Adam Clarke Commentary
The Israelites journey from Elim, and come to the wilderness of Sin, Exodus 16:1. They murmur for lack of bread, Exodus 16:2, Exodus 16:3. God promises to rain bread from heaven for them, Exodus 16:4, of which they were to collect a double portion on the sixth day, Exodus 16:5. A miraculous supply of flesh in the evening and bread in the morning, promised, Exodus 16:6-9. The glory of the Lord appears in the cloud, Exodus 16:10. Flesh and bread promised as a proof of God‘s care over them, Exodus 16:11, Exodus 16:12. Quails come and cover the whole camp, Exodus 16:13. And a dew fell which left a small round substance on the ground, which Moses tells them was the bread which God had sent, Exodus 16:14, Exodus 16:15. Directions for gathering it, Exodus 16:16. The Israelites gather each an omer, Exodus 16:17, Exodus 16:18. They are directed to leave none of it till the next day, Exodus 16:19; which some neglecting, it become putrid, Exodus 16:20. They gather it every morning, because it melted when the sun waxed hot, Exodus 16:21. Each person gathers two omers on the sixth day, Exodus 16:22. Moses commands them to keep the seventh as a Sabbath to the Lord, Exodus 16:23. What was laid up for the Sabbath did not putrefy, Exodus 16:24. Nothing of it fell on that day, hence the strict observance of the Sabbath was enjoined, Exodus 16:25-30. The Israelites name the substance that fell with the dew manna; its appearance and taste described, Exodus 16:31. An omer of the manna is commanded to be laid up for a memorial of Jehovah‘s kindness, Exodus 16:32-34. The manna now sent continued daily for the space of forty years, Exodus 16:35. How much an omer contained, Exodus 16:36.
The wilderness of Sin - This desert lies between Elim and Sinai, and from Elim, Dr. Shaw says, Mount Sinai can be seen distinctly. Mr. Ainsworth supposes that this wilderness had its name from a strong city of Egypt called Sin, near which it lay. See Ezekiel 30:15, Ezekiel 30:16. Before they came to the wilderness of Sin, they had a previous encampment by the Red Sea after they left Elim, of which Moses makes distinct mention Numbers 33:10, Numbers 33:11.
The fifteenth day of the second month - This was afterwards called Ijar, and they had now left Egypt one month, during which It is probable they lived on the provisions they brought with them from Rameses, though it is possible they might have had a supply from the seacoast. Concerning Mount Sinai, See Clarke‘s note on Exodus 19:1.
The whole congregation - murmured - This is an additional proof of the degraded state of the minds of this people; See Clarke‘s note on Exodus 13:17. And this very circumstance affords a convincing argument that a people so stupidly carnal could not have been induced to leave Egypt had they not been persuaded so to do by the most evident and striking miracles. Human nature can never be reduced to a more abject state in this world than that in which the body is enthralled by political slavery, and the soul debased by the influence of sin. These poor Hebrews were both slaves and sinners, and were therefore capable of the meanest and most disgraceful acts.
The flesh pots - As the Hebrews were in a state of slavery in Egypt, they were doubtless fed in various companies by their task masters in particular places, where large pots or boilers were fixed for the purpose of cooking their victuals. To these there may be a reference in this place, and the whole speech only goes to prove that they preferred their bondage in Egypt to their present state in the wilderness; for they could not have been in a state of absolute want, as they had brought an abundance of flocks and herds with them out of Egypt.
I will rain bread - Therefore this substance was not a production of the desert: nor was the dew that was the instrument of producing it common there, else they must have had this bread for a month before.
Ye shall know that the Lord hath brought you out - After all the miracles they had seen they appear still to suppose that their being brought out of Egypt was the work of Moses and Aaron; for though the miracles they had already seen were convincing for the time, yet as soon as they had passed by they relapsed into their former infidelity. God therefore saw it necessary to give them a daily miracle in the fall of the manna, that they might have the proof if his Divine interposition constantly before their eyes. Thus they knew that Jehovah had brought them out, and that it was not the act of Moses and Aaron.
Ye shall see the glory of the Lord - Does it not appear that the glory of the Lord is here spoken of as something distinct from the Lord? for it is said He (the glory) heareth your murmurings against the Lord; though the Lord may be here put for himself, the antecedent instead of the relative. This passage may receive some light from Hebrews 1:3: Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, etc. And as St. Paul‘s words are spoken of the Lord Jesus, is it not likely that the words of Moses refer to him also? “No man hath seen God at any time;” hence we may infer that Christ was the visible agent in all the extraordinary and miraculous interferences which took place both in the patriarchal times and under the law.
In the evening flesh to eat - Viz., the quails; and in the morning bread to the full, viz., the manna.
And what are we? - Only his servants, obeying his commands.
Your murmurings are not against us - For we have not brought you up from Egypt; but against the Lord, who, by his own miraculous power and goodness, has brought you out of your slavery.
Come near before the Lord - This has been supposed to refer to some particular place, where the Lord manifested his presence. The great tabernacle was not yet built, but there appears to have been a small tabernacle or tent called the Tabernacle of the Congregation, which, after the sin of the golden calf, was always placed without the camp; see Exodus 33:7: And Moses took the Tabernacle and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it The Tabernacle of the Congregation; and it came to pass that every one that sought the Lord went out unto the Tabernacle of the Congregation, which was without the camp. This could not be that portable temple which is described Exodus 26, etc., and which was not set up till the first day of the first month of the second year, after their departure from Egypt, (Exodus 40)., which was upwards of ten months after the time mentioned in this chapter; and notwithstanding this, the Israelites are commanded (Exodus 16:34) to lay up an omer of the manna before the testimony, which certainly refers to an ark, tabernacle, or some such portable shrine, already in existence. If the great tabernacle be intended, the whole account of laying up the manna must be introduced here by anticipation, Moses finishing the account of what was afterwards done, because the commencement of those circumstances which comprehended the reasons of the fact itself took place now. See Clarke‘s note on Exodus 16:34.
As Aaron spake - So he now became the spokesman or minister of Moses to the Hebrews, as he had been before unto Pharaoh; according to what is written, Exodus 7:1, etc.
At even the quails came - שלו (selav), from שלה (salah), to be quiet, easy, or secure; and hence the quail, from their remarkably living at ease and plenty among the corn. “An amazing number of these birds,” says Hasselquist, Travels, p. 209, “come to Egypt at this time, (March), for in this month the wheat ripens. They conceal themselves among the corn, but the Egyptians know that they are thieves, and when they imagine the field to be full of them they spread a net over the corn and make a noise, by which the birds, being frightened, and endeavoring to rise, are caught in the net in great numbers, and make a most delicate and agreeable dish.” The Abbé Pluche tells us, in his Histoire du Ciel, that the quail was among the ancient Egyptians the emblem of safety and security. “Several learned men, particularly the famous Ludolf, Bishop Patrick, and Scheuchzer, have supposed that the שלוים (selavim) eaten by the Israelites were locusts. But not to insist on other arguments against this interpretation, they are expressly called שאר (sheer), flesh, Psalm 78:27, which surely locusts are not; and the Hebrew word is constantly rendered by the Septuagint ορτυγομητρα , a large kind of quail, and by the Vulgate coturnices, quails. Compare The Wisdom of Solomon 16:2, 19:12; Numbers 11:31, Numbers 11:32; Psalm 105:40; and on Numbers 11 observe that כאמתים (keamathayim) should be rendered, not two cubits high, but as Mr. Bate translates it, ‹two cubits distant, (i.e., one from the other), for quails do not settle like the locusts one upon another, but at small distances.‘ And had the quails lain for a day‘s journey round the camp, to the great height of two cubits, upwards of three feet, the people could not have been employed two days and a night in gathering them. The spreading them round the camp was in order to dry them in the burning sands for use, which is still practiced in Egypt.” See Parkhurst, sub voce שלה (salah).
Behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing - It appears that this small round thing fell with the dew, or rather the dew fell first, and this substance fell on it. The dew might have been intended to cool the ground, that the manna on its fall might not be dissolved; for we find from Exodus 16:21, that the heat of the sun melted it. The ground therefore being sufficiently cooled by the dew, the manna lay unmelted long enough for the Israelites to collect a sufficient quantity for their dally use.
They said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was - This is a most unfortunate translation, because it not only gives no sense, but it contradicts itself. The Hebrew מן הוא (man hu), literally signifies, What is this? for, says the text, they wist not what it was, and therefore they could not give it a name. Moses immediately answers the question, and says, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. From Exodus 16:31 we learn that this substance was afterwards called מן (man), probably in commemoration of the question they had asked on its first appearance. Almost all our own ancient versions translate the words, What is this?
An omer for every man - I shall here once for all give a short account of the measures of capacity among the Hebrews.
Omer, עמר from the root (amar), to press, squeeze, collect, and bind together; hence a sheaf of corn - a multitude of stalks pressed together. It is supposed that the omer, which contained about three quarts English, had its name from this circumstance; that it was the most contracted or the smallest measure of things dry known to the ancient Hebrews; for the קב (kab), which was less, was not known till the reign of Jehoram, king of Israel, 2 Kings 6:25 - Parkhurst.
Take ye - for them which are in his tents - Some might have been confined in their tents through sickness or infirmity, and charity required that those who were in health should gather a portion for them. For though the psalmist says, Psalm 105:37, There was not one feeble person among their tribes, this must refer principally to their healthy state when brought out of Egypt; for it appears that there were many infirm among them when attacked by the Amalekites. See Clarke‘s note on Exodus 17:8.
Some more, some less - According to their respective families, an omer for a man; and according to the number of infirm persons whose wants they undertook to supply.
He that gathered much had nothing over - Because his gathering was in proportion to the number of persons for whom he had to provide. And some having fewer, others more in family, and the gathering being in proportion to the persons who were to eat of it, therefore he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack. Probably every man gathered as much as he could; and then when brought home and measured by an omer, if he had a surplus, it went to supply the wants of some other family that had not been able to collect a sufficiency, the family being large, and the time in which the manna might be gathered, before the heat of the day, not being sufficient to collect enough for so numerous a household, several of whom might be so confined as not to be able to collect for themselves. Thus there was an equality, and in this light the words of St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 8:15, lead us to view the passage. Here the 36th verse should come in: Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.
Let no man leave of it till the morning - For God would have them to take no thought for the morrow, and constantly to depend on him for their dally bread. And is not that petition in our Lord‘s prayer founded on this very circumstance, Give us day by day our daily bread?
It bred worms - Their sinful curiosity and covetousness led them to make the trial; and they had a mass of the most loathsome putrefaction for their pains. How gracious is God! He is continually rendering disobedience and sin irksome to the transgressor; that finding his evil ways to be unprofitable, he may return to his Maker, and trust in God alone.
On the sixth day they gathered twice as much - This they did that they might have a provision for the Sabbath, for on that day no manna fell, Exodus 16:26, Exodus 16:27. What a convincing miracle was this! No manna fell on the Sabbath! Had it been a natural production it would have fallen on the Sabbath as at other times; and had there not been a supernatural influence to keep it sweet and pure, it would have been corrupted on the Sabbath as well as on other days. By this series of miracles God showed his own power, presence, and goodness, 1. In sending the manna on each of the six days; 2. In sending none on the seventh, or Sabbath; 3. In preserving it from putrefaction when laid up for the use of that day, though it infallibly corrupted if kept over night on any other day.
To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath - There is nothing either in the text or context that seems to intimate that the Sabbath was now first given to the Israelites, as some have supposed: on the contrary, it is here spoken of as being perfectly well known, from its having been generally observed. The commandment, it is true, may be considered as being now renewed; because they might have supposed that in their unsettled state in the wilderness they might have been exempted from the observance of it. Thus we find, 1. That when God finished his creation, he instituted the Sabbath; 2. When he brought the people out of Egypt, he insisted on the strict observance of it; 3. When he gave the Law, he made it a tenth part of the whole, such importance has this institution in the eyes of the Supreme Being! On the supposed change of the Sabbath from what we call Sunday to Saturday, effected on this occasion, See Clarke‘s note on Deuteronomy 5:15.
Abide ye every man in his place - Neither go out to seek manna nor for any other purpose; rest at home and devote your time to religious exercises. Several of the Jews understood by place in the text, the camp, and have generally supposed that no man should go out of the place, i.e., the city, town, or village in which he resides, any farther than one thousand cubits, about an English mile, which also is called a Sabbath day‘s journey, Acts 1:12; and so many cubits they consider the space round the city that constitutes its suburbs, which they draw from Numbers 35:3, Numbers 35:4. Some of the Jews have carried the rigorous observance of the letter of this law to such a length, that in whatever posture they find themselves on the Sabbath morning when they awake, they continue in the same during the day; or should they be up and happen to fall, they refuse even to rise till the Sabbath be ended! Mr. Stapleton tells a story of one Rabbi Solomon, who fell into a slough on the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday, and refused to be pulled out, giving his reason in the following Leonine couplet: -
The Christians, finding him thus disposed determined he should honor their Sabbath in the same place, and actually kept the poor man in the slough all Sunday, giving their reasons in nearly the same way: -
This might have served to convince him of his folly, but certainly was not the likeliest way to convert him to Christianity.
Called the name thereof Manna - See Clarke‘s note on Exodus 16:15.
To be kept for your generations - See Clarke‘s note on Exodus 16:9.
Laid it up before the testimony - The עדות (eduth) or testimony belonged properly to the tabernacle, but that was not yet built. Some are of opinion that the tabernacle, built under the direction of Moses, was only a renewal of one that had existed in the patriarchal times. See Clarke‘s note on Exodus 16:9. The word signifies reference to something beyond itself; thus the tabernacle, the manna, the tables of stone, Aaron‘s rod, etc., all bore reference and testimony to that spiritual good which was yet to come, viz., Jesus Christ and his salvation.
The children of Israel did eat manna forty years - From this verse it has been supposed that the book of Exodus was not written till after the miracle of the manna had ceased. But these words might have been added by Ezra, who under the direction of the Divine Spirit collected and digested the different inspired books, adding such supplementary, explanatory, and connecting sentences, as were deemed proper to complete and arrange the whole of the sacred canon. For previously to his time, according to the universal testimony of the Jews, all the books of the Old Testament were found in an unconnected and dispersed state.
Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah - About six pints, English. See Clarke‘s note on Exodus 16:16. The true place of this verse seems to be immediately after Exodus 16:18, for here it has no connection.
1.On the miracle of the manna, which is the chief subject in this chapter, a good deal has already been said in the preceding notes. The sacred historian has given us the most circumstantial proofs that it was a supernatural and miraculous supply; that nothing of the kind had ever been seen before, and probably nothing like it had ever afterwards appeared. That it was a type of our blessed Redeemer, and of the salvation which he has provided for man, there can be no doubt, for in this way it is applied by Christ himself; and from it we may gather this general conclusion, that salvation is of the Lord. The Israelites must have perished in the wilderness, had not God fed them with bread from heaven; and every human soul must have perished, had not Jesus Christ come down from heaven, and given himself for the life of the world.
2.God would have the Israelites continually dependent on himself for all their supplies; but he would make them, in a certain way, workers with him. He provided the manna; they gathered and ate it. The first was God‘s work; the latter, their own. They could not produce the manna, and God would not gather it for them. Thus the providence of God appears in such a way as to secure the co-operation of man. Though man should plant and water, yet it is God who giveth the increase. But if man neither plant nor water, God will give no increase. We cannot do God‘s work, and he will not do ours. Let us, therefore, both in things spiritual and temporal, be workers together with Him.
4.To show their children and children‘s children what God had done for their fathers, a pot of manna was laid up before the testimony. We should remember our providential and gracious deliverances in such a way as to give God the praise of his own grace. An ungrateful heart is always associated with an unbelieving mind and an unholy life. Like Israel, we should consider with what bread God has fed our fathers, and see that we have the same; the same Christ - the bread of life, the same doctrines, the same ordinances, and the same religious experience. How little are we benefited by being Protestants, if we be not partakers of the Protestant faith! And how useless will even that faith be to us, if we hold the truth in unrighteousness. Our fathers had religion enough to enable them to burn gloriously for the truth of God! Reader, hast thou so much of the life of God in thy soul, that thou couldst burn to ashes at the stake rather than lose it? In a word, couldst thou be a martyr? Or hast thou so little grace to lose, that thy life would be more than an equivalent for thy loss? Where is the manna on which thy fathers fed?
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