Exodus 16:36
Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.
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(36) Now an omer.—The “omer” and the “ephah” were both of them Egyptian measures. One—the latter—continued in use among the Hebrews, at any rate, until the captivity (Ezekiel 45, 46); the other—the omer—fell out of use very early. Hence this parenthetic verse, which is exegetical of the word “omer,” and may have been added by the completer of Deuteronomy, or by some later editor—perhaps Ezra.

16:32-36 God having provided manna to be his people's food in the wilderness, the remembrance of it was to be preserved. Eaten bread must not be forgotten. God's miracles and mercies are to be had in remembrance. The word of God is the manna by which our souls are nourished, Mt 4:4. The comforts of the Spirit are hidden manna, Re 2:17. These come from heaven, as the manna did, and are the support and comfort of the Divine life in the soul, while we are in the wilderness of this world. Christ in the word is to be applied to the soul, and the means of grace are to be used. We must every one of us gather for ourselves, and gather in the morning of our days, the morning of our opportunities; which if we let slip, it may be too late to gather. The manna must not be hoarded up, but eaten; those who have received Christ, must by faith live upon him, and not receive his grace in vain. There was manna enough for all, enough for each, and none had too much; so in Christ there is enough, but not more than we need. But those who ate manna, hungered again, died at last, and with many of them God was not well pleased; whereas they that feed on Christ by faith, shall never hunger, and shall die no more, and with them God will be for ever well pleased. Let us seek earnestly for the grace of the Holy Spirit, to turn all our knowledge of the doctrine of Christ crucified, into the spiritual nourishment of our souls by faith and love.Did eat manna forty years - This does not necessarily imply that the Israelites were fed exclusively on manna, or that the supply was continuous during forty years: but that whenever it might be needed, owing to the total or partial failure of other food, it was given until they entered the promised land. They had numerous flocks and herds, which were not slaughtered (see Numbers 11:22), but which gave them milk, cheese and of course a limited supply of flesh: nor is there any reason to suppose that during a considerable part of that time they may not have cultivated some spots of fertile ground in the wilderness. We may assume, as in most cases of miracle, that the supernatural supply was commensurate with their actual necessity. The manna was not withheld in fact until the Israelites had passed the Jordan. 32-36. Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations—The mere fact of such a multitude being fed for forty years in the wilderness, where no food of any kind is to be obtained, will show the utter impossibility of their subsisting on a natural production of the kind and quantity as this tarfa-gum [see on [19]Ex 16:13]; and, as if for the purpose of removing all such groundless speculations, Aaron was commanded to put a sample of it in a pot—a golden pot (Heb 9:4)—to be laid before the Testimony, to be kept for future generations, that they might see the bread on which the Lord fed their fathers in the wilderness. But we have the bread of which that was merely typical (1Co 10:3; Joh 6:32). No text from Poole on this verse. Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah. Frequent mention being made of this measure in the above relation, as containing the quantity of each man's share of the manna daily, during the forty years' stay in the wilderness; an account is given by the historian how much it contained, by which it may appear what a sufficient provision was made: an ephah, according to Jarchi, contained three seahs (or pecks); a scab, six kabs; a kab, four logs; a log, six egg shells; and the tenth part of an ephah was forty three egg shells, and the fifth part of one: but Dr. Cumberland (b) has reduced this to our measure, and has given it more clearly and distinctly; an ephah, according to him, contained, in wine measure, seven gallons, two quarts, and about half a pint; in corn measure, six gallons, three pints, and three solid inches; and an omer three quarts; which being made into bread, must be more than any ordinary man could well eat; for, as Ainsworth observes, an omer was twice as much as the choenix, (a measure mentioned in Revelation 6:6.) which was wont to be a man's allowance of bread corn for a day; and what a vast quantity must fall every day to supply so large a number of people with such a measure; some have reckoned it at 94,466 bushels every day, and that there must be consumed in forty years 1,379,203,600 bushels (c).

(b) Of Scripture Weights and Measures, ch. 3. p. 64, 86, 87. ch. 4. p. 137. (c) Vid. Scheuchzer. Physic. Saer. vol. 2. p. 177, 178.

Now an omer is the tenth part of an {q} ephah.

(q) Which measure contained about five gallons.

36. An explanatory note: cf. on v. 16.

The manna of the Peninsula of Sinai is the sweet juice of the Ṭarfa, a species of Tamarisk. It exudes in summer by night from the trunk and branches, and forms small round white grains, which (as observed by Seetzen in 1809) partly adhere to the twigs of the trees, and partly drop to the ground: in the early morning it is of the consistency of wax, but the sun’s rays soon melt it (cf. v. 21, above), and later in the day it disappears, being absorbed in the earth. A fresh supply appears each night during its season (June and July). The Arabs gather it in the early morning, boil it down, strain it through coarse stuff, and keep it in leather skins: they ‘pour it like honey over their unleavened bread; its taste is agreeable, somewhat aromatic, and as sweet as honey’ (Burckh., p. 600). In a cool place it keeps for long: the monks of the Sinai monastery store samples of it, which they sell or give to travellers and pilgrims (Rob. i. 115; Ebers, p. 225), as their predecessors did, 13 centuries ago, to Antoninus (Itin. § 39). According to Ehrenberg (Rob. i. 590) it is produced by the puncture of an insect (now called Gossyparia mannifera). It softens in the heat of the hand, and consists almost entirely of sugar; so it cannot be ‘ground,’ or made into ‘cakes’ (Numbers 11:8). It is not found in all parts of the Peninsula; W. Gharandel, W. Ṭaiyibeh, W. Feiran, W. Sheikh (leading round on the N. from J. Serbâl to J. Mûsâ: see on Exodus 19:1), and W. Naṣb (8–10 miles SE. of J. Mûsâ), are named as parts in which it is abundant. It is found only after a rainy spring, and hence frequently fails altogether. The quantity yielded by the Peninsula in modern times is small—according to Burckhardt (in 1816), 500–600 pounds annually1[156].

[156] See further Knob. ap. Di., and McLean in EB., from whom the above particulars are mostly taken; also Ebers, p. 224 ff. The note in the Speaker’s Comm. p. 321a is translated almost verbally from Knob, without acknowledgement.

The manna described in the Pentateuch thus resembles the manna produced naturally in the Peninsula, in, approximately, the place (El Markhâ, between Wâdy Ṭaiyibeh and Wâdy Feiran,—if this was really the ‘wilderness of Sin’) of at least its first appearance; in colour, appearance, and taste (vv. 14, 31, Numbers 11:8); in being found and gathered in the early morning; in melting in the sun; and in being called by the same name which is still used in Arabic: it differs from it in being represented as found not under the tamarisk trees, but on the surface of the wilderness generally, after the disappearance of the dew; as falling in sufficient quantity to feed daily an immense multitude of people; as adjusting itself automatically to the household needs of each person who gathered it; as not falling on the sabbath, the needs of that day being supplied by a double amount being provided on the previous day; as being not confined to wet years, or to the districts on the W. of the Peninsula, but as lasting, apparently continuously, for forty years, throughout the whole journeyings of the Israelites to the border of Canaan; as being capable of being ‘ground’ and made into ‘cakes,’ like meal; and as putrefying if kept (except on the 6th day of the week) till the next morning. It is evident that the Biblical manna, while on the one hand (like the Plagues) it has definite points of contact with a natural phaenomenon or product of the country, differs from the natural manna in the many praeternatural or miraculous features attributed to it. According to Dillmann, ‘the intention of the story (Sage) followed by the writer was to explain how the Hebrews, during their long journey through the wilderness, where there is no corn, obtained their most important means of life. The question was solved by the supposition that God, in His infinite power, had sent them bread from heaven, in the shape of manna, which was of such a nature that it could be used as earthly corn.’

The narrative is to be taken as a signal and beautiful symbolical illustration of the great truth of God’s ever-sustaining providence: He supplies His people with food, He cares for them in their needs, and He makes the food which He gives them the vehicle of spiritual lessons. The writer of Deuteronomy (Exodus 8:3; Exodus 8:16 f.) points to the manna as illustrating the discipline of the wilderness; Israel was ‘humbled’ by being suffered to feel a want, and then by its being taught how, for its relief, and for its own very existence, it was dependent upon the (creative) word of God; it was further ‘proved,’ by the opportunity thus afforded it of shewing whether or not it would accommodate itself, trustfully and contentedly (contrast Numbers 11:6; Numbers 21:5), to this state of continued dependence upon an ordinance of God. In St John (John 6:31 ff.), our Lord, after the reference made by the Jews to the manna eaten by the fathers in the wilderness, uses imagery suggested by the manna to denote Himself as the ‘bread of life,’ which ‘cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.’ For other later allusions, see Wis 16:20 (with the last words here, ‘agreeing to every taste,’ of. the Rabb. legend that the manna adapted itself to the taste of every individual, tasting like what he himself desired it to be: set Jewish Encycl. s.v.), Exodus 19:21; 1 Corinthians 10:3 (πνευματικὸν βρῶμα); and Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, ed. 2, p. 178 f. In Apoc. Bar. xxix. 8, Sib. Orac. vii. 149 (cf. Revelation 2:17) it is to be the food of the elect in the future Messianic kingdom.Verse 36. - An omer. The "omer" must be distinguished from the "homer" of later times. It was an Egyptian measure, as also was the" ephah." It is not improbable that the verse is an addition by a later writer, as Joshua, or Ezra.

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather manna, notwithstanding Moses' command, but they found nothing. Whereupon God reproved their resistance to His commands, and ordered them to remain quietly at home on the seventh day. Through the commandments which the Israelites were to keep in relation to the manna, this gift assumed the character of a temptation, or test of their obedience and faith (cf. Exodus 16:4).
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