Exodus 16:4
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test whether or not they will follow My instructions.
Life a ProbationProf. J. B. Mozley.Exodus 16:4
The Bread of GodAlexander MaclarenExodus 16:4
The Divine Bestowal of Physical GoodJ. T. Woodhouse.Exodus 16:4
The Manna a Test of FaithA. Maclaren, D. D.Exodus 16:4
MurmuringsJ. Orr Exodus 16:1-4
Bread, the Supreme QuestionLittle's, Historical Lights.Exodus 16:1-12
Grumbling, an Added BurdenExodus 16:1-12
Ingratitude of GrumblingH. W. Beecher.Exodus 16:1-12
Ingratitude of the PublicT. De Witt Talmage.Exodus 16:1-12
Moses in the Wilderness of SinJ. Parker, D. D.Exodus 16:1-12
Murmuring, the Result of ForgetfulnessG. Wagner.Exodus 16:1-12
The Pilgrimage of LifeClerical LibraryExodus 16:1-12
The Provision of the MannaD. Young Exodus 16:1-15
Manna for the SoulH.T. Robjohns Exodus 16:1-36
The Manna of the BodyH.T. Robjohns Exodus 16:1-36
The Gift of MannaJ. Orr Exodus 16:4-16
Quails also were given, on this occasion in mercy, and on a later occasion in wrath (Numbers 11:31-34); but it was the manna which was the principal gift, both as providing Israel with a continuous supply of food, and as having a permanent significance in the history of God's dealings with his Church (vers. 32-35).

I. THE MANNA PROMISED (vers. 4-9).

1. God would rain bread from heaven for them (ver. 4). He would spread a table for them, even in the wilderness, a thing they had deemed impossible (Psalm 78:19). He would give them to eat of "the corn of heaven" (Psalm 68:24). He would thus display himself as Jehovah, - the God of exhaustless resources, - able and willing to supply all their need (cf. Philippians 4:19). He would remove from himself the reproach wherewith they had reproached him, that he had brought them into the wilderness, "to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (ver. 3). He would testify of his loving care for them (cf. Deuteronomy 1:31).

2. The supply would be continuous - "Every day" (ver. 4). The regularity of the supply would be a daily proof of God's faithfulness - another of the Jehovah attributes. We have a similar proof of the Divine faithfulness in the constancy of the laws of nature on which our own supplies of food depend; in particular, in the regular succession of seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, which God has promised to maintain (Genesis 8:22; cf. Psalm 119:89-92).

3. The gift of quails and manna would be a manifestation of his glory as Jehovah (vers. 6, 7; also ver. 12 - "and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God"). His Jehovah character would be revealed in it. Note, in addition to what is said above, the following illustrations of this.

(1) The gift of manna was an act of free origination. Compare with Christ's multiplication of the loaves, brought in John 6. into close association with this miracle.

(2) So far as natural materials were utilised in the production of the manna (dew, etc.), it was shown how absolutely plastic nature was in the hands of its Creator.

(3) The gift of quails was a further testimony to God's supreme rule in nature.

(4) It was a special feature in this transaction that God was seen in it acting solely from himself - finding the law and reason of what he did in himself alone. He interposes with a simple "I will" (ver. 4). It was neither the people's merits nor the people's prayers, which moved him to give the manna. Merits they had none; prayers they did not offer. But God, who brought them out of Egypt, and had bound himself by covenant with their fathers, found a reason in himself for helping them, when he could find none in them (cf. Deuteronomy 9:4, 5). He showed them this kindness for his own name's sake (cf. Psalm 106:8); because he was Jehovah, who changed not (Malachi 3:6).

4. The gift of manna would prove a trial of obedience (ver. 4). God bound himself to send the manna day by day, and this would be a test of his faithfulness. But rules would be prescribed to the people for gathering the manna, and this would be a test of their obedience. God's design in giving the manna was thus not merely to supply the people's natural wants. He would also train them to dependence. He would test their characters. He would endeavour to form them to habits of obedience. A like educative and disciplinary purpose is to be recognised as bound up with all God's leading of us. Gifts are at the same time trusts. They impose duties upon us, and lay us under responsibilities. There are rules to be observed in the use of them which test our inner dispositions. There is a law of temperance in the use of food. There is a law of modesty in dress. There are the laws relating to the acquisition and expenditure of money - honesty in acquisition,, economy in use, liberality in giving (cf. Deuteronomy 15:7-12), devotion of the first fruits of income to God. There is the supreme law, which includes all others - "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). There is no action, no occupation, however seemingly trivial, which has not important relations to the formation of character. "The daily round, the common task," etc.

II. THE PREPARATORY THEOPHANY (vers. 9-13). Moses summoned the people to draw near before the Lord. Then, as they came together, and looked toward the wilderness, lo! "the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud." It is a suggestive circumstance that it is Aaron, who by command of Moses, collects the congregation (ver. 10). Moses, according to his wont, had probably withdrawn to pray (cf. Exodus 14:15). In this, as in other instances, Moses might be taken as an example of secrecy in prayer. His prayers are never paraded. They are even studiously kept in the background - a proof surely of the Mosaic authorship of the book. When they come to light, it is often incidentally (Exodus 14:15). On one notable occasion an intercessory prayer of his was not made known till near the end of his life (Deuteronomy 9:25). We know of his prayers mostly by their results. This appearance of the glory of God to Israel may be viewed: -

1. As a rebuke of the people's murmurings. Unlike the "look" from the pillar of fire with which the Lord discomfited the Egyptians (Exodus 14:24), it was a look with as much mercy as anger in it. Yet it conveyed reproof. It may be compared with the theophany which terminated the dispute between Job and his friends, and caused the patriarch to abhor himself, and to repent in dust and ashes (Job 38:1; Job 42:6); or to the look of sorrow and reproof which the Lord cast on Peter, which caused him to go out, and weep bitterly (Matthew 26:75). How abashed, humbled, and full of fear, those murmurers would now be, as with mouths stopped (Romans 3:19), they beheld that terrible glory forming itself in the cloud, and looking down full upon them!

2. As a fitting introduction to the miracle that was to follow. It gave impressiveness to the announcement - showed indubitably the source of the miraculous supply - roused the minds of the people to a high pitch of expectation - prepared them for something grand and exceptional in the Divine procedure. It thus checked their murmurings, convinced them of their sin in distrusting God, warned them of the danger of further rebellion, and brought them back to their obedience. God's words - "I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel" - at the same time reminded them that he was fully aware of all their "hard speeches" which they had spoken against him.

3. As an anticipation of the revelation of Sinai. These chapters are full of anticipations. In Exodus 15:25, 26, we have "statute and an ordinance," anticipatory of the later Sinaitic covenant; in this chapter, we have an anticipation of Sinai glory and also of the sabbath law (ver. 23); in Exodus 18:16, we have an anticipation of the civil code of Sinai; for Moses makes the people "know the statutes of God, and his laws."

III. THE MANNA GIVEN (vers. 13-16). Quails came in the evening, and next morning the manna fell with the dew. We observe concerning it -

1. That it came in a not unfamiliar form. The "angel's food" (Psalm 78:25), wore the dress, and had the taste of the ordinary manna of the desert. We miss in the miracles of the Bible the grotesque and bizarre features which mark the supernatural stories of other books. They testify to the existence, as well as respect the laws, of an established natural order. The plagues of Egypt, e.g., were thoroughly true to the natural phenomena of that country, and made the largest possible use of existing agencies. The crossing of the Red Sea was accomplished by the supernatural employment of natural conditions and agencies. There is in all these miracles the constant observance of the two laws:

(1) Of economy - utilising the natural so far as it will go; and

(2) of congruity - keeping as closely as possible to the type of the natural, even when originating supernatural phenomena.

2. That it was a direct production of the power of God. It was in the truest sense bread from heaven, and is thus a type of Christ, the Bread of Life (see below). Yet the power exerted in the creation of the manna - and it is important to remember this - is but the same power, only more visibly put forth, which operates still in nature, giving us our yearly supplies of the good things of the earth. The annual harvest is only not a miracle, because it comes regularly, season after season, and because numerous secondary agencies are employed in its production. You plough, that is, break up the ground to receive the seed; but whence came the seed? From last year's gift. You sow it in the fields, cover it up again and leave it - to whose care? To God's. It is he who now takes the matter into his own hands, and in what remains you can but wait upon his will. It rests with him to send his rains or to withhold them; to order the sunshine and heat; to bless or blast your harvest. What man does is but to put matters in train for God's working - God himself does the rest; in the swelling and germination of the seed, in all the stages of its growth, in the formation of the blade, in the modelling of the ear, in the filling of it with the rich ripe grain, his power is absolutely, and all throughout, the only power at work. And how great the gift is when it comes! It is literally God opening his hand and putting into ours the food necessary for our sustenance. But for that gift, year by year renewed, man and beast would utterly perish. It is calculated that a year's pro duce in Great Britain alone amounts in money value to over £160,000,000. The corn crop alone was valued in 1880 at £90,000,000. It is as if God had made a direct gift of that sum of money to our nation in the year named, only it was given in a better than money form - in food. How little we think of it! Men are proud and self-sufficient, and speak sometimes as if they would almost disdain to accept or acknowledge a favour even from the Almighty. While yet, in truth, they are, like others, the veriest pensioners on his bounty, sustained by his power, seeing by his light, warmed by his sun, and fed year by year by the crumbs that fall from his table. Were God for a single year to break the staff of bread over the whole earth, where would either it or they be?

3. That it was given day by day, and with regularity. Thus the manna taught a daily lesson of dependence on God, and so played an important part in the spiritual education of Israel. Yet familiarity must have done much then, as it does still, to deaden the impression of God's hand in the daily gift. Because the manna came to them, not by fits and starts, but regularly; because there was a "law" in its coming - they would get to look on it as quite a common occurrence, no more to be wondered at than the rising and setting of the sun, or any other sequence in nature. "Laws of nature" tend, in precisely the same way, to blind us to the agency of God working behind and in them, as well as to hide from us his agency in the origination of the sequences that now flow so uniformly. We have spoken of God's agency in the production of the harvest. But there is good ground for speaking of our cereal crops as in yet another sense - "bread from heaven." These cereal plants, it is affirmed, are never found in a wild state; cannot by any known process be developed from plants in a wild state; and if once allowed to degenerate, can never again be reclaimed for human food. Not inaptly, therefore, have they been represented as even now a kind of standing miracle - a proof of direct creative interposition for the good of man. (See "The Cerealia: a Standing Miracle," by Professor Harvey, in "Good Words," vol. 2.) Yet how entirely is this retied from us by the fact that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4).

4. That it was a food entirely suitable to the circumstances of the Israelites. It was light, nutritious, palatable; comprised variety by admitting of being prepared in different ways (baked, seethed, ver. 23; cf. Numbers 11:8); was abundant in quantity, readily distinguishable by the eye, and being of a granulated nature, and strewn thickly throughout all the camp, could be collected with a very moderate expenditure of labour. It was thus, like so much in our own surroundings, and in the provision which God makes for our wants, a constant witness to the care, goodness, wisdom, and forethought of the great Giver. - J.O.

That I may prove them.
There can be nothing more sobering than the truth that this life is a state of trial and preparation for another. There is at the same time something wonderfully satisfying in the idea. It puts life before us in a point of view which satisfactorily explains it.

I. THIS ACCOUNT OF THE END OF LIFE SIMPLIFIES MATTERS IN OUR JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE, The principle of trial as the end of life shoves aside a multiplicity of irrevelent ends to make way for the true one; it reduces the purpose of life to the greatest possible simplicity, reduces it, as we may say, to a unit — to the effect upon the individual himself, what he does and how he turns out under these circumstances. The idea of probation thus gives a singular unity to the whole design and plan of life. It throws the individual upon himself as the rational of the whole.

II. The principle of the end of life being probative applies mainly to all the ordinary external advantages of life and our pursuit of them; but it also affects another and less ordinary class of human objects — THE OBJECTS CONNECTED WITH THE GOOD OF OTHERS, THOSE USEFUL AND BENEVOLENT WORKS AND THOSE PUBLIC AND RELIGIOUS WORKS WHICH GOOD MEN PROPOSE TO THEMSELVES. There is one defect to which good men are liable: they become to much absorbed in the success of their own plans. The important truth for such men to realize is this very principle, viz., that of the end of life being trial. If they brought this truth home to themselves, they would see that the only important thing to them was, not that a useful undertaking should answer, but that they should have done faithfully their best for that purpose.

III. God makes use of us as His instruments, but THE WORK THAT WE DO AS INSTRUMENTS IS A FAR INFERIOR WORK TO THAT WHICH WE DO TO FULFIL OUR OWN PERSONAL TRIAL. The general end of life, as trial, is superior to all special ends; it is the end which concerns the individual being, his spiritual condition, his ultimate prospects.

(Prof. J. B. Mozley.)


1. This provision was providential. God's hand directs the movements of the tiniest creatures in the universe. He clothes the grass, and paints the flower.

2. This provision was abundant. There was enough for each man, woman, and child.

(1)The supply was varied — bread and meat.

(2)The supply was regular — morning and evening.

(3)The supply was constant "They did eat manna for forty years." God's least thought is more prolific than man's greatest abundance. Nature is the expression of God's fulness.


1. The blessings of lifo must be secured by diligent application. "Go out and gather." No prize is beyond the reach of the earnest worker.

2. The blessings of life must be sought in a patient spirit. "A certain portion every day." We want to accumulate the treasures of life quickly, to provide in youth for age, and retire upon our gains. God does not forbid prudence, foresight; but He sometimes overturns our plans, and sends day by day our daily bread. To the anxious, fearful soul, He says, "Gather," "Trust."

III. PHYSICAL BLESSINGS ARE GIVEN TO TEST OUR OBEDIENCE. "That I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no." God has many ways of testing the sincerity of His people. He proves them by poverty, affliction, persecution, and prosperity. He spreads our tables with dainties, and says, I will test their love, and liberality, and devotion.

1. The recipients of material possessions often hoard their wealth. Hoarded wealth never satisfies the possessor. It begets selfishness, fear, unrest, and disappointment.

2. The recipients of material possessions often squander their wealth.

(J. T. Woodhouse.)

"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 Greet, 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 such like 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 tomorrow. Only he who absolutely trusted God to provide for him, world eat up his portion, and lie down at night with a quiet heart, knowing that He who had fed him would feed. When experience 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, 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. Bat 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 I 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 joy.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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