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Despite God’s demonstrated faithfulness and goodness, God’s people are quick to grumble and complain. When tough times of testing pop up, we have a tendency to pop off. Somehow we have difficulty translating our theology regarding the Lord’s benevolent care of His own into a positive mindset when immersed in a difficult situation. Here the Israelites are reminded that God is fully aware of their grumbling and finds it extremely inappropriate in light of His presence and provision. Are we grumbling or are we grateful?

J. Ligon Duncan: Our Lord and our God, you have provided the bread of Heaven. Not just something temporal and miraculous for Your people in the wilderness long ago. Not just in a testing sign of Jesus divinity in the days in which He fed the five thousand, but you have permanently provided for the needs of your people in Jesus Christ. Grant that we would trust Him and in Him.

Douglas Stuart: God was testing his people throughout the exodus events: leading them in odd directions without fully explaining why (14:1–4), surprising them with potentially destructive enemy attacks even after they had left Egypt (14:10ff.; cf. 17:8ff.), requiring them to walk into and through deep ocean water (14:15ff.), and taking them to locations that lacked the necessities of life (as in 15:23ff. and 16:2ff.). All of these challenges were part of a plan to develop a people’s willingness to trust him. Explaining everything in advance would have run counter to that plan. It was necessary for Israel to learn faith while confused, while afraid, while desperate—not just in theory but under pressure of actual conditions where survival was uncertain and faith was tested to the limit.

The manna story represents yet another testing story: it is introduced as such (16:4) and features details that describe the way at least some Israelites failed the test at first (16:20, 27–30). Because the schedule for gathering the manna seemed counterintuitive to ancient agrarians, it provided a way of testing Israel to see if they would obey not only those commandments that made perfect sense to them but also those that did not.


A. (:9) The Lord Responds to Our Grumbling

“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your grumblings.’”

Richard Donovan — By gathering together in Yahweh’s presence, they will demonstrate their readiness to hear what Yahweh has to say.

Douglas Stuart: To “come before the Lord” means to gather to whatever place or object represents Yahweh’s presence among them. At this point in their history, it was the pillar of cloud. They must go right up to it and thus show they were ready for a meeting with Yahweh directly, not just through his intermediaries, Moses and Aaron.

B. (:10) The Lord Reminds His People of His Presence

“And it came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.”

Steven Cole: God’s glory was a revelation of His greatness and power. Whenever in the Bible people got a glimpse of God’s glory, the uniform response was fear. When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, “they fell face down to the ground and were terrified” (Mt. 17:6). When John later saw the risen Savior in His glory, he reports (Rev. 1:17), “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.” In his Gospel, he wrote (John 1:14), “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus reveals God’s grace and glory to us. When we see all that He is for us, it’s enough. We have in Him all that we need.


A. (:11-12) The Lord Responds to Our Grumbling

1. Hearing

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

‘I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel;’”

2. Feeding

“speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat,

and in the morning you shall be filled with bread;’”

3. Teaching

“and you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’”

J. Ligon Duncan: God’s providence is learned by the children of Israel through a daily, re-enacted dependence upon Him.

B. (:13-14) The Lord Provides Needed Sustenance on a Daily Basis

1. Provision of Meat in the Evening

“So it came about at evening that the quails came up

and covered the camp,”

Steven Cole: The quails mentioned here migrate regularly between south Europe and Arabia across the Sinai Peninsula. They are small, bullet-headed birds, with a strong but low flight, usually roosting on the ground or in the low bushes at nightfall. When exhausted, they would be unable to… take off again. The birds are good eating, and were a favorite delicacy of the Egyptians.

Douglas Stuart: The only mention of quail in the chapter comes in this verse. It is brief and obviously of secondary importance to the manna because the quail represented a one-evening supply of meat, whereas the manna was to be a daily occurrence for forty years and the more important food supply for that entire generation of Israelites.

2. Provision of Manna in the Morning

“and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.

When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground.”

C. (:15) Identification of God’s Gracious Provision

1. Identification Unknown

“When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another,

‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was.”

2. Identification Revealed

“And Moses said to them,

‘It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.’”

Kevin DeYoung: Calvin gives eight evidences of the miraculous here:

1) The manna did not appear until Moses said it would.

2) It was not interrupted by the weather or the seasons for 40 years.

3) There was enough to feed millions of people every day.

4) There was twice as much on the sixth day.

5) It spoiled if you tried to keep it.

6) The other nations did not have it.

7) Once the Israelites got to the edge of Canaan, it stopped.

8) The portion in a special vessel before the Lord did not rot.

No, this is not just plant lice—whatever that is. This is a miracle.