Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Exodus 16

Exodus 16: Manna and Quail


For the last couple of posts, I’ve been mentioning judgement. Specifically, the fact that we should learn from the actions of the Israelites in the Old Testament, without falling into judgement. But, as this chapter illustrates, it can be very hard, sometimes…

To illustrate this, I give you a point-by-point listing of what happens in chapter 16:
  • The Israelites grumble, because they don’t have enough food. “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (verse 3). First of all, I don’t think this is actually true—I think they’re painting the picture of what life was like in Egypt a bit too rosily. But second of all, they’re grumbling against the LORD, which probably isn’t a good idea.
  • The LORD tells Moses—who passes the message on to the rest of the Israelites—that He will send food for the Israelites. He will, in fact, send quail for them to eat, and then rain bread down from heaven for them.
  • As promised, that night the camp is covered in quail, and the Israelites eat meat.
  • The next morning, there is a layer of dew around the camp, and when the dew lifts, bread appeared in its place.
  • The Israelites are commanded to gather it up; about 2 quarts per person.
  • The Israelites do as they’re told; some people gather a lot of bread, some a little, but when they actually measure it, it turns out that they each end up with about 2 quarts of bread.
  • The Israelites are commanded to eat it all that day; they’re not to keep any of it until the next morning.
  • Some people don’t listen; they try to keep some bread for the next day, but when they wake up the next morning, the bread is full of maggots and begins to smell. Moses gets angry with them for not obeying.
  • They are commanded to gather twice as much bread the sixth day, because the seventh day will be a day of rest—a “holy Sabbath” (verse 23)—and they are not to gather any bread on the seventh day.
  • Again, some of the people don’t listen, and they go out on the seventh day to try and gather bread, only to find that there is none. And in verses 28–29, it says “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.’”
The Israelites name the bread “manna”, which means “what is it?”, because that was their reaction when they first saw it. So if you didn’t already know, this is where the term “manna from heaven” comes from.


In my mind, this chapter is basically about faith. The people grumble against God, because they don’t have faith He’ll provide food; when He does, they try and save their food longer than they’re supposed to, because they don’t have faith that there will be more the next day; they aren’t able to keep the Sabbath for the same reason that people throughout history haven’t been able to take a day off: “if I don’t work, my family won’t be fed!”

Well, okay, maybe that last one’s a bit of a stretch. Maybe it’s not faith that causes them problems for obeying God in regards to the Sabbath.

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