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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 16

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 15

BREAD FROM HEAVEN

‘The bread which the Lord hath given.’

Exodus 16:15

Six weeks of the desert, part of which was spent beside the wells and under the palm-trees of Elim, were enough to sicken the people of freedom. They were but a mob of slaves in heart yet, and, like children, lived in the present, and were more influenced by hunger and thirst than by fine words about liberty and serving God. The natural man has a very short memory for anything but good living, so by ‘the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt,’ task-masters and brick-making, and all other miseries, were forgotten, and the flesh-pots only remembered, which made their mouths water.

I. Human ingratitude.—The murmurings of the people fill a larger space in this Lesson than the supply of the manna, and we may well pause on them. We may learn from them how quickly men forget God’s benefits when difficulties or losses come, and may ask ourselves if our thankfulness is more stable and independent of the moment’s circumstances than theirs was. There are flowers that shut themselves up if a cloud comes over the sun, and there are flowers that hold their petals wide open all the day, though the light comes only from a veiled sky. Which of the two is our gratitude to God like? Can we sing in a darkened cage? There are moods in which we remember the flesh-pots and forget the bondage, and that not because we have learned to look wisely at past sorrows, but because we are looking unwisely at present ones.

II. Divine goodness.—The writer’s preoccupation with the manna explains the slight way in which the extraordinary flocks of quails are told of. These birds make their migration in countless numbers still, and their coming then was a proof of God’s working in so far as the coincidence in time and the prevision of their flight spoke of One Who knew beforehand, and could direct the course of the birds of the air. The manna is but partially described in our Lesson. We have to add that it was ‘like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey,’ and, further, that it melted when the sun grew hot, that if too much was gathered it corrupted and bred maggots, except that gathered for the sabbath, which kept sweet over night. It is quite vain to try to keep the miraculous out of the narrative. No doubt, certain of the scanty shrubs of the Sinaitic Peninsula do at certain seasons of the year, when punctured by insects, exude a substance having some of the qualities of the manna. But how many such shrubs would it have taken to have made up one day’s rations for the camp, not to say to keep up the supply for forty years? Besides, the manna was continuous, and the product which is pointed to as equivalent to it is confined to certain times of the year. And was there ever a natural substance that was so obliging as to accommodate its tendency to corruption to the law of the Sabbath? No doubt, there are miracles in the Exodus where the substratum is supplied by some natural phenomenon, but it is impossible fairly to include the manna as one of such. The continual sense of dependence was to be cultivated, and continual evidence of God’s bounty was to be given by the daily gathering and the impossibility of ever having a day’s store in advance, or too much in the omer for immediate use, in order that thereby blind eyes might see, and hard hearts be won to obey. Though we can make provision for the future, and have no such visible manifestation of the Divine working in giving our daily bread, yet we too have to live from hand to mouth; for ‘who can tell what a day may bring forth?’ And we shall be wise if we realise our dependence on the unseen Hand which feeds us as truly as if it showered manna round our tents, and are led by thankful love to walk in His law.

Illustration

(1) ‘There is as much of the glory of God in the fish caught from a lake, or the kernel of grain raised in a field, or the loaf of bread baked in the oven, as in the miraculous food that fell from heaven. In every drop of water there is the majesty of an ocean, in every star the beauty of a universe, in every child the grandeur of humanity. To the reverent mind the glory of God is seen as clearly in feeding a raven or clothing a lily as in quenching the hunger or hiding the nakedness of an army.’

(2) ‘Let me not murmur: it hinders immeasurably my own spiritual life. The growing soul is the glad soul. The desponding and complaining soul is stagnant, and, it may be, retrograde. I advance in faith, in hope, in love, in wisdom, in purity, in all that commends Jesus to others, if I set myself to count my benefits rather than my griefs. “Discouragement,” said David Brainerd, “is a great hindrance to spiritual fervency.” ’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Exodus 16". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/exodus-16.html. 1876.
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