Book of Exodus Chapter Sixteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
What Is It?
Verse 1: "Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt." The word "Elim" translates as, "large trees," a reference to the "seventy date palms" mentioned in Exodus 15:27 and also seen in Numbers 33:10. "Sin" is a wilderness area to the west on the Sinai Peninsula. The precise location here is not certain, but the place was certainly barren, and in Verses 2-3, we find "The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The sons of Israel said to them, 'Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.'" There is a danger for us all here, and we are far better off when we look to the Lord and His promises, instead of merely recoiling from circumstances. Note that time had passed and the thrill of Israel's deliverance had worn off. We do well if we learn from this and thank the Lord for His deliverance—every day.
Verses 4-5 record the Lord's response to the needs of Israel: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.'" We WILL receive answers to prayer. Like this "bread from heaven," it may not be precisely what we expected, but our need will be met, one way or another. And there is a "test" in His answer: Faith understands that the Lord has great purpose in what we have been given and in what we think has been denied us.
Verses 6-7: "So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, 'At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt; 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?'" After the night time, the darkness of this life, you will see heaven in the morning of eternity. Here is some of what you can expect to find: Joy, rest, peace, righteousness, service, reward, your inheritance, and glory. Best of all, you will be in the Presence of the Lord who loves you. The faithful among Israel and the Gentiles will find that eternity, but at the moment, Moses and Aaron spoke of something remarkable to be seen that very day.
Note in Verses 8-9 that our wrong thoughts and wrong actions create greater problems than we might expect: "Moses said, 'This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.' 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, 'Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your grumblings.'" The Lord is fully aware of your needs and just like Israel, He will provide for you. They would now have "meat...in the evening, and bread...in the morning." God knows the "grumblings" in your heart and on your lips, and note that human complaints are more than about other people—they are sins against God.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if God revealed Himself to us? That's what happened in Verse 10: "It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud." But it wouldn't satisfy them. It's FAITH we need, for "without faith it is impossible to please (God), for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). And Jesus said, "blessed are those who did not see, and yet believed" (John 20:29). Faith will change your heart, your mind and your words. In faith we accept our lives as created by God, and through faith, we love the One who made us.
In Verses 11-12, "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 'I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.'" It's interesting that the Lord would hear our many complaints and yet still give us what we want...and it's all too common to grudgingly accept God if He gives us what we insist upon...but is it faith to do so?
In Verses 13-15, we find two very different responses to the grumbling demands of the people. The first was one that could be explained away as a natural occurrence, whereas the second was undeniably a miracle. "So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, 'What is it?' For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, 'It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.'" God uses so-called natural forces within this world in responding to our needs, including the migration of animals and the dew that comes in the morning. This "dew," however, was something not seen before or since that time. Be patient, wait for the miracle, and learn to recognize it when it comes. And we can note with some amusement that when this substance sent by God was revealed, they called it "manna," which in the Hebrew is, "What is it?" Nothing like it had ever existed on this earth.
There is an attitude within humanity to grab as much as you can when you can. The opposite of that idea is seen in Verses 16-18: "This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.'" 17 The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. 18 When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat." The Lord is continually providing for each one of us, which we acknowledge by thanking God for our food. If we thought we did it, we acknowledge that He is the One who enabled us to do it and provides the means through which it is done.
In Verse 19, "Moses said to them, 'Let no man leave any of it until morning.'" Verse 20 reports, "But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them." The instruction of Moses was clear and he was being very careful to say and do exactly what God told him. "But they did not listen" to him. His life was no longer about himself—he did his absolute best to mirror the Lord's intentions, just as we should. The people did gather this "manna" as they were told, but we are to see that the COMPLETE will of God is to be done, and like them, our disobedience has "bred worms and became foul." Moses was "angry" and God becomes angry also, for His every intention has purpose and is designed for our good—even when we don't understand.
Verses 21-23 state, "They gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt. 22 Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 then he said to them, 'This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.'" Many have read these chapters thinking, "What has this to do with me?" The answer? It's about faith in the Lord and what He leads us to do! All this points ahead in time to the Messiah, whose life, death and resurrection, show us that this "faith" we talk about, but seldom understand, is everything to God. As the amazing Jewish man, Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul the Apostle, taught us: "the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).
Verse 24 is amazing: "So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it." If it would spoil and stink on all the other days, surely it would happen on this "sabbath" day of rest as well. But it didn't, for God made it so. This concept of a "sabbath" is important. The Jews were an industrious people, and if they weren't commanded to rest from Friday evening to Saturday evening, they might well have worked themselves, their families and servants to death. But there's more. It's easy for many to dismiss this complex universe as something that arose from natural processes, but just as this "manna" was a miracle, everything we are and all that is around us is a miracle as well. In Genesis One, we have God's Word that this universe was created in six literal days, and on the seventh day, there was a sabbath rest because there was nothing left to do. When we "come unto" the Lord and "rest" as He called out to us in Matthew 11:28, we express our faith in His Word and praise His Holy Name as the Creator of all that is.
In Verses 25-26, "Moses said, 'Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.'" That couldn't be more clear, but people being what we are, Verse 27 reports, "It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none." We are so CURIOUS, which can be good, but it is often an expression of unbelief. If we discover God and know He said something, His word should be enough. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Faith simply BELIEVES the Lord. Do you believe? Do you REALLY believe? Or are you still looking for something other than Him?
Notice in Verse 28 that the Lord held Moses responsible for the shortcomings of the people: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?" The Lord continued in Verse 29: "See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.'" The people were beginning to believe, at least outwardly, as reflected in Verse 30..."So the people rested on the seventh day." What has God said to you, in your life? Do you believe it? Or is your response merely outward obedience?
Israel came out of Egypt, a place where scientific understanding was as important as it is today...they just didn't have as much information. Israel studied the substance they found every morning, but still had no idea what it was. And so in Verse 31, "The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey." The word "manna," of course, meant "What is it?" and they received no answer to that question, except that it sustained the families of Israel and it came from God. What they did know is seen in Verse 32: "Then Moses said, 'This is what the Lord has commanded, 'Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.'" They were to keep some of it as evidence of what had happened and Moses reported what they all knew—it looked something like "coriander seed," and it tasted sweet like honey. Numbers 11:8 adds that, "its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil." And note that what they kept for the "generations" would not spoil.
The "omer" of Verse 33 was a unit of dry measure, equivalent to about two quarts or 2.2 liters. "Moses said to Aaron, 'Take a jar and put an omerful of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.'" And it was done, just as the Lord said. In Verse 34, "As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the Testimony, to be kept." It was to be placed into an "ark" Moses did not yet know about, which will be seen later in this book. In Verse 35, we find that, "The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan." They would eat this miracle from God for essentially a generation, until the younger people didn't know anything else, and the older ones who longed to return to the food of Egypt were gone. Then suddenly as this long journey ended, the manna stopped and was no more. The chapter concludes in Verse 36 with the parenthetical statement: "(Now an omer is a tenth of an ephah.)"—a dry measure equivalent to ten omers.
Father, open our eyes to the miracles that surround us, especially the gift of Your Son, who died for our sins...and help us to respond in faith, believing and trusting in Him. Please forgive our unbelief. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.