Bible Commentary: Exodus 16

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Exodus 16

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God Provides Daily Bread

Nearly a month and a half since the departure from Rameses, the food that was prepared and stored for the journey was now depleted. But instead of beseeching God for their needs, the Israelites once again complained and murmured against Moses and Aaron. Moses reminded them that their complaints were not against him but against God Himself. Once again, though, God extended His patience and mercy to His people. He used the next miracle for a test. God now provides the Israelites with their physical daily bread. They called it “manna,” meaning “what is it?,” as it was a food item never before seen by human beings. Indeed, the Bible says it was “angels’ food” (Psalms 78:25 Psalms 78:25Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full.
American King James Version×
—not that angels, as spiritual beings, needed food but simply that they were allowed to enjoy the pleasure of eating, as we earlier read about them dining at Abraham’s home, see Genesis 18). There were miracles contained in this new provision for the Israelites. Besides the actual miraculous appearance of the food itself, God gave specific instructions for its collection and storage. Storing the manna on any of six days of the week would result in spoilage and a foul odor. Yet this spoilage would not take place when twice as much manna was collected on Friday and stored for the Sabbath day (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). The manna would now nourish the Israelites for the next 40 years until God allowed them into the Promised Land. God also commanded that a certain amount be set aside in a container to be preserved as a reminder of His promises—and this manna, kept in a golden pot and eventually stored in the side of the Ark of the Covenant (Hebrews 9:4 Hebrews 9:4Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
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), was miraculously kept from spoiling and stinking for centuries! The miraculous bread from heaven was given as a type of the “true bread from heaven,” Jesus Christ (John 6:32-35 John 6:32-35 [32] Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. [33] For the bread of God is he which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. [34] Then said they to him, Lord, ever more give us this bread. [35] And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.
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).

God provided His people with the nourishment that they needed. For their part, the Israelites were expected to be obedient to God’s laws, which He was beginning to reveal to them. Indeed, take note here that this episode preceded the events at Mount Sinai, wherein the Israelites were presented with the Ten Commandments and entered into what is now called the Old Covenant. The evidence from scriptures such as Exodus 15:26 Exodus 15:26And said, If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and will do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you, which I have brought on the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that heals you.
American King James Version×
and Exodus 16:28 Exodus 16:28And the LORD said to Moses, How long refuse you to keep my commandments and my laws?
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as well as others (e.g., Genesis 2:3 Genesis 2:3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
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; Genesis 7:2 Genesis 7:2Of every clean beast you shall take to you by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
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; Genesis 26:5 Genesis 26:5Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
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) prove that God’s laws and statutes were in effect well before the Israelites even arrived at Mount Sinai. Thus, the Old Covenant is not what brought those laws into force—the fallacy argued by those who attempt to say that God’s law was done away when the Old Covenant ended at Christ’s death.

Again, God provided the miracle of the manna not just to feed the people but to teach them to keep the Sabbath (see verse 29)—to obey His law (verse 28)—before the covenant at Mount Sinai. And He gave it as a test (verse 4). Even today, the Sabbath remains a real test commandment, one that really shows in a public manner who is fully committed to the way of God. Indeed, in today’s society, others will readily accept us if we live according to a code of not stealing, not murdering, not committing adultery, not cursing God, etc. But keeping the Sabbath? That’s another matter. That’s just plain “weird,” some would say.

Sabbath-keepers have lost jobs and gone through all manner of other problems to observe the seventh day as God has commanded. In the end, though, their lives are always better for it—because keeping the Sabbath results in real blessing. Nevertheless, it sometimes takes real faith and courage to live by this conviction. No wonder the Sabbath is a true identifying sign of God’s people (see Exodus 31:13 Exodus 31:13Speak you also to the children of Israel, saying, Truly my sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the LORD that does sanctify you.
American King James Version×
)—a visible badge that shows who is willing to walk in God’s way no matter what the obstacles are. Of course, this is not to say that everyone who observes the Sabbath is truly committed to God—it could be a pretense, as it was for most of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Still, the Sabbath is an important outward sign that God has given to His people. And in today’s society, it is a real test commandment.

Are you passing God’s test? Even those of us who already know to observe God’s Sabbath should regularly examine whether we are properly keeping it (see Isaiah 58:13-14 Isaiah 58:13-14 [13] If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words: [14] Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.
American King James Version×
).


Supplementary Reading:  ”The Sabbath: In the Beginning,” Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest, pp. 4-12.

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