Exodus 16

The Manna
Exodus 16
Exodus 16. In this chapter we have the lessons of the seventh encampment: the Wilderness of Sin (Num. 33). Here we have a difficult trial, Israel’s failure, and then the wonderful way that the Lord meets a fundamental need for His people. We have a type of the believer’s food in the wilderness: the manna which represents Christ. It is important to see the difference between Ex. 16 and Num. 11. Here the people murmured for food, and the Lord gave the people manna and quails without judgment. In Num. 11, which took place at least twelve months later, and after the law was given, the people lusted after other foods. They despised the manna and desired flesh. They received the results of their sin under the law.

Murmuring (16:1-3)

And they journeyed from Elim, and the whole assembly of the children of Israel came into the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure out of the land of Egypt. 2 And the whole assembly of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron in the wilderness. 3 And the children of Israel said to them, Would that we had died by the hand of Jehovah in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, when we ate bread to the full; for ye have brought us out into this wilderness, to kill this whole congregation with hunger! vv.1-3 Murmuring. Now we have the third temptation of Israel against the Lord. They had been on the journey for two and a half months now, and apparently the people were hungry. They complain against Moses and Aaron in a very accusing tone. When they say “Would that we had died by the hand of Jehovah in the land of Egypt”, it sounds religious but it is really blasphemous, and rather exaggerated. It was Jehovah who had brought them out of Egypt! Unbelief is always ready to invoke the name of God for nefarious purposes. As they compare their present hunger with being in Egypt “when we sat by the flesh-pots, when we ate bread to the full”, we see how quickly they had forgotten the whip of the taskmasters! The picture of sitting by the flesh-pots conveys the idea of ease. Satan makes it easy to feed on the world. Feeding on Christ takes diligence!

The Manna and Quail (16:4-18)

The Christian’s Menu. There are three primary foods that Israel had on their journey, and these three foods are types for us of  the Christian’s spiritual menu. You will notice that all three are Christ! We can take a lesson from that. These three foods are connected with the three phases of Israel’s journey from Egypt to Canaan (see Joshua 5:10-12). The “manna” represents Christ as the bread of heaven, and “the Passover” represents Christ sacrificed for sin, referenced here as eating His flesh and drinking His blood. We even have what answers to “the old corn of the land” mentioned in v.62! Read more…
Manna. In John 6 Jesus explained that the manna was but a type of Himself, the true bread come down from heaven (read John 6:57-58). “As the living Father has sent me and I live on account of the Father, he also who eats me shall live also on account of me.” Christ has set Himself before the believer as an object, that we might find our sustenance in Him. “To me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21). This verse explains what the manna typifies; the incarnate, humbled, Son of Man on earth living for His Father’s will; that is what we feed on! It is quite superior to the manna; “This is the bread which has come down out of heaven. Not as the fathers ate and died: he that eats this bread shall live for ever.” The manna in the wilderness sustained only the natural, temporal life, but still ended in death. The loaves and fishes of John 6 couldn’t do any more. But a person eating of the Bread which came down from heaven would not die (in a spiritual sense of course), and would receive sustenance that nourishes eternal life. Therefore, we see that manna speaks of Christ in His humiliation. Manna is not doctrine, although you do not have manna without sound doctrine. When we meditate on Christ in His humility, grace, denial of self, and devotion to His Father, it infuses us with spiritual energy for the pathway! There is a plentiful supply for all, and enough to supply our needs in the wilderness.
4 Then said Jehovah to Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather the daily need on its day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or not. 5 And it shall come to pass on the sixth day, that they shall prepare what they have brought in; and it shall be twice as much as they shall gather daily. vv.4-5 Daily Gathering. The manna was a provision of God’s grace for Israel, but it was also a test of their obedience; “that I may prove them”. The manna would be rained down from heaven. Its source was heavenly, like Christ who is our food. The manna might be trampled upon, just as those precious details of Christ’s pathway might be neglected, so we have to “gather it up”. It had to be a daily gathering. Each day there would enough supply for the needs of that day. The exception was for the Sabbath day, when Israel was to do no work. On the day before the Sabbath, when they prepared their normal portion, it would be twice as much as normal, and the second portion would last through the following day. But in general the gathering had to be daily. I believe this shows us that gathering spiritual food from the Word of God must be a daily thing! See vv.19-20.
6 And Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, In the evening, then shall ye know that Jehovah has brought you out from the land of Egypt; 7 and in the morning, then shall ye see the glory of Jehovah; for he has heard your murmurings against Jehovah; — and what are we, that ye murmur against us? 8 And Moses said, When Jehovah gives you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for Jehovah hears your murmurings which ye murmur against him … and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against Jehovah. 9 And Moses spoke to Aaron, Say to all the assembly of the children of Israel, Come near into the presence of Jehovah; for he has heard your murmurings. 10 And it came to pass, when Aaron spoke to the whole assembly of the children of Israel, that they turned toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of Jehovah appeared in the cloud. 11 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, 12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak to them, saying, Between the two evenings ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God. vv.6-12 The Glory of Jehovah. We find that there were two foods provided daily for Israel: quail in the evening, and manna in the morning. Little is said of the quail, but we find in Numbers 11 that the quail became the object of the people’s lusts. Even things that God has provided for our natural needs can become an unhealthy occupation, and expose our greed (Num. 11:32). The quail was nevertheless a proof of Jehovah’s power on Israel’s behalf. But the manna was a far greater thing: a new thing that did not occur in nature to begin with. It is quite interesting that the glory of Jehovah is connected with the manna. The people were told to direct their attention toward the wilderness, where the glory of Jehovah appeared in a cloud. The people heard Jehovah speak to Moses about the flesh and bread, and knew that it was from Him!
13 And it came to pass in the evening, that quails came up, and covered the camp; and in the morning the dew lay round the camp. 14 And when the dew that lay round it was gone up, behold, on the face of the wilderness there was something fine, granular, fine as hoar-frost, on the ground. 15 And the children of Israel saw it, and said one to another, What is it? for they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, This is the bread which Jehovah has given you to eat. vv.13-15 The Manna. The manna appeared when the dew was gone up. The dew might represent the Word of God. We feed on Christ by enjoying and considering Him, but this food comes to us through the water of the Word. The manna was “fine, granular, fine as hoar-frost, on the ground”. The smallness of the manna represents the humility of Christ. Gathering the manna would have taken diligence and humility, to stoop down and carefully gather what was needed. Like the fine flour of the meal offering (Lev. 2), the manna was fine and of even consistency, which represents the moral perfection of Christ as a man. The children of Israel didn’t know what the manna was, and so they called it ‘manna’ which means ‘what is it?’. So with the believer’s food. The world doesn’t understand what sustains us (1 Cor. 2:15).
16 This is the thing which Jehovah has commanded: Gather of it every man according to what he can eat, an omer a poll, according to the number of your persons: ye shall take every man for those that are in his tent. 17 And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some much, some little. 18 And they measured with the omer: “then he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little wanted nothing:” [quoted 2 Cor. 8:15] they had gathered every man according to the measure of his eating. vv.16-18 Gathering and Measuring. The gathering was to be by the man of the household, enough for “those that are in his tent”. I believe this shows that heads of households, and fathers especially, have the responsibility to ensure there is spiritual food for their household. However, the manna was also individual. We must each individually feed on Christ. A miracle would happen when they would meet the manna with an omer (measure it into a container with the volume of one omer) – a picture of meditation on Christ. Namely, whether little or much was gathered it became enough for one man. Whether we read ten chapters or ten verses, when we meditate on it the Lord makes it enough to fill our souls. It doesn’t matter how much we read, as long as we read daily and meditate. This verse is quoted in 2 Corinthians 8:15 showing the principle that God desires us to have just the amount of provision that we need.

Special Instructions Concerning the Manna (16:19-30)

19 And Moses said to them, Let no man leave any of it until the morning. 20 But they did not hearken to Moses; and some men left of it until the morning; then worms bred in it and it stank. And Moses was wroth with them. vv.19-20 Leftovers. Israel was not to leave manna over to the following day, or it would breed worms and stink. So with us, we cannot live on yesterday’s food. We need to feed on fresh manna gathered daily.
21 And they gathered it every morning, every man as much as he could eat; and when the sun became hot, it melted. v.21 The Sun Melted. The sun melted the manna, and this made it important to gather it early. So with us, we need to feed on Christ before our day starts, and the busyness of life robs us of the opportunity to read and meditate.
22 And it came to pass on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one; and all the princes of the assembly came and told Moses. 23 And he said to them, This is what Jehovah has said: To-morrow is the rest, the holy sabbath, of Jehovah: bake what ye will bake, and cook what ye will cook; and lay up for yourselves all that remains over, to be kept for the morning. 24 And they laid it up for the morning, as Moses had commanded; and it did not stink, neither was there any worm in it. 25 And Moses said, Eat it to-day; for to-day is sabbath to Jehovah: to-day ye shall not find it in the field. 26 Six days shall ye gather it; but on the seventh day is sabbath: on it there shall be none. vv.22-26 The Sixth Day. On the day before the Sabbath, the children of Israel gathered twice as much manna, two omers for one person. That which was left over on the Sabbath would not grow worms or rot. This was Jehovah’s provision so that Israel could be fed all week and yet still observe the Sabbath day.
27 And it came to pass on the seventh day that there went out some from the people to gather it, and they found none. 28 And Jehovah said to Moses, How long do ye refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 See, for Jehovah hath given you the sabbath; therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread for two days. Abide every man in his place: let no man go from his place on the seventh day. 30 And the people rested on the seventh day. vv.27-30 The Seventh Day. Although the Lord had explicitly said that Israel would find no manna in the field on the Sabbath day, there were some who insisted on going out to gather anyway. Jehovah rebuked Israel for this, and added that no one should leave their place on the Sabbath day. It was God’s mind that His people rest on the seventh day.

Characteristics of the Manna (16:31)

31 And the house of Israel called its name Manna; and it was like coriander-seed, white; and the taste of it was like cake with honey. v.31 Characteristics of the Manna. The foods of Egypt were that which grew from or in the ground, while the manna was from heaven. The manna was small like coriander-seed, representing the humility of Christ. Seeds have life in them! We feed on what is alive, while the world feeds on death. It was white, representing the purity of Christ. It was sweet, representing the attractiveness of the Person of Christ to the divine nature. Compare the taste of the manna as God gave it with the taste when Israel tried to process or change it; “And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil” (Num. 11:8). If we try to change the manna so as to make Christ in His humiliation for palatable to the flesh, it will lose its blessed character. If we have been feeding on “the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic” of Egypt we will have no appetite for the sweet and refined taste of the manna (Num. 11:5). Some examples of the manna might be:

  • His perfection as an obedient and dependent Man. The very fact that He became a man; “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” He came in lowliness, born in a manger. He, the Eternal Son of God, was subject to His earthly parents (Luke 2). His every thought and action was to satisfy the will of His God and Father. He came for the purpose of doing the will of God: He alone could say, “A body hast thou prepared me”, and “In the volume of the book it is written of me, Lo I come to do they will O God”, and “My meat it is to do the will of Him that sent me”, and “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as one who is taught.”
  • His perfect lowliness and grace. He was the Creator of the universe, yet He had no place to lay His head. He had to say “Show me a penny”. He never looked for an exalted place. He took up the children in His arms. He sought the publicans and sinners, who were the outcast of the people. He reached out to Gentiles, as the “branch that reached over the wall”. “He bare our griefs and carried our sorrows”. He touched a leprous man. “They wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth”.
  • His quiet dignity. He went before the crowd in Pilate’s hall and carried Himself with the dignity of a King. The officers who were sent to take Him returned saying, “Never man spake like this man”.

Manna for the Present and Future (16:32-36)

32 And Moses said, This is the thing which Jehovah has commanded: Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread that I gave you to eat in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt. 33 And Moses said to Aaron, Take a pot, and put in it an omer full of manna, and deposit it before Jehovah, to be kept for your generations. 34 As Jehovah had commanded Moses, so Aaron deposited it before the Testimony, to be kept. vv.32-36 The Pot of Manna. Moses was to take an omer of manna and keep it for Israel’s generations. He would lay it up before the Lord The “Testimony” was some sort of symbol that represented the presence of the Lord, because at this time the tabernacle had not been built. In the process of time it would be placed inside the ark of the covenant (Heb. 9:4). This manna is referred to in the New Testament as “the hidden manna”. All our time on earth we’re in the wilderness, so we always need the manna daily (v.35). But to the overcomer in Pergamos, Rev. 2:17 tells us, “To him that overcomes, to him will I give of the hidden manna”. The overcomer is promised a portion of “the hidden manna”, which is a contrast with eating things offered to idols. There was in the life of Christ on earth that which is reserved for heaven’s delight. How much of the life of Christ is recorded in the gospels? Very little (John 21:25). There was in the pathway of Christ that which was for the eye of His Father. The hidden manna therefore speaks of a future enjoyment of Christ in His pathway down here, which we will have in heaven after the struggles are over, when we will have the vantagepoint of heaven. We will have a greater appreciation of His pathway in that day than we do now! Even then, we will enjoy the remembrance of Him in in His humiliation on earth, and even there amid the joys of heaven Christ as the Manna will be precious to our souls!
There on the hidden bread
Of Christ—once humbled here—
God’s treasured store—forever fed,
His love my soul shall cheer.1
35 And the children of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came into an inhabited land: they ate the manna until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan. 36 Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah. vv.35-36 Food for the Wilderness. The children of Israel were to stop eating the manna once they got to Canaan (Joshua 5:10-12). The manna was only for the wilderness, “forty years, until they came into an inhabited land”. In the same way, we need Christ as the manna because we are in the wilderness, that we “may eat thereof and not die”. Just as the manna was given when the people were hungry in the wilderness (Exodus 16:3-4), feeding on Christ in His pathway is what we need for energy in our pathway. In closing a note is added that “an omer is the tenth part of an ephah”, or about three English pints. It was a small amount, but sufficient for each day!
  1. Darby, J.N. Rest of the Saints Above. Little Flock Hymnbook #79, 1845.
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