Exodus 16:2–4, 11–15, 18, 32–34comment (0)
April 8, 2010
By Jeffrey S. Quiett
Related Scripture: Exodus 16:2–4, 11–15, 18, 32–34
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Associate professor of marriage and family counseling, University of Mobile
Exodus 16:2–4, 11–15, 18, 32–34
Victory Gives Way to Complaint (2–4)
The Israelites traveled for approximately a month and evidently exhausted all their food supplies. This harsh reality led them to complain against Moses. They forgot their recent victory over the Egyptians as they expressed a lack of confidence in God’s ability to provide for them. Like Lot’s wife (Gen. 19:26), the Israelites looked backward to their former life in Egypt, and it seemed preferable to what they were experiencing in the desert. Interestingly the Israelites’ memory was faulty. The “flesh pots” referred to were kettles full of flesh, but meat was not part of the everyday diet of poor men or slaves in Egypt. It is like the man who remembers the “good old days,” which probably weren’t quite as good as he remembers.
God responded to the complaints by telling Moses He would “rain bread from heaven.” “Bread” in the Old Testament frequently means “food” in general. There seems to be two purposes of God’s provision. The first purpose was to feed the Israelites, but the second purpose was to “test” their obedience. The instructions were quite simple. The Israelites were to gather only enough for the day and twice as much on the sixth day to prepare for the Sabbath. Our tendency is to want more than what God has provided. This same tendency tested Israel’s obedience.
Complaint Gives Way to Provision (11–15)
Once again, God took care of the Israelites through His miraculous provision. The provision’s purpose was to point the Israelites to God. The provision itself was not the focus; the focus was God (12). We often confuse the gift with the gift giver. God is providing for our needs on a daily basis, which is meant to remind us of His presence and love.
In the evening, quail came and lit in the camp, covering the ground. These migratory birds can still be observed on the Sinai Peninsula, traveling in vast numbers. When they light, they are exhausted and can be captured easily by hand in great quantities.
The next morning, dew covered the ground. When it evaporated, a small substance covered the ground and provided additional food for the Israelites. Scholars for centuries have sought to explain this miraculous provision through “natural” means. Some have suggested tree resin, while others have used insect secretions to explain the event. The text, however, suggests a miraculous event, considering the duration and timing of the manna. Moses, once again, made it clear that this unique food was from God. Daily provisions give us further opportunities to know and worship God.
God Provides (18)
Following Moses’ instructions, the Israelites gathered the manna each day. What they gathered was just enough for their daily dietary needs. Recent economic problems have intensified the discussion concerning wants and needs. Scripture makes it clear that God provides for our needs as He did for the Israelites so many times. We tend to confuse wants with needs and, like the Israelites, complain that our perceived “needs” are not being met. These “needs,” however, are often “wants” when we honestly look at our lives and how God would have us to live.
Remembering God for Needs Met (32–34)
Once the Israelites’ needs were satisfied, God through Moses commanded them to set aside a portion of the manna as a testimony of His ability to meet their needs. God’s provision gave rise to thankfulness. The needs that God met in the lives of the Israelites were to point them back to Him and give them a reason not to become prideful in thinking themselves self-sufficient. Most scholars agree that “Testimony” is a reference to the Ark of the Covenant. The purpose of God’s provision for our needs is always the same. God’s provision intends to direct our attention toward Him and not give us a false sense of self-sufficiency. The temptation is to focus on our needs and not on the One who supplies our needs. The manna kept the Israelites alive and challenged them to rely solely on God for their well-being. The ability to live and live fully comes only from God. This is why Jesus later identified Himself as “the Bread of Life” (John 6:58).