The Law of the Manna
Exodus 16:16-22
This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man…

God had said (ver. 4) that rules would be given in connection with the manna by which the people would be proved, whether they would walk in his law, or no. One rule is given in ver. 5, and the rest are given here. Consider -

I. THE LAW AS TO QUANTITY (vers. 10-18). "According to his eating," in this passage, means, according to the quantity allowed to each person for consumption. This was fixed at an omer a head (ver. 16). The simplest way of explaining what follows is to suppose that each individual, when he went out to gather, aimed, as nearly as possible, at bringing in his exact omer; but, necessarily, on measuring what had been gathered, it would be found that some had brought in a little more, some a little less, than the exact quantity; excess was then to go to balance defect, and the result would be that, on the whole, each person would receive his omer. It may be supposed, also, that owing to differences of age, strength, agility, etc., there would be great room left for one helping another, some gathering more, to eke out the deficiencies of the less active. If the work were conscientiously done, the result, even on natural principles, would be pretty much what is here indicated. The law of averages would lead, over a large number of eases, to a mean result, midway between excess and defect, i.e., to the net omer. But a special superintendence of providence - such, e.g., as that which secures in births, amidst all the inequalities of families, a right proportion of the sexes in society as a whole - is evidently pointed to as securing the result. We cannot suppose, however, that an intentionally indolent or unconscientious person was permitted to participate in this equal dividend, or to reap, in the way indicated, the benefit of the labours of others. The law here must have been, as with St. Paul," if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). There is nothing said as to the share to be allotted to juveniles: these may be supposed to have received some recognised proportion of an omer. The lessons of all this and its importance as a part of the spiritual education of Israel, are very obvious. It taught -

1. That what is of Divine gift is meant for common benefit. The individual is entitled to his share in it; but he is not entitled selfishly to enrich himself, while others are in need. He gets that he may give. There was to be a heavenly communism practised in respect of the manna, in the same way as a common property is recognised in light and air, and the other free gifts of nature. This applies to intellectual and spiritual wealth. We are not to rest till all have shared in it according to their God-given capacity.

2. That in the Church of Christ it is the duty of the stronger to help the weaker, and of the richer to help the poorer. This is the lesson drawn from the passage by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:12-16. It is presumed in his teaching, first, that there is the "willing mind," in which case a gift "is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not" (ver. 12). Each gatherer of the manna was honestly to do his part, and put what he could into the common stock. The end is not, secondly, that other men be eased, and the Corinthians burdened (ver. 13). But, each doing what he can, the design is, thirdly, that the abundance of one may be a supply, for the deficiency of another, that so there may he equality (ver. 14). This is a principle of wide application in Church finance, and also in the aiding of the poor. Strong congregations should not be slow to aid weak ones, that the work of the latter may go on more smoothly, and their ministers may at least be able to subsist comfortably. The Scottish Free Church has given a praiseworthy illustration of this principle in her noble "Sustentation Fund."

3. That where a helpful spirit is shown by each towards all, there will be found no lack of what is needful for any. God will see that all are provided for. The tendency of the rule is to encourage a friendly, helpful, unselfish spirit generally, and in all relations. The gatherer of manna was forbidden to act selfishly. A Nemesis would attend an attempt on the part of any to appropriate more than his proper share.


1. The manna was to be gathered in early morning. The people had to be up betimes, and had to bestir themselves diligently, that their manna might be collected before "the sun waxed hot" (ver. 21). If not collected then, the substance melted away, and could not be had at all. A lesson, surely, in the first instance, of diligence in business; and secondly, of the advantage of improving morning hours. The most successful gatherer of manna, whether in the material, intellectual, or spiritual fields, is he who is up and at his work early. Albert Barnes tells us that all his commentaries were due to this habit of rising early in the morning, the whole of them having been written before nine o'clock in the day, and without encroaching on his proper ministerial duties.

2. On six days of the week only (Per. 5). God teaches here the lesson of putting forward our work on week days, that we may be able to enjoy a Sabbath free from distraction. He puts honour on the ordinance of the Sabbath itself, by requiring that no work be done upon it.

III. THE LAW AS TO USE (ver. 19). None of the manna was to be left till the morning. We have here again a double lesson.

1. A lesson against hoarding. God gave to each person his quantity of manna; and the individual had no right to more. What excess he had in his gathering ought to have gone to supplement some other person's deficiency. But greed led slime of the Israelites to disobey. It would save them trouble to lay by what they did not need, and use it again next day. They might make profit out of it by barter. All such attempts God defeated by ordaining that the manna thus hoarded should breed worms, and grow corrupt. A significant emblem of the suicidal effects of hoarding generally. Hoarded treasure is never an ultimate benefit to its possessor. It corrupts alike in his heart and his bands. It breeds worms of care to him, and speedily becomes a nuisance (cf. Matthew 6:19, 20).

2. A lesson against distrust. Another motive for laying up the manna would be to provide for the morrow in case of any failure in the supply. But this was in direct contradiction to God's end in giving the people their manna day by day, viz., to foster trust, and keep alive their sense of dependence on him. Christ warns us against the spirit of distrust, and of anxiety for the morrow, and teaches us to pray for "daily bread" (Matthew 6:11, 31). We should not even desire to be independent of God.

IV. THE FAILURE OF THE PEOPLE TO OBSERVE THESE LAWS, They failed at each point. They tried to hoard (ver. 20). They went out to gather on the Sabbath (Ver. 27). This showed both disobedience and unbelief, for it had been distinctly said of the seventh day, "in it there shall be none" (ver. 26). What a lesson! -

1. Of the sottish insensibility of human nature to God's great acts of goodness. God had miraculously supplied their wants, yet so little sensible were they of his goodness - so little did it influence them - that they declined to obey even the few simple rules he had laid down for the reception and use of his benefits.

2. Of its ineradicable contumacy and self-will (cf. Deuteronomy 9.; and Psalm 78, and 106.). - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded: "Gather of it everyone according to his eating; an omer a head, according to the number of your persons, you shall take it, every man for those who are in his tent."

Spiritual Assimilation
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