falling from the sky at night for Israel to eat.  It also states that in the morning, after the dew had dried from the ground, all the people saw little flakes on the ground.  They asked, "what is it?"  Moses told them that this was the bread from heaven that was promised them.


Concerning the quail, it is a bird.  There are quails in North America , but quails in that part of the world are smaller and weaker.  In the spring they migrate north from Africa.  They would have passed by the area where the Jews were, thus part of the miracle of God might well be explained by the migration of these birds northwards.  Still, we can't discount the miracle, as liberal scholars do.


There have been two ways of interpreting how the Jews asked the question, "what is it?"  Some suggest that the question was one of surprise and amazement.  Others suggest that it was one of disgust, as in, "what are these stupid little things?"  I've always understood the former to be more plausible than the latter.


Verse 16 tells us that enough bread should be gathered for every individual in a household.  None needed to be kept for the next day, because the next day there would be more bread.  This is all a matter of trust in God.  There was no need to store up food.  God would provide  the food for you on a daily basis.


I'm sure you will remember that in the New Testament Jesus is called the "Bread of life" many times.  This bread typifies Jesus.  Jesus even tells us to eat from Him.  We are to eat from Him every day, as the Jews ate this bread every day.   The Jews couldn't store any bread for another day.  The same with us and Jesus.  You can't store Him up.  You must meet with Him every day. 


Verse 17 tells us that the Jews did as they were told.  How ironic.  When there is no miracle, they grumble.  When the miracle comes, they do as they are told.  This reminds me a bit of the Pharisees in Jesus' day.  They always wanted to see a miracle.  But the one difference is that even when they saw a miracle, they did not obey.


Verse 18 simply states that these people did obey by gathering just as much as they needed.  We need to understand that everyone  gathered enough for themselves.  You didn't gather for others, unless they were little children.  In like fashion, each and every individual must come to Jesus the Bread of Life.  You cannot become a Christian on behalf of someone else.


In verse 19 Moses specifically stated that you could not keep any of this heavenly bread until morning. You only gather enough for that one day.  In verse 20 we see some men testing what Moses had told them.  They kept some until the next morning, but by morning, the heavenly bread was full of maggots and smelled real bad.  This tells me something.  When Jesus, and His word is not applied every day, when we're living on yesterdays' bread, it smells bad.  Along with Jesus, God's Word, the Bible, is also known as brad to Christians.  We can't be living on yesterdays revelation, and when we do, everyone knows it is pretty stale.  This is a problem with the church.  We don't receive our daily bread.  We're living on old smelly bread from prior days, and that just doesn’t work out.  It's a bad testimony to the world.  Instead of being a fresh smelling group of people, we stink.


In verse 21 we note that when the day got hot, the bread that was left on the ground melted away. This might tell you something of what this bread was like.  Many people over the years have come up with all sorts of ideas what this heavenly bread really was, but we really don't know for sure. 


In verses 22 to 26 we note that Israel did take twice as much of this bread on day six.  The bread that they did not eat did not go bad as on the other days.  They could keep it, bake or boil it on the seventh day, which Moses states was to be a day of rest.  Here, in this chapter,  is the first mention of the command of God to the Jews to set aside the seventh day as a day of rest.  They could gather the bread for sixth days, but on the seventh day they must rest, just as the command of God would come later in what we've called the Ten Commandments.


In verse 27 we see typical humanity.  After the command was given not to gather any bread on the seventh day, some actually went out to find some to gather, but couldn’t find any, because God did not provide the bread on the seventh day.  It does not matter what the command of the Lord is, someone will always try to find away around the command or test the command.   


In verse 28 God says "how long will you refuse to keep my commands?"  The word "you" is plural here.  God is not accusing Moses of being disobedient. He is accusing Israel as a whole of being disobedient.  I think I see something here.  Not everybody disobeyed the command of God, but it appears that God blamed the whole community of Israel for disobeying.  A few tarnished the whole group. I think that you see a similar thing in the seven churches found in the book of Revelation.  Jesus was upset with many of those churches, even though in some cases, not everyone in the church was at fault.


In verses 29 and 30 Moses tells Israel why God has made the seventh day special.  It was to be a day of rest.  This day of rest was on the seventh day of the week.  Many Christians believe that our Sunday is a Sabbath, like the Jewish Sabbath of old.  We should note here that the day is not yet called a Sabbath here in Exodus 16.  We should also note that the day is the seventh day, not the first day.  For those Christians who maintain we must keep the Sabbath, they should keep it on the right day.  I do believe, but won't explain why here because I've done that elsewhere, that Christians do not have to keep this Sabbath.       


In verse 31 we note that the people called this bread "manna".  Manna means, "what is it


Verse 31 also states that this bread tasted like water mixed with honey.  Again, many people have tried to figure out what this bread really is, but with no real success.  We really have no real clue what it was. 


Verse 32 tells us that God wanted Moses to set aside one omer of manna and keep it as a memorial for future generations so they could know how God provided for them.  We've seen this over and over again.  God wants each generation to pass on to the next generation all of the good things that God has provided for them.  As Christians, we are to do the same.  So in verse 33 Moses had Aaron gather some manna and put it in a jar.


Verse 34 says that Moses told Aaron to put some manna in a jar in front of the Testimony.  There is debate over what the word "Testimony" refers to.  Some think it is Moses' tent.  As Moses wrote these words, he might well have had the Tabernacle in mind as he wrote the word Testimony.  The Tabernacle which God commanded the Jews to built would not be showed to them by God for another few months.  Revelation 15:5, along with other passages, calls the Old Testament tabernacle, or tent, the "Tabernacle of Testimony".  This special tent was meant to be a testimony to the God of Israel.  


Verses 35 and 36 simply state that Israel ate this manna every day for forty years, during their wandering in the desert. 

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