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Bread from Heaven


The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the L ord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4 Then the L ord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the L ord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the L ord, because he has heard your complaining against the L ord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” 8And Moses said, “When the L ord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the L ord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the L ord.”

9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the L ord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” 10And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the L ord appeared in the cloud. 11The L ord spoke to Moses and said, 12“I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the L ord your God.’ ”

13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the L ord has given you to eat. 16This is what the L ord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’ ” 17The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. 18But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. 19And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” 20But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. 21Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23he said to them, “This is what the L ord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the L ord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’ ” 24So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. 25Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the L ord; today you will not find it in the field. 26Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.”

27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. 28The L ord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? 29See! The L ord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.” 30So the people rested on the seventh day.

31 The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32Moses said, “This is what the L ord has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’ ” 33And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the L ord, to be kept throughout your generations.” 34As the L ord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant, for safekeeping. 35The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36An omer is a tenth of an ephah.

4. Then said the Lord unto Moses. It is probable that Moses passes over much in silence, because it is not consistent that the insolence of the people was left without even a single word of chastisement. For, although God in His extraordinary kindness gave food to these depraved and wicked men, who were unworthy of the sunlight and the common air, still He was without doubt unwilling to foster their sin by His silence, and, whilst He pardoned their ingratitude, sharply reproved their forwardness. But Moses, passing over this, proceeds to a history especially worthy of narration, how God fed this wretched people with bread from heaven, when He made the manna to fall from the clouds like dew. I call it “the bread of heaven,” with the Prophet, (Psalm 78:24,) who honors it with this magnificent title, and extols God’s bounty towards His people, as if they had been admitted to the tables of angels. For St. Paul calls the manna “spiritual meat,” (1 Corinthians 10:3,) in another sense, viz., because it was a type of the flesh of Christ, which feeds our minds unto the hope of eternal life. The Prophet, however, makes no allusion to that mystery, but alleges in this circumstance an accusation against the people, because they not only despised the food which springs from the earth, but also were disgusted with that bread, for which they saw the heavens in a manner opened. But on this point somewhat must be hereafter repeated. God now declares that He will give them daily their allowance, as it were, that in this way He may prove the obedience of His people. Though on this latter head interpreters are not agreed; for some understand it as if God, by kindly providing food for the Israelites, would bind them to obedience by His bounty; as though He should say, “I will try whether they are altogether intractable or submissive; for nothing shall be wanting to retain them in the way of duty.” But others confine the meaning of the word to “their daily food;” for that this was the proof of their fear and reverence, that they should not desire more than was given them, but that they should he contented with their daily provision, and thus depend on the providence of God. The former sense pleases me best, and I have endeavored to explain it more clearly than it can be understood from others. There is no occasion to enter into controversy about the word “Law,”171171     “Some refer this probation or trial to that particular law and precept of gathering but a certain portion of manna every day. So Vatablus, Borrha, Galas., Tostat., Rupert. Some understand it as well of that precept, as of the other, not to gather any upon the Sabbath. — Simler. Some will have it taken more largely of all the precepts, and commandments touching manna, which were eight in all. — Lyranus. But it is better to take it in a more general sense. The Lord, as he had tried them before with crosses and adversities, so now he would prove them by His benefits, to see whether they will afterward walk in His fear, and in obedience before Him. So Ferus, Calvin, Osiand., Pelarg. And thus by this particular benefit God would prepare them to the obedience of His law, which should be given afterwards. — Oleaster.” — Willet’s Hexapla in loco. for (as we shall soon see) it is used to express the measure or rule of a pious and just life. Therefore, He says, that He will know whether they are disposed to honor Him, and to submit themselves to His command. But if any one prefer to embrace the other sense, I leave him to enjoy his own opinion.

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