Exodus 16:1-36 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. When the children of Israel depart from Elim, where does the Lord lead them? What is their situation and what is their reaction? See Exodus 16:1-3 (printed below)

Then they set out from Elim and the whole congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, located between Elim and Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from Egypt. (2) The whole congregation of the children of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. (3) The children of Israel said to them, We wish that we had died by Jehovah’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat around the pots of meat, when we ate bread and were full. You have brought us into this wilderness in order to kill this whole assembly with hunger! (Exodus 16:1-3)

When the children of Israel departed from Elim (the place of palm trees and springs of water), the Lord led them into the wilderness of Sin—the wilderness of Sin is a barren, desolate place. As the people use up the last of their supplies, they anticipate death by starvation out there in that desolate wilderness. Confronted with this situation, they murmur against Moses (the man who is the representative of the Lord). Also, they idealize their past: they long for “the good old days” when they were slaves in Egypt.

2. What does the Lord promise to do for His people? See Exodus 16:4a (printed below)

Then Jehovah said to Moses, Look; I will rain bread down from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day (Exodus 16:4a)

The Lord has led the people of Israel into this barren wilderness of Sin, they are His people, and He assumes the responsibility for their care (note Psalm 23:1). So it is that the Lord now reveals to Moses, “I will rain bread down from heaven for you” (verse 4). The Lord will open up the storehouses of heaven and from His own unlimited resources will provide for the need of His people.

3. What instruction does the Lord give His people with regard to gathering the manna (see Exodus 16:4-5 printed below?) What happens when they disregard His instruction (see Exodus 16:19-20 printed below?) What is He teaching them?

Then Jehovah said to Moses, Look; I will rain bread down from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, so that I may test them, to know whether or not they will walk in accordance with my law. (5) And it shall be that on the sixth day, when they prepare what they have gathered, it shall be twice as much as they gather daily…(19) Moses said to them, Let no one leave any of it until the morning. (20) But they did not listen to Moses, some left a portion of it until the morning, but it was full of maggots and became rotten. And Moses was angry with them. (Exodus 16:4-5,19-20)

While encamped in the wilderness of Sin, the people are instructed to gather “a day’s portion every day” (verse 4). When they seek to store some up for use the next day, contrary to Moses’ instruction, they find that it has bred worms and spoiled (verses 19-20). Thus the Lord provides this divine manna in such a way as to teach His people to trust Him for their “daily bread.” Remember the way in which our Lord teaches us to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

4. How does the Lord react to the people’s grumbling? See Exodus 16:6-12 (printed below)

So Moses and Aaron said to the children of Israel, In the evening you shall know that Jehovah has brought you out of the land of Egypt; (7) and in the morning you shall see the glory of Jehovah, for he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you grumble against us? (8) And Moses said, You will know that it is Jehovah when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning; for Jehovah has heard your grumbling that is actually grumbling against him. Who are we? Your grumbling is not against us, but against Jehovah! (9) Then Moses said to Aaron, Tell the whole congregation of Israel, Come near before the presence of Jehovah, because he has heard your grumbling. (10) As Aaron addressed the whole congregation of the children of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness and saw the glory of Jehovah appear in the cloud. (11) And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, (12) I have heard the grumbling of the children of Israel. Tell them, In the evening you shall eat meat and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am Jehovah your God. (Exodus 16:6-12)

The Lord takes personal offense at the peoples’ grumbling. Israel’s murmuring is a slander against the Lord, against His goodness, His faithfulness, His ability, and His very character. To vindicate His great Name, the Lord causes His glory to appear in the cloud (verse 10) and He not only supplies the people with bread but also with an abundance of meat. Note: in the spring, quail fly northward in immense flocks from the interior of Africa; the Lord providentially caused such a flight of quail to fall into the camp of the Israelites, providing them with a miraculous abundance of meat (Commentaries on the Old Testament, The Pentateuch, Vol.2, Keil and Delitzsch, p.67).

5. What commandment does the Lord give His people in Exodus 16:32-34 (printed below?) Why does He give this commandment?

Moses said, This is what Jehovah has commanded: Let an omer’s worth of it be kept throughout your generations, so that you may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out of the land of Egypt. (33) So Moses said to Aaron, Take a jar and put an omer’s worth of manna into it; then put it in the presence of Jehovah to be kept throughout your generations. (34) As Jehovah commanded Moses, Aaron laid it before the Testimony, to be preserved. (Exodus 16:32-34)

The Lord commands that an omer’s worth of the manna be stored in a jar and be preserved for future generations. This jar of manna, kept in the presence of the Lord, would serve as a constant reminder of the Lord’s faithful commitment to His people. It would also serve as a constant reminder of the Lord’s divine ability to meet the needs of His people, as evidenced by the fact that the manna in the jar was miraculously preserved from rotting.