In our study of Exodus chapter sixteen, we look at the fact that God's provision has a purpose which is to get us to the place where He wants us to be.
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They traveled on from Eilim, and the whole community of the people of Isra'el arrived at the Seen Desert, between Eilim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving the land of Egypt.
Thirty days after leaving Egypt and the people of Israel were on the edge of the desert near Mt Sinai. We see that they arrived there on the fifteenth day and we should note that, when the number fifteen is spelled in Hebrew, it is Yah which is the name of God. This is a reminder that the people were being physically led by God on this journey and now they were on the edge of a desert wasteland.
There in the desert the whole community of the people of Isra'el grumbled against Moshe and Aharon. The people of Isra'el said to them, "We wish ADONAI had used his own hand to kill us off in Egypt! There we used to sit around the pots with the meat boiling, and we had as much food as we wanted. But you have taken us out into this desert to let this whole assembly starve to death!"
The word that is translated here as "community" is the Hebrew word for witnesses and now this group of witnesses complained to Moshe and Aharon. They remembered the abundance of food that they had when they were in Egypt and they looked around and saw no food but only desert. They were walking in the flesh and all they saw ahead of them was death as they forgot the promises of God.
ADONAI said to Moshe, "Here, I will cause bread to rain down from heaven for you. The people are to go out and gather a day's ration every day. By this I will test whether they will observe my Torah or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have brought in, it will turn out to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." Moshe and Aharon said to all the people of Isra'el, "This evening, you will realize that it has been ADONAI who brought you out of Egypt; and in the morning, you will see ADONAI's glory. For he has listened to your grumblings against ADONAI - what are we that you should grumble against us?" Moshe added, "What I have said will happen when ADONAI gives you meat to eat this evening and your fill of bread tomorrow morning. ADONAI has listened to your complaints and grumblings against him - what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against ADONAI."
In the Hebrew text, it is not "I will cause" but it is in the present tense "A am causing". We see that God had already planned to provide for His people as He is bringing bread each day. We also see that, on the sixth day, He will provide a double blessing. The sixth day is the day of preparation for the Shabbat and we see that the purpose is to show whether they will follow the teaching (Torah) of God or not. Moshe goes on to explain that, when the people complain, they are complaining about God as both Moshe and Aharon are only servants of God.
Moshe said to Aharon, "Say to the whole community of Isra'el, 'Come close, into the presence of ADONAI, for he has heard your grumblings.'" As Aharon spoke to the whole community of the people of Isra'el, they looked toward the desert; and there before them the glory of ADONAI appeared in the cloud; and ADONAI said to Moshe, "I have heard the grumblings of the people of Isra'el. Say to them: 'At dusk you will be eating meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will realize that I am ADONAI your God.'"
The solution to this situation is simple and that is to come close to God. Here, the people are told that it is the answer and we see that they turned to the desert and God appeared to them in a cloud. This reminds us that, when we turn to God in all things, our perspective is changed from the flesh to the spiritual. God explained how He had been listening to their complaints and how He had already provided for their needs. In all of this, we see that God did not change or change His plan but He caused the perspective of His people to change to come into agreement with His will.
That evening, quails came up and covered the camp; while in the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. When the dew had evaporated, there on the surface of the desert was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Isra'el saw it, they asked each other, "Man hu?" because they didn't know what it was. Moshe answered them, "It is the bread which ADONAI has given you to eat. Here is what ADONAI has ordered: each man is to gather according to his appetite - each is to take an 'omer per person for everyone in his tent." The people of Isra'el did this. Some gathered more, some less; but when they put it in an 'omer-measure, whoever had gathered much had no excess; and whoever had gathered little had no shortage; nevertheless each person had gathered according to his appetite. Moshe told them, "No one is to leave any of it till morning."
We see that God provided in the evening and in the morning but the people did not recognize the bread that God had provided. Moshe gave them instructions and the people gathered as they were told and the blessing of God was sufficient for all of their needs. The final instruction was similar to the instruction that had been given for the Passover meal and that was that none of the bread could be left for the next day.
But they didn't pay attention to Moshe, and some kept the leftovers until morning. It bred worms and rotted, which made Moshe angry at them. So they gathered it morning after morning, each person according to his appetite; but as the sun grew hot, it melted. On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two 'omers per person; and all the community leaders came and reported to Moshe. He told them, "This is what ADONAI has said: 'Tomorrow is a holy Shabbat for ADONAI. Bake what you want to bake; boil what you want to boil; and whatever is left over, set aside and keep for the morning.'" They set it aside till morning, as Moshe had ordered; and it didn't rot or have worms. Moshe said, "Today, eat that; because today is a Shabbat for ADONAI - today you won't find it in the field. Gather it six days, but the seventh day is the Shabbat - on that day there won't be any."
Some of the people lacked faith and tried to save some of the bread for the next day but it had worms in it and it smelled bad from rotting. Each day they gathered what they needed but, on the sixth day, they were told to gather enough for two days. The leaders of the tribes came and asked Moshe about this because they had seen what had happened when some tried to keep bread before. Moshe explained about the double portion for Shabbat and the fact that they would not find any on the ground on that day. Once again, we see that this sixth day (Friday) was a day of preparation for Shabbat.
However, on the seventh day, some of the people went out to gather and found none. ADONAI said to Moshe, "How long will you refuse to observe my mitzvot and teachings? Look, ADONAI has given you the Shabbat. This is why he is providing bread for two days on the sixth day. Each of you, stay where you are; no one is to leave his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day.
Once again, some disobeyed and went out looking for bread on Shabbat but found none. God told Moshe to ask the people how long they were going to refuse to follow His teachings and commandments. Moshe again explained that the double portion of blessing on the sixth day was preparation for resting on Shabbat and that the people were to stay at home on that day because they were not going to find anything outside.
The people called the food man. It was like coriander seed, white; and it tasted like honey cakes. Moshe said, "Here is what ADONAI has ordered: 'Let two quarts of man be kept through all your generations, so that they will be able to see the bread which I fed you in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.'" Moshe said to Aharon, "Take a jar, put in it two quarts of man, and set it aside before ADONAI to be kept through all your generations." Just as ADONAI ordered Moshe, Aharon set it aside before the testimony to be kept. The people of Isra'el ate man for forty years, until they came to an inhabited land. They ate man until they arrived at the borders of the land of Kena'an. (An 'omer is one-tenth of an eifah.)
This bread which the people called man was a rough wafer like coriander seed but it tasted sweet as honey and this was a reminder to the people of their destination which was Canaan or the land of milk and honey. Two jars of the man were gathered to keep as a remembrance of what God had done and a symbol of God's faithfulness. We see that this was what the people ate for the entire forty years that they would spend in the wilderness. We are reminded that, throughout the Torah, the number forty is associated with a transition.