|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they took their journey from Elim,.... And came again to the Red sea, as appears from Numbers 33:10 perhaps to some bay or creek of it, which ran up from it, and lay in their way, and where for a short time they encamped to look at it, and recollect what had been done for them in bringing them through it; but as their stay here was short, and nothing of any importance or consequence happened, it is here omitted, and their next station is only observed:
and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which still bears the same name, as a late traveller (a) informs us, who passed through it, and says, we traversed these plains in nine hours, being all the way diverted with the sight of a variety of lizards and vipers, that are here in great numbers; and elsewhere (b) he says, that vipers, especially in the wilderness of Sin which might very properly be called "the inheritance of dragons", were very dangerous and troublesome, not only our camels, but the Arabs who attended them, running every moment the risk of being bitten. The Red sea, or the bay of it, they came to from Elim, according to Bunting (c) was six miles, and from thence to the wilderness of Sin, sixteen more. This is a different wilderness from that of Zin, which is written with a different letter, Numbers 20:1 and was on the other side of Mount Sinai, as this was the way to it, as follows:
which is between Elim and Sinai according to the above writer (d), it was twenty miles from Elim the Israelites travelled, and forty more ere they came to Sinai. Dr. Shaw (e) says, after traversing the plains in nine hours, we were near twelve hours in passing the many windings and difficult ways which lie beteen those deserts and these of Sinai; the latter consists of a beautiful plain more than a league in breadth, and nearly three in length:
on the fifteenth day of the second month, after their departing out of the land of Egypt; the month Ijar, as the Targum of Jonathan, which answers to part of April and part of May, and has its name from the beauty of the flowers, which appear at this time of the year: the Israelites were now come from thence a month or thirty days; for they came out the fifteenth of Abib or Nisan, and now it was the fifteenth of Ijar; and as the first day of this month, as Jarchi says, was on the first day of the week, this day must be so likewise; and yet sometimes the Jews say (f) this was a sabbath day.
(a) Shaw, p. 314. (b) lb p. 444. (c) Travels, p. 82. (d) Ib. (e) Travels, p. 314. (f) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 87. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ex 16:1-36. Murmurs for Want of Bread.
1. they took their journey from Elim—where they had remained several days.
came unto the wilderness of Sin—It appears from Nu 32:1-42, that several stations are omitted in this historical notice of the journey. This passage represents the Israelites as advanced into the great plain, which, beginning near El-Murkah, extends with a greater or less breadth to almost the extremity of the peninsula. In its broadest part northward of Tur it is called El-Kaa, which is probably the desert of Sin [Robinson].
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