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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Exodus 16

Verses 16-18

DISCOURSE: 87
SCRIPTURAL EQUALITY

Exodus 16:16-2.16.18. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded: Gather of it every man according to his eating; an omer for every man according to the number of your persons: take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.

TO exercise faith, in opposition to all the dictates of sense, is no easy attainment. For instance; the Jews in the wilderness soon found that they had no means of subsistence; and no prospect was before them, but that of speedily perishing by hunger and thirst. Yet they did not well to murmur against Moses and Aaron, who, as God’s appointed agents, had brought them forth from Egypt: in fact, their murmuring was against God himself, to whom they should rather have applied themselves in earnest prayer for the relief of their necessities. The wonders which he had already wrought for them were abundantly sufficient to shew them, that, whilst under his care, they had nothing to fear. Doubtless the pressure of hunger and of thirst rendered it difficult for them to believe that God would provide for them; and God therefore mercifully bore with their impatience, and relieved their wants: he gave them water out of a rock; and supplied them with bread from the clouds, even with bread sufficient for them from day to day. In relation to the manna, which was rained every night round about their tents, and which they were commanded to gather for their daily use before the risen sun had caused it to melt away, there was this very peculiar circumstance daily occurring during the whole forty years of their sojourning in the wilderness, that, whilst the head of every family was to gather a certain portion (an omer, about five pints,) for every person dependent on him, “those who had gathered more” found, when they came to measure it, that they “had nothing over; and those who had gathered less, that they had no lack.” Now this circumstance being so very peculiar, I shall endeavour to unfold it to you in its proper bearings: in order to which. I shall consider it,

I.

As an historic record—

A more curious fact we can scarcely conceive: and it is the more curious, because it occurred, not occasionally in a few instances, but continually, for forty years, through the whole camp of Israel.
It arose, I apprehend,

1.

From God’s merciful disposition towards them—

[A variety of circumstances might occur from time to time to prevent some heads of families from making the necessary exertion before the sun should have dissolved the manna, and have deprived them of the portion which they ought to have gathered. Illness, in themselves or their families, might incapacitate them for the discharge of their duty in this matter; or a pressure of urgent business cause them to delay it till it was too late. In this case, what must be done? God, in his mercy, took care that there should be in some a zeal beyond what their own necessities required, and that their abundance should he sufficient to counterbalance and supply the wants of others. In order to this, he needed only to leave men to the operation of their own minds. They did not collect the food by measure, but measured it after they had brought it home; that so they might apportion it to every member of their family, according to the divine command. Hence it would often occur, that one who was young, active, vigorous, and disengaged, would exceed his quota; whilst another who was enfeebled by sickness, or depressed by sorrow, or occupied with some urgent business, as that of attending on his sick wife and family, might collect but little. Neither the one might think of administering relief, nor the other of receiving it; but in all cases where there was excess or defect found in the exertions of one, there was a corresponding want or superfluity in another; so that, on measuring the whole, there was no superfluity or defect throughout the whole camp.
In fact, this, in some respect, obtains throughout the whole world: for though there is doubtless a great disparity in men’s possessions, arising from different circumstances, the rich unwittingly supply the necessities of the poor, by dispersing their wealth in return for the comforts or elegancies of life: and thus, to a much greater extent than men in general are aware, is equality produced among them; all having food and raiment, and no one possessing more.]

2.

From their bountiful disposition towards each other—

[In this view St. Paul quotes the very words of my text. He is exhorting the Corinthians to liberality in supplying the wants of their poorer brethren: he tells them, however, that he did not mean to burthen them for the purpose of easing others; but only that, by an equality, their present abundance might be a supply for the wants of others; who, in return, might supply their wants, in case circumstances should arise to admit of it and require it; that so there might be, under all circumstances, an equality: as it is written, “He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:13-47.8.15.].” This sense does not at all oppose that which I have before given: on the contrary, it rather confirms the former sense; for it supposes that the overplus was collected accidentally, as it were, in the first instance, and without any express intention to dispose of it to others: but on its being found to exceed their own wants, they liberally dispensed it to supply the wants of others; the donors at one time being the recipients at another; and the obligations conferred being mutual, as occasion required.

This, too, is still agreeable to the order of God’s providence in the world. No one can tell what change of circumstances may arise, to elevate or depress any child of man: but events continually occur to render a reciprocation of friendly offices both practicable and necessary, and to call forth amongst ourselves the dispositions that were exercised amongst the persons spoken of in our text.]
But, to enter more fully into the design of God in this fact, we must notice it,

II.

As a mystical ordinance or appointment—

That the manna was a type of Christ, is beyond a doubt: our blessed Lord himself drew the parallel, in the most minute particulars [Note: John 6:31-43.6.58.] — — — On this account the manna is called “spiritual meat [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:3.]:” and when, in the bestowment of it, there was so remarkable a circumstance perpetuated throughout the whole camp for forty years, we cannot doubt but that it was intended to convey some particular and very important instruction. Nor does the construction put upon it by St. Paul in one point of view at all militate against a different construction of it in another view. His interpretation refers to it only as a temporal ordinance: but, as it was a spiritual ordinance also, we must endeavour to derive from it the instruction which. in that view, it was intended to convey [Note: St. Matthew’s explanation of Isaiah 53:4-23.53.5. (See Matthew 8:16-40.8.17.) does not invalidate the construction put upon it by St. Peter, 1 Peter 2:24. Both senses were true: but the spiritual sense was the more important.] — — — I think, then, that we may see in it,

1.

Our privilege as Believers—

[Believers now feed on Christ, as the whole Jewish nation fed upon the manna: and from day to day it is found, that “they who gather much have nothing over; and they who gather little have no lack.” In the Church of God at this day persons are very differently circumstanced; some having much leisure, and deep learning, and many opportunities of attending ordinances in public, and of acquiring information in private; whilst others are so entirely occupied with temporal concerns, or so remote from opportunities of instruction, that they can gather but little comparatively of the heavenly bread. But have the one therefore any superfluity, or the other any want? No. We will ask of those who are most devoted to the word of God and prayer, whether they find their attainments in knowledge and in grace so abundant, that they have more than their necessities require? No. A blind Papist may boast of his works of supererogation, and of having merits to sell for the benefit of less-favoured people: but “ye, Beloved, have not so learned Christ:” ye know, that if your attainments were an hundredfold more than they are, there were scope enough for the employment of them, without overburthening your souls: you would still “forget all that was behind, and be reaching forward for that which was before, if by any means you might obtain the prize of your high calling in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 3:13-50.3.14.].” On the other hand, I will ask of those whose attainments are more contracted; Do you not find that your more slender portion is sufficient for you? You feed on the Lord Jesus Christ, as the bread of life: and do you not find that he nourishes your souls; and that pardon, and peace, and holiness, are the fruits of your communion with him? Yes: it is said, “He that believeth” (not he that is very strong in faith) “shall be saved;” yea, and that “all who believe (whatever be their stature or growth in grace) are justified from all things.” If you be but a child, incapable of digesting strong meat, you find that “the sincere milk of the word” is sufficient to nourish and support you; and that if you be but a lamb in Christ’s flock, “he carries the lambs in his bosom,” because “it is not the will of your Father that one of his little ones should perish.” This is no reason for your neglecting to exert yourselves to the uttermost: but it is a comfort to you to know, that, though from the peculiarity of your circumstances you have been able to gather but little, you neither have, nor shall have, any occasion to complain that you have “lacked” what was needful for you. If you have had no superabundance of grace, “your strength has been according to your day.”]

2.

Our duty, as Saints—

[All, whilst they judged their first offices due to those who were immediately dependent on them, considered themselves as members of one great family, and bound to administer help to all whose necessities should require it. Thus should the whole collective mass of believers consider themselves bound to render every possible assistance to every part of Christ’s mystical body. Every joint is to supply a measure of nutriment according to its capacity, for the good of the whole body; that so the whole may be strengthened, and edified in love [Note: Ephesians 4:15-49.4.16.]. The command is plain, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees: say unto them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong; fear not; your God will come and save you [Note: Isa 35:3-4 with Hebrews 12:12-58.12.13.].” With whatever we be enriched, we should be ready to impart of our stores liberally and without grudging; considering that we are but stewards of all that we possess, and that in dispensing to others the benefits we have received, whether they be of a temporal or spiritual nature, we most resemble our Heavenly Father, and best answer the ends for which those blessings have been committed to us. True, indeed, we have not any thing of our own, which we can impart to others; (we have no more oil in our lamps than is wanted for ourselves [Note: Matthew 25:8-40.25.9.] ;) nor can any diligence in the head of a family supersede the necessity of every member gathering for himself; (for “every man must bear his own burthen [Note: Galatians 6:5.]:”) but still, as instruments in God’s hands, we may be serviceable to many [Note: James 5:19-59.5.20.], and may, as golden pipes, convey the golden oil, for the enlightening and edifying of the Church of God [Note: Zec 4:12 with 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.].]

Having thus marked the distinct views in which I conceive the fact before us ought to be regarded, I will now, in conclusion, suggest the instruction to be derived from it in a collective view. We may learn from it, I think,

1.

Contentment—

[The whole people of Israel had but this food for forty years; nor, except for use on the Sabbath-day, was any of it to be treasured up, even for a single day. The whole people of Israel were to subsist on God’s providence, exactly as the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. Nor was any thing more than food and raiment to be the portion of so much as one amongst them: with this they were to be content; and with a similar portion should we also be content [Note: 1 Timothy 6:8.]. Hear St. Paul’s experience on this subject: “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased; and I know how to abound: everywhere, and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need [Note: Philippians 4:11-50.4.12.].” Precisely such should be the frame of our minds also. We should offer continually, and from our inmost souls, that prayer which our Lord has taught us, “Give us day by day our daily bread:” and we should really be willing to live dependent on our God for every blessing, whether for body or for soul, whether for time or for eternity.]

2.

Confidence—

[In parting with any superfluity which they might have attained, the whole people of Israel shewed that they looked to God alone for a supply of their necessities, and that they had no doubt of his continued care even to the end. The same lesson should we also learn. We should “take no thought for the morrow, but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and rest assured that all needful blessings shall be added unto us [Note: Matthew 6:31-40.6.34.].” We should regard God as our Parent; who, if he neglect not the birds of the air, or the meanest worm of the earth, will surely not neglect his own children, but will rather feed them with bread from heaven, and cause that bread to follow them in all their journeys, than leave them one day without the supply that is needful for them.]

3.

Liberality—

[Certainly, to give away the superabundance which they had gathered, when they had not any thing in hand for their subsistence on the morrow, was a bright example of generosity. I am far from saying that we, under our dispensation, should carry our liberality to the same extent; but I have no doubt but that the spirit which they manifested should be cultivated by us also, and that to a much greater extent than is generally imagined. The instruction given by John the Baptist to the people of his day was, “He that hath two coats, let him give to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise [Note: Luke 3:11.].” If it be thought that this was nothing but an Eastern proverb, I answer, that St. Paul, in the very place where he quotes the words of my text, proposes to our imitation the example of the Macedonians, which scarcely fell short of the very letter of St John’s instructions: “For at a time when they were in a trial of great affliction and in deep poverty themselves, they yet abounded unto the riches of liberality; being willing to give not only to their power, but beyond their power, and praying him with much entreaty to take upon him the office of dispensing their alms to their afflicted brethren [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:1-47.8.4.].” Nay more, he proposes to us the example of our blessed Lord himself, who “though he was rich. yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:9.].” Let this mind then be in you, my beloved brethren; and account yourselves rich. not in proportion to what you can consume upon yourselves, but according to what you are able to administer for the benefit of others. “In bearing one another’s burthens, ye shall best fulfil the law of Christ [Note: Galatians 6:2.].”]


Verse 35

DISCOURSE: 88
SENDING OF THE MANNA

Exodus 16:35. And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited: they did eat manna until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.

THE history of the Israelites in the wilderness contains an uninterrupted series of miracles. It might be well expected, that two millions of people encamped in a barren desert would soon begin to want fresh supplies of food. And so it happened. In a month after their first departure from Egypt, they had exhausted the store that they had brought with them. But God, who had brought them thus far, would not suffer them to remain destitute any longer than was necessary to try their faith and patience. He therefore gave them from the clouds a peculiar kind of food, (such as had never been seen before,) a small white substance, like coriander-seed, which, when ground in a mill and baked or seethed in water, was extremely palatable.
We propose to make some observations upon,

I.

The provision he gave them—

Let the occasion on which he gave it be first considered—

[Instead of confiding in that God who had so often, and so wonderfully interposed for them, they murmured against him in a most impious manner, wishing that he had involved them in the judgments which had desolated Egypt, rather than that he should have brought them into their present difficulties. And though their complaints were directed professedly only against Moses and Aaron, they were, in fact, against God himself, by whose direction alone any step had been taken. How astonishing was it that God should take occasion from such a grievous act of impiety to give them such tokens of his love and mercy! Might we not have expected rather that he should execute upon them his severest judgments? But thus he has done in all ages, in order to display the sovereignty and the riches of his grace [Note: To Adam, Genesis 3:6; Genesis 3:12; Genesis 3:15. To Saul, Acts 26:10-44.26.16. To ourselves in unnumbered instances, making our sins the occasion of deeper humiliation.] — — —]

Next, let us notice the directions he gave respecting it

[They ere to gather the manna from day to day, reserving none of it for the morrow [Note:, 19.]. This was to teach them their entire dependence upon God, and impress them with a sense of God’s continued care of them. And though we are not forbidden, yea rather are commanded, to make suitable provision for our families, yet in the habit of our minds we are to be continually dependent on God, and free from all anxious care or distrust — — —

They were not to gather any on the Sabbath, but to provide a double portion on the day preceding it [Note: 9.]. How early was the observance of the Sabbath inculcated! The law was not yet given; therefore the observance of the Sabbath was not a mere ceremonial commandment. Nor was the injunction relative to it either given by Moses, or received by Israel, as a new thing: it doubtless had been enforced from the beginning of the world: and consequently we, no less than the Jews, are bound to lay aside all temporal concerns, as much as possible, on that day, and to consecrate it wholly to the service of our God — — —

They were to preserve some of it in a pot, and lay it up before the Lord as a memorial for future generations [Note: 2, 33.]. They were not to forget the mercies vouchsafed to them; but rather to transmit to their latest posterity the remembrance of them; in order that they also might be led to serve and trust in the living God. And have not we also memorials of the love of God to us? Search the records of our national history, or let every one consult his own personal experience; and We shall find abundant reason to adore that God, who has interposed for us in ten thousand dangers, and supplied our continually returning wants — — —]

The peculiar interposition of God in relation to it deserves also particular notice—

[It was so ordered by his providence, that, when the members of the different families had put together the portions which they had severally collected, and measured it out again for the purpose of distributing to each his regular portion, there never was found any redundancy, or any want [Note: 6–18.]. What this was designed to teach us, we are at no loss to determine; since God himself has suggested the proper improvement of it. We all are members of one great family. Some, by God’s blessing on their diligence, or by some other means, possess much; whilst others, through a variety of circumstances, possess but little: we ought therefore (not indeed to make one common stock, but) to “lay by us for the poor, according as God has prospered us; “that, as far at least as the enjoyment of the necessaries of life are concerned, there may be an equality; the abundance of the rich supplying the necessities of their less-favoured brethren [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:14-47.8.15.]. O that there were in all of us such an heart, and that, instead of scraping together all that we can save, for the purpose of enriching our families, we found our happiness in doing good, being “glad to distribute, and willing to communicate!”— — —]

From viewing the mercies God vouchsafed to the Israelites, let us turn our attention to,

II.

The corresponding provision he has given us—

St. Paul tells us, that the manna of which we have been speaking, was “spiritual meat [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:3.].” It was carnal indeed in its immediate use; but it typically shadowed forth the food on which our souls must live: and, to those who partook of it in faith, it was a source of spiritual and eternal blessings. The Lord Jesus Christ has fully explained the subject to us; and drawn a parallel between the manna on which the Israelites subsisted, and himself as the life of our souls [Note: John 6:32-43.6.58.]. We shall not trace that parallel here [Note: The parallel is drawn in Dis. on Joh 6:34 and 1 Corinthians 10:3-46.10.4.], but consider the subject in a more appropriate view.

Three things then we wish you to remark;

1.

The freeness of this provision—

[What have we done to merit the gift of God’s dear Son? We were rebels against the Majesty of heaven, and deserved nothing but “wrath and fiery indignation to consume us”— — —The manna rained round the tents of the murmuring Israelites was not more freely given, than Christ is sent to us, and salvation by him is offered us in the Gospel [Note: Isaiah 55:1.] — — —]

2.

The suitableness—

[The manna was adapted to nourish equally the infant and adult. And to whom is not Christ suited? The great sinner will find in him precisely such a Saviour as his necessities require — — —The weak, the timid, the disconsolate, yea, all persons in all possible circumstances, shall find, that he is as much suited to their individual cases, as if God had sent him for them alone; and to their palate, as though they themselves had chosen what kind of a Saviour they would have — — —]

3.

The sufficiency—

[The vigour of all was renewed from day to day by means of the food provided for them; and they were enabled to march or fight, as occasion required. And what cannot he do who feeds upon the Lord Jesus Christ? What conflicts shall not he support; what victories shall not he gain? “The grace of Christ will be sufficient for him;” and he will be “able to do all things through Christ who strengtheneth him”— — —“He that gathers most of this heavenly manna, will indeed have nothing over; but he who gathers ever so little, shall have no lack” — — — Twice is it repeated in our text, that they ate of the manna till they arrived at the promised land: never did it fail them; nor did they ever need any other food. And thus assuredly shall Christ continue to the end the support of all who feed upon him; and, in possessing “that hidden manna,” they shall have all that they can want in this dreary wilderness; they shall have an earnest and antepast of heaven itself [Note: Revelation 2:17.].]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 16". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/exodus-16.html. 1832.