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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Exodus 16

Verses 1-3

The People Grumble for the Second Time


The people cannot remain at Elim, however pleasant it may be. They have to travel, into the wilderness. After the redemption, the song, the trial at Marah and the rest of Elim, the real wilderness life now begins.

It is one and a half months after their departure from Egypt. It is possible that the entire stock of food they have brought with them from Egypt will then be exhausted. There is no more food, and the people express their dissatisfaction about it to Moses and Aaron.

The accusations are harsh. They blame Moses and Aaron. They present it as if they have deliberately brought the people into the wilderness to kill them there with hunger. They seem to have forgotten the slavery under which they sighed in Egypt. They only think back to “the pots of meat” and they think they “ate bread to the full” there.

So foolish are the people of God – so foolish am I – when they forget salvation, when they no longer think about the experiences they have had at Marah and Elim. In the face of adversity in faith, we often forget what God has done for our benefit and long for the past pleasures and enjoyment of the world.

Verses 4-5

The LORD Promises Bread


As at Marah, God does not punish the people for their grumbling. In His grace He meets them. He promises that He will make bread rain from heaven. The people have to do something to eat it: they have to gather it every day. On the sixth day they have to gather twice as much for the sabbath. God gives the manna and the instructions to see if they will obey Him. He wants to see what is in their hearts.

“Bread from heaven” is a beautiful expression to indicate Who the Lord Jesus is (Jn 6:33; 51). He is the true bread from heaven. In order to live in fellowship with God, it is important to gather the manna every day, that is to spiritually feed ourselves every day with the Lord Jesus. The manna is ‘wilderness food’. The manna represents the Lord Jesus as He is described in the Gospels. There we see Him as Man on earth in the circumstances of daily life. If we do that, it will give us strength for our journey through the wilderness, that is, for our daily activities.

Heaven provides for things that are necessary on earth and that cannot be obtained through man’s work. That lesson is hidden in the precept that on the sabbath they were not allowed to gather manna.

Verses 6-12

The Glory of the LORD


God’s action is aimed at reminding His people that He, the LORD, led them out of Egypt. They had forgotten that. We must always think about this when there are trials on our way (Rom 8:32).

The LORD wants to stop the grumbling of the Israelites by showing them His glory. Moses and Aaron are His servants. Grumbling against them is in fact grumbling against the LORD. Therefore He Himself appears in a cloud to the people. This is His first appearance to them. He does not appear to them to consume them, but to impress them with Who He is.

The LORD repeats His promise that He will give food. He promises not only manna, but also meat. Only once, on the evening of that day, they will eat meat. Afterwards, they will get the manna every morning.

Verses 13-15

Quails and Manna


As God promised, so it happens. “He rained meat upon them like the dust, even winged fowl like the sand of the seas” (Psa 78:27). God gives quails on two occasions to His people as meat to eat: here and in Numbers 11. They are birds that let themselves be carried away by the wind (Num 11:31) and are easy to catch. They are mentioned in connection with the manna (Psa 105:40).

The people first get the quails in the evening and then the manna the next morning. In the quails we can see the picture that we feed ourselves with the death of Another. The Lord Jesus speaks in John 6 in connection with the manna that we should not only eat His flesh, but also drink His blood (Jn 6:51-56). It means that we are to contemplate frequently all that His death has accomplished.

The manna represents Christ in His humiliation on earth, in His life on earth. We can only occupy ourselves with His life if we have first fed ourselves with His death, first have identified ourselves with Him as the One Who died for us.

Some features of the manna as a picture of the Lord Jesus:
1. The origin is heaven: “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:33);
2. the Giver is God: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16);
3. What it looks like:
---a. white (Exo 16:31) = pure, without sin: He “who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1Pet 2:22; 2Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26);
---b. small = small, humble: “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no [stately] form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isa 53:2; Phil 2:5-8);
---c. round = without beginning and end, eternal existence and perfect: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).
4. its use:
---a. sweet (Exo 16:31) = pleasant taste: “O taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psa 34:8a; Psa 119:103; 1Pet 2:2-3);
---b. a free gift: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23; Jn 3:16; 2Cor 9:15);
---c. accessible to everyone, most easily for children, because it lies on the ground: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Rev 22:17; Rom 10:6-10; Jn 3:16).

Verses 16-21

Gathering of the Manna


The manna is given by the LORD, but everyone must gather it. It is not put into anyone’s mouth. Everyone may gather as much of the manna as he wants. It depends on the appetite. Each portion gathered serves for one day. None of it can be saved until the next day. This means that there must be trust that the LORD will give it the next day. It is safer in God’s pantry than in the Israelite’s tent. It must also be gathered before the sun gets hot. That means that it must be gathered in the morning.

The spiritual application is this: Every believer feeds on the Lord Jesus by reading the Word to the extent that he is hungry. It is necessary to be busy with God’s Word every day. Preferably do it early in the morning, before all the hustle and bustle of the day comes and there is no more opportunity. The great example is the Lord Jesus Himself (Isa 50:4).

You can’t live on what you read yesterday. If you do, you will be living on old food. Then there is a great danger that only old experiences will be spoken of repeatedly, which is also boring for the listener. It is no longer fresh. It becomes knowledge that puffs one up. Pride is nourished, it belongs to man and that stinks.

Paul applies Exo 16:18 to the everyday life of the church: “But by way of equality— at this present time your abundance [being a supply] for their need, so that their abundance also may become [a supply] for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, “He who [gathered] much did not have too much, and he who [gathered] little had no lack” (2Cor 8:13b-15). Here he learns a lesson from gathering the manna and says a few things about how we as Christians can materially care for each other.

Verses 22-31

The Manna and the Sabbath


On the sixth day the people must gather manna for two days. The next day it is the sabbath. The people may then share in the rest of God (Gen 2:2-3). Peace is not an obligation, but a privilege. Only at Sinai, when the law is given, does it become an obligation.

In the Gospels, peace is connected with the acceptance of the Lord Jesus (Mt 11:28). He is the Lord of the sabbath. Whoever has Him, has true peace and can truly enjoy Him.

On other days, the people must go out to gather the food. It is not allowed on the sabbath. This suggests two aspects in our engagement with the Lord Jesus. The first is that the knowledge about Him does not just happen. We will have to be busy with God’s Word, we will have to make an effort for it. The second is that this will only happen well if we realize that everything must come from the Lord. Only when we have found our rest in Him, when He is everything to us, when we are not engaged in our own strength, we will be able to enjoy Who He is.

Verses 32-34

Manna kept in a jar


An omerful of manna must be kept as a sample in a jar. This jar must be put before the LORD. Spiritually applied, it means that God looks back in all eternity to what the Lord Jesus was to Him on earth. That is also the case with us. Enjoying Him is not just for here and now. What cannot be preserved for a day in the wilderness, is preserved until eternity.

The jar must be placed “before the Testimony” – which later becomes the ark – where God’s throne is. As long as God travels with His people on earth, He thinks of the perfect life of His Son on earth. Again later the jar is placed in the ark: “The ark of the covenant covered …, in which was a golden jar holding the manna” (Heb 9:4). The ark is found in heaven: “And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple” (Rev 11:19a).

In heaven, the manna as a reward will be the special food for victors. The Lord Jesus Himself will give them “of the hidden manna” (Rev 2:17). In a special way, the victors will enjoy in heaven fellowship with the glorified Lord as the One Who once was in humiliation on earth. The thoughts go back to the time of pilgrimage on earth and to the power that He gave to maintain and overcome all the pressure.

Verse 35

Forty Years Manna


Forty is the number of trial. For so many years the journey of the people through the wilderness has lasted. During that whole time of trial there is the manna: a continuing proof of God’s care. Do we see it every day? Or are we getting used to it and can we no longer see the miracle of it, as was the case with Israel?

Verse 36

An Omer


For everyone there is an appropriate measure to suit personal needs and responsibilities, of which speaks the number ten. Also the idea is that each person is personally part of a greater whole: it is “a tenth” part of a greater unity, “an ephah”. We should remember that we are not on this journey alone.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 16". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/exodus-16.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.