Exodus 16:4
Then said the LORD to 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) I will rain bread from heaven for you.—This first announcement at once suggests that the supply is to be supernatural. “Bread from heaven” was not simply “food out of the air” (Rosenmüller), but a celestial, that is, a Divine supply of their daily needs.

A certain rate every day.—Heb., a day’s meal each day—sufficient, that is, for the wants of himself and family for a day.

That I may prove them.—Human life is a probation. God proves and tries those most whom He takes to Himself for His “peculiar people,” and the trial is often by means of positive precepts, which are especially

Calculated to test the presence or absence of a spirit of humble and unquestioning obedience. Our first parents were tested by a positive precept in Paradise; the family of Abraham were tested by a positive precept—circumcision on the eighth day; the Israelites were tested, both in the wilderness and afterwards throughout their career as a nation, by a number of positive precepts, whereof this concerning the manna was one. Christians are tested by positive precepts with respect to common worship, prayer, and sacraments—the object being in all cases to see whether men “will walk in God’s law or no.” Men are very apt to prefer their own inventions to the simple rule of following at once the letter and the spirit of God’s commandments.

Exodus

THE BREAD OF GOD

Exodus 16:4 - - Exodus 16:12
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Unbelief has a short memory. The Red Sea is forgotten in a month. The Israelites could strike their timbrels and sing their lyric of praise, but they could not believe that to-day’s hunger could be satisfied. Discontent has a slippery memory. They wish to get back to the flesh-pots, of which the savour is in their nostrils, and they have forgotten the bitter sauce of affliction. When they were in Egypt, they shrieked about their oppression, and were ready to give up anything for liberty; when they have got it, they are ready to put their necks in the yoke again, if only they can have their stomachs filled. Men do not know how happy they are till they cease to be so. Our present miseries and our past blessings are the themes on which unbelief harps. Let him that is without similar sin cast the first stone at these grumbling Israelites. Without following closely the text of the narrative, we may throw together the lessons of the manna.

I. Observe God’s purpose in the gift, as distinctly expressed in the promise of it.

‘That I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law or no.’ How did the manna become a test of this? By means of the law prescribed for gathering it. There was to be a given quantity daily, and twice as much on the sixth day. If a man trusted God for to-morrow, he would be content to stop collecting when he had filled his omer, tempting as the easily gathered abundance would be. Greed and unbelief would masquerade then as now, under the guise of prudent foresight. The old Egyptian parallels to ‘make hay while the sun shines,’ and suchlike wise sayings of the philosophy of distrust, would be solemnly spoken, and listened to as pearls of wisdom. When experience had taught that, however much a man gathered, he had no more than his omer full, after all,-and is not that true yet?-then the next temptation would be to practise economy, and have something over for to-morrow. Only he who absolutely trusted God to provide for him would eat up his portion, and lie down at night with a quiet heart, knowing that He who had fed him would feed. When experience had taught that what was saved rotted, then laziness would come in and say, ‘What is the use of gathering twice as much on the sixth day? Don’t we know that it will not keep?’ So the whole of the gift was a continual training of, and therefore a continual test for, faith. God willed to let His gifts come in this hand-to-mouth fashion, though He could have provided at once what would have obviously lasted them all their wilderness life, in order that they might be habituated to cling to Him, and that their daily bread might be doubly for their nourishment, feeding their bodies and strengthening that faith which, to them as to us, is the condition of all blessedness. God lets our blessings, too, trickle to us drop by drop, instead of pouring them in a flood all at once upon us, for the same reason. He does so, not because of any good to Him from our faith, except that the Infinite love loves infinitely to be loved; but for our sakes, that we may taste the peace and strength of continual dependence, and the joy of continual receiving. He could give us the principal down; but He prefers to pay us the interest, as we need it.

Christianity does not absolutely forbid laying up money or other resources for future wants. But the love of accumulating, which is so strong in many professing Christians, and the habit of amassing beyond all reasonable future wants, is surely scarcely permitted to those who profess to believe that incarnate wisdom forbade taking anxious care for the morrow, and sent its disciples to lilies and birds to learn the happy immunities of faith. We too get our daily mercies to prove us. The letter of the law for the manna is not applicable to us who gain our bread by God’s blessing on our labour. But the spirit is, and the members of great commercial nations have surely little need to be reminded that still the portion put away is apt to breed worms. How often it vanishes, or, if it lasts, tortures its owner, who has more trouble keeping it than he had in getting it; or fatally corrupts his own character, or ruins his children! All God’s gifts are tests, which-thanks be to Him-is the same as to say that they are means of increasing faith, and so adding to joy.

II. The manna was further a disclosure of the depth of patient long-suffering in God.

Very strikingly the ‘murmurings’ of the children of Israel are four times referred to in this context, and on each occasion are stated as the reason for the gift of the manna. It was God’s answer to the peevish complaints of greedy appetites. When they were summoned to come near to the Lord, with the ominous warning that ‘He hath heard your murmurings,’ no doubt many a heart began to quake; and when the Glory flashed from the Shechinah cloud, it would burn lurid to their trembling consciences. But the message which comes from it is sweet in its gentleness, as it promises the manna because they have murmured, and in order that they may know the Lord. A mother soothes her crying infant by feeding it from her own bosom. God does not take the rod to His whimpering children, but rather tries to win them by patience, and to shame their unbelief by His swift and over-abundant answers to their complaints. When He must, He punishes; but when He can, He complies. Faith is the condition of our receiving His highest gifts; but even unbelief touches His heart with pity, and what He can give to it, He does, if it may be melted into trust. The farther men stray from Him, the more tender and penetrating His recalling voice. We multiply transgressions, He multiplies mercies.

III. The manna was a revelation in miraculous and transient form of an eternal truth.

The God who sent it sends daily bread. The words which Christ quoted in His wilderness hunger are the explanation of its meaning as a witness to this truth: ‘Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ To a Christian, the divine power is present and operative in all natural processes as really as in those which we call miraculous. God is separable from the universe, but the universe is not separable from God. If it were separated, it would cease. So far as the reality of the divine operation is concerned, it matters not whether He works in the established fashion, through material things, or whether His will acts directly. The chain which binds a phenomenon to the divine will may be long or short; the intervening links may be many, or they may be abolished, and the divine cause and the visible effect may touch without anything between. But in either case the power is of God. Bread made out of flour grown on the other side of the world, and fashioned by the baker, and bought by the fruits of my industry, is as truly the gift of God as was the manna. For once, He showed these men His hand at work, that we all might know that it was at work, when hidden. The lesson of the ‘angel’s food’ eaten in the wilderness is that men are fed by the power of God’s expressed and active will,-for that is the meaning of ‘the word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,’-in whatever fashion they get their food. The gift of it is from Him; its power to nourish is from Him. It is as true to-day as ever it was: ‘Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.’ The manna ceased when the people came near cornfields and settled homes. Miracles end when means are possible. But the God of the miracle is the God of the means.

Commentators make much of what is supposed to be a natural substratum for the manna, in a certain vegetable product, found in small quantities in parts of the Arabian peninsula. No doubt, we are to recognise in the plagues of Egypt, and in the dividing of the Red Sea, the extraordinary action of ordinary causes; and there is no objection in principle to doing so here. But that an exudation from the bark of a shrub, which has no nutritive properties at all, is found only in one or two places in Arabia, and that only at certain seasons and in infinitesimal quantity, seems a singularly thin ‘substratum’ on which to build up the feeding of two millions of people, more or less exclusively and continuously for forty years, by means of a substance which has nothing to do with tamarisk-trees, and is like the natural product in nothing but sweetness and name. Whether we admit connection between the two, or not, the miraculous character of the manna of the Israelites is unaffected. It was miraculous in its origin-’rained from heaven,’ in its quantity, in its observance of times and seasons, in its putrefaction and preservation,-as rotting when kept for greed, and remaining sweet when preserved for the Sabbath. It came straight from the creative will of God, and whether its name means ‘What is it?’ or ‘It is a gift,’ the designation is equally true and appropriate, pointing, in the one case, to the mystery of its nature; in the other, to the love of the Giver, and in both referring it directly to the hand of God.

IV. The manna was typical of Christ.

Our Lord Himself has laid His hand upon it, and claimed it as a faint foreshadowing of what He is. The Jews, not satisfied with the miracle of the loaves, demand from Him a greater sign, as the condition of what they are pleased to call ‘belief’-which is nothing but accepting the testimony of sense. They quote Moses as giving the manna, and imply that Messiah is expected to repeat the miracle. Christ accepts the challenge, and goes on to claim that He not only gives, but Himself is, for all men’s souls, all and more than all which the manna had been to the bodies of that dead generation. Like it, He came-but in how much more profound a sense!-from heaven. Like it, He was food. But unlike it, He could still for ever the craving of the else famishing soul; unlike it, He not only nourished a bodily life already possessed, but communicated a spiritual life which never dies; and, unlike it, He was meant to be the food of the whole world. His teaching passed beyond the symbolism of the manna, when He not only declared Himself to be the ‘true bread from heaven which gives life to the world,’ but opened a glimpse into the solemn mystery of His atoning death by the startling and apparently repulsive paradox that ‘His flesh was food indeed and His blood drink indeed.’ The manna does not typically teach Christ’s atonement, but it does set Him forth as the true sustenance and life-giver, sweet as honey to the soul, sent from heaven for us each, but needing to be made ours by the act of our faith. An Israelite would have starved, though the manna lay all round the camp, if he did not go forth and secure his portion; and he might no less have starved, if he did not eat what Heaven had sent. ‘Crede et manducasti,’ ‘Believe, and thou hast eaten,’-as St. Augustine says. The personal appropriating act of faith is essential to our having Christ for the food of our souls. The bread that nourishes our bodies is assimilated to their substance, and so becomes sustenance. This bread of God, entering into our souls by faith, transforms them into its substance, and so gives and feeds an immortal life. The manna was for a generation; this bread is ‘the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ That was for a handful of men; this is for the world. Nor is the prophetic value of the manna exhausted when we recognise its witness to Christ. The food of the wilderness is the food of the city. The bread that is laid on the table, ‘spread in the presence of the enemy,’ is the bread that makes the feast in the king’s palace. The Christ who feeds the pilgrim soldiers is the Christ on whom the conquerors banquet. ‘To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna.’Exodus 16:4. Man being made out of the earth, his Maker has wisely ordered him food out of the earth, <19A414>Psalm 104:14. But the people of Israel typifying the church of the firstborn that are written in heaven, receiving their charters, laws, and commissions from heaven; from heaven also they received their food. See what God designed in making this provision for them; that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or no — Whether they would trust and serve him, and be ever faithful to so good a master.16:1-12 The provisions of Israel, brought from Egypt, were spent by the middle of the second month, and they murmured. It is no new thing for the greatest kindness to be basely represented as the greatest injuries. They so far undervalue their deliverance, that they wished they had died in Egypt; and by the hand of the Lord, that is, by the plagues which cut off the Egyptians. We cannot suppose they had plenty in Egypt, nor could they fear dying for want in the wilderness, while they had flocks and herds: none talk more absurdly than murmurers. When we begin to fret, we ought to consider, that God hears all our murmurings. God promises a speedy and constant supply. He tried whether they would trust him, and rest satisfied with the bread of the day in its day. Thus he tried if they would serve him, and it appeared how ungrateful they were. When God plagued the Egyptians, it was to make them know he was their Lord; when he provided for the Israelites, it was to make them know he was their God.That I may prove them - The trial consisted in the restriction to the supply of their daily wants. 4. Then said the Lord unto Moses—Though the outbreak was immediately against the human leaders, it was indirectly against God: yet mark His patience, and how graciously He promised to redress the grievance.

I will rain bread from heaven—Israel, a type of the Church which is from above, and being under the conduct, government, and laws of heaven, received their food from heaven also (Ps 78:24).

that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no—The grand object of their being led into the wilderness was that they might receive a religious training directly under the eye of God; and the first lesson taught them was a constant dependence on God for their daily nourishment.

Bread, i.e. manna, which shall serve them instead of bread, Numbers 11:8, and was a more delicate and pleasant kind of bread, called therefore the bread of angels, Psalm 78:24,25.

From heaven; the air, oft called heaven, in which manna is produced.

Every day, Heb. the thing, i.e. the provision of a day in his day, i.e. every day, as much as was sufficient for a man’s sustenance that day. That I may prove them; either,

1. Whether by my giving them such miraculous and excellent provision they will be won to love and obey me. Or,

2. Whether by raining it down upon them for several days together they will learn to trust me for the following days, and therefore gather no more than that day required. Then said the Lord unto Moses,.... Who no doubt had been praying to him, as was his usual manner, when the people were in distress and complained, and was heard and answered by him: behold:

I will rain bread from heaven for you; though they were a murmuring, rebellious, and ungrateful people, the Lord dealt kindly and bountifully with them; he did not rain fire and brimstone upon them, as on Sodom and Gomorrah, nor snares and an horrible tempest, as on the wicked; but what was desirable by them, and suitable to their present circumstances, even bread, which was what they wanted, and this ready prepared; for though they did dress it in different ways, yet it might be eaten without any preparation at all; and this it was promised should be rained down upon them, there should be great plenty of it; it should come as thick and as fast as a shower of rain, and lie around their camp ready at hand to take up; and this should not spring out of the earth as bread corn does, but come down from heaven; and being such a wonderful thing, a "behold" is prefixed unto it, denoting the marvellousness of it, as well as exciting attention to what was said: our Lord may seem to contradict this, when he says, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, John 6:32, but the reconciliation is easy; for not to observe that it was God, and not Moses, that gave this bread, so though it came from the airy heavens, and along with the dew of it, where it was prepared perhaps by the ministry of angels, and therefore called the corn of heaven, and angels' bread, Psalm 78:24, yet it came not from the heaven of heavens, the third heaven, from whence the true bread, the antitype of this, came, even our Lord Jesus Christ himself:

and the people shall go out, and gather a certain rate of it every day; or "the thing of the day in its day" (i), the bread day by day; to which our Lord may be thought to allude, when he directs his disciples to pray, give us this day our daily bread; as this would be rained every morning, the people were to go out of the camp, and gather it up for their daily use, and which was to be done every day:

that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or no; by this single instance of their obedience to his will in going out every morning to gather their bread, that should be rained for them, he proposed to try and prove their obedience to his law in all other respects; what regard would be had to it when it should be given, and what might be expected from them, and likewise whether they would depend upon his providence in this case also.

(i) "rem diei in die suo", Pagninus, Montanus, Munster, Vatablus, Fagius, Drusius.

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 {c} day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.

(c) To signify that they should patiently depend on God's providence from day to day.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. Then] The Heb. is simply, And (Jehovah said &c.).

rain, &c.] Cf. Psalm 78:24 f. (‘rained,’ ‘corn of heaven,’ ‘bread of the mighty,’ i.e. angels), Psalm 105:40 (‘bread of heaven‘), Nehemiah 9:15, Wis 16:20 (ἀγγέλων τροφή, ‘angels’ food’), John 6:31.

that I may prove them (Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 13:3 : see on Exodus 17:2), &c.] it will be a test of their obedience, if they are attentive to carry out the injunction which I lay upon them. Cf. Deuteronomy 8:16, and below, p. 156.

my law] properly, my direction; see p. 162.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. When Moses cried to the Lord in consequence, He showed him some wood which, when thrown into the water, took away its bitterness. The Bedouins, who know the neighbourhood, are not acquainted with such a tree, or with any other means of making bitter water sweet; and this power was hardly inherent in the tree itself, though it is ascribed to it in Ecclus. 38:5, but was imparted to it through the word and power of God. We cannot assign any reason for the choice of this particular earthly means, as the Scripture says nothing about any "evident and intentional contrast to the change in the Nile by which the sweet and pleasant water was rendered unfit for use" (Kurtz). The word עץ "wood" (see only Numbers 19:6), alone, without anything in the context to explain it, does not point to a "living tree" in contrast to the "dead stick." And if any contrast had been intended to be shown between the punishment of the Egyptians and the training of the Israelites, this intention would certainly have been more visibly and surely accomplished by using the staff with which Moses not only brought the plagues upon Egypt, but afterwards brought water out of the rock. If by עץ we understand a tree, with which ויּשׁלך, however, hardly agrees, it would be much more natural to suppose that there was an allusion to the tree of life, especially if we compare Genesis 2:9 and Genesis 3:22 with Revelation 22:2, "the leaves of the tree of life were for the healing of the nations," though we cannot regard this reference as established. All that is clear and undoubted is, that by employing these means, Jehovah made Himself known to the people of Israel as their Physician, and for this purpose appointed the wood for the healing of the bitter water, which threatened Israel with disease and death (2 Kings 4:40).

By this event Jehovah accomplished two things: (a) "there He put (made) for it (the nation) an ordinance and a right," and (b) "there He proved it." The ordinance and right which Jehovah made for Israel did not consist in the words of God quoted in Exodus 15:26, for they merely give an explanation of the law and right, but in the divine act itself. The leading of Israel to bitter water, which their nature could not drink, and then the sweetening or curing of this water, were to be a חק for Israel, i.e., an institution or law by which God would always guide and govern His people, and a משׁפּט or right, inasmuch as Israel could always reckon upon the help of God, and deliverance from every trouble. But as Israel had not yet true confidence in the Lord, this was also a trial, serving to manifest its natural heart, and, through the relief of its distress on the part of God, to refine and strengthen its faith. The practical proof which was given of Jehovah's presence was intended to impress this truth upon the Israelites, that Jehovah as their Physician would save them from all the diseases which He had sent upon Egypt, if they would hear His voice, do what was right in His eyes, and keep all His commandments.

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