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Manna, pt. 1,

by Arthur W. Pink

 

1And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. 2And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: 3And the children of Israel said unto them, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4Then said the Lord unto Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. 5And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” (Ex 16:1-5 AV)

 

13And it came to pass, that at evening the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. 14And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. 15And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, “It is manna”: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, “This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. 16This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, ‘Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.’” 17And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. 18And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.

19And Moses said, “Let no man leave of it till the morning.” 20Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. 21And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. 22And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23And he said unto them, “This is that which the Lord hath said, ‘Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.’” 24And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. 25And Moses said, “Eat that today; for to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: today ye shall not find it in the field. 26Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.” 27And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. 28And the Lord said unto Moses, “How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? 29See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30So the people rested on the seventh day. 31And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. (Ex. 13-31 AV)

 

Not for long was Israel permitted to enjoy the grateful refreshment and shade of the wells and palm trees of Elim (15:27). The first verses of our chapter tell us, “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin.” If we compare Numbers 33, which records the various stages or stopping places in Israel’s journeys, we find that “they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red Sea” (v. 10). Most probably this was some bay or creek of the Sea, where for a short time their camp was now pitched, perhaps with the design of them looking once more at those waters through which they had passed dry-shod, but which had overwhelmed their enemies. Evidently their stay there was a short one, and as nothing of importance happened, it is omitted in Exodus 16.

The leading of Israel into the Wilderness of Sin brings out the strength of Moses’ faith. Here, for the first time, the full privation of desert life stared the people fully in the face. Every step they took was now leading them farther away from the inhabited countries and conducting them deeper into the land of desolation and death. The isolation of the wilderness was complete, and the courage and faith of their leader in bringing a multitude of at least two million people into such a howling waste, demonstrates his firm confidence in the Lord God. Moses was not ignorant of the character of the desert. He had lived for forty years in its immediate vicinity (3:1), and, therefore, he knew full well that only a miracle, yea, a series of daily miracles, could meet the vast needs of such a multitude. In this his faith was superior to Abraham’s (Gen. 12:10).

“And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt” (v. 1). Why, we may ask, such particularity in noting the time-mark here? As a matter of mere history it seems of little interest or importance. What difference does it make to us today which month and what day of the month it was when Israel entered the Wilderness of Sin? It was on “the fifteenth day of the second month” after their leaving Egypt that Israel came unto this wilderness. The very fact that the Holy Spirit has recorded this detail is sufficient proof it is not meaningless. There is nothing trivial in the Word of God. Even the numerals are there used with Divine purpose and significance. And herein we may discover the answer to our question. It was the “second month,” and in Scripture “two” speaks of witness or testimony (cf. Revelation 11:3, etc.). It was the “fifteenth day” of the month, and the factors of 15 are five and three. In Scripture “five” signifies grace or favor (Genesis 43:34, etc.), and “three” is the number of manifestations — hence the number of resurrection, when life is fully manifested. By combining these definitions we learn that God was now to give unto Israel a witness and manifestation of His grace. How fully the sequel bears this out is most apparent.

In order for grace to shine forth there must first be the dark background of sin. Grace is unmerited favor, and to enhance its glory the demerits of man must be exhibited. It is where sin abounded that grace did much more abound (see Romans 5:21). It was so here. The very next thing that we read of is, “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the Wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, ‘Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’” (vv. 2, 3). A darker background could scarcely be imagined.

Here was the self-same people who had been divinely spared from the ten plagues on Egypt, who had been brought forth from the land of bondage, miracuously delivered at the Red Sea, Divinely guided by a Pillar of Cloud and Fire, day and night, — now “murmuring,” complaining, rebelling! And it was not a few of the people who did so; the “whole congregation” were guilty. It was not simply that they muttered among themselves, but they murmured against their Divinely-chosen leader. Their sin, too, was aggravated by an oath; they took the Divine name “in vain”“would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt.” It is also evident that in their hot-headed insubordination they lied, for as slaves of the merciless Egyptians there is no ground whatever for us to suppose that they “sat by the flesh-pots” or “ate bread to the full.” Finally, their wicked unbelief comes out in the words, “for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” It was Jehovah. not simply Moses and Aaron, who had brought them forth; and He had promised they should worship Him at Sinai (see Exodus 3:12). It was not possible, then, for them to die with hunger in the wilderness.

What, then, was the Lord’s response to this awful outbreak of rebellious unbelief? Verse 4 tells us: “Behold, I will rain” — what: “fire and brimstone that ye may be consumed”? No; “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.” Marvelous grace was this; sovereign, unmerited favor! The very first word here is designed to arrest our attention. In Scripture, “behold” is the Holy Spirit’s exclamation mark. “Behold” — mark with worshipful wonder. Here, then, is the blessed force of the time-mark in verse 1. The raining (which speaks of a plentiful supply) of bread from Heaven for these murmuring Israelites was indeed a witness to the grace of God fully manifested!

That which follows here in Exodus 16 is deeply important. Every detail in it speaks loudly to us, if only we have ears to hear. The manna which Jehovah provided for Israel is a beautiful type of the food which God has provided for our souls. This food is His own Word. This food is both His written Word and His incarnate Word. We propose to consider these separately. We first shall trace some of the many points of analogy between the manna and the Scriptures as the heavenly food for God’s people. In our next paper we shall view the manna as a type of the Lord Jesus, the Heavenly One come down to earth.

1. The manna was a supernatural gift.  “Then said the Lord unto Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you’” (v. 4). This is the first great lesson which the manna is designed to teach us. The manna was not a product of the earth; it was not manufactured by man; it was not something which Israel brought with them out of Egypt — there was no manna there. Instead, it came down from heaven. It was a gift from God.

Various attempts have been made to explain away the supernatural in connection with the manna. Some have declared that it grew on a certain tree found in the wilderness; but they fail to explain how it grew in winter as well as summer; how that it was obtainable in every part of the wilderness, no matter where Israel’s camp was pitched; or, how that sufficient was to hand to feed upwards of two million souls for almost forty years! How foolish is man’s infidelity. The only possible explanation of the manna is to see in its continued supply a miracle. It was furnished by God Himself. So it is with that which the manna prefigured — the written Word. The Scriptures are the spiritual manna for our souls, and at every point they manifest their supernatural origin. Many efforts have been made to account for the Bible, but on this point man’s reasonings are as ridiculous as when he attempts to explain the manna on natural lines. The Bible is a miraculous production. It was given by Divine Inspiration. It has come from heaven. It is the gift of God.

It is striking to note how the supernatural is evidenced in connection with the giving of the manna. In Exodus 16:16 we read, “This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded; gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man. according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.” Now, a conservative estimate of the total number of Israelites who came out of Egypt would be two million, for they had six hundred thousand men able to go forth to war (See Numbers 1:45, 46). An “omer” was to be gathered for every one of these two million souls, and an “omer” is the equivalent of six pints. There would be twelve million pints, or nine million pounds gathered daily, which was four thousand five hundred tons. Hence, ten trains, each having thirty cars, and each car having in it fifteen tons, would be needed for a single day’s supply. Over a million tons of manna were gathered annually by Israel. And let it be remembered this continued for forty years! Equally wonderful, equally miraculous, equally Divine is the Bible.

2.  The manna came right to where the people were.  “And in the morning the dew lay round about the host; and when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing” (vv. 13, 14). No long journey had to be taken in order to secure the manna. The Israelites did not have to cross the wilderness before they could secure their needed food. It was right to hand; before their eyes. There, just outside their tent door, lay the manna on the ground. So it is with the Word of God. It is blessedly accessible to all of us. I often think that if it were harder to procure a Bible than it is some of us would prize it more than we do. If we had to cross the ocean and journey to the other side of the world to obtain a copy of the Holy Scriptures we would value them far more than we do now!

But the very accessibility of the manna only added to the responsibility of Israel. Its very nearness measured their obligation. By virtue of the fact that it lay on the ground just outside their tents they had to do something with it. They must either gather it or trample it beneath their feet! And my reader, this is equally true of God’s Word. The very fact that it is right here to your hand determines your responsibility. You are obliged to do one of two things with it: show your appreciation by gathering it unto your soul, or despise and trample it beneath your feet by a criminal neglect.

3. The manna was small in size. “And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground” (v. 14). Who would have imagined that a complete and perfect revelation from God and of God could be comprised within the compass of a comparatively small volume? Think of it — the sum total of God’s revealed Truth in a book which can be carried in your pocket! All that is needed to make us wise unto salvation; all that is needed to sustain our souls throughout our earthly pilgrimage; all that is needed to make the man of God “perfect” (complete), within the compass of the Bible!

Observe that not only is the size but also the shape of the manna is given. It was “a small round thing.” It had no angles and no rough edges. Continuing to regard the manna as a symbol and a type of the Word of God, what does this teach us? Why, surely, it prefigured the beautiful symmetry of Scripture. It tells us that the Bible is a perfect whole, complete and entire.

4. The manna was white in color. “And the house of Israel called the name thereof manna: and it was like coriander seed, white” (v. 31). Everything here has a spiritual significance. The Holy Spirit had a good reason for telling us the particular color of the manna. There is nothing meaningless in Scripture anywhere. Everything in God’s Word has a value and message for us.

Now “white” is the emblem of purity. Thus we have emphasized the absolute purity of the Word of God. Let us link together three Scriptures. “The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6): they are pure morally and they are pure spiritually. They are like the “pure river of the water of life” which proceedeth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb — they are “clear as crystal” (Revelation 22:1). Again, we read in Psalm 119:140, “Thy Word is very pure: therefore Thy servant loveth it.” The Scriptures are termed the “Holy Scriptures” because they are separated off from all other writings by virtue of their exalted spirituality and Divine purity. Once more, in Proverbs 30:5 we read, “Every word of God is pure.” There is no admixture of error in God’s Word. In it there are no mistakes, no contradictions, no blemishes.

 

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