And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man…
I. THE FACT OF MANNA BEING GIVEN ON SIX DAYS, AND NOT ON THE SEVENTH IS A PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF THE SABBATH, It would certainly seem from this passage that the Israelites had not up to this time been very good Sabbath keepers; that if they knew of any special distinction attaching to the seventh day, they had no very strict ideas as to its observance; that its sanctity was but little recognised by them. It could scarcely have been otherwise with a people just escaped from a long and degrading bondage. It does not follow, however. that this was the first institution of the Sabbath. There is every reason for believing the contrary. That God had the Sabbath in view in the arrangements made, and the laws laid down, about the manna, every one admits. The only question which arises is, whether these arrangements were modelled on the basis of a division of time already existing, or whether this was absolutely the first indication to mankind of a weekly day of rest.
1. Presumptively - this latter alternative seems improbable. It is incredible that so important an institution as the Sabbath should be introduced in this casual, unannounced way - should be taken for granted in certain outward arrangements relating to a different matter, and then, when curiosity has been excited by these arrangements, should be first made known by the side-door of an explanation of the novel injunctions. Such a case of the existence of an important institution being assumed before the law which gives it existence has been either promulgated or heard of, is without precedent or parallel in history. It seems plain that whether Israel knew of the existing Sabbath or not, God did, and framed his arrangements in view of it. The inference is that the religious observance of the seventh day had been sanctioned by old tradition, but had fallen largely into desuetude.
2. On Biblical grounds - it seems certain that the Sabbath is of older date than the sojourn in the wilderness. We need not review all the evidence which points in the direction of a primeval institution of the Sabbath. It is sufficient to instance the primary text upon the subject (Genesis 2:1-4), which speaks with a voice as plain as could well be wished to those who are willing to hear.
3. Historically - it has been recently proved that the Sabbath was known in ancient Assyria and Babylonia, long before the days of Moses. into Orientalist will any longer question, in face of the evidence furnished by the recently deciphered cuneiform tablets, that a Sabbath was observed in Assyria in the days of Sardanapalus, and for ages previously. But the ancient Arcadian records, which go as far back as , and many of which have been deciphered by the aid of competent Assyrian translators, show that a Sabbath was observed in the very earliest time. The very name "Sabattu," with the meaning "a day of rest for the heart," has been found in the old Arcadian tongue (see "Records of the Past," vol. 3. p. 143; "Assyrian Discoveries," by George Smith; the Academy, Nov. 1875). Special points in these researches will need confirmation, but on the whole, the early and wide-spread observance of the Sabbath must be held as established. In the light of Oriental discovery, it will soon be regarded as an anachronism to speak of prolepsis in connection with Genesis 2:1-4; or to urge the view that the Sabbath is a purely Judaic institution, and originated with Moses.
II. THE RULE FOR GATHERING A DOUBLE SUPPLY OF MANNA ON THE SIXTH DAY, AND LAYING BY FOR THE SEVENTH, TAUGHT THE LESSON OF A PROPER RESPECT FOR THE SABBATH. It taught -
1. That the Sabbath was to be kept free from unnecessary work.
2. That in order to leave the Sabbath clear, as a day of rest, work was to be forwarded on week days.
3. That God has a respect for his own ordinance.
III. BY GRANTING THIS DOUBLE SUPPLY ON THE SIXTH DAY, AND SECURING ITS PRESERVATION ON THE SEVENTH, GOD TAUGHT THAT HIS BLESSING RESTS UPON THE SABBATH, AND THAT HIS PEOPLE WILL BE NO LOSERS BY KEEPING IT.
IV. GOD'S CARE THUS EARLY TO RE-ESTABLISH THE ORDINANCE OF THE SABBATH IN ISRAEL, SHOWS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INSTITUTION AS BEARING ON HEALTH, MORALS, AND RELIGION. It must be reckoned a noteworthy circumstance that, in arranging the affairs of Israel, with a view to the recovery of his people from the low and demoralised condition, physically, morally, and spiritually, into which they had fallen, and with a view to their elevation to a state of prosperous national existence, God's first step, even before the law was given from Sinai, was to put on a proper foundation, the observance of the Sabbath.
V. GOD'S DISPLEASURE AT THE BREACH OF THIS LAW BY THE PEOPLE WHO WENT OUT TO GATHER ON THE SABBATH, SHOWS HIS ZEAL FOR THE HONOUR OF THE COMMANDMENT (vers. 27-29). The thing chiefly condemned, no doubt, was the spirit of disobedience, which showed itself in more ways than one (cf. ver. 20). But is it not plainly reckoned a special aggravation of the offence of these would-be gatherers, that they so defiantly set at nought God's ordinance of a day of rest? Does God show a like zeal for the observance of any purely ceremonial precept? - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.