Chapter 16:9-21 (ESV) - Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’” And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’”
In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 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. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
Question to consider: How is the LORD’s response to the people different from the gods of Egypt?
The LORD appeared in the cloud before the people so they would know that He had heard their grumblings and would meet their needs. I don’t personally know anyone who bows down to an idol, but I have to wonder whether they would dare to grumble against their gods in this manner. They may beg their gods for mercy to provide them food, but as superstitious as people are, I would suspect that they would be hesitant to say a harsh word against their gods or the priests of those gods for fear of calamity. However, the LORD demonstrated grace and appeared to them as a reassurance that He would care for them.
The migration of quail is admittedly a naturally occurring event, but it is miraculous to have the quail descend at the precise time God promised, and it is miraculous to have them show up nightly at their camp like Grubhub as they traveled through the wilderness. The description of them covering the camp is reminiscent of the creaturely plagues against Egypt where the locusts or flies or frogs covered the land, but rather than covering Israel with a curse, the LORD had covered them with a blessing.
Every morning, they received the blessing of manna which literally means, “What is it?” Moses described it as “the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.” His words in the Targum are interesting, “It is the bread which hath been laid up for you from the beginning in the heavens on high, and now the LORD will give it you to eat.” This heavenly bread is a type and shadow pointing to the body of Christ given to His church in communion. When Jesus told the disciples to pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” His reference would be that of the heavenly manna which provided an omer for each person in the camp and was to be consumed that day.
There were those in the camp who disobediently dealt with the manna in an unworthy manner. For them it became putrid. The same is true for communion which Paul chastised the Corinthians for eating and drinking in an unworthy manner bringing judgment on themselves (see my study on 1 Corinthians 11:27-34) The manna was given to them by God to sustain them, and it was to be eaten according to His word. In this, the LORD was revealing the faithful (and unfaithful) and preparing them to receive the Law.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for listening to our prayers and frustrations with mercy and grace. Thank You for providing for us when we haven’t been worthy of Your good gifts. Help us to faithfully pursue the things that bring You joy for the joy You have given us in Christ. Amen.