Manna (Bread of Life): Part 1


The people of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness. This huge body of people travelled a land with all but the most meager of resources. So, God provided!

Exodus 16 reads:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt,  and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”  Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”

Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”

While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.

The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.  This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’”

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.  And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.  On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses.  He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’”

So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.  “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today.  Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”

Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.

The people of Israel called the bread manna.It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.  Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”

While the above passage is rather lengthy, it nonetheless has several really useful lessons. The Hebrew children grumbled despite the miraculous rescue from Egypt.  Their minds were on their bellies.  In associated passages they moaned about missing the food they had in their bondage. Numbers 11: 5 reads, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” Are we much different? Do we get caught up in the immediate rumble in the tummy, or any other “immediate urge,” rather than being thankful for what we have been blessed with?

But God responded to their grumbling, not with vengeance, but with providing for the need. He sent quail and manna. All the people had to do was collect the food they needed from what was deposited around their camp. They hadn’t asked for it, but their complaints were heard and catered for.

Jesus in His model prayer calls on us to be more direct (and yes, more reverent and respectful). Matthew 6: 9 to 11 guides us with the words, “‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread . . . .” Rather than moaning and complaining we are called to ask for our daily bread. Chapter 7, verses 8 and 9 continue this theme: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?”  Put simple, if we ask He is faithful in His loving kindness to give.

But there is a third lesson here as well. Notice in Jesus’ prayer that we are to ask for “daily bread.” Like the Israelites of old, we are to make “bread seeking” a daily act. We need to keep our lines of communication with the giver open.  We shouldn’t rest of the lazy approach of  “well I asked for that yesterday.” Look at the similar attitude of the Hebrews. “However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it (the previous day’s bread) until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” Okay, the analogy is a little weak in that God honours our prayers (including past ones), but the application is still good.  We should seek His blessings in prayer daily.

The people were sustained by God. He provided not just food, but life itself. I will expand on this theme of the “Bread of Life” in the second part of this study.