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.
Verses 1-3. - THE FIRST MURMURING FOR FOOD. From Elim, or the fertile tract extending from Wady Ghurnndel to Wady Tayibeh, the Israelites, after a time, removed, and ca-camped (as we learn from Numbers 33:10) by the Red Sea, probably along the narrow coast tract extending from the mouth of Tayibeh to the entrance upon the broad plain of El Markha. Hence they entered upon "the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai" - a tract identified by some with the coast plain, El Markha, by others with the inland undulating region known at the present day as the Debbet-er-Ramleh It is difficult to decide between these two views. In favour of El Markha are:
1. The fact that the Egyptian settlements in the Sinaitic peninsula would thus be avoided, as they seem to have been, since no contest with Egyptians is recorded;
2. The descent of the quails, who, wearied with a long flight over the Red Sea, would naturally settle as soon as they reached the shore;
3. The greater openness and facility of the El Markha and Wady Feiran route, which is admitted by all; and
4. The suitability of the latter to the particulars of the narrative in ch. 18. In favour of the route by the Debbet-er-Ramleh are,
1. The fact that it is better watered at present than the other;
2. Its being somewhat less removed from the direct line between Wady Ghurundel and Sinai than El Markha; and
3. A certain correspondency of sound or meaning between some of the present geographical names along this route and those of the Mosaic narrative. In "the wilderness of Sin" the Israelites for the first time found themselves in want of sufficient nourishment. They hall consumed the grain which they had brought with them out of Egypt; and though no doubt they had still considerable flocks and herds, yet they were unaccustomed to a mere milk and flesh diet, having in Egypt lived principally upon bread (ver. 3), fish (Numbers 11:5), and vegetables (ibid.). They therefore "murmured," and accused Moses and Aaron of an intention to starve them. It is quite possible that many of the poorer sorts having brought with them no cattle, or lost their cattle by the way, and not being helped by their brethren, were in actual danger of starvation. Hence God was not angry, but "heard their murmurings" (ver. 9) patiently, and relieved them. Verse 1. - They journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation came. It has been noted (Cook) that the form of expression seems to imply that the Israelites proceeded in detachments from Elim, and were first assembled as a complete host when they reached the wilderness of Sin." This accords well with their numbers and with the character of the localities. They could only assemble all together when they reached some considerable plain. Between Elim and Sinai. This expression must be regarded as vague to some extent. On the direct line, as the crow flies, there is no "wilderness" (midbar) between Wady Ghurundel and Sinai. All is mountain and valley. All that the writer means is that "the wilderness of Sin" lay upon the ordinary, or at any rate an ordinary route between Elim and the great mountain. This is equally true of El Markha and the Debbet-er-Ramleh. On the fifteenth day of the second month - i.e., on the 15th of Zif, exactly one month after their departure from Egypt. As only seven camping places are mentioned (Numbers 33:5-11), and one journey of three days through a wilderness (Exodus 15:22), it is evident that there must either have been long stays in several places, or that they must have often encamped in places which had no name. Viewed as an itinerary, the record is manifestly incomplete.
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:
Verse 2. - The whole congregation... murmured, It has been observed above, that only the poorer sort could have been as yet in any peril of actual starvation; but it may well have been that the rest, once launched into the wilderness, and becoming practically acquainted with its unproductiveness, foresaw that ultimately starvation must come upon them too, when all the cattle were eaten up, or had died through insufficient nourishment Nothing is more clear than that, without the miracle of the manna, it would have been impossible for a population of two millions to have supported themselves for forty years, or even for two years, in such a region as the Sinaitic peninsula, even though it had been in ancient times three or four times as productive as at present. The cattle brought out of Egypt must have rapidly diminished (Exodus 17:3); and though the Israelites had brought with them also great wealth in the precious metals, yet it must have been some time before they could establish commercial relations with the neighbouring nations so as to obtain such supplies as they needed. Thus we can well understand that at the expiration of a month the people generally should have recognized that their situation was one of great danger, and should have vented their discontent upon their leaders.
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.
Verse 3. - Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt - i.e., "Would that God had smitten us with a painless death, as he did the first-born of the Egyptians! Then we should have avoided the painful and lingering death from starvation which we now see before us." The cry puts on the garb of piety, and names the name of Jehovah, but indicates a want of faith in him, his power, and his promises (Exodus 4:8, 17; Exodus 6:8; Exodus 12:25; Exodus 13:5, 11), which was sinful, and, after the miracles that they had seen, barely excusable. When we sat by the flesh-pots of Egypt. Compare Numbers 11:5. Both passages make it clear that, whatever the sufferings of the Israelites in Egypt from the cruelty of the taskmasters and the hard tasks set them, at any rate their sustenance was well cared for - they had abundance of agreeable food. Did eat bread. It has been said that "bread" here means "food in general" (Kalisch); and no doubt the word has sometimes that sense. But it was probably actual bread, rather than anything else, for which the Israelites were longing. See the Introduction to the chapter.
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.
Verses 4-8. - THE PROMISE OF BREAD FROM HEAVEN. When men who are in real distress make complaint, even though the tone of their complaint be not such as it ought to be, God in his mercy is wont to have compassion upon them, to "hear their mummurings," etc., and grant them some relief. But the relief is seldom of the kind which they expect, or pray for. The Israelites wished for actual bread, made of wheaten or barley flour. God gave them, not such bread, but a substitute for it. And first, before giving it, be promised that it should be given. Thus expectation was aroused; faith was exercised; the supernatural character of the relief was indicated; the power and the goodness of God, were, both of them, shown forth. And with the promise was given a law. They were on each occasion to gather no more than would suffice for the day. Thus they would continually "live by faith," taking no thought for the morrow, but trusting all to God. Verse 4. - Bread from heaven. Compare Psalm 78:24; Nehemiah 9:15; John 6:31-51. The expression is of course not to be trader-stood literally. The substance was not actual bread, neither was it locally transferred from the distant region called "heaven" to the soil of the Sinaitic peninsula. But it was called "bread," because it was intended to serve instead of bread, as the main support of life during the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness; and it was said to be "from heaven," first, as descending on 'the ground out of the circumambient air; and secondly, as miraculously sent by him, whose seat is in heaven. The people shall gather a certain rate every day. Rather "a day's supply every day," such a quantity as shall seem to each man reasonably sufficient for himself and his family. That I may prove them. As in Paradise God coupled with his free gift of "every tree of the garden" the positive precept, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat," - that he might prove our first parents, whether they would obey him or not - so now he "proved" the obedience of the Israelites by a definite, positive command - they were not to gather on ordinary days more than was sufficient for the day. All life is intended as a probation.
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.
Verse 5. - On the sixth day. That a period of seven days was known to the Hebrews as a week appears from the story of Jacob and Laban (Genesis 29:27). But there is no distinct evidence that the year was as yet divided into weeks, much less that the several days of the week were as yet distinguished as the first, second, third day, etc. "The sixth day," here probably means (as Kalisch says), "the sixth day after' the first supply of the manna. They shall prepare. The preparation would be, first, by measurement (ver. 18), and then by pounding and grinding (Numbers 11:8). It shall be double. Some commentators suppose that in these words is implied an order that on the sixth day they should set themselves to gather a double quantity. But the natural meaning of the words is, that, having gathered the usual quantity, they should find, when they measured it, that, by miracle, the supply sufficient for one day was multiplied, so as to suffice for two. (So Kalisch, Knobel, Kurtz, and others.) This view is in harmony with verse 18, which tells of a miraculous expansion and diminution of the manna after it had been gathered, and with verse 22, which shows us "the rulers" surmised by the miracle of the sixth day.
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:
Verse 6. - At even, then ye shall know. See verses 12 and 13. The first evidence which the Israelites would have, that God had heard 'and considered their complaints, would be the descent of the quails at even of the day on which Moses and Aaron addressed them. That the Lord hath brought you out - i.e., "that it is not we who, to gratify our own personal ambition, have induced you to quit Egypt under our guidance; but that all which we have done has been to act as God's instruments, and to carry out his designs."
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?
Verse 7. ? And in the morning then ye shall see the glory of the Lord. This has been supposed to refer to the manifestation of God's presence recorded in verse 10; but the balance of the two clauses in verses 6 and 7 implies two similar manifestations, and their arrangement shows the priority of the evening one. Now the manifestation of verse 10 preceded the coming of the quails. The manifestation which followed it, which was similar, and in the morning, was the fall of the manna. For that he heareth your murmurings. The connection of this clause with the preceding furnishes an additional argument in favour of the exposition that "the glory of God," spoken of in this verse is the manna. Against the Lord. Professedly and directly against us, but indirectly and really against God, whose instruments we have been in the whole matter of the exodus. What are we? - i.e., "What power have we of our own? We have no hereditary rank, no fixed definite position. We are simply the leaders whom you have chosen to follow, because you believed us to have a commission from God. Apart from this, we are nobodies. But, if our commission is conceded, we are to you in the place of God; and to murmur against us is to murmur against Jehovah."
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.
Verse 8. - When the lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat. Moses must have received a distinct intimation of the coming arrival of the quails, trough he has not recorded it, his desire of brevity causing him to retrench all that is not absolutely necessary for the right understanding of the narrative. It is, comparatively, seldom that he records both the Divine message and his delivery of it. In general, he places upon record either the message only, or its delivery only. Bread to the full. Compare above, verse 4; and infra, verses 12 and 18. The Lord heareth your murmurings. The latter part of this verse is, in the main, a repetition of verse 7; but it emphasises the statements of that verse, and prepares the way for what follows.
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.
Verses 9-21. - THE PROMISE FULFILLED. Moses had made a double promise to the Israelites in God's name. "The Lord shall give you," he had said," in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full" (ver. 8). And now the time for the fulfilment of the double promise approached. First, however, before they received the blessings, he required them to present themselves before the Lord. As they had rebelled in murmuring, an act of homage was proper; and as they had called in question the conduct of Moses and Aaron. some token that God approved the action of these his faithful servants, and would support them, was needed. Hence the appearance of the Lord to the congregation in the cloud (ver. 10). After this, when evening approached, the quails fell. A vast flight of this migratory bird, which often arrives in Arabia Petraea from the sea (Diod. Sic. 1:60), fell to the earth about the Hebrew camp, and, being quite exhausted, lay on the ground in a state which allowed of their being taken by the hand. The Israelites had thus abundant "flesh to eat" (ver. 8), for God "sent them meat enough" (Psalm 78:26). The next morning, the remainder of the promise was fulfilled. When they awoke, they found that the vegetation about the camp was covered with a sort of dew, resembling hoar-frost, which was capable of easy detachment from the leaves, and which proved to be an edible substance. While they were in doubt about the phenomenon, Moses informed them that this was the "bread from heaven" which they had been promised (ver. 15). At the same time he instructed them as to the quantity which they should gather, which he fixed at an omer for each member of their family (ver. 16). In attempting to carry out these instructions, mistakes were not unnaturally made; some exceeded the set quantity, others fell short of it. But the result was found to be the same. Whatever the quantity gathered, when it was brought home and measured, the amount was by miracle made to be exactly an omer for each (ver. 18). Afterwards, Moses gave another order. The whole of the manna was to be consumed (ordinarily) on the day on which it was gathered. When some wilfully disobeyed this command, the reserved manna was found on the next day to have become bad - it had bred worms, and gave out an offensive odour. This circumstance put a stop to the malpractice.
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.
Verse 12. - At even. Literally, "between the two evenings." For the meaning of the phrase, see the comment on Exodus 12:6. Ye shall eat flesh. The quails, as appears by the subsequent narrative, were supplied, not regularly, but only on rare occasions; in fact (so far as appears), only here in the wilderness of Sin, and at Kibroth-hattaavah in the wilderness of Paran (Numbers 11:31-34). They were not a necessary, but an indulgence. Ye shall know that I am the Lord. The miracle of the manna, and the timely appearance of the quails at the hour announced, will sufficiently show that it is God himself who has you under his charge and watches over you.
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.
Verse 13. - The quails came up. The word here translated, "quails" has been supposed to designate the flying-fish (Trigla Israelitarum of Ehrenberg), or a species of locust (Ludolf). But Psalm 78:28, makes it clear that "feathered fowls" are intended; and moderns generally, are agreed that the rendering "quails" is right. It has the authority of the Septuagint, of Josephus, and of the Vulgate. Diodorus says that "the inhabitants of Arabia Petraea prepared long nets, spread them near the coast for many stadia, and thus caught a great number of quails which are in the habit of coming in from the sea" (2:60). The quail regularly migrates from Syria and Arabia in the autumn, and winters in the interior of Africa, whence it returns northwards in immense masses in the spring (Schubert, Reise, vol. 2. p. 361). Kalisch thinks that the particular species of quail intended is the kata of the Arabs (Tetrao Alchata of Linnaeus); but the common quail (Tetrao coturnix) is preferred by most commentators. When these birds approach the coast after a long flight over the Red Sea, they are often so exhausted that they rather fall to the ground than settle, and are then easily taken by the hand or killed with sticks. Their flesh is regarded by the natives as a delicacy. Covered the camp - i.e., covered all the ground between the tents in which the Israelites lived in the wilderness. The dew lay. Literally, "there was a layer of dew" - something, i.e., lay on the ground outside the camp which looked like dew, and was in part dew, but not wholly so.
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.
Verse 14. - When the dew that lay was gone up. The moisture which lay upon the herbage soon evaporated, drawn up by the sun; and then the miracle revealed itself. There remained upon each leaf and each blade of grass a delicate small substance, compared here to hoar frost, and elsewhere (Numbers 11:7) to "coriander seed," which was easily detached and collected in bags or baskets. The thing was altogether a novelty to the Israelites, though analogous in some degree to natural processes still occurring in the country. These processes are of two kinds. At certain times of the year there is a deposit of a glutinous substance from the air upon leaves and even upon stones, which may be scraped off, and which resembles thick honey. There is also an exudation from various trees and shrubs, especially the tamarisk, which is moderately hard, and is found both on the growing plant and on the fallen leaves beneath it, in the shape of small, round, white or greyish grains. It is this last which is the manna of commerce. The Biblical manna cannot be identified with either of these two substances. In some points it resembled the one, in other points the other; in some, it differed from both. It came out of the air like the "air-honey," and did not exude from shrubs; but it was hard, like the manna of commerce, and could be "ground in mills" and "beaten in mortars," which the "air-honey" cannot. It was not a medicament, like the one, nor a condiment, like the other, but a substance suited to be a substitute for bread, and to become the main sustenance of the Israelitish people. It was produced in quantities far exceeding anything that is recorded of either manna proper, or air honey. It accompanied the Israelites wherever they went during the space of forty years, whereas the natural substances, which in certain points resemble it, are confined to certain districts, and to certain seasons of the year. During the whole space of forty years it fell regularly during six consecutive days, and then ceased on the seventh. It "bred worms" if kept till the morrow on all days of the week except one; on that one - the Sabbath - it bred no worms, but was sweet and good. Thus, it must be regarded as a peculiar substance, miraculously created for a special purpose, but similar in certain respects to certain known substances which are still produced in the Sinaitic region.
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.
Verse 15. - They said one to another, this is manna. Rather, "this is a gift." To suppose that they recognised the substance as one known to them in Egypt under the name of menu or mennu, is to make this clause contradict the next. To translate "what is this?" gives good sense, but is against grammar, since the Hebrew for "what" is not man but mah. The Septuagint translators (who render τί ἐστι τοῦτο) were probably deceived by their familiarity with the Chaldee, in which man corresponds to "what." Not knowing what to call the substance, the Israelites said one to another, "it is a gift" - meaning a gift from heaven, God's gift (compare verse 8); and afterwards, in consequence of this, the word man (properly "gift") became the accepted name of the thing.
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.
Verse 16. - An omer for every man. According to Kalisch, the omer is about two quarts (English): but this estimate is probably in excess. Josephus makes the measure one equal to six cotyles, which would be about a quart and a half, or three pints. In his tents. Rather, "in his tent."
And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.
Verse 17. - The children of Israel did so The Israelites set themselves to obey Moses, and gathered what they supposed to be about an omer; but, as a matter of course, some of them exceeded the amount, while others fell short of it. There was no wilful disobedience thus far.
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.
Verse 18. - When they did mete it with an omer. On returning to their tents, with the manna which they had collected, the Israelites proceeded to measure it with their own, or a neighbour's, omer measure, when the wonderful result appeared, that, whatever the quantity actually gathered by any one, the result of the measurement showed, exactly as many omers as there were persons in the family. Thus, he that had gathered much found that he had nothing over, and he that had gathered little found that he had no lack.
And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.
Verse 19. - Let no man leave of it till the morning. Moses, divinely instructed, warned the people that they were not to lay up in store any of their manna to be eaten the next day. God would have them trust their future wants to him, and "take no thought for the morrow." Some of them, however, were disobedient, with the result stated in the next verse.
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.
Verse 20. - It bred worms. This was a supernatural, not a natural result. It served as a sort of punishment of the disobedient, and effectually checked the practice of laying up in store.
And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.
Verse 21. - When the sun waxed hot it melted. The manna had to be gathered early. What had not been collected before the sun grew hot, melted away and disappeared from sight. In this respect the miraculous manna resembled both the manna of commerce and the "air-honey."
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.
Verses 22-30. - THE GATHERING OF THE SIXTH DAY. When the Israelites, having collected what seemed to them the usual quantity of manna on the sixth day, brought it home and measured it, they found the yield to be, not an omer a head for each member of the family, but two omers. The result was a surprise and a difficulty. They could not consume more than an omer a-piece. What was to be done with the remainder? Was it to be destroyed, or kept? If kept, would it not "breed worms"? To resolve their doubts, the elders brought the matter before Moses, who replied - "This is that which the Lord hath said." It is to be supposed that, in his original announcement to the elders of God's purposes as to the manna, Moses had informed them that the quantity would be double on the sixth day (ver. 5); but his statement had not made any deep impression at the time, and now they had forgotten it. So he recalls it to their recollection. "This is no strange thing - nothing that should have surprised you - it is only what God said would happen. And the reason of it is, that to-morrow, the seventh day is, by God's ordinance, the rest of the Holy Sabbath," - or rather "a rest of a holy Sabbath to the Lord." Whether or no the Sabbath was a primeval institution, given to our first parents in Paradise (Genesis 2:3), may be doubted: at any rate, it had not been maintained as an institution by the Hebrews during their sojourn in Egypt; and this was, practically, to them, the first promulgation of it. (See Hessey's Bampton Lectures, p. 149.) Hence, in the original, it is not called "the sabbath," as if already known, but "a sabbath," - i.e., a rest - until verse 29. Verse 22. - This is that which the Lord hath said. Rather, "said," i.e., declared to me when he announced the manna. See verse 5. It has been supposed that Moses had not communicated the declaration to the elders; but this seems unlikely. The rest of the holy sabbath. If this translation were correct, the previous institution of the sabbath, and the knowledge of its obligation by the Hebrews, would follow; but the absence of the article is a strong indication that the whole idea was new, at any rate to those whom Moses was addressing. Bake that which ye will bake, etc. "Do," i.e., "as you have done on other days - bake some and seethe some - but also reserve a portion to be your food and sustenance to-morrow."
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.
Verse 24. - They laid it up. The great bulk of the Israelites obeyed Moses, and laid by a portion (half?) of the manna gathered on the sixth day. On the morning of the seventh, this was found to be perfectly good, and not to have "bred worms" in the night. Either this was a miracle, or the corruption previously noticed (ver. 20) was miraculous.
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.
Verses 25, 26. - And Moses said. The Sabbath being come, Moses explained fully the reason for the order which he had given, and generalized it. God required the Sabbath to be "a day of holy rest" - no manna would fall on it, and therefore none could be gathered - the produce of the sixth day's gathering would be found to suffice both for the sixth day and the seventh.
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.
Verse 27. - There went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather. There will always be some persons in a nation, or in a Church, who will refuse to believe God's ministers, and even God himself. They persuade themselves that they "know better" - it will not be as announced - it will be as they wish it to be. More especially is this so where the idea of continuance comes in - where some interruption of the ordinary course of things is announced, which they deem unlikely or impossible. Compare Genesis 19:14.
And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
Verse 28. - How long refuse ye to keep my commandments! Though Moses is addressed, it is the people who are blamed. Hence the plural verb, "refuse ye." Already there had been one act of disobedience in connection with the manna (see ver. 20) - now there was another - when would such sinful folly come to an end? When would the people learn that they could gain nothing by disobedience? It was "long" indeed before they were taught the lesson.
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.
Verse 29. - See, for that, etc. Rather, "See, that." Consider that God has given you the Sabbath, or the holy rest: and therefore it is that he gives you on the sixth day the food for two days - that the rest may not be interfered with. abide ye every man in his place. One Jewish sect, the Masbothei, took this command absolutely literally, and held that in whatsoever position a man was at the commencement of the Sabbath day, he was bound to retain it to the close. But generally it was held that the "place" intended was the camp, which the Israelites were forbidden to quit; and hence was derived the idea of the "sabbath day's journey," which was reckoned at six stadia - the supposed distance of the furthest bounds of the camp from its centre.
So the people rested on the seventh day.
Verse 30. - So the people rested. Having found by experience that nothing was to be gained by seeking manna on the sabbath, and received the severe rebuke of verse 28, the people henceforth obeyed the new commandment, and "rested on the sabbath day." Of the nature of the "rest" intended more will be said in the comment on Exodus 20:8-11.
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.
Verses 31-36. - THE APPEARANCE OF THE MANNA, ITS CONTINUANCE, AND ITS DEPOSITION IN THE TABERNACLE. - In bringing the subject of the manna to a conclusion, the writer adds a few words.
1. On its appearance;
2. On its deposition by divine command in the Ark of the Covenant; and
3. On its continuance during the forty years of the wanderings.
It is evident that verses 32-34 cannot have been written until after the sojourn in Sinai, and the command to make a tabernacle (ch. 26.): as also that verse 35 cannot have been written till the arrival of the Israelites at the verge of the land of Canaan. But there is nothing in the passage that militates against the Mosaic authorship of the whole. Verse 31. - The house of Israel. This expression is unusual, and is not admitted by the Septuagint, the Syriac, or the Arabic versions, which all have "the children of Israel." Several Hebrew MSS. have bent, "sons," instead of beyth "house." Manna. Literally, as in the Septuagint, man - the word used when they first beheld the substance (verse 15), and probably meaning "a gift.:' The elongated form manna, first appears in the Sept. rendering of Numbers 11:6, 7. It was like coriander seed. This is "a small round grain of a whitish or yellowish grey." The comparison is made again in Numbers 11:7, where it is added that the colour was that of bdellium - either the gum so called, or possibly the pearl. The taste of it was like wafers made with honey. Such wafers or cakes were constantly used as offerings by the Egyptians, Greeks, and other nations. They were ordinarily compounded of meal, oil, and honey. Hence we can reconcile with the present passage the statement in Numbers 11:8, that "the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil."
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.
Verse 32. - And Moses said. Not at the moment, but some time subsequently. See the introductory paragraph. Fill an omer. In the original it is "the omer," and so the LXX.; but the reason for the introduction of the article is obscure. For your generations - i.e., "for your descendants."
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.
Verse 33. - Take a pot. The word here translated "pot" does not occur elsewhere in Scripture, and is believed to be of Egyptian origin Gesenius translates it "basket;" but the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews 9:4 follows the LXX. in representing the word used by στάμνος, which certainly means "a jar" or "pot." Lay it up before the Lord. The "pot of manna" was laid up before the Lord with the "tables of the covenant," and "Aaron's rod that budded" as symbolical that God's mercy was as eternal and essential, and as much to be remembered as his justice, and perhaps also as especially symbolising the "true bread of life."
As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.
Verse 34, - Aaron laid it up before the testimony. "The testimony" is not the Ark of the Covenant, which is never so called, but the Covenant itself, or the two tables of stone engraved by the finger of God, which are termed "the testimony" in Exodus 25:16-21; Exodus 40:20; etc. The pot of manna was laid up inside the ark (Hebrews 9:4) in front of the two tables.
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.
Verse 35. - The children of Israel did eat manna forty years. Kalisch observes that the actual time was not forty full years, but about one month short of that period, since the manna began after the fifteenth day of the second month of the first year (verse 1) and terminated just after Passover of the forty-first year (Joshua 5:10-12). It may be added that Mesas cannot have written the present passage later than about the eleventh month of the fortieth year (Deuteronomy 1:3; Deuteronomy 34:10; Joshua 4:19); when the manna had continued thirty-nine years and nine months. Until they came to a land inhabited. Kalisch translates "the land of their habitation," or "which they were to inhabit," remarking that they had reached inhabited countries, e.g., those of Sihon and Og, much earlier. But the words will not bear this rendering. What the writer intends to note is, that the manna continued all the time they were in the wilderness, until they reached inhabited territory, and then further (in the next clause), that it lasted after that, until they came to the borders of Canaan. He does not say that it even then left off. He writes exactly as Moses might be expected to have written towards the close of his life. A later writer would, as Canon Cook observes, have been more specific.
Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.
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.