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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 16

 

 

Verses 1-36


Third Murmuring. Sending of the Manna

1. Pursuing their march southward, the Israelites come at the end of the first month after their departure from Egypt to the wilderness of Sin, forming the SW. border of the peninsula: see on Exodus 15:22. All the stations in the march are not mentioned. In Numbers 33:10 allusion is made to an 'encampment by the Red Sea' between Elim and the wilderness of Sin. It must be remembered also that, owing to the vast extent of the host, there must have been a simultaneous encampment at different places. From Elim, the Israelites might have gone by a more direct route to Sinai, but this would have led them past the copper mines among the mountains, where there was an Egyptian garrison.

2. This was the third murmuring. The first was at Pi-hahiroth (Exodus 14:10-12), the second at Marah (Exodus 15:24). The supplies which the Israelites had brought with them out of Egypt being now exhausted, they expect to perish with hunger, and begin to regret having left Egypt, where, with all their hard bondage, they had been well fed: see on Numbers 11:4, Numbers 11:5.

4. A certain rate every day] RV 'a day's portion every day': see Exodus 16:16-21. That I may prove them] The miracle had a moral purpose. It was intended not merely to satisfy their hunger, but to teach them dependence upon God and obedience to Him. The goodness of God should lead to repentance (Romans 2:4).

5. The sixth day] the day before the sabbath, an indication that the sabbath was known previous to the giving of the law at Sinai: see on Exodus 20:8. On the method of preparing the manna, see Numbers 11:8.

6. Ye shall know] by the quails.

9. Before the Lord] This common phrase denotes the place where God specially manifests Himself: see Exodus 16:33, Exodus 16:34. Here it seems to mean at the pillar of fire in front of the host.

10. Toward the wilderness] As they are at present in the wilderness, this must mean 'towards the interior of the wilderness,' in the direction of the march and the guiding pillar. The glory of the Lord] Here a special radiance is meant. God's self-manifestation is frequently accompanied with an appearance of fire: see on Exodus 3:2, and cp. Exodus 19:18; Exodus 24:17; Exodus 29:43; Exodus 40:34.

13. Quails] The quail is a bird belonging to the partridge family, about 7 in. long, and of a buff colour. Its flesh is considered a great delicacy. Quails are migratory. In spring vast flocks pass northwards from the interior of Africa to Syria, crossing the peninsula of Sinai in their flight. They also cross the Mediterranean in great numbers. In a single season, 160,000 have been netted on the small island of Capri. Quails always fly with the wind. After a sea flight they are easily captured, as they fly low, their bodies being heavy and their wings wet: see on Numbers 11:4-31. Here, again, God employed a natural means in providing deliverance for His people. The miracle did not consist in a new creation, but in the timely arrival and vast quantity of the quails.

15. It is manna] Heb. 'what is it?' so rightly in RV. What is now known as manna is a sweet gum which exudes from various shrubs and from the tamarisk tree, and is used medicinally. None of its varieties corresponds to the description given here. These are found only in small quantities, in special localities and at certain seasons, from about May to August; they are not suitable for food, and cannot be cooked as manna was (see Exodus 16:23 Numbers 11:8). Moreover, the manna of commerce can be kept for an indefinite time (cp. Exodus 16:20). What is meant here is clearly a miraculous substance. Whether, again, the miracle took place on the basis of a natural product cannot with certainty be made out. This is not improbable in the light of the previous wonders. Our Lord employs the manna as a type of Himself, as giving eternal life to those who believe in Him: see John 6:31-58. St. Paul calls it 'spiritual meat,' and regards it as a type of the Lord's Supper wherein the faithful are made partakers of the life that is in Christ: see 1 Corinthians 10:3.

16. An omer is a little more than seven pints. Ten omers make an ephah, which is. roughly, equal to a bushel: see Exodus 16:36. The pint measure is called a 'log': see e.g. Leviticus 14:10.

18. Mete] i.e. measure: cp. Matthew 7:2. The total quantity of manna amounted exactly to an omer per head. This is evidently regarded here as miraculous, and designed to check want of trust and greed on the one hand and over anxiety on the other. Those who gathered too much wasted their labour, and those who gathered too little were at no disadvantage. St. Paul cites this fact as an incentive to brotherly charity; the rich ought to make up the deficiency of the poor: see 2 Corinthians 8:14, 2 Corinthians 8:15.

20. God's gift is spoiled by selfish and miserly hoarding.

21. Every morning] cp. the petition 'Give us this day our daily bread.'

22. See on Exodus 16:5. The divine sanction of the sabbath is shown by the cessation of the manna on that day as well as by the double quantity sent on the previous day. The people are to observe the sabbath by resting from the labour of gathering manna: see Exodus 16:30. Those who faithlessly and disobediently persist in looking for manna find none.

29. Let no man go out of his place] Jewish legalists interpreted this commandment to mean strictly that throughout the sabbath day a man must maintain the same posture in which he was found at its commencement. As this was practically impossible it was held to be allowable to walk on the sabbath day a distance not exceeding 2,000 ells, which was supposed to be the distance from the centre of the camp to its circumference.

31, Coriander] an annual plant much cultivated in the East. The seeds have an aromatic flavour, and are used as a seasoning in cookery and also medicinally. Wafers] thin cakes.

32-34. These vv. seem to be a later insertion, as they presuppose the erection of the tabernacle (Exodus 16:33-34). There would be no need to gather a pot of manna for preservation till the end of the wanderings and the cessation of the manna.

34. The Testimony] the Law which 'testifies' to God's will, inscribed on the two tables of stone and deposited in the ark (Exodus 25:16), which is accordingly called the 'ark of the testimony' (Exodus 25:22; Numbers 4:5) and sometimes simply 'the testimony'; see Numbers 17:4. The tent containing the ark is called the 'tent or tabernacle of the testimony': see Numbers 9:16. The pot of manna is here said to have been deposited before the testimony; but according to Hebrews 9:4 it was in the ark. The pot of manna was a favourite symbol among the Jews. From the remains of the synagogue at Capernaum it seems that a pot of manna was carved on the lintel of the door of that synagogue. This must have given point to our Lord's discourse on the 'bread of life' there: see John 6:24.

35. See Joshua 5:10-12.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 16:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/exodus-16.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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