Meals from the sky
Complaints from hungry travelers1 The Israelites left Elim and went to Sin Desert, between Elim and Sinai. They got there on the fifteenth of the second month of the year. 2 All the Israelites traveling through the desert with Moses and Aaron seemed to pass their time by grumbling about the two men. 3 The people eventually told them, “We would have been better off if the LORD had put us out of our misery back in Egypt. There, at least we had all the meat and bread we could eat. But, no, you had to bring us out here into the desert to starve us all to death.”
4 The LORD told Moses, “Look, I’m going to send you bread from heaven. It’s going to fall like rain. When it does, I want the people to pick up enough to feed themselves for one day. I’m putting them to the test here to see if they’ll obey me. 5 On the sixth day of the week I’m going to send them twice as much bread. That morning, they should pick up enough bread to keep them for two days.”
6 Moses and Aaron told the people of Israel, “By this evening, you’re going to know that it was the LORD who brought you here from Egypt. 7 And tomorrow morning, you’re going to catch a glimpse of the LORD’s greatness. The LORD is going to do this for you because he heard you complaining about him. You’re certainly not complaining about us because we aren’t the ones in charge. You’re complaining about the LORD.”
Quail on the menu8 “So let’s be clear,” Moses added. “The LORD is going to give you meat to eat this evening. And in the morning, he’s going to give you all the bread you can eat that day. But he’s doing it because he heard you complaining about him. You’re certainly not complaining about us because we aren’t the ones in charge. You’re complaining about the LORD.” 9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Tell the people this: Step forward. You need to stand before the LORD because he has heard you complaining.”
10 While Aaron was still talking, the people looked out into the desert and saw a cloud swelling with the LORD’s glory. 11 The LORD told Moses, 12 “I’ve heard the people of Israel complaining. Tell them I said, ‘When evening comes, you’re going to have meat to eat. And in the morning, you’re going to eat as much bread as you want. When this happens, remember: I am the LORD your God.’” 13 That evening, flocks of quail landed, covering the campgrounds like a feather blanket. The next morning, a layer of dew descended on the camp.
Manna bread descends with the dew14 When the morning dew evaporated, it left a trace substance behind. It looked like delicate flakes of frost lying on the ground. 15 The people of Israel didn’t know what to make of it. They said, “What is it?” They had no idea. Moses answered, “It’s the bread the LORD is giving you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD says you’re to do: Everyone pick up enough to eat for the day. Get about two quarts each. Gather enough for everyone living in your tent.”
17 The people picked up the flakes. Some collected a lot. Some a little. 18 But somehow, when they measured it by the quart, those who collected a lot had just enough. And those who picked up very little had enough. Everyone had plenty to eat. 19 Moses told the people, “Eat it all. No leftovers.”
20 Some people ignored him. They kept leftovers for the next morning. But by then, the food was wormy and stinky. When Moses heard about what happened, he got mad. 21 Every morning, the people walked around the camp picking up as much of the flakes as they could eat that day. When the sun started warming the ground, the flakes dissolved in the heat.
Sabbath, A day of rest22 On Friday, the sixth day of the week, the people picked up enough flakes for two days: Friday and Saturday. They gathered four quarts for each person. 23 Moses told the people, “This is from the LORD: ‘Tomorrow is the Sabbath.  Treat it as a sacred day of rest, which you reserve for the LORD. Bake and cook today, but not tomorrow. Today, fix enough food for both days, and leave enough leftovers for tomorrow morning.” 24 The people did what Moses said. The next morning, their leftovers were still good. No worms. No stink.
25 Moses told the people. “Go ahead and eat yesterday’s leftovers today because this is the Sabbath day of rest, which we’ve reserved for the LORD. You’re not going to find anything in the fields today. 26 You can pick up the food six days a week. But on the seventh, the Sabbath day of rest, there won’t be any to pick up.”
27 Still, on the seventh day some folks went out in the field to pick up food. They found nothing but the field. 28 The LORD told Moses, “Come on. How long are you people going to ignore my laws and the orders I give you? 29 Now look, the Sabbath is the LORD’s gift to you. And the Sabbath is the reason he gives you twice as much bread as you need on Friday mornings. So, on the Sabbath, stay where you are.”
30 The people rested on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. 31 The people of Israel called the bread “manna.” It looked like white coriander seeds, and tasted like honey wafers. 32 Moses told the people, “The LORD gave us these instructions: Fill a jar with two quarts of this bread. Keep it safe so the generations of your family yet to come can see some of the bread you ate in the desert when I led you out of Egypt.”
33 Moses told Aaron, “Go ahead and fill a jar with two quarts of manna. For the generations to come, let’s keep it safe and in a sacred place of the LORD’s. 34 Aaron did what the LORD told Moses to do. Aaron put the jar inside the chest called the Agreement. 35 The people of Israel ate manna for the 40 years they spent in the desert territories. They ate it until they reached the border of Canaan. 36 An omer was a tenth of an ephah—2 quarts compared to 20.
The location of Sin Desert is unknown.
It’s unclear what “Sinai” the writer was talking about. Some scholars say the writer was likely talking about “the” Mount Sinai, also called “Horeb,” in a range of mountains in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula.
A month after they left Rameses. However, this could read as though they arrived a month and a half after they left Egypt. But Numbers 33:3 reports that they did not leave the city of Rameses in Egypt until the middle of the first month of the new Hebrew calendar. The first month is Nisan (corresponding with March-April). The second is Iyar (corresponding with April-May). So they arrived in late spring, which is warm in the Sinai Peninsula. The average daily high temperature in southern Sinai during May is about 38 degrees C, which is 100 degrees F.
This allowed the Israelites to relax on the seventh day, the Sabbath day of rest and worship, instead of going about the chore of gathering bread for the meals that day.
This may have looked somewhat like the pillar of fire and smoke that had been leading and protecting the Israelite refugees.
2.2 liters, or 1 omer in the ancient Hebrew system of measurements.
Jewish people observe the Sabbath day of rest and worship from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. They aren’t to cook on the Sabbath. Instead, they eat meals prepared ahead of time.
The Hebrew word is man, pronounced “MAWN.” It’s a good journalism word because it can mean: How? Why? Who? What? What is it? (16:15). Some scholars say a fair English translation of the word might be “whatchamacallit.” Or maybe “whatever.” As in, the Israelites had that whatever for breakfast every morning.
Coriander seeds are small, roughly 2-3 millimeters in diameter, about an eighth of an inch. They’re eatable and often used as spice. Some say it has a nutty citrus taste of lemon or orange.
This is another name for the Ark of the Covenant, a gold-plated wooden box that held the Ten Commandments. This chest became Israel’s most sacred object. When they created their tent worship center, and later their Jerusalem Temple, they kept the chest in the most sacred room, in the back: the Most Holy Place, also called the Holy of Holies.
Canaan was an ancient name for the territory now known as Israel and Palestinian Territories.
2.2 liters compared to 22 liters.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.