Exodus 16

Memorial Day is a sober reminder to Americans that the freedoms we enjoy were not given to us without a cost. Men and women died on battlefields around the world to insure that we would have the freedoms we currently enjoy. Sadly, we often forget about those people. Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, the Twin Towers, and many other significant places are already becoming distant memories that don’t mean much anymore.

In today’s Scripture passage, we will see that such forgetfulness is nothing new. The Israelites who had been delivered from slavery in Egypt, defeat at the Red Sea, and thirst at Marah had already forgotten what the Lord had done for them in the recent past.

Read Exodus 16:1-3.

  1. Selective Memory (16:1-3)

    What is selective memory? It is looking back on something in the past as better than it actually was. For instance, I have fond memories of the the $2,000 Jaguar XJ-S I owned in 2008. It had a V12 engine and was a beautiful car. Some days, I look back and wish I had kept it. But then I remember having to keep a case of oil in the trunk, the fact that the heater did not work, and that a mechanic thought it would fall apart if I took it to the race track.

    In these verses, the Israelites demonstrate their selective memory. Their lack of provisions made them think back to the good food they left behind in Egypt. This makes us wonder if their hunger was overpowering their memories of slavery in Egypt.

    a. They had only been gone for a short time (1).

    Had it been 2 months and 15 days since they left Egypt? No, according to Exodus 12, the Lord began their new calender the previous month. The Passover was to begin on the 10th of that month. So, in reality, the people had only been gone for about 1 month and 5 days.

    b. They complained against their leaders (2).

    While it had not been a long time since they left, it had been a while since they had eaten. And, as you know from experience, lack of food often affects the way we think. In the case of the Israelites, their hunger caused them to complain against Moses and Aaron.

    But this time, it was not just the leaders complaining. It was the whole congregation of Israel. On every street corner, someone was complaining against Moses’ lack of leadership in providing food for them and their families. And then it got worse.

    c. They remembered the food in Egypt (3).

    “They had now subsisted thirty days upon the provisions brought out of Egypt, and it may well be supposed that their stock was nearly, if not altogether exhausted” (Bush 201).

    These hungry people started talking nonsense. First, they wished that they had died under God’s judgment in Egypt. Really? Second, they wished they were back in Egypt eating bread and meat. Somehow they forgot about slavery, oppression, or genocide. Third, they accused Moses of bringing the people into the wilderness to kill them with hunger.

    What these people said was ridiculous. After all that the Lord had done for them, and after all that Moses had been through for them, these people complained and started down the path of selective memory. Instead of praying to the Lord for their needs, they complained and wished to go back to Egypt.

    APPLIC. May I give you a suggestion? The next time you are in a troubling situation, be careful with what you think and say. It is easy to forget all that the Lord has done for you and what your leaders have done for you in the past simply because of the difficulty you are currently facing. Remember that the Lord is good and that things are not quite as bad as they seem at the moment.

  2. Heavenly Promise (16:4-12)

    Read Exodus 16:4-12.

    The Lord decided to be merciful to His complaining people. “Instead … of expressing the resentment of an insulted sovereign and benefactor, he utters the gracious purpose of overcoming their evil with good, and of pouring down blessing instead of wrath upon the murmuring host” (Bush 203).

    a. The Lord promised to provide bread (4-5).

    He told Moses that He would cause bread to rain down from heaven. When this happened, the people would go out and gather a quota of it each day. This would be a test given by God to see if the people would obey His law.

    Note that this was stated before the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law. This was a quiz preparing the people to trust in God’s ability to provide for them, but they would not only need to trust Him but would also need to follow His rules. For instance, they were to gather a certain amount every day but twice as much on the sixth day.

    b. The Lord was the focus of their complaint (6-8).

    When Moses and Aaron relayed God’s message to the people, they told them that the Lord had heard their complaint. But they also chided them for complaining against them. Was Moses the reason they were in the wilderness? No, the Lord had led them there. Was Moses the reason they had no food? No, the Lord was using this as a test of their dependence on them. Why then were they complaining to Moses and Aaron?

    c. The Lord should have been the focus of their prayer (9-12).

    Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation for a meeting. As they met, they saw the glory of the Lord in the cloud. Then the Lord told Moses to announce that He would provide meat in the evening and bread in the morning. This would show them that the Lord was the Lord their God.

    Too often, Christians have this same problem. Instead of turning their troubles over to the Lord, they start complaining. The Lord Jesus addressed this with his disciples.

    Matt. 6:31-34 – “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

    Christian, are you trusting the Lord for your daily needs? Or are you constantly complaining about what you don’t have? Take the advice of your Lord and make seeking His kingdom your first priority. Then trust Him to meet your needs each day.

  3. Daily Provision (16:13-21)

    Read Exodus 16:13-21.

    It wasn’t long before the Lord fulfilled his promise to provide their food.

    a. The Lord provided quail in the evening (13).

    That evening, the Lord caused a huge flock of quail to land in the camp. It makes me think of the flocks of birds that fly south in the fall. There are thousands of them that land in the trees in Willard’s park. What would it have been like for the Israelites?

    “In the fall this small game bird, similar to pheasant and grouse, migrates south from Palestine and Arabia to Central Africa, and in the spring returns” (BKCOT 134).

    Apparently, enough birds landed in the camp to supply meat for the hungry families. The Bible says that they covered the camp (13). But that was not all that the Lord provided.

    b. The Lord provided bread in the morning (14-16).

    The next morning, when the dew was gone, the ground was covered with a small round substance which reminded them of frost. When they noticed it, there first response was “manna?” or “what is it?” That is what the word manna means.

    Moses told them that this was the bread the Lord had promised. They were to collect enough for each person’s need. An omer was enough for each person. An omer is approximately 2 quarts. If it helps, you could think of 2 quarts of oil as the amount of bread provided for each person.

    c. The Lord provided manna for each day (17-21).

    “Each day the people were to gather only enough bread for that day. This meant that they would have to trust the Lord to bring the food each morning! … [These] provisions would cause the community to know that He is the Lord their God (v. 12)” (BKCOT 134).

    Moses told them to use up the collected manna each day without saving some for the next day. But some of them didn’t listen to Moses. They kept some of the manna until the next day and it attracted bugs and began to smell bad. Moses wan’t very happy with their disobedience.

    What would make you more happy — having plenty of food in the pantry or trusting the Lord to meet your needs every day? While none of us desires to be poor and destitute, there is something about trusting the Lord that brings peace and happiness.

    “A state of constant conscious dependence upon him is the state to which he aims to bring all his people. And this, could we realize it aright, is a far happier state than any other” (Bush 203-04).

    While we should provide for the future, we must remember that it is the Lord who meets our needs day by day.

  4. Sabbath Rest (16:22-30)

    Read Exodus 16:22-30.

    In these verses, the Lord instructed the people about a day of rest. To do this, he had to make special provisions for them and had to patiently work with those who were not good listeners.

    a. The people gathered double on the sixth day (22).

    Remember what the Lord told Moses in verse 5? He had told the people to gather a double portion of manna on the sixth day. Apparently, Moses had passed this along to the people because some of them did just that.

    But their rulers reported this to Moses as if they had done something wrong. This gave him the opportunity to teach them about the Lord’s provision of a Sabbath day of rest.

    b. The Lord gave them a Sabbath rest (23-26).

    Moses told them that these double gatherers were following God’s plan. They were to gather extra on the sixth and then bake and boil food for the next day. The seventh day would be a Sabbath day of rest for them.

    When the people followed his instructions, the manna did not stink or breed worms the next day.

    c. The people had to be reminded (27-30).

    But certain of the people didn’t listen to Moses. “Disregarding God’s instruction (v. 23) some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather the bread” (BKCOT 134). This didn’t sit well with the Lord. The Lord confronted Moses (as the leader of these rebels) about them not keeping His commands.

    In verse 29, the Lord starts by saying, “See!” He wanted Moses to make it clear that He was giving the people a day of rest. That is why he provided double manna the day before. They were to remain in their camp and rest.

    Do you see the value of having a day of rest? When I was a child, I didn’t like to take naps. My mother told me to take an hour nap by counting to 60 sixty times. After speed counting, I was back in front of her asking for the end of my nap.

    It seems that most people don’t see the value of rest. Instead of taking time to rest each week, we are eager to work through the week in order to get more done. But are we getting more done? Or are we getting more run down? God’s idea of a day of rest each week seems like a good idea to me.

  5. Future Generations (16:31-36)

    Read Exodus 16:31-36.

    The final paragraph is about future generations. The Lord thought it good to save a pot of manna to show future Israelites how He provided for their ancestors during their time in the wilderness. How many of you would be interested in seeing this pot of manna and in tasting it? I know that I am certainly curious about it.

    a. The people called it Manna (31).

    “What was manna? Interestingly, the Israelites asked the very same question: ‘When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat’ (Exodus 16:15). The Hebrew word translated ‘manna’ literally means ‘what is it?'” (GotQuestions)

    b. The people needed to remember (32-34).

    The Lord “told Moses to keep an omer of manna … in a jar as a reminder of God’s goodness for future generations. The manna in the ark was a perpetual reminder of God’s loyalty to His people in supplying their needs” (BKCOT 135).

    I don’t know if this pot of manna was displayed occasionally to the future generations, but it was kept to remind them. It was eventually stored in the tabernacle and probably was kept in the ark. “This Ark was not indeed yet constructed, but the history was written and perhaps the command given after it was made” (Bush 213).

    c. The people were fed for forty years (35-36).

    As you may be aware, the children of Israel traveled throughout the wilderness for forty years. Their principle food was this manna from heaven. “The Lord continued to supply manna until the nation came to Gilgal, where they began to eat the products of the land (Josh 5:12)” (BKCOT 135).

    How gracious God is to provide for the needs of His people!


As you read through this chapter, what was it that caught your attention?

Perhaps you saw yourself in the Israelite’s complaining. They looked at the past and selectively longed for the parts that pleased them then. But they failed to see the Lord’s current hand in their lives. Are you a complainer right now? If so, it would be good for you to stop and think of all that the Lord has provided for you just now. “Be thankful unto Him and bless His name.”

Perhaps you saw God’s gracious provision of food for His people. And hopefully, in their provision, you are reminded of how the Lord can meet your daily needs. As you seek to daily follow God’s direction in your life, remember that He will provide as you seek His kingdom first. Will you do that?

Perhaps you saw God’s gracious provision of rest for His people. As they stayed in their camp that day, they were able to relax and catch up on the sleep or family time that they needed. While we are not commanded in the New Testament to take a Sabbath day of rest, do you see the value of resting? Without rest, we may become more anxious and tired than God intended. Don’t equate constant work with industriousness and rest with laziness. It is possible to work hard and also get proper rest.


John D. Hannah, “Exodus” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1989, 134-35.

“What was manna?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=2789 on 5/28/22.

George Bush, Notes on Exodus, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1852, reprint 1976, 200-14.

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