1. And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.
2. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:
3. And the children of Israel said unto them, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
4. Then said the LORD unto Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
5. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”
(Ex 16:1-5 AV)
Not for long was Israel permitted to enjoy the grateful refreshment and shade of the wells and palm trees of Elim (15:27). The first verses of our chapter tell us, “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin.” If we compare Numbers 33, which records the various stages or stopping places in Israel’s journeys, we find that “they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red Sea” (v. 10). Most probably this was some bay or creek of the Sea, where for a short time their camp was now pitched, perhaps with the design of them looking once more at those waters through which they had passed dry-shod, but which had overwhelmed their enemies. Evidently their stay there was a short one…
The leading of Israel into the Wilderness of Sin brings out the strength of Moses’ faith. Here, for the first time, the full privation of desert life stared the people fully in the face. Every step they took was now leading them farther away from the inhabited countries and conducting them deeper into the land of desolation and death. The isolation of the wilderness was complete, and the courage and faith of their leader in bringing a multitude of at least two million people into such a howling waste, demonstrates his firm confidence in the Lord God. Moses was not ignorant of the character of the desert. He had lived for forty years in its immediate vicinity (3:1), and, therefore, he knew full well that only a miracle, yea, a series of daily miracles, could meet the vast needs of such a multitude.
“And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt” (v. 1). Why, we may ask, such particularity in noting the time-mark here? As a matter of mere history it seems of little interest or importance. What difference does it make to us today which month and what day of the month it was when Israel entered the Wilderness of Sin? It was on “the fifteenth day of the second month” after their leaving Egypt that Israel came unto this wilderness. The very fact that the Holy Spirit has recorded this detail is sufficient proof it is not meaningless. There is nothing trivial in the Word of God. Even the numerals are there used with Divine purpose and significance. In order for grace to shine forth there must first be the dark background of sin. Grace is unmerited favor, and to enhance its glory the demerits of man must be exhibited. It is where sin abounded that grace did much more abound (see Romans 5:21). It was so here. The very next thing that we read of is, “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the Wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, ‘Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’” (vv. 2, 3). A darker background could scarcely be imagined.
Here was the self-same people who had been divinely spared from the ten plagues on Egypt, who had been brought forth from the land of bondage, miracuously delivered at the Red Sea, Divinely guided by a Pillar of Cloud and Fire, day and night, — now “murmuring,” complaining, rebelling! And it was not a few of the people who did so; the “whole congregation” were guilty. It was not simply that they muttered among themselves, but they murmured against their Divinely-chosen leader. Their sin, too, was aggravated by an oath; they took the Divine name “in vain” — “would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt.” Finally, their wicked unbelief comes out in the words, “for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” It was Jehovah. not simply Moses and Aaron, who had brought them forth; and He had promised they should worship Him at Sinai (see Exodus 3:12). It was not possible, then, for them to die with hunger in the wilderness.
What, then, was the Lord’s response to this awful outbreak of rebellious unbelief? Verse 4 tells us: “Behold, I will rain” — what: “fire and brimstone that ye may be consumed”? No; “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.” Marvelous grace was this; sovereign, unmerited favor! The very first word here is designed to arrest our attention. In Scripture, “behold” is the Holy Spirit’s exclamation mark. “Behold” — mark with worshipful wonder. Here, then, is the blessed force of the time-mark in verse 1. The raining (which speaks of a plentiful supply) of bread from Heaven for these murmuring Israelites was indeed a witness to the grace of God fully manifested!
That which follows here in Exodus 16 is deeply important. Every detail in it speaks loudly to us, if only we have ears to hear. The manna which Jehovah provided for Israel is a beautiful type of the food which God has provided for our souls. This food is His own Word. This food is both His written Word and His incarnate Word. We propose to consider these separately. We first shall trace some of the many points of analogy between the manna and the Scriptures as the heavenly food for God’s people. In our next paper we shall view the manna as a type of the Lord Jesus, the Heavenly One come down to earth.
1. The manna was a supernatural gift. “Then said the Lord unto Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you’” (v. 4). This is the first great lesson which the manna is designed to teach us. The manna was not a product of the earth; it was not manufactured by man; it was not something which Israel brought with them out of Egypt — there was no manna there. Instead, it came down from heaven. It was a gift from God.
Various attempts have been made to explain away the supernatural in connection with the manna. Some have declared that it grew on a certain tree found in the wilderness; but they fail to explain how it grew in winter as well as summer; how that it was obtainable in every part of the wilderness, no matter where Israel’s camp was pitched; or, how that sufficient was to hand to feed upwards of two million souls for almost forty years! How foolish is man’s infidelity. The only possible explanation of the manna is to see in its continued supply a miracle. It was furnished by God Himself. So it is with that which the manna prefigured — the written Word. The Scriptures are the spiritual manna for our souls, and at every point they manifest their supernatural origin. Many efforts have been made to account for the Bible, but on this point man’s reasonings are as ridiculous as when he attempts to explain the manna on natural lines. The Bible is a miraculous production. It was given by Divine Inspiration. It has come from heaven. It is the gift of God.
It is striking to note how the supernatural is evidenced in connection with the giving of the manna. In Exodus 16:16 we read, “This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded; gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man. according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.” Now, a conservative estimate of the total number of Israelites who came out of Egypt would be two million, for they had six hundred thousand men able to go forth to war (See Numbers 1:45, 46). An “omer” was to be gathered for every one of these two million souls, and an “omer” is the equivalent of six pints. There would be twelve million pints, or nine million pounds gathered daily, which was four thousand five hundred tons. Hence, ten trains, each having thirty cars, and each car having in it fifteen tons, would be needed for a single day’s supply. Over a million tons of manna were gathered annually by Israel. And let it be remembered this continued for forty years! Equally wonderful, equally miraculous, equally Divine is the Bible.
2. The manna came right to where the people were. “And in the morning the dew lay round about the host; and when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing” (vv. 13, 14). No long journey had to be taken in order to secure the manna. The Israelites did not have to cross the wilderness before they could secure their needed food. It was right to hand; before their eyes. There, just outside their tent door, lay the manna on the ground. So it is with the Word of God. It is blessedly accessible to all of us. I often think that if it were harder to procure a Bible than it is some of us would prize it more than we do. If we had to cross the ocean and journey to the other side of the world to obtain a copy of the Holy Scriptures we would value them far more than we do now!
But the very accessibility of the manna only added to the responsibility of Israel. Its very nearness measured their obligation. by virtue of the fact that it lay on the ground just outside their tents they had to do something with it. They must either gather it or trample it beneath their feet! And my reader, this is equally true of God’s Word. The very fact that it is right here to your hand determines your responsibility. You are obliged to do one of two things with it: show your appreciation by gathering it unto your soul, or despise and trample it beneath your feet by a criminal neglect.
3. The manna was small in size. “And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground” (v. 14). Who would have imagined that a complete and perfect revelation from God and of God could be comprised within the compass of a comparatively small volume? Think of it — the sum total of God’s revealed Truth in a book which can be carried in your pocket! All that is needed to make us wise unto salvation; all that is needed to sustain our souls throughout our earthly pilgrimage; all that is needed to make the man of God “perfect” (complete), within the compass of the Bible!
Observe that not only is the size but also the shape of the manna is given. It was “a small round thing.” It had no angles and no rough edges. Continuing to regard the manna as a symbol and a type of the Word of God, what does this teach us? Why, surely, it prefigured the beautiful symmetry of Scripture. It tells us that the Bible is a perfect whole, complete and entire.
4. The manna was white in color. “And the house of Israel called the name thereof manna: and it was like coriander seed, white” (v. 31). Everything here has a spiritual significance. The Holy Spirit had a good reason for telling us the particular color of the manna. There is nothing meaningless in Scripture anywhere. Everything in God’s Word has a value and message for us.
Now “white” is the emblem of purity. Thus we have emphasized the absolute purity of the Word of God. Let us link together three Scriptures. “The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6): they are pure morally and they are pure spiritually. They are like the “pure river of the water of life” which proceedeth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb — they are “clear as crystal” (Revelation 22:1). Again, we read in Psalm 119:140, “Thy Word is very pure: therefore Thy servant loveth it.” The Scriptures are termed the “Holy Scriptures” because they are separated off from all other writings by virtue of their exalted spirituality and Divine purity. Once more, in Proverbs 30:5 we read, “Every word of God is pure.” There is no admixture of error in God’s Word. In it there are no mistakes, no contradictions, no blemishes.