Exodus 16:1-3

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 31 January 2015

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NOTE: The Scripture text is taken from Messianic Jewish Family Bible: Tree of Life Version, © 2014 by Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.


"1 They journeyed on from Elim, and the entire community of Bnei-Yisrael came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving the land of Egypt. 2 But the whole congregation of Bnei-Yisrael murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 Bnei-Yisrael said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of Adonai in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat, when we ate bread until we were full. But you have brought us into the wilderness, to kill this entire congregation with hunger." (Ex 16:1-3 TLV)

To review let us remember that the Israelites, a great mixed multitude of perhaps as many as three million people, had departed Goshen on the 15th day of the first month of the year. After crossing the Red Sea they traveled for three days and arrived at a place called Marah. By this time water supplies were depleted. There was water at Marah but it was bitter, so the people grumbled against Moses. Water is much more critical than food, so ADONAI showed Moses how to purify the water. ADONAI also established a principle of how He would treat His people: "if you obey Me I will not afflict you as I did the Egyptians, because I am your healer."

The nation then journeyed on to Elim, a place of seventy date palms and an abundant water supply of twelve springs. How long Israel stayed at Elim we are not told. In any event on the tenth day of the second month the nation departed the oasis and five days later arrived in the Wilderness of Sin somewhere between Elim and Sinai. So, now 30 days after leaving Egypt they are running short of food. The sons of Israel grumble and this time include Aaron. It is a dangerous thing to murmur against our spiritual leaders because it offends God. Four times in this chapter Moses warns the people that God had heard their grumbling.

Verse three gives the content of their complaint, what might be called two irrational ideas, one a premise and the second a conclusion, that indicate the onset of a national neurosis. The irrational conclusion, actually stated first is, "Would that we had died by the hand of ADONAI in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pot of meat and ate bread to the full!" There is a certain irony here. Of the ten plagues God used the physical hand of Aaron to accomplish the first three (blood, frogs, and lice) and the hand of Moses to accomplish four (boils, hail, locusts, and darkness). God directly caused flies, livestock sickness and death of the firstborn. Eight out of the ten plagues posed no threat of death to people. Besides the last plague the only plague to threaten lives was the seventh plague of hail which came from the hand of Moses.

The Israelites did not sit by pots of meat during the tenth plague, so, their complaint means that while some Egyptians were dying during the hail storm, they sat in their homes eating stewed goat meat and tasty bread. So, being killed with the Egyptians would have been better? What insanity!

The irrational premise, really a slander, is that Moses has brought them into the wilderness to kill everybody with hunger. These people had invested Moses with the total responsibility of providing for them. The irrational premise ignores certain facts. First, the text does not say that they had run out of food, although Rashi suggests they ran out of bread. After all, they had vast herds from which they could get milk and cheese, as well as meat. Second, it takes a lengthy time to die from starvation. There was plenty of time to look for other people who could sell them food.

The second incidence of grumbling reveals the spiritual immaturity of the people. All the good things God had done for them had been erased from their minds. Perhaps they're beginning to realize that God had not promised them a picnic and that leaving Egypt did not guarantee freedom from hardship and they don't like it. How quickly they had forgotten that they had been delivered from slavery because they had cried out to the ADONAI. Where is their intercession now?

What the Israelites did not know was that God had a plan to provide bread from heaven, which began the very next day. There would be no point of providing bread, later called manna, before it was needed. Invariably our need coincides with God's provision according to His sovereign plan. God even provided an extra blessing of meat from heaven in the form of quail on the first day to go with the bread. When the Israelites left Goshen Moses was not given a logistics plan for their journey. As Rashi said, "they did not say, “How will we go without provisions?” Instead they believed and left." Yet here they were demonstrating a loss of faith.

You might know I am a retired Army Quartermaster officer. Years ago when I was a Captain stationed in Korea I commanded a supply company that provided food for three thousand solders. I can only imagine the logistical challenge of supplying food for three million people. Regardless of what some Bible scholars say manna was a miracle food. The Bible emphasizes that God caused manna to appear at the right time and place to meet His people's needs. In fact, providing manna in the manner described in this chapter, what we in the Army would call "airborne resupply," was the most efficient delivery system that could be designed. The manna continued for 40 years and ended after Israel crossed over into Canaan.

Yet strangely God identifies the manna as a test. How is a simple diet a test? Well, if the people obeyed the instruction to go out daily and gather the manna, except on the Sabbath, they would have sufficient food for the entire week. God was not going to make it appear inside their tents, their pots or in their mouths. They had to work six days and then rest one day trusting that the supply would be there the following day. Relying on the manna also tested their ability to learn a spiritual lesson. Would they comprehend that ADONAI was their healer and covenant-keeping God and then respond with obedience?

We must all learn these spiritual lessons. Many of you will remember that in the 1960s Wonder Bread advertised that their bread "builds strong bodies twelve ways." Actually Continental Baking began adding vitamins and minerals to Wonder Bread during the 1940s, as part of a government-sponsored program of enriching white bread in order to combat certain diseases. Known as the "Quiet Miracle," this development is credited with greatly reducing the incidence of the diseases beriberi and pellagra.

Just consider the greater miracle that Yeshua, the Bread of Heaven provides. As Paul said Yeshua has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven. He is our Healer, our Deliverer, our Sustainer. With the nutrients of His Spirit we can build the Body of Messiah to be spiritually strong and healthy, even in the most difficult of times. Let us not be complainers, but let us rejoice and praise God for His abundant supply.


Copyright © 2015 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.