Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 16

Verses 1-36

XVI. Manna and Quails (Exodus 16:1-3 P, Exodus 16:4 a(b) - Exodus 16:5 J, (Exodus 16:6 f., Exodus 16:8) Rp, Exodus 16:9-13 a ("morning") P, Exodus 16:13 b - Exodus 16:15 J, Exodus 16:16-18 P, Exodus 16:19 f. Exodus 16:1 J, Exodus 16:22-26, Exodus 16:27-30, Exodus 16:31 b J, Exodus 16:31 a and Exodus 16:32 P, Exodus 16:33 f. P, Exodus 16:35 ac P, Exodus 16:35 b J, Exodus 16:36 Rp).—Food and drink in the desert reassert their primitive primacy among the objects of human desire. For these travellers pray, and for lack of them will complain. Whatever stories were dropped from the cycles of tradition, those about manna and quails, wells and springs, will be plentiful. So between the water-tales of Marah in Exodus 15:23 and Massah and Meribah in Exodus 17:7 come memories of evening quails and morning manna in Exodus 16. The chapter is a crux for critics. Here only that analysis can be stated and assumed which rests on the latest surveys of the facts (cf. especially Driver, Baentsch, Gressmann). Dispute turns on the question whether J or E, and how much of either is present, and if more or less of P.

Exodus 16:1-12. Murmurs met by Promise.—The framework is P, and the murmurs of the people are expressed with a vividness perhaps dependent on J (Exodus 16:3). The charms of Egypt have grown brighter since they were forgone. Moses shows no sympathy, and summons the congregation through Aaron before Yahweh, who is lenient to their complaint (the first in P), and promises quails and manna. The terms used imply that the sanctuary is already erected, and "wilderness" (Exodus 16:10) should probably be miqdâsh (sanctuary) or mishkân (dwelling, tabernacle). This and other indications suggest that the whole of Exodus 16:16-18 has been misplaced, and should follow the departure from Sinai. In J, Moses would appear to have shared in the complaints, the reply only to which (Exodus 16:4 f.) we possess. Yahweh promises to "rain bread from heaven." Note that Exodus 16:6 f. and Exodus 16:8 parallel one another, anticipate Exodus 16:12, and conflict with Exodus 16:10 ("glory" in varying sense), and so are best taken as variant glosses.

Exodus 16:13-21. Quails and Manna.—In P both come together here. In J the quails follow much later (Numbers 11), when the people are tired of the manna, which is here described as "a thin flake, thin like hoar-frost upon the ground" (Exodus 16:14), "white like coriander seed, and with a taste like honey-wafers" (Exodus 16:31 b). The revulsion of sentiment in Numbers 11:4-6 J is natural, according to the French mot, "Partridge again!" and the Scotch servants' request, "Salmon not more than once a day!" The best things pall with frequency. P describes how the supply of manna fitted the demand. Its corruption after one day (Exodus 16:19 f.) is hardly described by the writer who records without comment the perpetual preservation of the pot of manna (Exodus 16:33). Possibly it comes from J through Rp. J works up to a play upon the name, What-is-it (Exodus 16:15 a), linguistically doubtful, but satisfying for his circle. P merely records that "the house of Israel" (one of his terms) "called the name thereof manna." No doubt a real experience of providential help underlies the accounts. Quails do, in migration, "cover the ground," and are easily caught after flying far. And from the tamarisk tree there does fall a sugary whitish substance still called manna, eaten as a relish; it melts in the sun (Numbers 11:7-9*). And if the scale and details of the mercy were varied in the often telling of it, that must not blunt the edge of the reminder that man's extremity is God's opportunity, and that human faith fails before the resources of Divine grace are spent (Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 8:16 f., Judges 6:31 ff.), cf. Driver's note, CB, pp. 153f.

Exodus 16:22-30. Manna and the Sabbath.—Recent scholarship has found here J's missing reference to the Sabbath. In Exodus 16:5 a double portion of the manna is to be prepared on Friday, and in Exodus 16:27 some search vainly on Saturday, and the Sabbath rule is explained by Moses in Exodus 16:29 f., Exodus 16:28 being a gloss by an editor who assumed the Sabbath law as known. Even in P, who told of the Sabbath at Creation (Genesis 2:1 ff.), the rule is introduced as a novelty (Exodus 16:22 ff.), perhaps by a supplementer after the section was placed here (cf. for the Sabbath Exodus 20:11 Rp, Exodus 31:12-17 H and Ps). Such writers loved to base rules on incidents.

Exodus 16:31-36. The Memorial Pot of Manna.—This paragraph implies the Ark and Dwelling, cf. Numbers 17:4. For Exodus 16:31 b J see above. The note (Exodus 16:35) on the persistent supply of manna is duplicated: one clause may come from J or Rje. It is odd that though the tenth part of an ephah (Exodus 16:36) is often mentioned, the term "omer," perhaps obsolete, is preserved only by this chapter.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 16". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/exodus-16.html. 1919.