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THE FIRST MURMURING FOR FOOD. From Elim, or the fertile tract extending from Wady Ghurnndel to Wady Tayibeh, the Israelites, after a time, removed, and ca-camped (as we learn from Numbers 33:10) by the Red Sea, probably along the narrow coast tract extending from the mouth of Tayibeh to the entrance upon the broad plain of El Markha. Hence they entered upon "the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai"—a tract identified by some with the coast plain, El Markha, by others with the inland undulating region known at the present day as the Debbet-er-Ramleh It is difficult to decide between these two views. In favour of El Markha are:
1. The fact that the Egyptian settlements in the Sinaitic peninsula would thus be avoided, as they seem to have been, since no contest with Egyptians is recorded;
2. The descent of the quails, who, wearied with a long flight over the Red Sea, would naturally settle as soon as they reached the shore;
3. The greater openness and facility of the El Markha and Wady Feiran route, which is admitted by all; and
4. The suitability of the latter to the particulars of the narrative in Exodus 18:1-27.
In favour of the route by the Debbet-er-Ramleh are,
1. The fact that it is better watered at present than the other;
2. Its being somewhat less removed from the direct line between Wady Ghurundel and Sinai than El Markha; and
3. A certain correspondency of sound or meaning between some of the present geographical names along this route and those of the Mosaic narrative. In "the wilderness of Sin" the Israelites for the first time found themselves in want of sufficient nourishment. They hall consumed the grain which they had brought with them out of Egypt; and though no doubt they had still considerable flocks and herds, yet they were unaccustomed to a mere milk and flesh diet, having in Egypt lived principally upon bread (Exodus 18:3), fish (Numbers 11:5), and vegetables (ibid.). They therefore "murmured," and accused Moses and Aaron of an intention to starve them. It is quite possible that many of the poorer sorts having brought with them no cattle, or lost their cattle by the way, and not being helped by their brethren, were in actual danger of starvation. Hence God was not angry, but "heard their murmurings" (Exodus 18:9) patiently, and relieved them.
They journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation came. It has been noted (Cook) that the form of expression seems to imply that the Israelites proceeded in detachments from Elim, and were first assembled as a complete host when they reached the wilderness of Sin." This accords well with their numbers and with the character of the localities. They could only assemble all together when they reached some considerable plain. Between Elim and Sinai. This expression must be regarded as vague to some extent. On the direct line, as the crow flies, there is no "wilderness" (midbar) between Wady Ghurundel and Sinai. All is mountain and valley. All that the writer means is that "the wilderness of Sin" lay upon the ordinary, or at any rate an ordinary route between Elim and the great mountain. This is equally true of El Markha and the Debbet-er-Ramleh. On the fifteenth day of the second month—i.e; on the 15th of Zif, exactly one month after their departure from Egypt. As only seven camping places are mentioned (Numbers 33:5-11), and one journey of three days through a wilderness (Exodus 15:22), it is evident that there must either have been long stays in several places, or that they must have often encamped in places which had no name. Viewed as an itinerary, the record is manifestly incomplete.
The whole congregation … murmured, It has been observed above, that only the poorer sort could have been as yet in any peril of actual starvation; but it may well have been that the rest, once launched into the wilderness, and becoming practically acquainted with its unproductiveness, foresaw that ultimately starvation must come upon them too, when all the cattle were eaten up, or had died through insufficient nourishment Nothing is more clear than that, without the miracle of the manna, it would have been impossible for a population of two millions to have supported themselves for forty years, or even for two years, in such a region as the Sinaitic peninsula, even though it had been in ancient times three or four times as productive as at present. The cattle brought out of Egypt must have rapidly diminished (Exodus 17:3); and though the Israelites had brought with them also great wealth in the precious metals, yet it must have been some time before they could establish commercial relations with the neighbouring nations so as to obtain such supplies as they needed. Thus we can well understand that at the expiration of a month the people generally should have recognized that their situation was one of great danger, and should have vented their discontent upon their leaders.
Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt—i.e; "Would that God had smitten us with a painless death, as he did the first-born of the Egyptians! Then we should have avoided the painful and lingering death from starvation which we now see before us." The cry puts on the garb of piety, and names the name of Jehovah, but indicates a want of faith in him, his power, and his promises (Exodus 4:8, Exodus 4:17; Exodus 6:8; Exodus 12:25; Exodus 13:5, Exodus 13:11), which was sinful, and, after the miracles that they had seen, barely excusable. When we sat by the flesh-pots of Egypt. Compare Numbers 11:5. Both passages make it clear that, whatever the sufferings of the Israelites in Egypt from the cruelty of the taskmasters and the hard tasks set them, at any rate their sustenance was well cared for—they had abundance of agreeable food. Did eat bread. It has been said that "bread" here means "food in general" (Kalisch); and no doubt the word has sometimes that sense. But it was probably actual bread, rather than anything else, for which the Israelites were longing. See the Introduction to the chapter.
The unreasonableness of discontent.
The people of Israel experience now the second trial that has come upon them since the passage of the Red Sea. First, they had nothing which they could drink (Exodus 15:24); now they are afraid that they will soon have nothing to eat. They have consumed their dough (Exodus 12:39), their grain, their flour; many of them have consumed, or lost, their beasts. The land around them produces little or nothing that is edible; no settled inhabitants show themselves from whom they may purchase food. If there are Egyptian store-houses in the district, they are shut against the enemies of Egypt. So the Israelites, one and all, begin to despair and murmur. How irrational their conduct! The unreasonableness of discontent is shown—
I. IN DISTRUSTING GOD'S POWER OF DELIVERANCE, WHEN WE HAVE SEEN FREQUENT INSTANCES OF IT. The Israelites had been brought out of Egypt "by a mighty hand"—delivered through means of a series of wonderful miracles. They had escaped the pursuit of Pharaoh by having a path made for them through the waters of the Red Sea. They had witnessed the destruction of Pharaoh's choicest warriors by the return of the waves on either side. They had very recently thought themselves on the point of perishing with thirst; and then by the simplest possible means God had made the bitter water sweet and agreeable. Now, they had found themselves fallen into a new difficulty. They had no bread, and foresaw a time when all their food would be exhausted. They were not really, if the rich imparted of their superfluous cattle to the poor, in any immediate danger. Yet, instead of bearing the trial, and doing the best they could under the circumstances, they began to murmur and wish themselves dead. They did not reflect upon the past; they did not use it as a standard by which to estimate the future. They acted exactly as they might naturally have done, had they had no previous evidence of God's power to deliver. And so it is to this day in human life frequently. We do not witness miracles, but we witness signal deliverances of various kinds—an enemy defeated at the moment that he seemed about to carry all before him—the independence of a nation saved when it appeared to be lost-drought succeeded by copious rains—overmuch rain followed by a glorious month for harvest. Yet, each time that a calamity threatens, we despond; we forget all the past; we distrust God's mercy; we murmur; we wish, or say we wish, that we had died before the trial came.
II. IN CONTRASTING ALL THE DISADVANTAGES OF OUR PRESENT POSITION, WITHOUT ITS COMPENSATING ADVANTAGES, WITH ALL THE ADVANTAGES, AND NONE OF THE DISADVANTAGES, OF SOME PREVIOUS ONE. The Israelites, fearing starvation, thought of nothing but the delight of sitting by the flesh-pots of Egypt, and eating bread to the full. They omitted to reflect on their severe toils day after day, on the misery of feeling they were slaves, on the murder of their children by one tyrant, and the requirement of impossible tasks by another, on the rudeness to which they were daily exposed, and the blows which were hourly showered on them. They omitted equally to consider what they had gained by quitting Egypt—the consciousness of freedom, the full liberty of worshipping God after their conscience, the constant society of their families, the bracing air of the Desert, the perpetual evidence of God's presence and providential care in the sight of the pillar of the cloud and of fire, which accompanied them. And men still act much the same. Oh! for the delights of boyhood, they exclaim, forgetting all its drawbacks. Oh! for the time when I occupied that position, which I unwisely gave up (because I hated it). The present situation is always the worst conceivable—its ills are magnified, its good points overlooked, thought nothing of Again, how unreasonable! The allegorical tale which tells of a pilgrim who wished to change his cross, and after trying a hundred others, found that the original one alone fitted him, is applicable to such cases, and should teach us a lesson of content.
III. IN ITS VENTING ITSELF TOO OFTEN ON THE WRONG PERSON. Moses and Aaron were not to blame for the situation in which the Israelites found themselves. They had done nothing but obey God from first to last. God had commanded the exodus—God had led the way—God had forbidden the short route along the shore to the country of the Philistines, and had brought them into the "wilderness of the Red Sea," and that desolate part of it called "the wilderness of Sin." Moses and Aaron were but his mouthpieces. Yet the Israelites murmured against them. Truly did Moses respond—"What are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD." And so are all murmurings. Men are but God's instruments; and, in whatsoever difficulty we find ourselves, it is God who has placed us there. Murmuring against men is altogether foolish and vain. We should take our grief straight to God; we should address him, not with murmuring, but with prayer. We should entreat him to remove our burthen, or to give us strength to bear it, We should place all in his hands.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
In the "Wilderness of Sin," between Elim and Sinai, on the 15th day of the second month after the departing of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 16:1). One short month, but how much can be forgotten even in so brief a space of time! (cf. Exodus 32:1). Egypt now lay at a little distance. The supplies of the Israelites were failing them. God lets the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil run out (1 Kings 17:12), before interposing with his help. Thus he tries what manner of spirit we are of. Our extremity is his opportunity. Consider here—
I. THE PEOPLE'S MURMURINGS (Exodus 16:2). These are brought into strong relief in the course of the narrative. "The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured'' (Exodus 16:2). "He heareth your murmurings against the Lord, and what are we that ye murmur against us?" (Exodus 16:7). "The Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him, and what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord" (Exodus 16:8). "He hath heard your murmurings" (Exodus 16:9). "I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel" (Exodus 16:12).
1. They murmured, and did not pray. They seem to have left that to Moses (cf. Exodus 14:15). Remembering what Jehovah had already done for them—the proofs he had already given them of his goodness and faithfulness—we might have thought that prayer would have been their first resource. But they do not avail themselves of it. They do not even raise the empty cries of Exodus 14:10. It is a wholly unsubmissive and distrustful spirit which wreaks its unreasonableness on Moses and Aaron in the words, "Ye have brought us forth into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (Exodus 14:3). We who blame them, however, have only to observe our own hearts to see how often we are in the same condemnation. (See Hamilton's "Moses," Lect. 14.—"Murmurs.") It is ever easier, in times of difficulty, to murmur than to pray. Yet how much better for ourselves, as well as more dutiful to God, could we learn the lesson of coming with every trouble to the throne of grace.
"But with my God I leave my cause;
From Him I seek relief;
To Him in confidence of prayer
Unbosom all my grief"
Had Israel prayed more, relief might have come sooner.
2. Their behaviour affords some interesting illustrations of what the murmuring spirit is. Distinguish this spirit from states of mind which bear a superficial resemblance to it.
(1) From the cry of natural distress. When distress comes upon us, we cannot but acutely feel the pain of our situation, and with this is connected the tendency to lament and bewail it. The dictates of the highest piety, indeed, would lead us to imitate David in studying to be still before God. "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth because thou didst it" (Psalms 39:9). Yet listen to this same David's lamentations over Absalom (2 Samuel 18:19). There are few in whom the spirit of resignation is so perfectly formed—in whom religious motives so uniformly and entirely predominate—that a wail of grief never escapes their lips. It would, however, be cruel to describe these purely natural expressions of feeling as "murmurings," though it is to be admitted that an element of murmuring frequently mingles with them.
(2) From the expostulations of good men with God, caused by the perplexity and mystery of his dealings with them. Such expostulations, e.g; as those of Moses in Exodus 5:22, Exodus 5:23; or of Job, in several of his speeches (Job 7:11-21; Job 10:1-22, etc.); or of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 20:7). As Augustine says of Moses, "These are not words of contumacy or indignation, but of inquiry and prayer."
3. Even from the desperate speeches of good men, temporarily carried beyond bounds by their sorrow. Job enters this plea for himself—"Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind" (Job 6:26); and we feel at once the justice of it. This was not murmuring. These wild speeches—though not blameless—were but a degree removed from raving. What elements, then, do enter into the murmuring spirit—how is it to be described?
(1) At the basis of it there lies distrust and unsubmissiveness. There is distrust of God's goodness and power, and want of submission to his will in the situation in which he has placed us. The opposite spirit is exemplified in Christ, in his first temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3).
(2) Connected with this, there is forgetfulness of, and ingratitude for, benefits formerly received. This is very conspicuous in the case of these Israelites (verse 3).
(3) The characteristic feature of this spirit is the entertaining of injurious thoughts of God—the attempt to put God in the wrong by fastening on him the imputation of dealing harshly and injuriously with us. The murmuring spirit keeps the eye bent on self, and on self's fancied wrongs, and labours hard to make out a case of ill treatment. Its tone is complaining. It would arraign the Eternal at its puny bar, and convict him of injustice. It is narrow, self-pitying, egoistic.
(4) It expresses itself in accusations and reproaches. The mental point of view already indicated prepares the way for these, and leads to them being passed off as righteous charges. God is charged foolishly (Job 1:22).
(5) It is prone to exaggeration. The Israelites can hardly have been as well off in Egypt as they here pretend, though their words (verse 3) show that their rations in bondage must have been fairly liberal. But the wish to make their present situation look as dark as possible, leads them to magnify the advantages of their former one. They did not think so much of it when they had it.
(6) Murmuring against God may not venture to express itself directly, and yet may do so indirectly. The murmuring of the Israelites was of this veiled character. They masked their rebellion against God, and their impeaching of his goodness, by directing their accusations against his servants. It was God against whom they murmured (verse 7, 8), but they slightly veiled the fact by not mentioning God, but by speaking only of Moses and Aaron. We should remember this, in our contendings with Providence. The persons on whom our murmuring spirit wreaks itself may be secondary agents—the voluntary or involuntary causes of our misfortunes—or even persons in no way directly concerned with our trouble—but be they who they may, if the spirit be bitter and rebellious, it is God, not they, whom we are contending against (cf. Genesis 50:19, Genesis 50:20; 2 Samuel 17:10).
II. GOD'S SURPRISING TREATMENT OF THESE MURMURINGS (verse 4). It is a most astonishing fact that on this occasion there is not, on God's part, a single severe word of reproof of the people's murmurings, far less any punishment of them for it. It could not at this time be said—"Some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (1 Corinthians 10:10). The appearance of the glory in the cloud warned and abashed, but did not injure them (verse 10). The reason was not that God did not hear their murmuring, nor yet that he mistook its import, as directed ostensibly, not against him, but against Moses and Aaron. The Searcher of Hearts knows well when our murmurings are against Him (verses 7, 8). But,
1. He pitied them. They were really in great need. He looked to their need, more than to their murmurings. In his great compassion, knowing their dire distress, he treated their murmurings almost as if they were prayers—gave them what they should have asked. The Father in this way anticipated the Son (Matthew 15:32).
2. He was forbearing with them in the beginning of their way. God was not weakly indulgent. At a later time, when the people had been longer under training, they were severely punished for similar offences (cf. Numbers 21:5); but in the preliminary stages of this wilderness education, God made large and merciful allowances for them. Neither here, nor at the Red Sea, nor later, at Rephidim, when they openly "tempted" him (Job 17:1-8), do we read of God so much as chiding them for their wayward doings: he bore with them, like a father bearing with his children. He knew how ignorant they were; how much infirmity there was about them; how novel and trying were the situations in which he was placing them; and he mercifully gave them time to improve by his teaching. Surely a God who acts in this way is not to be called "an hard master." Instead of sternly punishing their murmurings, he took their need as a starting-point, and sought to educate them out of the murmuring disposition.
3. He purposed to prove them. He would fully supply their wants, and so give them an opportunity of showing whether their murmuring was a result of mere infirmity—or was connected with a deeply ingrained spirit of disobedience. When perversity began to show itself, he did not spare reproof (verse 28).—J.O.
THE PROMISE OF BREAD FROM HEAVEN. When men who are in real distress make complaint, even though the tone of their complaint be not such as it ought to be, God in his mercy is wont to have compassion upon them, to "hear their mummurings," etc; and grant them some relief. But the relief is seldom of the kind which they expect, or pray for. The Israelites wished for actual bread, made of wheaten or barley flour. God gave them, not such bread, but a substitute for it. And first, before giving it, be promised that it should be given. Thus expectation was aroused; faith was exercised; the supernatural character of the relief was indicated; the power and the goodness of God, were, both of them, shown forth. And with the promise was given a law. They were on each occasion to gather no more than would suffice for the day. Thus they would continually "live by faith," taking no thought for the morrow, but trusting all to God.
Bread from heaven. Compare Psalms 78:24; Nehemiah 9:15; John 6:31-51. The expression is of course not to be trader-stood literally. The substance was not actual bread, neither was it locally transferred from the distant region called "heaven" to the soil of the Sinaitic peninsula. But it was called "bread," because it was intended to serve instead of bread, as the main support of life during the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness; and it was said to be "from heaven," first, as descending on 'the ground out of the circumambient air; and secondly, as miraculously sent by him, whose seat is in heaven. The people shall gather a certain rate every day. Rather "a day's supply every day," such a quantity as shall seem to each man reasonably sufficient for himself and his family. That I may prove them. As in Paradise God coupled with his free gift of "every tree of the garden" the positive precept, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat,"—that he might prove our first parents, whether they would obey him or not—so now he "proved" the obedience of the Israelites by a definite, positive command—they were not to gather on ordinary days more than was sufficient for the day. All life is intended as a probation.
On the sixth day. That a period of seven days was known to the Hebrews as a week appears from the story of Jacob and Laban (Genesis 29:27). But there is no distinct evidence that the year was as yet divided into weeks, much less that the several days of the week were as yet distinguished as the first, second, third day, etc. "The sixth day," here probably means (as Kalisch says), "the sixth day after' the first supply of the manna. They shall prepare. The preparation would be, first, by measurement (Exodus 16:18), and then by pounding and grinding (Numbers 11:8). It shall be double. Some commentators suppose that in these words is implied an order that on the sixth day they should set themselves to gather a double quantity. But the natural meaning of the words is, that, having gathered the usual quantity, they should find, when they measured it, that, by miracle, the supply sufficient for one day was multiplied, so as to suffice for two. (So Kalisch, Knobel, Kurtz, and others.) This view is in harmony with Exodus 16:18, which tells of a miraculous expansion and diminution of the manna after it had been gathered, and with Exodus 16:22, which shows us "the rulers" surmised by the miracle of the sixth day.
At even, then ye shall know. See Exodus 16:12 and Exodus 16:13. The first evidence which the Israelites would have, that God had heard 'and considered their complaints, would be the descent of the quails at even of the day on which Moses and Aaron addressed them. That the Lord hath brought you out—i.e; "that it is not we who, to gratify our own personal ambition, have induced you to quit Egypt under our guidance; but that all which we have done has been to act as God's instruments, and to carry out his designs."
― And in the morning then ye shall see the glory of the Lord. This has been supposed to refer to the manifestation of God's presence recorded in Exodus 16:10; but the balance of the two clauses in Exodus 16:6 and Exodus 16:7 implies two similar manifestations, and their arrangement shows the priority of the evening one. Now the manifestation of Exodus 16:10 preceded the coming of the quails. The manifestation which followed it, which was similar, and in the morning, was the fall of the manna. For that he heareth your murmurings. The connection of this clause with the preceding furnishes an additional argument in favour of the exposition that "the glory of God," spoken of in this verse is the manna. Against the Lord. Professedly and directly against us, but indirectly and really against God, whose instruments we have been in the whole matter of the exodus. What are we?—i.e; "What power have we of our own? We have no hereditary rank, no fixed definite position. We are simply the leaders whom you have chosen to follow, because you believed us to have a commission from God. Apart from this, we are nobodies. But, if our commission is conceded, we are to you in the place of God; and to murmur against us is to murmur against Jehovah."
When the lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat. Moses must have received a distinct intimation of the coming arrival of the quails, trough he has not recorded it, his desire of brevity causing him to retrench all that is not absolutely necessary for the right understanding of the narrative. It is, comparatively, seldom that he records both the Divine message and his delivery of it. In general, he places upon record either the message only, or its delivery only. Bread to the full. Compare above, Exodus 16:4; and infra, Exodus 16:12 and Exodus 16:18. The Lord heareth your murmurings. The latter part of this verse is, in the main, a repetition of Exodus 16:7; but it emphasises the statements of that verse, and prepares the way for what follows.
The mercy of God in hearing and helping even an ungrateful and discontented people.
God is very merciful to those who are in covenant with him, whom he has chosen for his own, and made "the sheep of his pasture." Very often, and very far may they go astray, turn from the right way, rebel against him, refuse to hearken to his voice, murmur, misuse his ministers and slander them, yet not alienate him wholly. Indefectible grace must not indeed be claimed by any man as his own portion; for none can know that he possesses it; yet the way of God, on the whole, appears to be to reclaim his wandering sheep; recall them to a sense of what is their duty; and restore them to the fold whence they have strayed. All that can be done with this object he does for the Church now, as for the congregation of the children of Israel in the wilderness.
I. HE PARDONS THEIR OFFENCES. Distrust, discontent, ingratitude, even when openly expressed in speech, he forgives in his mercy, not seven times only, but "seventy times seven." How many murmur at their lot; complain of their worldly condition, or their lack of spiritual gifts, or their unhappy position under ministers of whom they do not approve; or the coldness and unsympathetic temper of their friends, or the want of any due appreciation by others of their merits! It is, comparatively speaking, rarely that we meet with a contented person. Yet God is so merciful, that he bears with the murmurers—yea, even "hears their murmurings," and devises means for their relief.
II. HE GIVES THEM BREAD FROM HEAVEN. "Every good gift and every perfect gift" is from him, and "cometh down from the Father of Lights." The material sustenance of daily life is one form of "bread from heaven," wherewith he daily provides the millions who look to him. His holy word is another form, a heavenly gift, the sustenance of many souls. But, as he tells us, he himself is "the true bread from heaven" (John 6:32-51). In and through the Eucharist, he gives us himself to be our spiritual food and sustenance, the bread of life, the true manna, meat indeed. If we worthily receive the blessed sacrament of his body and blood, then we "spiritually eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us"—"our sinful bodies are made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood." Thus, he gives us, in the highest, most perfect, and most spiritual way, that which is the great need of our souls, "bread from heaven."
III. HE GIVES THEM LAWS TO PROVE THEM. With blessing duty goes ever hand in hand. To every gift God attaches some law of direction for its use. The gift of the manna had its own laws—its law of gathering, and its law of reserving or not reserving. The holy Eucharist has also its one great law—a law fixing the mental attitude—"Do this in remembrance of me." To make it a mere supper, as the Corinthians did (1 Corinthians 11:20-34), albeit a love-feast, symbolical of Christian fellowship and unity, is to break this law. The Eucharist is "for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ"—for the calling to mind his sufferings for our sins, his atonement fur our guilt, his deliverance of us from Satan, death, and hell, by his one oblation of himself once offered upon the Cross. it is by this remembrance that our penitence is made acute, our gratitude called forth, our hearts enabled to "lift themselves up," our spirits stirred to love, and joy, and thankfulness; and obedience to this law on our part is a necessary condition to our receiving the benefits of the Eucharist. Thus we too, when "bread from heaven" is rained upon us, have a law given to us to prove us, whether we will walk in God's law or not.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The gift of Manna.
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 (Exodus 16:32-35).
I. THE MANNA PROMISED (Exodus 16:4-9).
1. God would rain bread from heaven for them (Exodus 16:4). He would spread a table for them, even in the wilderness, a thing they had deemed impossible (Psalms 78:19). He would give them to eat of "the corn of heaven" (Psalms 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" (Exodus 16:3). He would testify of his loving care for them (cf. Deuteronomy 1:31).
2. The supply would be continuous—"Every day" (Exodus 16:4). 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. Psalms 119:89-92).
3. The gift of quails and manna would be a manifestation of his glory as Jehovah (Exodus 16:6, Exodus 16:7; also Exodus 16:12—"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 6:1-71. 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" (John 6:4). 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, Deuteronomy 9:5). He showed them this kindness for his own name's sake (cf. Psalms 106:8); because he was Jehovah, who changed not (Malachi 3:6).
4. The gift of manna would prove a trial of obedience (John 6:4). 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 (John 6:9-13). 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 (John 6:10). 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, Exodus 15:26, 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 (Exodus 15:23); 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 (Exodus 18:13-16). 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" (Psalms 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, Exodus 18:23; 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.
THE PROMISE FULFILLED. Moses had made a double promise to the Israelites in God's name. "The Lord shall give you," he had said," in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full" (Exodus 16:8). And now the time for the fulfilment of the double promise approached. First, however, before they received the blessings, he required them to present themselves before the Lord. As they had rebelled in murmuring, an act of homage was proper; and as they had called in question the conduct of Moses and Aaron. some token that God approved the action of these his faithful servants, and would support them, was needed. Hence the appearance of the Lord to the congregation in the cloud (Exodus 16:10). After this, when evening approached, the quails fell. A vast flight of this migratory bird, which often arrives in Arabia Petraea from the sea (Diod. Sic. 1:60), fell to the earth about the Hebrew camp, and, being quite exhausted, lay on the ground in a state which allowed of their being taken by the hand. The Israelites had thus abundant "flesh to eat" (Exodus 16:8), for God "sent them meat enough" (Psalms 78:26). The next morning, the remainder of the promise was fulfilled. When they awoke, they found that the vegetation about the camp was covered with a sort of dew, resembling hoar-frost, which was capable of easy detachment from the leaves, and which proved to be an edible substance. While they were in doubt about the phenomenon, Moses informed them that this was the "bread from heaven" which they had been promised (Exodus 16:15). At the same time he instructed them as to the quantity which they should gather, which he fixed at an omer for each member of their family (Exodus 16:16). In attempting to carry out these instructions, mistakes were not unnaturally made; some exceeded the set quantity, others fell short of it. But the result was found to be the same. Whatever the quantity gathered, when it was brought home and measured, the amount was by miracle made to be exactly an omer for each (Exodus 16:18). Afterwards, Moses gave another order. The whole of the manna was to be consumed (ordinarily) on the day on which it was gathered. When some wilfully disobeyed this command, the reserved manna was found on the next day to have become bad—it had bred worms, and gave out an offensive odour. This circumstance put a stop to the malpractice.
At even. Literally, "between the two evenings." For the meaning of the phrase, see the comment on Exodus 12:6. Ye shall eat flesh. The quails, as appears by the subsequent narrative, were supplied, not regularly, but only on rare occasions; in fact (so far as appears), only here in the wilderness of Sin, and at Kibroth-hattaavah in the wilderness of Paran (Numbers 11:31-34). They were not a necessary, but an indulgence. Ye shall know that I am the Lord. The miracle of the manna, and the timely appearance of the quails at the hour announced, will sufficiently show that it is God himself who has you under his charge and watches over you.
The quails came up. The word here translated, "quails" has been supposed to designate the flying-fish (Trigla Israelitarum of Ehrenberg), or a species of locust (Ludolf). But Psalms 78:28, makes it clear that "feathered fowls" are intended; and moderns generally, are agreed that the rendering "quails" is right. It has the authority of the Septuagint, of Josephus, and of the Vulgate. Diodorus says that "the inhabitants of Arabia Petraea prepared long nets, spread them near the coast for many stadia, and thus caught a great number of quails which are in the habit of coming in from the sea" (2:60). The quail regularly migrates from Syria and Arabia in the autumn, and winters in the interior of Africa, whence it returns northwards in immense masses in the spring. Kalisch thinks that the particular species of quail intended is the kata of the Arabs (Tetrao Alchata of Linnaeus); but the common quail (Tetrao coturnix) is preferred by most commentators. When these birds approach the coast after a long flight over the Red Sea, they are often so exhausted that they rather fall to the ground than settle, and are then easily taken by the hand or killed with sticks. Their flesh is regarded by the natives as a delicacy. Covered the camp—i.e; covered all the ground between the tents in which the Israelites lived in the wilderness. The dew lay. Literally, "there was a layer of dew"—something, i.e; lay on the ground outside the camp which looked like dew, and was in part dew, but not wholly so.
When the dew that lay was gone up. The moisture which lay upon the herbage soon evaporated, drawn up by the sun; and then the miracle revealed itself. There remained upon each leaf and each blade of grass a delicate small substance, compared here to hoar frost, and elsewhere (Numbers 11:7) to "coriander seed," which was easily detached and collected in bags or baskets. The thing was altogether a novelty to the Israelites, though analogous in some degree to natural processes still occurring in the country. These processes are of two kinds. At certain times of the year there is a deposit of a glutinous substance from the air upon leaves and even upon stones, which may be scraped off, and which resembles thick honey. There is also an exudation from various trees and shrubs, especially the tamarisk, which is moderately hard, and is found both on the growing plant and on the fallen leaves beneath it, in the shape of small, round, white or greyish grains. It is this last which is the manna of commerce. The Biblical manna cannot be identified with either of these two substances. In some points it resembled the one, in other points the other; in some, it differed from both. It came out of the air like the "air-honey," and did not exude from shrubs; but it was hard, like the manna of commerce, and could be "ground in mills" and "beaten in mortars," which the "air-honey" cannot. It was not a medicament, like the one, nor a condiment, like the other, but a substance suited to be a substitute for bread, and to become the main sustenance of the Israelitish people. It was produced in quantities far exceeding anything that is recorded of either manna proper, or air honey. It accompanied the Israelites wherever they went during the space of forty years, whereas the natural substances, which in certain points resemble it, are confined to certain districts, and to certain seasons of the year. During the whole space of forty years it fell regularly during six consecutive days, and then ceased on the seventh. It "bred worms" if kept till the morrow on all days of the week except one; on that one—the Sabbath—it bred no worms, but was sweet and good. Thus, it must be regarded as a peculiar substance, miraculously created for a special purpose, but similar in certain respects to certain known substances which are still produced in the Sinaitic region.
They said one to another, this is manna. Rather, "this is a gift." To suppose that they recognised the substance as one known to them in Egypt under the name of menu or mennu, is to make this clause contradict the next. To translate "what is this?" gives good sense, but is against grammar, since the Hebrew for "what" is not man but mah. The Septuagint translators (who render τί ἐστι τοῦτο) were probably deceived by their familiarity with the Chaldee, in which man corresponds to "what." Not knowing what to call the substance, the Israelites said one to another, "it is a gift"—meaning a gift from heaven, God's gift (compare Exodus 16:8); and afterwards, in consequence of this, the word man (properly "gift") became the accepted name of the thing.
An omer for every man. According to Kalisch, the omer is about two quarts (English): but this estimate is probably in excess. Josephus makes the measure one equal to six cotyles, which would be about a quart and a half, or three pints. In his tents. Rather, "in his tent."
The children of Israel did so The Israelites set themselves to obey Moses, and gathered what they supposed to be about an omer; but, as a matter of course, some of them exceeded the amount, while others fell short of it. There was no wilful disobedience thus far.
When they did mete it with an omer. On returning to their tents, with the manna which they had collected, the Israelites proceeded to measure it with their own, or a neighbour's, omer measure, when the wonderful result appeared, that, whatever the quantity actually gathered by any one, the result of the measurement showed, exactly as many omers as there were persons in the family. Thus, he that had gathered much found that he had nothing over, and he that had gathered little found that he had no lack.
Let no man leave of it till the morning. Moses, divinely instructed, warned the people that they were not to lay up in store any of their manna to be eaten the next day. God would have them trust their future wants to him, and "take no thought for the morrow." Some of them, however, were disobedient, with the result stated in the next verse.
It bred worms. This was a supernatural, not a natural result. It served as a sort of punishment of the disobedient, and effectually checked the practice of laying up in store.
When the sun waxed hot it melted. The manna had to be gathered early. What had not been collected before the sun grew hot, melted away and disappeared from sight. In this respect the miraculous manna resembled both the manna of commerce and the "air-honey."
God and Nature.
I. GOD IS THE MASTER OF NATURE, NOT NATURE'S SERVANT. A school of modern thought places nature above God, or at ,any rate on a par with God. It is an absolute impossibility, we are told, that a law of nature should be broken or suspended. Miracles are incredible. But all this, it must be borne in mind, is mere assertion, and assertion without a tittle of proof. All that we can know is, that we ourselves have never witnessed a miracle. We may further believe, that none of our contemporaries have witnessed any. But that miracles have never taken place, we cannot know. There is abundant testimony in the records of humanity that they have. To say that they are impossible, is to assume that we know the exact relation of God to nature, and that that relation is such as to preclude any infraction or suspension of a natural law. This would only be the case,
1. If nature were entirely independent of God; or,
2. If God had bound himself never under any circumstances to interfere with the course of nature. But neither of these positions is true. So far from nature being independent of God, nature wholly proceeds from God, is his creation, and momentarily depends on him both for its existence and its laws. Its laws are simply the laws which he imposes on it; the rules which he sees fit under ordinary circumstances to lay down and maintain. And he has nowhere bound himself to maintain all his laws perpetually without change. He will not, we may be sure, capriciously or without grave cause, change or suspend a law, because he is himself immutable, and "without shadow of turning." But, like a wise monarch, or a wise master of a household, he will make exceptions under exceptional circumstances. And thus it was at this time. Israel was brought out of Egypt—was promised Canaan—but required a prolonged course of training to be rendered fit for its promised inheritance. Geographically, Canaan could only be reached through the wilderness; and so the wilderness was the necessary scene of Israel's education. How then was the nation to be supported during the interval? Naturally the wilderness produced only a scanty subsistence for a few thousand nomads. How was it to support two millions of souls? There was no way but by miracle. Here then was a "dignus vindice nodus,"—a fitting occasion for the exertion of supernatural power—and God gave by miracle the supply of which his people had need.
II. GOD, EVEN WHEN PRODUCING EFFECTS THAT ARE BEYOND NATURE, WORKS TO A LARGE EXTENT THROUGH NATURE. The Israelites needed, or at any rate craved for flesh. God did not create for them new animals, as he might have done (Genesis 1:25), or even give them meat by any strange and unknown phenomenon. He brought a timely flight of quails—a migratory bird, in the habit of visiting Arabia at the time of year—and made them alight exactly where the camp was fixed, in too exhausted a condition to fly further—a phenomenon not at all unusual at the particular season and in the particular country. The Israelites needed bread, or some substitute for it. God gave them manna—not a wholly new and unknown substance, but a modification of known substance. He made previously existing nature his basis, altering and adding qualities, greatly augmenting the quantity, but not exerting more supernatural power than was necessary, or departing further from the established course of nature than the occasion required. The same "economy" is seen in the sweetening of the waters of Marah by the wood of a particular tree (Exodus 15:21), etc. The method of God's supernatural working is to supplement, not contradict, nature.
Bread from heaven.
Our Lord tells us that the manna was a type of him, and that he was the "true bread from heaven" (John 6:32). We may profitably consider, in what respects the type held good.
I. IT WAS THE NOURISHMENT OF THE BODY, AS CHRIST IS OF THE SOUL. The manna constituted almost the sole nourishment of the Israelites from this time forth until they entered Canaan (Joshua 5:12). So Christ is the food of the soul during its entire pilgrimage through the wilderness of this world, until it reaches the true Canaan, heaven. The Israelites were in danger of perishing for lack of food—they murmured—and God gave them the manna. The world was perishing for lack of spiritual nourishment—it made a continual dumb complaint—and God heard, and gave his own Son from heaven. Christ came into the world, not only to teach it, and redeem it, but to be its "spiritual food and sustenance." He feeds us with the bread of life. He gives us his own self for nourishment. Nothing else can truly sustain and support the soul—not creeds, not sacraments, not even his own Word without him.
II. IT WAS GIVEN FREELY FOR ALL THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL, AS CHRIST IS GIVEN' TO BE THE SAVIOUR OF THE WHOLE WORLD. The manna fell all around the camp of Israel, close to them, so that they had but to stretch out the hand and take it. None could lack sufficient sustenance except by his own fault. If he refused to gather, be might starve; hut not otherwise. So Christ gave himself for all men, "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." His was "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world." Even they who know him not may be saved by him, "if they will do the works of the law written in their hearts," or, in other words, act up to the light that has been vouchsafed them. Thus, his salvation is free, and open to all. In Christian lands it is close to all, made palpable to all, shown them openly, daily pressed upon them. He who starves here in England can scarcely starve save by his own fault—because he will not stretch out his hand to gather of the bread of life, will not take it when it is offered to him, rejects it, despises it, "loathes" it.
III. IT WAS WHITE, AND SWEET TO THE TASTE, AS CHRIST IS PURE AND SPOTLESS, AND SWEET TO THE SOUL. A master mind of these modern times has made his hero, a well-disposed heathen, see in Christ, even before he could bring himself to believe in him, "the WHITE Christ." "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners," he presents himself to all who will read his life, and contemplate his character, as pure, stainless, innocent. The Lamb is his fitting emblem. Driven snow is not purer or more speckless. "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee" (So Exodus 4:7). And he is sweet also. "Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under thy tongue" (So Exodus 4:11). "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey unto my mouth!" (Psalms 119:103). His words, his life, his promises, his influence, his presence, are all sweet, especially the last. Let those who know him not, once "taste and see how gracious the Lord is," and they will desire no other nourishment.
IV. IT DESCENDED NOISELESSLY IN THE NIGHT. So Christ comes to us, not "with observation"—not in the wind, or in the fire, or in the earthquake, but in silence and in quietude, when other voices are hushed within us and about us, when we sit and watch, in patience possessing our souls. His doctrine drops as the rain, and his peace distils as the dew. It comes down "like the rain into a fleece of wool, even as the drops that water the earth." In the whirl of passion, in the giddy excitement of pleasure, in the active bustle of business, there is no room for Christ, no fit place for his presence. Christ comes to the soul when it is calm and tranquil, when it waits for him, and believing in his promise that he will come, is at rest.
V. IT REQUIRED TO BE GATHERED EARLY, AND IF NOT GATHERED MELTED AWAY. "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth." Unless we will seek Christ early, we have no warrant to expect that he will condescend to be found of us. If we slight him, if we dally with the world, if we put off seeking him till a "more convenient season," we may find, when we wake up from our foolish negligence, that he has withdrawn himself, has (as it were) melted away. If an Israelite put off his gathering of the manna until the sun was hot, he obtained nothing—the manna no longer lay ready to his hand. So with the Christian who is slothful, self-indulgent, careless—when, after long neglect, he at length seeks spiritual food, he may find it too late, the opportunity may be irrevocably gone.
Exodus 16:19, Exodus 16:20
God's curse upon ill-gotten gains.
In order to try the Israelites, whether they would be obedient to him or no (Exodus 16:4), God gave them, by the mouth of Moses, a positive law—"Let no man leave of the manna till the morning." By some the law was disobeyed. Disregarding the Divine command—perhaps distrusting the Divine promise (Exodus 16:4), to give them food day by day, a certain number of the Israelites, kept some of the manna till the morning. They wished to have a store laid up, on which they might subsist, should the daily supply fail. But God would not be disobeyed with impunity. His curse was on the ill-gotten gain—it bred worms and stank, becoming a source of annoyance both to themselves and their neighbours. So, God's curse is ever on ill-gotten gains—e.g.:—
I. WHEN MEN SET THEIR HEARTS ON HOARDING ALL THEY CAN. Some provision for the future is required of us. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard," says the wise man, "consider her ways, and be wise." "He that doth not provide for them of his own household," St. Paul declares, "is worse than an infidel." Prudence is a Christian, no less than a heathen virtue. But to hoard everything, to give nothing away, to make the accumulation of wealth our main object, is to fly in the face of a hundred plain precepts, and necessarily brings God's curse upon us. The wealth rots—the concerns wherein it is invested fail—it disappears and is brought to nought—and all our careful saving advantages us nothing. God vindicates his own honour; and disperses or destroys the hoard accumulated contrary to his will.
II. WHEN, TO AUGMENT THEIR HOARDS, MEN BREAK A DIVINE COMMAND. There are some who, in their haste to be rich, disregard the Divine injunction to keep holy one day in seven, and pursue their secular calling without any intermission. Conveyancers draw out their deeds, barristers study their briefs, business men balance their books, authors ply their pens, as busily on the Sunday as on week days. What blessing can be expected on the gains thus made? Is it not likely that they will breed corruption? Still more wholly under a curse are gains made by unlawful trades or dishonest practices—by the false weight or the scant measure, or the adulterated article—or again by usurious lending, by gaming, by brothel-keeping.
III. WHEN THE MOTIVE FOR THE HOARDING IS DISTRUST OF GOD'S PROMISES. God bids us not to be anxious for the morrow, what we shall eat, or what we shall drink, or what we shall put on (Matthew 6:31)—and promises that, if we will "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things shall be added unto us" (ib. 33). He caused holy David to declare—"I have been young and now am old, yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread." If men hoard in distrust of these gracious words, not believing that God will make them good, and thinking to assure the future of wife or child, or both, by their own accumulations, they provoke God to bring their accumulations to nothing. Riches, however invested, can make themselves wings and disappear, if God's blessing does not rest on their possessor.
HOMILIES BY H. T. ROBJOHNS
The manna of the body-A homily on providence.
"They said one to another, what is this? (marg.) for they wist not what it was" (Exodus 16:15). Introduction:—Trace the journey from Elim to the sea (Numbers 33:10); and thence to the wilderness of Sin; and give a thoroughly good exegetical exposition of the facts of the manna story. It would be well also to show the supernatural character of the manna; and, at the same time, that the manna supernatural was not unlike (and yet unlike also) the manna natural of the desert of to-day; that God, in a word, did not give the food of either Greenland or Australia in the Arabian wilderness. The spiritual lessons of the miracle move on two levels, one higher than the other. There is a body, and a soul: food for the one, and for the other. There are then in the manna story truths concerning Divine providence, and also touching Divine grace. Hence two homilies on the manna. This on the manna of providence.
I. BODILY NEED IS AN APPEAL TO GOD. Before Israel articulately prayed, its need cried: so now with twelve hundred millions of men. No man "gets his own living," but God gives it. Imagine one famine round the world, and every living thing would become dumb and dead. The world's need is one majestic monotone of prayer.
II. THE ANSWER IS FULL AND FREE. No stint in that desert—no stint now. A picture of the fulness with which God ever gives bread. There has never been such an event as universal famine. Psalms 104:21-28.
III. THERE IS MYSTERY IN THE ANSWER. Note the question of the text, and the wonder of the people, which was never relieved through all the forty years. So with bread to-day. A great mystery! A common thing to common minds; and perhaps to uncommon minds, that would like, as scientists, to bow all mystery out of the universe. But as there was mystery in the manna, so is there in every grain of corn. No scientist could produce one, were he to try for fifty years. Why? Because the secret of life is a secret of God; and the creation of organization lies in his own power alone.
IV. THE BLAME OF WANT IS NOT WITH GOD. The question arises: if God hears the moaning of the world's need, and gives answer, why is there so much want? Murmuring against Moses and Aaron, Israel murmured against the Lord; so we, grumbling against secondary causes, may be arraigning the First Cause. But the blame lies not there. Political economy might give answer to the question:—Why want? But behind its answers lie deeper causes—all summed up in the one word sin—not only the folly and sin (improvidence, drunkenness, etc. etc.) of the individual, but of all the ages, that is to say, self-centredness (the root principle of sin), forming and solidifying customs and institutions, which have for their effect the oppression and privation of millions. The instances are numberless.
V. But if all the heritage of sin were to disappear, MAN MUST WORK. Israel must gather manna. Here enforce, not only the dignity of work, but the Christian duty thereof. The idle, whether in high life or low, are the dangerous classes. If exempted from toil for bread, all the more obligation to labour for the good of man to the glory of God.
VI. YET—THERE MUST BE SABBATH.
VII. A HINT AGAINST MERE HOARDING. Distinguish between extravagance, a duo providence, and hoarding after a miserly fashion. The via media here, as elsewhere, the right ethical path.
VIII. The manna story gives us THE TRUE THEORY OF LIFE. See the view of Moses as to the purpose of the manna, in the light of experience, after the lapse of forty years, in Deuteronomy 8:3. (comp. Matthew 4:4). Man is to live, not for that which is lowest in him, but for that which is highest. Life is to be DEPENDENCE UPON GOD; 1.—For leading. 2:—For support. This was the object of the giving of the manna.—R.
Manna for the soul; a homily on grace.
"I am the living bread … he shall live for ever." John 6:51. Having given the manna story, discussed the miracle, and given the lessons bearing on our providential path, we now go up to the higher level, and listen to the truths taught in relation to the kingdom of God's grace. These gather round the central truth—that the Lord Jesus Christ is the nutriment of the soul. For that truth we have his own supreme authority. [See the full discourse from his own lips on the manna, in John 6:1-71.] Avoid small typologies—small every way—e.g; that the roundness of the manna stands for Christ's eternity; its whiteness for his purity; its sweetness for the preciousness of Christ. When men would estimate the majesty of a mountain they play not with the pebbles at its feet.
I. THE OBJECT OF GOD IN THE GIFT OF THE HEAVENLY MANNA. Why Christ? Long before Israel cried, the Father saw the coming distress; and resolved to give the manna to meet it. So with Christ. Christ was given for atonement, and to bring from under the cloud of condemnation; but also for other reasons beyond, to give life and strength to the moral and spiritual man. There is a rich provision in the world for the body and for the mind [describe]; but there is something higher in man—the spiritual—not only a ψυχή, but a πνεῦμα—for which provision must be made.
II. THE FAMINE OF THE SOUL WITHOUT CHRIST. Very difficult to imagine a world without bread; more to suppose a world without Christ. His name, his history, his death, his reign, his presence, power, and love are implied, and involved always, everywhere, in all the phenomena of life. But endeavour to imagine Christ annihilated—no name of Christ to entwine in the lullaby at the cradle, and so on through every stage and circumstance of life, till the dying moment—no Christ for the guilty, sinning, sorrowing, tempted, etc. etc. What a famine of the soul!
III. THE SUPPLY OF THE SOUL WITH CHRIST. Having seen what the world would be without Christ, see positively what Christ is to the world. The understanding cannot live without objective truth (mere opinion will not suffice); Christ is that truth: nor the heart without a supreme object of love; Christ that object: nor the conscience without authority behind its moral imperative; Christ is that authority: nor the will without a living inward abiding power; and Christ is that power. In very real and intelligible sense, Christ is the manna, bread, nutriment, sustenance, vitality, and power of the believing soul.
IV. THE FULNESS OF THE SUPPLY. All we need certainly in bread, probably in the manna, assuredly in Christ.
V. ITS FREENESS. Men may confuse themselves, and imagine they "get" their own bread. But manna was manifestly the free gift of heaven. So Christ. This the one truth, which it is so difficult for men to receive. See 1 John 5:11, 1 John 5:12; Romans 6:23.
VI. ITS MYSTERY. The name of the desert provision was "Man-Hu?"—"What is it?" Men did not solve the mystery ere they ate. Why should men wait to solve the mystery of Christ's person, office, etc. etc; ere they eat "the living bread"?
VII. ITS NEARNESS. Both the manna and Christ at every man's tent-door.
VIII. ITS APPROPRIATION. Vain that manna for the two millions, if no man went out to gather; so vain the all-sufficiency of Christ, if no man "comes," "believes," appropriates. John 6:35, John 6:37, John 6:40, John 6:47, John 6:57.
IX. ITS EVERY-DAYNESS. NO man can live upon a past experience of the sufficiency of Christ.
X. ITS ORDER. Full and free as the supply of manna was, its appropriation and use were under Divine direction, were according to a certain order. So are there now channels, means, ordinances of grace, which no man can safely neglect.
XI. THE AIM IN MAN'S APPROPRIATION. Not self-indulgence; not merely his own growth. No man an end unto himself. The final end of food is strength, work, good for others. The danger of middle-class evangelicalism is that of making personal salvation the ultimate aim of God's grace. We are saved, that we may save. The end of bread is labour.
XII. The subject carries our thoughts on to THE HIDDEN MANNA. Revelation 2:17. Ñ Christ will be the soul's nutriment in heaven. "Hidden," for there will be in heaven as yet undiscovered glories of Christ the Lord. For the final lesson see John 6:27.—R.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The provision of the manna.
This chapter contains an account of the first provision of miraculous bread for Israel in the wilderness. We are told very fully the circumstances in which it was given and the regulations for obtaining and using it. This provision of bread comes very appropriately after the visits to Marah and Elim. The waters had been made sure, and were soon to be made sure again (Exodus 17:1-16.); and now the bread is given (Isaiah 33:16). Before God takes the people to Sinai, he does everything to show that they may confidently depend on him for necessities, however vainly they look for superfluities. Consider—
I. THE STATE OF MIND AMONG THE ISRAELITES WHICH PRECEDED THIS GIFT. It is important to notice that such an ample, gracious and miraculous gift as Jehovah hero bestowed was bestowed on the unthankful and the evil. With many reasons for faith, they were unbelieving; instead of being patient and submissive, considerate towards their leader, and thankful for liberty, they broke out into selfish and unjust complaints. Things were going far otherwise than as they wanted them to go. They have now been a month or more out of Egypt and it is wilderness, wilderness, wilderness still! They have got water, but what is water without bread; and what is bread, unless it be the bread along with the flesh of Egypt? And, letting their minds dwell on these lost delicacies, their discontent breaks out in the most expressive way. Discontent is assuredly at a high pitch in a man's mind, when he begins to talk of death as a thing to be desired. It shows that he has got so reckless and peevish as not to care what he says, what others may think, or who may be hurt by his random talk. The low ideal of life on the part of Israel is here revealed. God has delivered a whole nation, and this is their idea of why he has delivered them. They think a life, from which the flesh pots and the fulness of bread are absent, is not worth living; and such is indeed a very excusable conception of life, if hunger and thirst after righteousness have not become vigorous desires within us. If one is to become a freeman simply to die, then it seems as if one might just as well live a little longer as a slave. Note further how the people try to throw the responsibility of their present position on Moses. It was a consequence of their carnal-mindedness that they could not think of the Jehovah who was behind and above the visible leader. They are where they are because Moses has brought them. Thus they utter an unconscious but weighty and significant testimony to the fact, that they had not come there of their own accord or wandered there in an aimless fashion. But for the mighty power that held them fast together, they might have straggled back to Egypt with its comforts and delights. Strange that with such a rebellious spirit, there should yet be such a measure of outward obedience. Evidently they had invisible constraints all around them, so that they could not help but follow the cloud.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH GOD TREATS THIS STATE OF MIND. As he dealt in supplying the water so he deals in supplying the bread. There was a real and pressing want, and though the people made it the occasion for foolish talk, it was also to be the occasion for immediate Divine supply. God does not let the existence of the unthankful and evil fail, for presently, at Sinai, they will have the chance of learning such things as may lead them into a thankful, trustful and noble spirit; and so he hastens to meet Moses with the cheering promise—cheering in the substance of it, and cheering none the less in the expression—"I will rain bread from heaven."
1. They shall have bread. He does not yet tell Moses what shape the bread will take; but the people shall have something to sustain them, and that something in sufficient quantity.
2. The bread shall be rained from heaven. We do not read that Moses repeated this expression to the Israelites; but it must have been very cheering to himself. The words "rain" and "heaven" were enough to put fresh courage into the man. Then we find too that when the promise came to be fulfilled, these words were not taken in a figurative way. The manna came with the dew, and when the dew disappeared there the manna lay, waiting to be gathered. Hence for the supply of bread the people were to look heavenward; and doubtless Moses himself did so look. In whatsoever part of the wilderness they might be, however sterile and unpromising the earth was below, the same heavens stretched out above them, distilling from their treasuries the daily manna. The contrast is thus very striking between the varying earth and the unchanging, exhaustless heaven; and as to the rain, we may be very sure that when God says, "I will rain," he means a copious and adequate shower. But even in this immediate promise of copious giving Jehovah combines demands with gifts. If there is great grace, there are great expectations. He gives and at the same time he asks. He points out to Moses the manner in which the food was to be gathered. Though given copiously, it was not therefore given carelessly; nor was it to be used carelessly. It was given on certain principles and with certain restrictions, so as to be not only the means of staying hunger but of disciplining Israel at the same time. In eating bread, they were to learn habitual faith and habitual and exact obedience. God is ever showing men how he can make one thing to serve more purposes than one.
III. THE EXPOSTULATIONS OF MOSES AND AARON WITH THE PEOPLE (Exodus 16:6-10). Though it is not expressly said that he spoke thus by Jehovah's instructions, yet these remonstrances evidently accorded with his will. For the people to complain as they (lid was not only an unjust thing to Moses; it was also a perilous thing for themselves. They could not thus vent their spleen on the visible Moses without despising the invisible God. Their insult to their brother man on earth was as nothing compared with their insult to Jehovah on high. And, indeed, we cannot too much consider that all murmuring, when it is brought to its ultimate ground and effects, is a reproach against God. For it is either a complaint because we cannot get our own way, or it is an impeachment of God's way as not being a loving and a wise one. What a different scene life would become, how much more equable, serene and joyous, if we could only take the invisible as well as the visible into all our thoughts. The people felt the lack of bread, the loss of Egypt, the hardships of a life unfamiliar and unprepared for; and Moses could sympathise with all these feelings; although of course, after forty years of shepherd life in Midian, the hardships his brethren complained of were as nothing to him. But at the same time, Moses felt very keenly what many of his brethren did not feel at all, the mysterious presence of God. More and more distinctly would the words now be rising to his mind, "Ye shall serve God upon this mountain" (Exodus 3:12); for the cloud was taking the multitude nearer and nearer to Sinai. It is very significant of the feeling in Moses' mind that he dwells on this charge of murmuring, returning to the word again and again. He wanted these people who so felt the pangs of hunger to be equally sensitive to the perils of impiety. Jehovah had heard their reckless speeches as well as Moses; and now, in recognition, he was about to make manifest his glorious presence. The connection of the cloud with himself was to be proved by the appearing of his glory in it. What the people found fault with was that they had been guided wrong: and now the nature of the guidance stands out, distinct, impressive, and full of warning. He who found fault with Moses really found fault with Jehovah. Remember the words of Jesus: "He that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me." (Luke 10:16.) If we presumptuously neglect the apostleship of any one, we have to do with the Being who made him an apostle. Wherefore we should show all diligence to keep murmuring off our lips; and the only effectual way is to keep it out of our hearts by filling them with a continual sense of the presence of God. Instead of murmuring, let there be honest shame because of the selfishness that runs riot in our hearts. God can do everything to make our lives joyous, and banish causes of complaint for ever, if only we will take right and sufficient views of his purposes toward us and his claims upon us.
IV. THE ACTUAL GIVING. Here again we notice the tender and gentle dealings of God. The necessary and permanent supply of bread is preceded by a special and occasional supply of quails. By this gift he, as it were, runs towards Israel to soothe their murmurings. The flesh of Egypt was the thing they missed the most, and it comes first, in the evening; whereas the manna did not come till the next morning. By this supply of the quails God showed an attentiveness to the feelings of the people which should have had the best effect on their minds. They murmured against Moses, forgot Jehovah, and yet Jehovah gave them in reply a delightful feast of quails. So to speak, he was heaping coals of fire on their heads: and we should take special note of this Divine conduct, just in this particular place. It is very natural that as we consider Israel in the wilderness, we should think of God's severity rather than any other feature of his character. The whole tenor of the New Testament—the contrast between the law and the gospel—makes this view inevitable. But as we read the whole of this chapter, and ponder it carefully, how shall we do other than confess "Verily, Jehovah is love"? It is love that leads to Sinai. And assuredly there is not less of love in the thunders, lightnings and terrors of Sinai than in the gift of the quails. The expression is different—that is all. The quails were but a slight, passing thing, bestowed upon Israel much as a toy is bestowed on a child. There is love in the gift of a toy; but there is love also in the discipline and chastisement which soon may follow from the same hand. So there was love in the quails; but there was equal love, stretching out to far deeper results, in the demonstrations of Sinai and the commandments which accompanied them.—Y.
HOMILIES BY G. A. GOODHART
He nurtured them in the wilderness.
Continual mention of murmurings; yet all such murmurings do not meet the same treatment (cf. Numbers 11:31-33). Much alike to outward seeming, but not so in the sight of God. (illustration—the ruddy hue of health; the hot flush of passion; the hectic of consumption. All much alike in appearance, yet how different to those who know what they betoken!) Comparing the history of one murmuring with that of another, we can see by God's treatment of each how different must have been the states from which they resulted. Here it is the impatience of ill-instructed children; later on, it has become hostility and rebellion. Consider in this case:—
I. THE SYMPTOMS. Cf. Exodus 16:3. The monotony of the wilderness had had time to tell upon the people; so different from the varied routine of Egypt. Slavery, too, had become, from long use, almost a second nature with many; they had chafed under it, yet, in some sort, they had relied upon its restraint as a support. After the first novelty has passed, unaccustomed freedom is felt to be a weariness. (Illustration: The cripple rejoices to be quit of his supporting irons and crutches, but without them, at first, he soon tires.) Present privation, contrasted with past sufficiency, intensified the misgivings which were sure to come when the new life was fairly entered upon. Freedom wedded to starvation seemed to be but a poor exchange for tyranny. "The people murmured." It was the murmuring of the half-weaned child, the yet weak though enfranchised cripple; it expressed itself in strong language; but the language was stronger than the offence. Under the circumstances murmming was so natural that it did not call for severe censure; it was rather a symptom of imperfect health, suggesting the need of strengthening medicine.
II. THE TREATMENT. God knew what was the matter; His action shows His knowledge. No rebuke, only a promise, which is to be, and is, fulfilled immediately. A table spread in the wilderness; the love of freedom revived and strengthened, nurtured by the longed-for food. What should be the effect of such treatment? It stays murmuring, of course; but, further, it should strengthen against further murmuring. On the other hand, whilst it may, as it ought to do, lead to reliance upon the provider, it may also lead to reliance upon the food provided.
1. God treats us all according to our real character and position "How unjust," says one, "that that man should have so much easier a time than I. That my comparatively slight offence should be punished so much more heavily than his, which is far more heinous!" Nay! By What standard do you measure the relative enormity of the offences? God's standard is character and experience; the child's open defiance is less heinous than the man's half-veiled impatience.
2. God's treatment should inspire confidence in Himself. All God's gifts are index fingers saying, "Look off from us to God." Our tendency is to rest upon them and credit them as the causes of the satisfaction they occasion. The same medicine may not be appropriate next time, but the same doctor may be trusted. If we forget the doctor and think only of the medicine, we shall be as irritable and dissatisfied as ever; only by confidence in the Physician himself can we hope to go on "from strength to strength."—G.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Christ the bread from heaven.
The manna, which is described in Exodus 16:4 as "bread from heaven," was typical of Christ, who is "the true bread from heaven"—"the bread of God which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world" (John 6:31-34). The connection in John 6:1-71. is with the Jews' demand for a sign. The interrogators reminded Christ of how their fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it was written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat! (Psalms 105:40). The design of Jesus in his reply was, first, to wean their hearts away from merely carnal expectations in connection with his appearing, and, secondly, to lead them to see in the gift of manna, as well as in the miracle he had just performed—the feeding of the multitudes—some-thing more than the mere supplying of bodily necessities;—to see in them "signs" (John 6:26—"Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs," etc. Rev. Ver.) i.e. types, allegories, suggestive earthly symbols, of spiritual realities—of what he was in himself, of the work he came to do, of the relations in which he stood to perishing men. The manna is thus figured as "spiritual meat" (1 Corinthians 10:3), a type of Christ as the living bread for the souls of men. Consider in illustration of this analogy—
I. THE NEED WHICH EXISTED FOR THIS PROVISION. The Israelites were in the desert, where nature, if left to itself, would inevitably perish. Their supplies of food were exhausted. The whole multitude would have died of hunger, had not Divine mercy interposed for their relief. The manna which God gave them literally stood between them and death. In this circumstance we see one feature imaged in which Christ clearly appears as the bread of life. When he uses: this language of himself he means to tell us, that just as these Israelites under Moses absolutely hung for any hope of life they had on that food which was miraculously supplied to them; so does the world hang—hang absolutely—for its life, its salvation, its eternal well-being on him. It needs eternal life. Its heart craves for it. It is perishing for want of it. But if it is ever to get it, Christ says, it must get it through him, through receiving him, through appropriating what he is, and what he has done for it as Saviour.
II. THE SUPERNATURAL CHARACTER OF THE PROVISION. There could be no question as to the supernatural character of the supply in the case of the manna. The Israelites needed to be saved, and God saved them by a miracle. There was, as it were, a distinct opening of heaven for their benefit. The hand that fed them came from the unseen. In like manner, Christ lays emphasis on the fact that he—the bread of life for men—is "bread from heaven." The salvation that embodies itself in him is no salvation of man's devising, nor one which, even had the thought of it entered his mind, man could ever from his own resources have achieved. If the world is to be saved at all, if it is to be delivered from its woes, if it is to have eternal life, Saviour and salvation must come from heaven. Our hope, as of old, is in God, and in God only. It is not for us to provide, but only thankfully to receive, and earnestly to appropriate the salvation. God gives us the bread from heaven; gives it freely; gives it as bread which no efforts of our own, however laborious, could have enabled us to procure; gives it, that is, as a Divine, supernatural bread, the boon of sovereign grace.
III. THE AMPLE ABUNDANCE OF THE PROVISION. The manna was given in abundance. There was neither lack nor stint. The table that was spread in the wilderness was one of royal bounty; as in the later miracle of the loaves, "they did all eat, and were filled" (Matthew 14:20). There was, as in the father's house in the parable, "Enough and to spare" (Luke 15:17), overflowing provision. How significant a fact when the heart is putting to itself the question, Will Christ's death avail for me? He calls himself "the true bread which cometh down from heaven;" and it cannot be but that this feature in the type will be reflected in the antitype. There is provision in Christ for all. He gives his flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51). He is come that men "might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). No stint, no lack, no scarcity in the salvation of Christ.
IV. THE PROVISION NOW, AS THEN, NEEDS TO BE APPROPRIATED. It was nothing to the Israelites that the manna, sparkling like pearls in the morning sunshine, lay all around them; they must gather, they must eat, they must make the "bread from heaven" food for their own life. So with Christ and his salvation. He calls himself "bread," to bring out strongly, not only what he is in himself in relation to human wants, but what men must do with him, if they would partake in the life he comes to give. He must be received, "eaten," inwardly appropriated, fed upon, made part, so to speak, of our very selves; only thus will the new life be begotten in us. This "eating" of Christ is parallel with the "believing" of other verses (John 6:29, John 6:40, John 6:47). Some, remembering this, may be disposed to say, it is only believing. But the use of such a metaphor should rather teach us how real, and inward, and appropriating a principle, this believing on Jesus is. It is clearly no slight, transitory act of mind or heart which is denoted by it, but a most spiritual, most inward, most vital and personal energy of appropriation; a process of reception, digestion, and transformation into spiritual substance, and new powers of spiritual life, of what we have in the Saviour. How great Christ must be, who thus declares himself to be the bread of life for the whole world—the support and food (consciously or unconsciously) of all the spiritual life there is in it! No wonder that the work of works which God requires of us is that we believe on him whom he has sent (John 6:29).
V. WHAT THERE IS IN CHRIST WHICH CONSTITUTES HIM THE WORLD'S BREAD OF LIFE. We set aside as unsupported the analogies which some have sought between the roundness, sweetness, whiteness, etc; of the manna, and qualities in the person and work of the Redeemer. It is, however, clear that if Christ is the antitype of the manna, and the true bread which cometh down from heaven, it must be in virtue of certain qualities in him which admit of being specified. And what these are, it is not difficult to show. He is the bread of life to men—
1. As incarnate God. In the humanity of Jesus Christ, the Divine is brought near to us, and made apprehensible, and provision is also made for the communication of the Divine life in its fullest, richest form to our souls. In him dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). He is the medium of the communication of that Divine fulness to us (1Jn 1:1-10 :16). In him, the Divine life is embodied in a holy, perfect humanity; and in that form—a form which brings it within our reach, which makes apprehension and assimilation possible—it is presented to us to be partaken of.
2. As an atoning Saviour. Did Christ not bear this character of Atoner, he would not be truly bread of life to the guilty. Our guilt, our sin, our whole moral condition, stands between us and God, an insuperable barrier to the peace and fellowship for which we crave. But Christ has taken away that barrier. He has made a sacrifice of himself for sin (John 6:51). To appropriate what I have in Christ, is, accordingly, to appropriate to myself the certainty of forgiveness through his death, the assurance of peace with God, the knowledge of reconciliation. And to have done this is already to have begun to live. It is to feel the awakening within me of new-born powers of love, and trust, and service; to feel the dread and despair that before possessed me vanishing like a dark nightmare from my spirit, to be replaced by the joy of pardon, and the sense of the Divine favour. It is to realise the accomplishment of that spiritual change which the Scriptures describe as a "passing from death unto life" (John 5:24). "Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
3. As a life-giving Spirit. Jesus is what he is to man, in virtue of his possession of the holy, life-giving Spirit—the personal Holy Ghost—by whom he dwells in the hearts of his people, and through whom he communicates to them all the fulness of his own life. This operation of the Spirit is already implied in what we have said of the results of faith in him. He is the effectual agent in converting, quickening, enlightening, sanctifying, comforting, strengthening, beautifying, and spiritually edifying the souls of such as attain to salvation. The influences of this Spirit in the soul are but another name for eternal life. And Christ is the giver of this Spirit. It is from him the Spirit comes. His work on earth has opened the way for the free communication of the Spirit's influences. He dwells by this Spirit in each of his members, nourishing, strengthening, and purifying them, To nourish ourselves upon Christ is to take more of this Spirit into our hearts and lives. Thus is Christ the bread of life.—J.O.
The law of the manna.
God had said (Exodus 16:4) that rules would be given in connection with the manna by which the people would be proved, whether they would walk in his law, or no. One rule is given in Exodus 16:5, and the rest are given here. Consider—
I. THE LAW AS TO QUANTITY (Exodus 16:10-18). "According to his eating," in this passage, means, according to the quantity allowed to each person for consumption. This was fixed at an omer a head (Exodus 16:16). The simplest way of explaining what follows is to suppose that each individual, when he went out to gather, aimed, as nearly as possible, at bringing in his exact omer; but, necessarily, on measuring what had been gathered, it would be found that some had brought in a little more, some a little less, than the exact quantity; excess was then to go to balance defect, and the result would be that, on the whole, each person would receive his omer. It may be supposed, also, that owing to differences of age, strength, agility, etc; there would be great room left for one helping another, some gathering more, to eke out the deficiencies of the less active. If the work were conscientiously done, the result, even on natural principles, would be pretty much what is here indicated. The law of averages would lead, over a large number of eases, to a mean result, midway between excess and defect, i.e; to the net omer. But a special superintendence of providence—such, e.g; as that which secures in births, amidst all the inequalities of families, a right proportion of the sexes in society as a whole—is evidently pointed to as securing the result. We cannot suppose, however, that an intentionally indolent or unconscientious person was permitted to participate in this equal dividend, or to reap, in the way indicated, the benefit of the labours of others. The law here must have been, as with St. Paul," if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). There is nothing said as to the share to be allotted to juveniles: these may be supposed to have received some recognised proportion of an omer. The lessons of all this and its importance as a part of the spiritual education of Israel, are very obvious. It taught—
1. That what is of Divine gift is meant for common benefit. The individual is entitled to his share in it; but he is not entitled selfishly to enrich himself, while others are in need. He gets that he may give. There was to be a heavenly communism practised in respect of the manna, in the same way as a common property is recognised in light and air, and the other free gifts of nature. This applies to intellectual and spiritual wealth. We are not to rest till all have shared in it according to their God-given capacity.
2. That in the Church of Christ it is the duty of the stronger to help the weaker, and of the richer to help the poorer. This is the lesson drawn from the passage by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:12-16. It is presumed in his teaching, first, that there is the "willing mind," in which case a gift "is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not" (2 Corinthians 8:12). Each gatherer of the manna was honestly to do his part, and put what he could into the common stock. The end is not, secondly, that other men be eased, and the Corinthians burdened (2 Corinthians 8:13). But, each doing what he can, the design is, thirdly, that the abundance of one may be a supply, for the deficiency of another, that so there may he equality (2 Corinthians 8:14). This is a principle of wide application in Church finance, and also in the aiding of the poor. Strong congregations should not be slow to aid weak ones, that the work of the latter may go on more smoothly, and their ministers may at least be able to subsist comfortably. The Scottish Free Church has given a praiseworthy illustration of this principle in her noble "Sustentation Fund."
3. That where a helpful spirit is shown by each towards all, there will be found no lack of what is needful for any. God will see that all are provided for. The tendency of the rule is to encourage a friendly, helpful, unselfish spirit generally, and in all relations. The gatherer of manna was forbidden to act selfishly. A Nemesis would attend an attempt on the part of any to appropriate more than his proper share.
II. THE LAW AS TO TIME.
1. The manna was to be gathered in early morning. The people had to be up betimes, and had to bestir themselves diligently, that their manna might be collected before "the sun waxed hot" (2 Corinthians 8:21). If not collected then, the substance melted away, and could not be had at all. A lesson, surely, in the first instance, of diligence in business; and secondly, of the advantage of improving morning hours. The most successful gatherer of manna, whether in the material, intellectual, or spiritual fields, is he who is up and at his work early. Albert Barnes tells us that all his commentaries were due to this habit of rising early in the morning, the whole of them having been written before nine o'clock in the day, and without encroaching on his proper ministerial duties.
2. On six days of the week only (2 Corinthians 8:5). God teaches here the lesson of putting forward our work on week days, that we may be able to enjoy a Sabbath free from distraction. He puts honour on the ordinance of the Sabbath itself, by requiring that no work be done upon it.
III. THE LAW AS TO USE (2 Corinthians 8:19). None of the manna was to be left till the morning. We have here again a double lesson.
1. A lesson against hoarding. God gave to each person his quantity of manna; and the individual had no right to more. What excess he had in his gathering ought to have gone to supplement some other person's deficiency. But greed led slime of the Israelites to disobey. It would save them trouble to lay by what they did not need, and use it again next day. They might make profit out of it by barter. All such attempts God defeated by ordaining that the manna thus hoarded should breed worms, and grow corrupt. A significant emblem of the suicidal effects of hoarding generally. Hoarded treasure is never an ultimate benefit to its possessor. It corrupts alike in his heart and his bands. It breeds worms of care to him, and speedily becomes a nuisance (cf. Matthew 6:19, Matthew 6:20).
2. A lesson against distrust. Another motive for laying up the manna would be to provide for the morrow in case of any failure in the supply. But this was in direct contradiction to God's end in giving the people their manna day by day, viz; to foster trust, and keep alive their sense of dependence on him. Christ warns us against the spirit of distrust, and of anxiety for the morrow, and teaches us to pray for "daily bread" (Matthew 6:11, Matthew 6:31). We should not even desire to be independent of God.
IV. THE FAILURE OF THE PEOPLE TO OBSERVE THESE LAWS, They failed at each point. They tried to hoard (2 Corinthians 8:20). They went out to gather on the Sabbath (Verse 27). This showed both disobedience and unbelief, for it had been distinctly said of the seventh day, "in it there shall be none" (verse 26). What a lesson!—
1. Of the sottish insensibility of human nature to God's great acts of goodness. God had miraculously supplied their wants, yet so little sensible were they of his goodness—so little did it influence them—that they declined to obey even the few simple rules he had laid down for the reception and use of his benefits.
2. Of its ineradicable contumacy and self-will (cf. Deuteronomy 9:1-29.; and Psalms 78:1-72, and Psalms 106:1-48.).—J.O.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
Divine provision for daily need.
I. THE LORD'S FAITHFULNESS.
1. Their varied need was met. Flesh as well as bread was given. God gives us richly all things to enjoy.
2. They came in the order and at the time God said they would come. The evening brought the quails—the morning the manna. Nothing failed of all that he had promised.
3. They were given in abundance. The quails "covered the camp;" of the manna they "had no lack." There is princely bounty with God for all who trust in him. He gives richly, even where he has made no covenant: he fills "men's hearts with food and gladness." How much more then will he bless those whom he has pledged himself to sustain!
II. THE SPIRIT OF THOSE WHO ARE THUS FED FROM GOD'S TABLE.
1. They wait on him. The supply he sends is only for the day, and he is trusted for the days that are to follow. They do not refuse to pass on further upon the wilderness path, because they do not see at the beginning all the needed provision for the way.
2. They obey God's call to toil.
(1) They "gathered" of it every man according to his eating."
(2) They did not miss the opportunity God gave them. "When the sun waxed hot it melted;" and they therefore gathered it "in the morning." Be "not slothful in business."
III. ISRAEL'S FAITHLESSNESS.
1. In attempting to save themselves from the toil which God commanded, they kept the manna for next day's use in defiance of the command to preserve none of it till the morning (Exodus 16:27).
2. In refusing to rest on the Sabbath. The contradiction and wilfulness of unbelief: it hoards to be able to abstain from toil, and refuses to obey God's command to rest.
3. Public indifference to the existence of sin. These things were done by a few only; but they called forth no public condemnation or holy fear of God's anger. The Christian community which does not mourn the sin abounding in its midst has itself no living trust in God.—U.
THE GATHERING OF THE SIXTH DAY. When the Israelites, having collected what seemed to them the usual quantity of manna on the sixth day, brought it home and measured it, they found the yield to be, not an omer a head for each member of the family, but two omers. The result was a surprise and a difficulty. They could not consume more than an omer a-piece. What was to be done with the remainder? Was it to be destroyed, or kept? If kept, would it not "breed worms"? To resolve their doubts, the elders brought the matter before Moses, who replied—"This is that which the Lord hath said." It is to be supposed that, in his original announcement to the elders of God's purposes as to the manna, Moses had informed them that the quantity would be double on the sixth day (Exodus 16:5); but his statement had not made any deep impression at the time, and now they had forgotten it. So he recalls it to their recollection. "This is no strange thing—nothing that should have surprised you—it is only what God said would happen. And the reason of it is, that to-morrow, the seventh day is, by God's ordinance, the rest of the Holy Sabbath,"—or rather "a rest of a holy Sabbath to the Lord." Whether or no the Sabbath was a primeval institution, given to our first parents in Paradise (Genesis 2:3), may be doubted: at any rate, it had not been maintained as an institution by the Hebrews during their sojourn in Egypt; and this was, practically, to them, the first promulgation of it. Hence, in the original, it is not called "the sabbath," as if already known, but "a sabbath,"—i.e; a rest—until Exodus 16:29.
This is that which the Lord hath said. Rather, "said," i.e; declared to me when he announced the manna. See Exodus 16:5. It has been supposed that Moses had not communicated the declaration to the elders; but this seems unlikely. The rest of the holy sabbath. If this translation were correct, the previous institution of the sabbath, and the knowledge of its obligation by the Hebrews, would follow; but the absence of the article is a strong indication that the whole idea was new, at any rate to those whom Moses was addressing. Bake that which ye will bake, etc. "Do," i.e; "as you have done on other days—bake some and seethe some—but also reserve a portion to be your food and sustenance to-morrow."
They laid it up. The great bulk of the Israelites obeyed Moses, and laid by a portion (half?) of the manna gathered on the sixth day. On the morning of the seventh, this was found to be perfectly good, and not to have "bred worms" in the night. Either this was a miracle, or the corruption previously noticed (Exodus 16:20) was miraculous.
Exodus 16:25, Exodus 16:26
And Moses said. The Sabbath being come, Moses explained fully the reason for the order which he had given, and generalized it. God required the Sabbath to be "a day of holy rest"—no manna would fall on it, and therefore none could be gathered—the produce of the sixth day's gathering would be found to suffice both for the sixth day and the seventh.
There went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather. There will always be some persons in a nation, or in a Church, who will refuse to believe God's ministers, and even God himself. They persuade themselves that they "know better"—it will not be as announced—it will be as they wish it to be. More especially is this so where the idea of continuance comes in—where some interruption of the ordinary course of things is announced, which they deem unlikely or impossible. Compare Genesis 19:14.
How long refuse ye to keep my commandments! Though Moses is addressed, it is the people who are blamed. Hence the plural verb, "refuse ye." Already there had been one act of disobedience in connection with the manna (see Exodus 16:20)—now there was another—when would such sinful folly come to an end? When would the people learn that they could gain nothing by disobedience? It was "long" indeed before they were taught the lesson.
See, for that, etc. Rather, "See, that." Consider that God has given you the Sabbath, or the holy rest: and therefore it is that he gives you on the sixth day the food for two days—that the rest may not be interfered with. abide ye every man in his place. One Jewish sect, the Masbothei, took this command absolutely literally, and held that in whatsoever position a man was at the commencement of the Sabbath day, he was bound to retain it to the close. But generally it was held that the "place" intended was the camp, which the Israelites were forbidden to quit; and hence was derived the idea of the "sabbath day's journey," which was reckoned at six stadia—the supposed distance of the furthest bounds of the camp from its centre.
So the people rested. Having found by experience that nothing was to be gained by seeking manna on the sabbath, and received the severe rebuke of Exodus 16:28, the people henceforth obeyed the new commandment, and "rested on the sabbath day." Of the nature of the "rest" intended more will be said in the comment on Exodus 20:8-11.
The institution of the Sabbath.
That, in some sense, the Sabbath was instituted in Paradise seems to follow from Genesis 2:3. It was at any rate then set apart by Divine counsel and decree. And it is quite possible that a revelation of its sanctity was made to Adam. The week of seven days may, however, have arisen simply out of the lunar month, the four weeks corresponding to the moon's four phases. In any case, as the early Egyptians had no such institution as a weekly sabbath, and certainly would not have tolerated abstinence from work on the part of their Hebrew slaves one day in seven, we must suppose that the sabbatical rest, if ever known to the Hebrews, had fallen into desuetude during their Egyptian sojourn. God now formally either instituted or re-instituted it. He seized the occasion of giving the manna, to mark in the strongest way, and impress upon the people, the strict observance of a sabbatical rest, which forty years' experience would engrain into the habits of the nation. The chief practical points of interest connected with Sabbath observance in the present condition of the Christian world are—
1. The relation of the Christian Sunday to the Jewish Sabbath;
2. The authority upon which the change of day has been made; and
3. The proper mode of keeping the Lord's day at the present time.
A few words will be said on each of these points.
I. THE RELATION OF THE CHRISTIAN SUNDAY TO THE JEWISH SABBATH. Both the Christian Sunday and the Jewish Sabbath have for their basis the expediency of assigning to the worship and contemplation of God some definite and regularly recurring portions of human life, instead of leaving individuals free to choose their own times and seasons. Temperal concerns so much occupy men, that, if there were no definite rule, they would be apt to push religious observance into the odd corners of human life, if not even to oust it altogether. This evil is prevented, or at any rate checked, by the appointment of a recurrent day, which is also almost a necessity for the practice of common worship. In both the Christian and the Jewish religion the same proportion of time is fixed upon, the appointment being that of one day out of seven, or one-seventh part of life, which certainly cannot be said to be an undue requirement. Thus far then the two institutions resemble one the other; but in the primary characteristics of the observance there is a remarkable contrast. The Jewish Sabbath was emphatically a day of holy rest—the Christian Sunday is a day of holy activity. The keynote of our Lord's teaching on the subject is to be found in the words—"It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day." The Jews thought they "hallowed the Sabbath" by mere inaction—some, as we have seen, would not move all day from the place and attitude in which their waking moments found them. Christ taught that there was no virtue in idleness. "My Father worketh hitherto" (on the Sabbath), he said, "and I work." On the Sabbath day he did his miracles, he taught the people, he walked through the cornfields, he journeyed to Emmaus. And the Christian Church has, in the main, continued true to her Founder's teaching. The Christian Sunday has been, and is, a day of holy joy and holy activity. Ministers are of necessity more active on it than on any other. Lay people have felt it to be the special day for imitating their Lord in "going about and doing good"—in teaching the ignorant, visiting the poor and the afflicted—reading to them, praying with them, ministering to their necessities. Cessation from worldly business has come to be the rule on the Lord's day, not from any superstitious regard for mere rest, but in order that the active duties peculiarly belonging to the day shall not be neglected.
II. Although exception may be taken to the expression—used in a tract attributed to Athanasius—that "our Lord changed the Jewish Sabbath into the Lord's day," yet, practically speaking, it cannot be denied that such a change has been made; the Christian Sunday has taken the place of the Jewish Sabbath, and occupies in the Christian system the position which the Sabbath occupied in the Jewish. By what authority, then, has the change been made? How are Christians justified in keeping holy the first day instead of the seventh? Not, certainly, by any direct command of our Lord, for none such is recorded. Not even by any formal decision of the Apostolic college, for the question was untouched at the only council which they are known to have held (Acts 15:6-29). But, as it would seem, by consentient apostolic practice. The apostles appear, both by Scripture and by the records of primitive Christian antiquity, to have practically made the change—i.e; they sanctioned the discontinuance of seventh-day observance (Colossians 2:16; Galatians 4:9, Galatians 4:10), and they introduced first-day observance in its stead (John 20:19, John 20:26; Acts 2:1, Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). They regarded the Jewish sabbath as abrogated with the rest of the ceremonial law; and they established by their own authority, and doubtless by the direction of the Holy Ghost, the keeping holy of the "Lord's Day," by meetings for Holy Communion, worship, and instruction on that, the first day of the week, instead.
III. With respect to the proper mode of keeping the Lord's Day at the present time, there would seem to be different degrees of obligation as to different parts of the customary observance. Attendance at Holy Communion, and by analogy at other services, has distinct apostolic sanction (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25), and is obligatory in the highest sense. Cessation from worldly business is a matter of ecclesiastical arrangement, in which individual Christians should follow the regulations or traditions of their own ecclesiastical community. Mere inaction should not be regarded as in any sense a "keeping" of the day—the time abstracted from worldly affairs should be given to prayer, reading of the Scriptures, and works of mercy. Gentle and healthful exercise should not be interrupted, being needful to make the body a useful instrument of the soul. Relaxations, not required by adults or by those who are rich, should be allowed to children and to the poor, every care being taken that Sunday be not made to them a day of gloom, restraint, and discomfort. Sunday was intended to be the Christian's weekly festival, a day of cheerfulness and holy joy, a foretaste of the joys of Heaven.
"The Sundays of man's life,
Threaded together on Time's siring,
Make bracelets for the wife
Of the Eternal King.
On Sunday, heaven's gate stands open
Blessings are plentiful and ripe—
More plentiful than hope."
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The Manna and the Sabbath.
I. THE FACT OF MANNA BEING GIVEN ON SIX DAYS, AND NOT ON THE SEVENTH IS A PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF THE SABBATH, It would certainly seem from this passage that the Israelites had not up to this time been very good Sabbath keepers; that if they knew of any special distinction attaching to the seventh day, they had no very strict ideas as to its observance; that its sanctity was but little recognised by them. It could scarcely have been otherwise with a people just escaped from a long and degrading bondage. It does not follow, however. that this was the first institution of the Sabbath. There is every reason for believing the contrary. That God had the Sabbath in view in the arrangements made, and the laws laid down, about the manna, every one admits. The only question which arises is, whether these arrangements were modelled on the basis of a division of time already existing, or whether this was absolutely the first indication to mankind of a weekly day of rest.
1. Presumptively—this latter alternative seems improbable. It is incredible that so important an institution as the Sabbath should be introduced in this casual, unannounced way—should be taken for granted in certain outward arrangements relating to a different matter, and then, when curiosity has been excited by these arrangements, should be first made known by the side-door of an explanation of the novel injunctions. Such a case of the existence of an important institution being assumed before the law which gives it existence has been either promulgated or heard of, is without precedent or parallel in history. It seems plain that whether Israel knew of the existing Sabbath or not, God did, and framed his arrangements in view of it. The inference is that the religious observance of the seventh day had been sanctioned by old tradition, but had fallen largely into desuetude.
2. On Biblical grounds—it seems certain that the Sabbath is of older date than the sojourn in the wilderness. We need not review all the evidence which points in the direction of a primeval institution of the Sabbath. It is sufficient to instance the primary text upon the subject (Genesis 2:1-4), which speaks with a voice as plain as could well be wished to those who are willing to hear.
3. Historically—it has been recently proved that the Sabbath was known in ancient Assyria and Babylonia, long before the days of Moses. into Orientalist will any longer question, in face of the evidence furnished by the recently deciphered cuneiform tablets, that a Sabbath was observed in Assyria in the days of Sardanapalus, and for ages previously. But the ancient Arcadian records, which go as far back as 2000 b.c; and many of which have been deciphered by the aid of competent Assyrian translators, show that a Sabbath was observed in the very earliest time. The very name "Sabattu," with the meaning "a day of rest for the heart," has been found in the old Arcadian tongue. Special points in these researches will need confirmation, but on the whole, the early and wide-spread observance of the Sabbath must be held as established. In the light of Oriental discovery, it will soon be regarded as an anachronism to speak of prolepsis in connection with Genesis 2:1-4; or to urge the view that the Sabbath is a purely Judaic institution, and originated with Moses.
II. THE RULE FOR GATHERING A DOUBLE SUPPLY OF MANNA ON THE SIXTH DAY, AND LAYING BY FOR THE SEVENTH, TAUGHT THE LESSON OF A PROPER RESPECT FOR THE SABBATH. It taught—
1. That the Sabbath was to be kept free from unnecessary work.
2. That in order to leave the Sabbath clear, as a day of rest, work was to be forwarded on week days.
3. That God has a respect for his own ordinance.
III. BY GRANTING THIS DOUBLE SUPPLY ON THE SIXTH DAY, AND SECURING ITS PRESERVATION ON THE SEVENTH, GOD TAUGHT THAT HIS BLESSING RESTS UPON THE SABBATH, AND THAT HIS PEOPLE WILL BE NO LOSERS BY KEEPING IT.
IV. GOD'S CARE THUS EARLY TO RE-ESTABLISH THE ORDINANCE OF THE SABBATH IN ISRAEL, SHOWS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INSTITUTION AS BEARING ON HEALTH, MORALS, AND RELIGION. It must be reckoned a noteworthy circumstance that, in arranging the affairs of Israel, with a view to the recovery of his people from the low and demoralised condition, physically, morally, and spiritually, into which they had fallen, and with a view to their elevation to a state of prosperous national existence, God's first step, even before the law was given from Sinai, was to put on a proper foundation, the observance of the Sabbath.
V. GOD'S DISPLEASURE AT THE BREACH OF THIS LAW BY THE PEOPLE WHO WENT OUT TO GATHER ON THE SABBATH, SHOWS HIS ZEAL FOR THE HONOUR OF THE COMMANDMENT (verses 27-29). The thing chiefly condemned, no doubt, was the spirit of disobedience, which showed itself in more ways than one (cf. Genesis 2:20). But is it not plainly reckoned a special aggravation of the offence of these would-be gatherers, that they so defiantly set at nought God's ordinance of a day of rest? Does God show a like zeal for the observance of any purely ceremonial precept?—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The manna-regulations for type gathering and using of it.
I. THE EFFECTIVE DISTRIBUTION OF IT IS PROVIDED FOR. The responsibilities and opportunities of the family relation, which had been touched upon in the institution of the Passover, are here touched upon again. Each head of a household had to see that the daily supply was gathered for his family. Thus God shows that he is not only attentive for that great nation which now, as a whole, is so clearly dependent on his providing, so visibly cut off from secondary grounds of confidence, but also has his eye on the under-providers. What he is to all the children of men, he expects earthly parents to be in their measure and opportunity. Earthly parents, even though evil, are yet able to give some good gifts; and God will hold them responsible thus to give what they can. The peculiar anti transcendent gifts of grace they are not able to bestow; but seeing God has constituted them the channels of certain blessings, woe be to them if they block up the channels, or in any way diminish the flow of blessings through them.
II. A SUFFICIENT SUPPLY IS PROVIDED FOR. Some gathered more and some less; but the gathering amounted to the same thing in the end. There was neither defect nor superfluity. We may take it that those who gathered more did it in a spirit of unbelief and worldly wisdom, a spirit of anxious questioning with regard to the morrow. They wanted to make sure, lest the morrow's manna did not come. God disappointed their plans, and doubtless soon altered their conduct, by reducing the quantity gathered to the stipulated omer. Thus unbelief's labour was lost. And those who gathered less did so through straitened opportunity. It may be they had less time; it may be they were feeble or aged. But we are sure that, whatever the cause of their deficiency, they must have been those who did their best; and God honoured their honest endeavours by making up the deficiency. If they had been careless, it is pretty certain they would have had to go starving. God has ever taken care of the principle that, if a man will not work, neither shall he eat. All that is required is, that we should do our best according to our opportunities; but so much, at least, assuredly is required. Remember the teaching of the parable (Matthew 20:1-16). The lord of the vineyard gave the same amount to those coming in at the eleventh hour as to those who began early in the morning. He considered pressing need to be as important a thing as actual exertion. But at the same time he had his eye on what had really been done. Those who entered at the eleventh hour had to do their best even though it was but for a short time. Thus the lord of the vineyard respected need on the one hand and disposition and embraced opportunities on the other. And so with the manna in the wilderness: every Israelite had to do his best, with a believing mind and an industrious hand. Then God took care that he should have enough; and "enough is as good as a feast."
III. GOD MADE PLAIN THAT IT WAS TO BE A DAILY SUPPLY. He did this, first of all, by diminishing the quantity gathered to the stipulated omer. Then, when the omer was secured, he made the daily character of the supply still more evident by commanding that none should be left till morning. This was but carrying the former provision—that of gathering an omer full—out to its logical conclusion. Nor must we take this to mean, of necessity, that all the manna was to be eaten up. "Leave it not till the morning" can only mean "leave it not as food." There could hardly have been an obligation on the Israelites to eat more than nature demanded or appetite desired. Let no fond, economising parent quote this regulation to a child by way of enforcing the request to eat up its food. How much harm is done by forcing children to empty the plate, lest anything be wasted! Surely it is more waste to cram a recalcitrant stomach than to throw undemanded food away, if that be the only alternative. Evidently what God meant here is, that Israel should not keep its manna for to-morrow's supply. There is more likelihood of imperilling the spirit of faith than the habit of economy. Note, too, that the efficacy of this regulation was soon exemplified when the people broke it. Indeed, it is curious to notice how, all through the passage, the regulations and the exemplification of them are mixed up. They were regulations which came into operation at once; for there was a present need, and the people learnt to meet it by paying at first the penalties of disobedience or imperfect obedience. They could put away the manna; but they could not therefore preserve it. Putting it away was only turning it into one of the treasures which moth and rust corrupt. Even if we could imagine that it had been possible to seal the manna hermetically, and keep it from the germs of corruption in the air, the result would have been the same. Whatever the precautions adopted, it would have bred worms and stunk by morning. God. is ever turning our boasted prudence into ridiculous folly; faith and obedience are the only real prudence.
IV. Not only was it a daily supply, but A MORNING SUPPLY. An early morning supply, for when the sun waxed hot the manna was melted. They were to go out and gather the manna the first thing, and then, whatever else might be lacking that day, the great temporal necessity of food was provided for. God demanded of his people that they should be trustful and satisfied In the reception of a daily supply; but that supply was brought at the very beginning of the day. It was not at their option to gather it at any time of the day they chose. The supply was at the beginning of the day, because day is the time for eating as night is for sleeping. Then, with minds free from anxiety and bodies duly supported, they could each one set about his appointed business.
V. IN HIS METHOD OF SUPPLY GOD MADE SPECIAL PROVISION FOR THE SABBATH. On the sixth day of the week, a double portion was provided, and was to be gathered in correspondence with the provision. Certainly it must be admitted that the regulation here gives no means of judging how far the Sabbath was a recognised institution in Israel, if indeed it was an institution at all. This is a matter on which we are not able to affirm; nor are we able to deny. To whatever extent there may have been a weekly Sabbath among the patriarchs, it could not have been kept up through the hardships of Egypt! Anyway, this remarkable increase of an extra omer on the sixth day—when the reason of it was explained—was the very thing to prepare the people for the exact commandment which so soon followed. Jehovah had thus more ways than one of impressing upon them the sanctity and peculiarity of the Sabbath. In Egypt they had doubtless been required to toil every day, knowing little rest, save the inevitable rest of sleep, and it would be hard to break them away from this expectation of daily drudgery. Early association and training are wanted to make one day different from others; and we may conclude that it was only the generation growing up in the wilderness and becoming habituated to the Sabbath rest that really took to it in a natural and easy way. But this regulation of the manna must have been a great help even to the elder generation. As each sixth day came round they were reminded that God himself was remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy, and therefore they should do the same. And as we think of this special provision for the weekly interval of rest, continued through forty years, we may well ask ourselves what feelings God entertains as he looks down on the world and sees the incessant, driving, suicidal toil in which many men engage, on the plea that it is necessary. They say they have no choice. Toil all day, and when evening comes utter exhaustion! and thus life is wasted in the struggle to maintain it. When we consider such struggling in the light of this sixth day's double provision, a strong suspicion rises in our minds that this plea of necessity is a delusion. Is it not probable that if men would only throw off, boldly and trustfully, many of what are reckoned social necessities, they would have a healthier piety and a happier life? At present, with only too many, when they are asked for a little more attention to the things of God and a little more interest in them, the plea comes in reply, easily urged and not easily met, that there is no time. See then what God did for his own people. He made time for them, and jealously hedged it about; a time for needed rest, holy rest and holy service. When they went out food-seeking on the morning of his day, he manifestly cursed their disobedience and unbelief. May we not be perfectly sure that if in a spirit of faith, we give all the time and effort that are necessary to cultivate personal religion and diffuse gospel truth, God will see to it that we get the manna? and if we have the manna, we need nothing more. Whatever else be left unsought and unenjoyed, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Seek these, for they bring in their train everything a Christian can lawfully enjoy.—Y.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
The law of the manna.
I. THERE MUST BE INDIVIDUAL EFFORT FOR INDIVIDUAL NEED.
1. The manna lay around their tents, but it had to be gathered. To feed on Christ each must lay hold of him for his own soul by meditation and prayer and trust.
2. If we do not "taste and see that the Lord is gracious," his nearness to us will only deepen our condemnation. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?
II. CHRIST MUST BE LAID HOLD OF DAILY DURING THE WEEK'S TOIL,
1. The sabbath has its provision without labour. This law is sometimes inverted—sabbath day's toil, six days' negligence—but in this way Christ will be fed upon neither in labour nor in rest. They who come from daily walking with Christ, find the sabbath feast spread for them.
2. The life of labour in striving to lay hold of and feed upon him, is followed by the rest that remaineth and the feast which his own hand will spread.
III. GRACE WILL NOT CONSORT WITH DISOBEDIENCE. The manna stored up to save from toiling, when God commands to toil, was unfit for use. We cannot live on the memories of past experiences of Christ's graciousness. He must be daily sought for.
IV. CHRIST THE SOUL'S FOOD DURING THE ENTIRE EARTHLY PILGRIMAGE (Exodus 16:35). During the whole forty years Israel fed upon the manna. We must feed daily upon Christ till we reach the inheritance. They who will be sustained in their journey must determine to know nothing save Christ and him crucified.—U.
THE APPEARANCE OF THE MANNA, ITS CONTINUANCE, AND ITS DEPOSITION IN THE TABERNACLE.—In bringing the subject of the manna to a conclusion, the writer adds a few words.
1. On its appearance;
2. On its deposition by divine command in the Ark of the Covenant; and
3. On its continuance during the forty years of the wanderings.
It is evident that Exodus 16:32-34 cannot have been written until after the sojourn in Sinai, and the command to make a tabernacle (Exodus 26:1-37.): as also that Exodus 16:35 cannot have been written till the arrival of the Israelites at the verge of the land of Canaan. But there is nothing in the passage that militates against the Mosaic authorship of the whole.
The house of Israel. This expression is unusual, and is not admitted by the Septuagint, the Syriac, or the Arabic versions, which all have "the children of Israel." Several Hebrew MSS. have bent, "sons," instead of beyth "house." Manna. Literally, as in the Septuagint, man—the word used when they first beheld the substance (Exodus 16:15), and probably meaning "a gift.:' The elongated form manna, first appears in the Sept. rendering of Numbers 11:6, Numbers 11:7. It was like coriander seed. This is "a small round grain of a whitish or yellowish grey." The comparison is made again in Numbers 11:7, where it is added that the colour was that of bdellium—either the gum so called, or possibly the pearl. The taste of it was like wafers made with honey. Such wafers or cakes were constantly used as offerings by the Egyptians, Greeks, and other nations. They were ordinarily compounded of meal, oil, and honey. Hence we can reconcile with the present passage the statement in Numbers 11:8, that "the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil."
And Moses said. Not at the moment, but some time subsequently. See the introductory paragraph. Fill an omer. In the original it is "the omer," and so the LXX.; but the reason for the introduction of the article is obscure. For your generations—i.e; "for your descendants."
Take a pot. The word here translated "pot" does not occur elsewhere in Scripture, and is believed to be of Egyptian origin Gesenius translates it "basket;" but the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews 9:4 follows the LXX. in representing the word used by στάμνος, which certainly means "a jar" or "pot." Lay it up before the Lord. The "pot of manna" was laid up before the Lord with the "tables of the covenant,'' and "Aaron's rod that budded" as symbolical that God's mercy was as eternal and essential, and as much to be remembered as his justice, and perhaps also as especially symbolising the "true bread of life."
Aaron laid it up before the testimony. "The testimony" is not the Ark of the Covenant, which is never so called, but the Covenant itself, or the two tables of stone engraved by the finger of God, which are termed "the testimony" in Exodus 25:16-21; Exodus 40:20; etc. The pot of manna was laid up inside the ark (Hebrews 9:4) in front of the two tables.
The children of Israel did eat manna forty years. Kalisch observes that the actual time was not forty full years, but about one month short of that period, since the manna began after the fifteenth day of the second month of the first year (Exodus 16:1) and terminated just after Passover of the forty-first year (Joshua 5:10-12). It may be added that Mesas cannot have written the present passage later than about the eleventh month of the fortieth year (Deuteronomy 1:3; Deuteronomy 34:10; Joshua 4:19); when the manna had continued thirty-nine years and nine months. Until they came to a land inhabited. Kalisch translates "the land of their habitation," or "which they were to inhabit," remarking that they had reached inhabited countries, e.g; those of Sihon and Og, much earlier. But the words will not bear this rendering. What the writer intends to note is, that the manna continued all the time they were in the wilderness, until they reached inhabited territory, and then further (in the next clause), that it lasted after that, until they came to the borders of Canaan. He does not say that it even then left off. He writes exactly as Moses might be expected to have written towards the close of his life. A later writer would, as Canon Cook observes, have been more specific.
An omer. The "omer" must be distinguished from the "homer" of later times. It was an Egyptian measure, as also was the" ephah." It is not improbable that the verse is an addition by a later writer, as Joshua, or Ezra.
Memorials of mercies.
It is indicative of the weakness and imperfection of human nature, that memorials of mercies should be needed. But frail humanity cannot do without them; and God in his goodness, knowing this, sanctions them. As he had the rod of Aaron, which budded (Numbers 17:10), and the pot of manna, made permanent portions of the furniture of the tabernacle for memorials, so he had memorial days established, Sabbath, and Passover, and Pentecost, and memorial seasons, as the feasts of unleavened bread and tabernacles, that the children of Israel might keep his mercies in perpetual remembrance. We Christians have no such material memorials as the tables of stone, the rod, and the manna; for the "True Cross" is historically untrustworthy, and the "Holy Coat" could not have been a Jewish garment. We have, however, memorials of mercies.—
I. IN OUR HOLY DAYS. Our Sunday is a perpetual memorial and reminder of the great mercy of Christ's Resurrection, the earnest, and efficient cause, of our own. Christmas-day, Good Friday, Ascension-day, are memorials of the same kind; not so universally acknowledged, but useful memorials, where they are established and observed. Christianity commands that no man shall judge another in respect of such observances; but it would be an ill day for Christendom, if they were universally given up. Thousands find them great helps to devotion, great stimulants to gratitude and love.
II. IN OUR HOLY EMBLEMS. The Cross, the Lamb, the Eagle, the Crown of Thorns, the Vine, the Rose, the Lily of the Valley, wherever we behold them, are memorials of divine mercies, never sufficiently remembered, most useful in recalling to our minds the acts, events, persons, wherewith they are scripturally connected. Some minds are so constituted as not to require such reminders. But to the mass of men they are of inexpressible value, waking up (as they do) twenty times a day holy thoughts that might otherwise have slumbered, and stirring the heart to devotions that might otherwise have been unthought of.
III. IN OUR HOLY BUILDINGS. What the entire tabernacle was to the Israelites in the wilderness, what the temple, so long as it stood, was to the Israelite nation, such to Christians are their cathedrals, abbeys, churches, chapels, oratories, perpetual reminders of holy things, memorials pointing heavenwards, and bringing to mind all that God has done for us. That they are also intended for practical use as places where we may worship in common, and be taught in common, does not prevent their being at the same time memorials. It is as memorials that they lift themselves up so high, ascending in tier over tier of useless pinnacle, and high-pitched roof, and spire-crowned tower. They aim at catching our attention, forcing us to look at them, and making us think of God's mercies.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The pot of manna.
Aaron was ordered to take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for future generations. The pot of manna is alluded to in Hebrews, where it is described as "golden," and as laid up in the ark (Hebrews 9:4). It may be questioned how so corruptible a substance admitted of preservation. But it is not so plain that the manna had in itself any tendency to corrupt, so that the miracle is perhaps to be looked for, not in the keeping fresh of the portion laid up in the ark, but in the smiting with corruption of any portions sinfully hoarded by the Israelites (verse 20). We are taught—
I. THAT THE GREATER MERCIES OF GOD OUGHT SPECIALLY TO BE REMEMBERED BY US. It is fitting, even in the Church, to appoint memorials of them.
II. THAT THE PECULIAR LESSONS OF THE MANNA OUGHT SPECIALLY TO BE KEPT IN REMEMBRANCE. Among these note the following:—
1. "Man doth not live by bread alone," etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 8:4; Matthew 4:4).
2. The lesson of dependence on God for supply of daily wants (Matthew 6:2).
3. Typical lessons. The manna reminds us of Christ, our Bread of Life, in heaven. "Your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). The "hidden manna" in Revelation 2:17, would seem to indicate the spiritual nourishment in communion with God and Christ which will maintain soul and body for ever in the possession of an incorruptible life—life undecaying, self-renewing, everlasting.
III. THE INDISSOLUBLE UNION OF LAW AND GRACE IN GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIS CHURCH. The pot of manna was laid up (after the ark was made) "before the testimony, to be kept" (verse 34). The law is the stern background, but near it is the golden pot, filled with the manna which told of God's goodness and grace to a people whom mere law would have condemned. God can be thus gracious to his Church, not because his law has been set aside, but because it has been magnified and made honourable by Christ, whose blood pleads at the mercy-seat for the transgressor.—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 16". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13