Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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.Exodus 16:2
It is 'worthy of remark,' Milton indignantly observes in his Second Defence, 'that those who are the most unworthy of liberty are wont to behave most ungratefully towards their deliverers'.
Compare the further application of this passage by Milton in his tract on 'The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, and the Excellence thereof, compared with the Inconveniences and Dangers of Readmitting Kingship in this Nation'. Towards the close of his remonstrance, he writes thus: 'If the people be so affected as to prostitute religion and liberty to the vain and groundless apprehension that nothing but kingship can restore trade... and that therefore we must forego and set to sale religion, liberty, honour, safety, all concernments Divine or human, to keep up trading: if, lastly, after all this light among us, the same reason shall pass for current, to put our necks again under kingship, as was made use of by the Jews to return back to Egypt and to the worship of their idol queen, because they falsely imagined that they then lived in more plenty and prosperity; our condition is not sound, but rotten, both in religion and all civil prudence.... But I trust I shall have spoken persuasion to abundance of sensible and ingenuous men; to some, perhaps, whom God may raise from these stones to become children of reviving liberty; and may reclaim, though they seem now choosing them a captain back for Egypt, to bethink themselves a little, and consider whence they are rushing; to exhort this torrent also of the people, not to be so impetuous, but to keep their one channel.' Contrast the character of the Duke of Wellington, as Coleridge in his Table-Talk (4 July, 1830) draws it: 'He seems to be unaccustomed to, and to despise, the inconsistencies, the weaknesses, the bursts of heroism followed by prostration and cowardice, which invariably characterize all popular efforts. He forgets that, after all, it is from such efforts that all the great and noble institutions of the world have come.'
St. John of the Cross notes on this text that the manna was not given to the Israelites until the corn they had brought from Egypt failed. 'This teaches us that we must first renounce all things, for this manna of the angels neither belongs nor is given to the palate which still relishes the food of men.' He quotes the words of Numbers 11:4, 'Who shall give us flesh to eat?' 'They would not content themselves with that so simple manna, but desired and begged for manna of flesh. And our Lord was displeased because they wished to mix so low and coarse a food with one so high and pure:—a manna which, simple as it was, contains within itself the savour of all foods.'
—Obras, vol. 1. p. 19.
References.—XVI. 4.—J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 287. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2332. XVI. 4-12.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Exodus, etc., p. 65. XVI. 14, 15.—R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 239.
Holy Communion: The Bread of Life
Our subject is the supply given by God to His people for one of their great needs. In the wilderness, where no food could grow or could be obtained, God gave His people bread from heaven to eat.
I. The Jews expected the Messiah to give them food from heaven. The manna they expected from their second Redeemer may not have been bodily food; it was, according to some interpreters, food for the soul. The second Redeemer brought with Him from heaven heavenly food. But, alas! the Jews did not recognize the heavenly food when it came.
II. We are travelling through the wilderness of our promised land, and that wilderness provides us with nothing which can supply the wants of our being. God gives us day by day our daily bread, but man cannot live by bread alone. So God gives us something more precious, something which can really sustain our life. He gives us that which is no product of earth, the true bread from heaven—the living bread—the only bread which can support us in our journeyings—the only food which can deliver us from death, and that food is the Son of God Whom He sent to be the life of the world.
III. And how do we feed upon Him? We can feed upon Him at any time. We do feed upon Him when our faith goes forth from us and takes hold of Him as the source and stay of our life. But undoubtedly there is a special means provided for us by God that we may feed upon Him, namely, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
We need faith above all in our Communions. Faith to realize the Presence of the Saviour—faith to feed upon His Body and Blood—faith to assimilate the Divine life which flows to us from Him. Having deep repentance and true faith, we shall necessarily have fervent love, for we shall know and feel the greatness of God's love to us unworthy sinners. Having then all three Christian virtues, we shall nourish our souls to everlasting life by feeding on the manna in Christ's own way. And having the Divine life within us, we shall pass along our desert way, till Jordan being past, we shall no longer need to receive our heavenly gifts through earthly signs. Sacraments will cease when we see our Lord face to face, even as the manna ceased when the Israelites entered Canaan.
—F. Watson, The Christian Life Here and Hereafter, p. 79.
Reference.—XVI. 15.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Blessed Sacrament, p. 24.
The same hand that rained manna upon their tents could have rained it into their mouths or laps. God loves we should take pains for our spiritual food. Little would it have availed them, that the manna lay about their tents, if they had not gone forth and gathered it, beaten it, baked it. Let salvation be never so plentiful, if we bring it not home and make it ours by faith, we are no whit the better.
An Omer for Each Man
How great a virtue is temperance, how much of moment through the whole life of man! Yet God commits the managing so great a trust, without particular law or prescription, wholly to the demeanour of every grown man, and therefore when He Himself tabled the Jews from heaven, that omer, which was every man's daily portion of manna, is computed to have been more than might have well sufficed the heartiest feeder thrice as many meals. For those actions which enter not into a man, rather than issue out of him, and therefore defile not, God trusts him with the gift of reason to be his own chooser.
References.—XVI. 29.—R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 1. XVI. 35.—C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 229. XVII. 1-7.—K. Moody-Stuart, Light from the Holy Hills, p. 42.
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.
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.
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.
And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt:
And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?
And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD.
And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings.
And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.
And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: 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, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.
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.
And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.
And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.
And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.
Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them.
And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.
And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.
And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field.
Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.
And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
So the people rested on the seventh day.
And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt.
And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations.
As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.
And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.
Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.