THE PATTERN OF MANNA DISTRIBUTION REFLECTS THE UNIQUENESS OF THE SABBATH AS A HOLY DAY SET ASIDE FOR REST AND WORSHIP
The sabbath must be appreciated by the Jews as a gift from God to facilitate rest and worship. Now in the church age we practice the same model of working six days and resting one day by observing the Lord’s Day in a similar manner. God made every provision for the physical needs of His people so that they could obey His command to refrain from gathering manna on the sabbath. It was important that future generations receive the testimony of God’s miraculous provision of manna during the 40 years of the wilderness journey. This would remind them of their redemption from slavery in Egypt and of God’s leading them into the rest of the Promised Land.
John Mackay: Discipleship is not just about acquiring information or receiving benefits from the Lord. It also involves the self-discipline required to modify our behaviour so that it pleases God. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7–8). Repeatedly the grumbling of the Israelites shows how difficult they found it to throw off the thought patterns of slavery and enter fully into the freedom that the Lord had given them. It was a freedom not to do what they thought up for themselves, but to do what pleased the Lord. Only as they respected the directions of their Creator would they be able to realise the full potential of their salvation and free themselves from the legacy of their Egyptian bondage. The pattern for their living was not to be the responses the Egyptian regime had brain-washed them into accepting but the requirements of God. Sowing to please the Spirit would involve conforming every aspect of their living to the divine pattern of action and of dedicating to the Lord that portion of their time that was rightfully his.
Accepting the Lord as guide and deliverer requires patience in waiting for him to act as he sees fit. He was aware of the needs of the Israelites and would have readily met them if they had asked. There was the need to cultivate a spirit of active dependence on their Redeemer in every situation and turn to him with submission and prayer. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:10).
I. (:22-26) SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SABBATH = SPECIAL DAY SET ASIDE FROM WORK TO WORSHIP THE LORD
A. (:22-24) Preparation Required
1. (:22a) Gather Twice as Much on the Sixth Day
“Now it came about on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread,
two omers for each one.”
God provided what they needed in order that they could enjoy His gracious gift of rest on the seventh day.
Douglas Stuart: It could have taken twice as long to gather two omers per person as to gather one, but more likely (though it cannot be proved) God supplied a greater abundance per unit of ground on the sixth day than on the others, making the gathering process of such a relatively light substance probably only marginally more time consuming. This new experience of getting twice the manna for approximately the same effort was sufficiently amazing and/or delightful as a proof of God’s promise that “the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses.” The consistency of this experience—everybody everywhere had the same double results—may have been what they especially wanted him to hear and what he was hoping would be the case, for this was the first test of that part of the command involving the once-a-week sixth day special procedure. Their faith in obeying the testing of each day had now been supplemented by the reward of their faith for obeying the special provisions for the sixth-day’s gathering.
John Oswalt: When the people realized on Friday that they had twice as much manna as they needed for that day, they were perplexed (16:22). Evidently, although God had told Moses to expect this (16:5), Moses had not told the people. Sarna (1991:90) speculates that this was a pedagogic device on Moses’s part; sometimes the most effective instruction is an answer to a question growing out of the student’s experience. At any rate, Moses used the opportunity to convey some instructions about Sabbath observance.
2. (:22b-23) Bake Ahead of Time so You Can Worship on the Sabbath
“When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, ‘This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’”
Alan Cole: A holy sabbath. This is the first actual occurrence of the word in Scripture.
Douglas Stuart: “Sabbath” means “stoppage,” and under the old covenant it required discontinuation of all voluntary work. Gathering food was the most basic sort of work anyone did in the ancient world, so the gathering of manna could hardly be allowed to continue as usual on the Sabbath.
3. (:24) Avoiding Work on the Sabbath Won’t Compromise God’s Provision
“So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered,
and it did not become foul, nor was there any worm in it.”
B. (:25-26) Provision Will be Sufficient
1. (:25) No Manna in the Field, But Food on the Table
“And Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field.’”
2. (:26) Principle of Working Six Days and Resting from Work on the Sabbath
“Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.”
John Mackay: In this way the Lord would impress on them the extent of his control over their lives, and the wonder of his provision for them.
Look at how many different miracles were involved in how God worked out the logistics of this provision of manna.
Application: What is the significance of the Lord’s Day to believers today?
II. (:27-31) SACRILEGE OF THE SABBATH = PROFANING GOD’S GRACIOUS GIFT OF THE SABBATH DEMONSTRATES REBELLION AND INGRATITUDE
A. (:27) Direct Violation of God’s Sabbath Instructions
“And it came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none.”
Douglas Stuart: Again some people couldn’t resist trying to get ahead, to advantage themselves, by disobedience to God’s command. As some of them had tried to keep manna too long (16:20), some of them (perhaps some of the same people) now tried to get more on the Sabbath, probably fearing that what they had kept from the night before would never last through the whole day even if they saw that it had in fact lasted until the early morning. They found no manna and in the process showed themselves unwilling once again to trust God in the matter of a single commandment, not a promising sign in light of the fact that soon enough they would be expected to keep his entire covenant law as an indication of their trust in him.
Bob DeYoung: The Sabbath day was a marker for the people of Israel. By keeping this day separate, the people of Israel were a living sign to the world about God and how he was calling people to be His own. Now the Law had not yet been given at this point, so there was no specific command to keep the Sabbath, but we can see already that God was shaping and forming his people, through the kind of lives they would live, to be his own. God miraculously made the manna last over the Sabbath day as provision enabling Israel to rest on the Sabbath. By doing this the people were showing their trust in the Lord.
Christians today do not live under the same strict Sabbath regulations. We voluntarily devout ourselves to our God on Resurrection Day, that is Sunday, to worship him, feed on his Word, and have fellowship with one another. And just like Israel, we wrestle with trusting God as we try, in this world, to not use Resurrection Day as just another day for our own desires and pleasures. For us, too, it is a matter of trust. Will we devote ourselves to God or are we worried we will miss out on something important by tying up the day, or at least part of the day, with Kingdom matters? Are we sometimes like those Israelites who were found gathering manna on the 7th day?
B. (:28-30) Divine Patience in Re-Issuing Sabbath Instructions
1. (:28) Persistent Rebellion
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?’”
John Oswalt: And here, unlike verse 20, where we are told Moses became “angry with them,” it is God who for the first time in this division becomes angry. His words, “How long will these people refuse to obey my commands?” (16:28), have an ominous ring because they are the same words that he spoke to Pharaoh in 10:3. God is incredibly patient, as the whole Bible amply attests, but his patience has limits, and our obstinate human insistence on “doing it my way” pushes those limits to the end. Houtman (1993:2.350) is also almost certainly correct when he says that this anger is also because transgression of the Sabbath commandment is a terrible sin (cf. Num 15:32–36). It is interesting that throughout the Old Testament, people were condemned for giving merely ritualistic sacrifices and for not keeping the Sabbath. Does this suggest that Sabbath-keeping is less prone to being reduced to mere ritual than is sacrifice, or that Sabbath-keeping is more costly (and thus more valuable) than mere sacrifice?
2. (:29) Persevering Instruction
a. View Sabbath-keeping as a Gift Rather than a Burden
“See, the LORD has given you the sabbath;”
b. Appreciate God’s Provision of Your Needs
“therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day.”
c. Obey the Command to Stay Home and Focus on Worship instead of Work
“Remain every man in his place;
let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”
3. (:30) Practical Application = Day of Rest
“So the people rested on the seventh day.”
C. (:31) Description of the Manna
“And the house of Israel named it manna,”
“and it was like coriander seed, white;”
Walter Kaiser Jr.: Coriander seed is a small lobular grain that is white or yellowish gray and is used for seasoning.
“and its taste was like wafers with honey.”
Steven Cole: Moses tells us what the manna tasted like (Exod.16:31): “wafers with honey.” That description satisfies our curiosity, but also it teaches us an important lesson: Psalm 19:10 says that God’s Word is “sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.” Psalm 34:8 puts it, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Or Ps. 119:103, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Moses later explained (Deut. 8:3), “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” He went on to promise them that the Lord would bring them into a good land of abundance, where they would eat and be satisfied. God’s word is sufficient and satisfying for life and godliness! So the manna teaches us that we are to look to the Lord to satisfy our every need and that when we taste of His grace and glory, we are satisfied with His goodness.
III. (:32-36) SAVING OF THE JAR OF MANNA = TESTIMONY TO FUTURE GENERATIONS OF:
– PAST REDEMPTION FROM EGYPT
– PRESENT PROVISION DURING THE WILDERNESS JOURNEY AND
– FUTURE REST IN THE LAND OF PROMISE
A. (:32) Celebrating God’s Faithfulness
“Then Moses said, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded, ‘Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’”
B. (:33-34) Securing a Jar of Manna as a Memorial
1. (:33) Instructions to Aaron
“And Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put an omerful of manna in it, and place it before the LORD, to be kept throughout your generations.’”
John Mackay: Here again is a miracle. The manna which in other circumstances so quickly decayed would in this instance be preserved in order that future generations would be reminded of the Lord’s provision for his people (12:17). The ‘jar’ is later described as being of gold (Heb. 9:4).
2. (:34) Implementation by Aaron
“As the LORD commanded Moses,
so Aaron placed it before the Testimony, to be kept.”
Douglas Stuart: That a sample of manna should be kept with the ark, in the holy of holies of the tabernacle, was a major step of commemoration indeed. The holy of holies contained only one item of furniture: the ark, also called the ark of the testimony (e.g., Exod 25:21–22; 26:33–34) or perhaps even simply the Testimony (e.g., Exod 27:21; 30:6), a box symbolizing the very presence of God himself. For a jar of manna to be kept there gave the manna prominence above many other objects, including the shewbread or lampstand or incense altar, which were excluded from the holy of holies by the tabernacle’s inner curtain. At this stage in the progress of the Israelites, the tabernacle had not yet been built or even prescribed, so God’s command to them was simply that Aaron was to “place it before the Lord to be kept,” a way of saying that it was to remain in God’s presence—that is, in whatever place or object would symbolize God’s presence. Once the ark was actually built, there being no provision for any separate table within the holy of holies to hold the manna, it was placed inside the ark, as Heb 9:4 confirms.
C. (:35) Sustaining the Nation Until They Reached the Land of Promise
“And the sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.”
Douglas Stuart: The system of footnoting and endnoting was not invented until modern times, but these verses are the Bible’s equivalent of a footnote or endnote—an explanatory note placed at the end of a portion of text. Moses may be the author of both verses, since he likely did not put the finishing touches on the Pentateuch until shortly before his death, roughly forty years later than the events described in most of chap. 16. Thus the statement that “the Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled” brings the reader up to the point of the crossing of the Jordan by the Israelites under Joshua, when the end of the manna is explicitly mentioned (Josh 5:12). It is also possible that this footnote is an inspired compiler’s later addition to Moses’ work for the benefit especially of people who would search the Pentateuch itself in vain for any reference to the cessation of manna; there is none, other than here in v. 35, because at the time of Moses’ death the manna was still being provided daily.
John Mackay: The manna stopped when Israel left the wilderness and entered territory with land that could be cultivated and provide them with bread. The miraculous provision had played its part in sustaining them till they entered the land of promise, and was no longer needed.
D. (:36) Aside: Defining an Omer
“(Now an omer is a tenth of an ephah.)”
about 2.2 liters, or about a half-gallon
John Oswalt: The last three items obviously come from a time later than the events described in 16:1–30:
(1) The Ark of the Covenant had not been constructed yet,
(2) the manna had only begun, not ceased, and
(3) the omer was the normal unit of measure.
However, as Enns (2000:328) aptly observes, the very fact that the term “omer” has to be explained to a later generation is a testimony to the antiquity of the story upon which this comment is made. On this basis, it seems quite likely to me that Moses’s direction to Aaron to preserve a sample of the manna as a memorial (16:32–33) was contemporary with the story. Moses understood how important it was to preserve a memory of the miracle for the days when miracles would no longer be the norm and people would be expected to live in the light of the truths that the miracles had taught. “Eventually” (as NLT happily has it), the Ark of the Covenant came to be that sacred place before the Lord.”