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The Lord Provides Manna Bread From Heaven Crises in the Wilderness (15:22-16:36) The Manna and the Quails The Manna and the Quails
16:1-3 16:1-3 16:1-3 16:1-3 16:1-3
16:4-7 16:4-8 16:4-8 16:4-5 16:4-5
The Lord Provides Meat 16:6-8 16:6-8
16:9-12 16:9-12 16:9-12 16:9-12
16:13-21 16:13-21 16:13-21 16:13-15a 16:13-16
16:17-21 16:17-18
The Sabbath Observed 16:19-21
16:22-26 16:22-31 16:22-26 16:22-26 16:22-30
16:27-30 16:27-30 16:27-30
16:31-36 16:31-36 16:31-36 16:31
16:32-36 16:32-34

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph
  4. Etc.


  1. Exodus 16 seems to include a later account of the exodus. The tabernacle is obviously referred to in Exod. 16:33-34, as is the Sabbath (cf. Exod. 16:23). Both of these are part of later revelations.

  2. Be careful of trying to make Hebrew historical narrative equal to modern, western, cause-and effect, chronological history. See the following Special Topics.


1Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. 2The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The sons of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."

16:1 "Then they set out from Elim" We learn from Exod. 15:27 that this was a significant oasis, possibly on the western side of the Sinai Peninsula. Its name means "great tree." It certainly was not large enough to support the number of people of the exodus, but it was a welcomed respite.

▣ "came to the wilderness of Sin" There are several different wildernesses in the Sinai Peninsula (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE WILDERNESSES OF THE EXODUS). Toward the Mediterranean coast is the Wilderness of Shur; on the northeastern side is the Wilderness of Paran; in the middle, just south of Beersheba, is the Wilderness of Zin; and in the southern area is the Wilderness of Sin.
"Sin" is a non-Semitic term (BDB 695 II); Sinai (BDB 696) is somehow related to the Wilderness of Sin. It seems to be a word which describes either the soil or the type of vegetation found in this dry southern area.
The term, Horeb (BDB 352), used for this same mountain in the Bible, is a Semitic name of uncertain etymology.

▣ "on the fifteenth day of the second month" We learn from Exod. 12:6,31 that they left Egypt on the fifteenth day, so it has been exactly two months. Remember that they were going by a lunar calendar which is not quite as precise as our modern solar one. It seems that this dating is important to Moses because of Exod. 19:1, where he mentions that after three months they came to the mountain of Sinai. This is eyewitness, chronological detail.
When we compare the time of Exodus 16 and Numbers 11, both of which record the giving of manna and quail, there seems to be

  1. two different literary/oral traditions combined
  2. the wilderness wanderings are not a chronological account
  3. the same type of issue as the two cleansings of the temple in the Gospel accounts
It seems to me there is one initial giving of manna (Exodus 16), but two special quail events.
For a good discussion of the problem of "doublets" in the OT, see John H. Walton, D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture, which discusses the oral cultures of the ANE and how they passed on their traditions.

16:2 "The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness" This becomes the repeated theme of the exodus experience. Moses and Aaron, as God's representatives, are singled out to be the targets of repeated complaints and rebellions by this mixed group of people (cf. Exod. 12:38; Num. 11:4). As we will see from the context God knows that it is really a complaint against Him (cf. Exod. 16:7-8).
The Masoretic scholars, who standardized the Hebrew texts of the B.C. period, added textual notes, vowels, and offerred suggested readings (Qere). The VERB "murmur" or "grumbled" (BDB 534, KB 524) in Exod. 16:2,7, is one of those suggestions. The MT has the Hiphil stem in Exod. 16:2 and the Niphal stem in 16:7, but the Masoretic scholars reversed the stems.

16:3 "Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt" This same type of complaint is recorded in Exod. 14:11. Somehow, though they are complaining to Moses and Aaron, they really believe that God is actually doing these terrible things. We see in Exod. 16:7,8 that this accusation is brought to light. It is amazing to me as I read through the book of Exodus, how bitter and complaining the children of Israel really were throughout this experience. Later in their history, they realized this period of time was "the honeymoon" time between themselves and YHWH. Isn't it ironical that that which we think is so bad suddenly becomes good with a little perspective?!

▣ "when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full" Slaves never ate to their full and they very seldom had meat. This is a good example of "the good old days" mentality. In reality they are not so good as we remember!

▣ "for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger" This is a ridiculous statement. Moses (or really YHWH) did not go to all of this trouble just to kill them. It shows the frustration that people experience when their comfort and standard of living are somehow altered.

4Then the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily." 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, "At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt; 7and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?"

16:4 "Then the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven" Here is the theme of the entire chapter, which is basically the supernatural provision of manna from heaven. Bread was the most important element of their diet. God would provide it on a daily basis. It is uncertain exactly what manna was (cf. Exod. 16:14). Some try to say that it was a secretion of the plant life in the area and others say it was a secretion of the insect life in the area. However, the fact that it came only six days a week, not seven, and that it rotted except on Friday shows that this is a supernatural, not simply natural, occurrence. Besides, the natural means often discussed by commentators would never provide enough food for the number of people involved. See SPECIAL TOPIC: MANNA.

▣ "that I may test them, whether they may walk in My instruction" Here is the key. God is going to give them guidelines on how to handle this manna (cf. Deut. 8:2-3). The manna was a sign of His love but also a way of testing (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD TESTS HIS PEOPLE (OT)). Much of the biblical witness is God testing human's faith, not to destroy us but that we might grow stronger. See SPECIAL TOPIC: TESTING (peirazō and dokimazō).
There are two terms in Hebrew for testing: (1) one is used to test metals and (2) the other is used to test by the use of smell. This particular Hebrew word is the one used for testing by smell (BDB 650, cf. Exod. 15:25; 20:20; Deut. 8:2,16).
The VERB "walk" (BDB 229, KB 241) is often a metaphor for "living," either for God, observing His ways, or disobedience (cf. Lev. 26:3; Deut. 8:6; 11:22; 1 Kgs. 2:3; 3:3; 9:4; 11:4,6,38; 2 Chr. 17:4; 21:12-13). Here are some NT examples from Ephesians and Colossians.

  1. positive - Eph. 2:10; 4:1; 5:2; Col. 1:10; 2:6
  2. negative - Eph. 2:2; 4:17,22; 5:15

▣ "instruction" There are several terms in this chapter to describe God's revealed guidelines.

  1. "instruction" (lit. "law"), Exod. 16:4 - BDB 435
  2. "commanded," Exod. 16:16,32,34 - BDB 845, KB 1010, Piel PERFECT
  3. "commandments," Exod. 16:28 - BDB 846
  4. "instructions," Exod. 16:28 - same root as #1
  5. the testimony (i.e., the ark of the covenant), Exod. 16:34 - BDB 730

16:5 "it will be twice as much as they gather daily" Here is the supernatural element--that on Fridays (i.e., sixth day) they will gather enough for the Sabbath (cf. Gen. 2:1-3), so that they will not have to work on that special day. The term "Sabbath" means "to cease from labor." See SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH (OT).

16:6 "At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt" Evening was the beginning of the next day (cf. Gen. 1:5). The Jews began the day at twilight in the evening and it went to twilight the next evening, based on Genesis 1, where evening and morning were the first day.
This phraseology shows that God was trying to increase their faith in Him in a daily sense. Matthew 6:11 is another theological truth that God wants us to depend on Him day by day and not to rely on our coveted and gathered resources over time.


16:7 "in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord" It is not certain exactly to what this refers:

  1. Some say it was the coming of manna which showed God's care and provision.
  2. Others say it refers to the Shekinah Cloud of Glory, which represented God's presence (cf. Exod. 16:10).

▣ "glory" See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (OT).

8Moses said, "This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord." 9Then Moses said to Aaron, "Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, 'Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your grumblings.'" 10It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12"I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.'"

16:8 "when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening" This is a reference to the quail provided on this particular occasion. We know of another example in the biblical witness where quail was provided and this is found in Num. 11:13. This does not seem to be the same occurrence mentioned twice because the Numbers 11 passage is in a very negative context, while here it is a one-time provision of meat. The Israelites were not accustomed to consuming large amounts of meat. We know from historical records even to this day, that quail do migrate from Europe into this area and after the long flight they are tired and very easy to catch once they land.

16:9 "Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, 'Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your grumblings'" It is obvious from Exod. 16:7 and 8 that God was the real target of the grumbling. The phrase "come near" (BDB 897, KB 1132, Qal IMPERATIVE) is used in an ironical sense here. It normally refers to a priest approaching God with a sacrifice, but here there is no tabernacle for them to approach, so it apparently refers to the cloud (cf. Exod. 16:10).

16:10 "the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud" This seems to refer to what the rabbis later called the shekinah cloud of glory. The word shekinah is from the Hebrew root which means "to dwell." In this wilderness wandering experience it was a symbol of the personal/physical presence of YHWH (cf. Exod. 16:7; 40:34-38). After the crossing of the Jordan River under Joshua, the ark of the covenant becomes the symbol for the presence of God, not the cloud.
This phrase seems to imply the fiery presence of YHWH in the pillar was more pronounced than usual (cf. Exod. 24:17). Usually it was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

16:12 "at twilight" Literally this means "between the two evenings" (BDB 787). From biblical usage it refers to the time between when the sun sets and the first star appears (cf. Exod. 12:6; 16:12; 29:39,41; 30:8; Num. 9:3,5,11; 28:4,8). In later Judaism it was defined as "after the heat of the day." Therefore, the evening sacrifice occurred at 3 p.m.

▣ "and you shall know that I am the Lord your God" For both "YHWH" and "Elohim" see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, C. and D.
Again, the acts of YHWH were meant to confirm the faith of His people (cf. Exod. 16:6). This is paralleled to the acts of Jesus confirming the faith of His disciples.

13So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. 15When the sons 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 which the Lord has given you to eat. 16This is what the Lord has commanded, 'Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.'" 17The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. 18When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat. 19Moses said to them, "Let no man leave any of it until morning." 20But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. 21They gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt.

16:13 The manna was a daily event but the quail seemed to have been a one-day or brief period (i.e., aviary migration) event.

16:14 "When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground" The rabbis make a big deal about the dew. They say that the manna was sandwiched in between layers of dew and when the top layer melted the manna was revealed. The exact nature of the manna is uncertain (i.e., "flake-like," BDB 341, cf. Targum). The color is mentioned as being white but the shape is ambiguous. The rabbis say that it was round like the coriander seed (cf. Exod. 16:31). Some say it comes from a word which means "powdery," like the term "flake-like" in Exod. 16:14. Others say that the flake-likeness refers to scales, which has been the traditional Jewish interpretation through the years. See SPECIAL TOPIC: MANNA.

16:15 "What is it?" The Hebrew is "man hu" (BDB 577 and BDB 214), which is the basic popular etymology for the use of the term "manna" (cf. Exod. 16:13).

16:16 "omer" This (BDB 771 II) is further defined in Exod. 16:36. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN WEIGHTS AND VOLUMES.
The amount related to this term changed over time. Originally it was about a cup full but later became about a gallon (cf. Alan Cole, Tyndale OT Commentary, Exodus, p. 132).

NASB  "apiece"
NKJV  "each one's"
NRSV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA  "each of you"
This word (BDB 166) is literally "skull," but is used here and in Exod. 38:26 and Num. 3:47 for "persons."

16:17-18 These two verses imply another miracle. This has been the traditional interpretation of the rabbis. The fact that some gathered little, when they got home they had just what they needed, or when some gathered a lot, when they got home they had just what they needed. However, Paul's use of this verse in 2 Cor. 8:14-15 refers not to a miraculous gathering procedure but rather to the sharing of the people with one another.

16:19 "Let no man leave any of it until morning" This is a command (BDB 451, KB 451, Hiphil JUSSIVE, cf. Exod. 16:23). This same time element is found with other ritual events (cf. Exod. 12:10; 23:18). Why, is uncertain.

16:20 "But they did not listen to Moses" The testing of God in Exod. 16:4 had again failed. The people were not trusting God and His instruction but were allowing their stomachs to guide them. Another example of disobedience will occur in Exod. 16:27 and 28. This is a repeated theme throughout the wilderness wandering experience. This may be the theme of the entire OT (cf. Galatians 3), that though humans can experience God in His love and provision, even His miracles, there is still the pull toward self and unbelief. This shows that the old covenant could never provide an adequate means of salvation for God's people (i.e., see Galatians 3 and the book of Hebrews). What was needed was an internal, supernatural change--a new covenant (i.e., new heart, new mind, new spirit, cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-36).

▣ "worms" This (BDB 1069) refers to the larval stage of flies, possibly beetles (i.e., maggots).

▣ "became foul" This VERB (BDB 92, KB 107, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) basically means "to stink" or "become odious." It is used both literally (cf. Exod. 7:18,21; 8:14; and here) and figuratively (cf. Ps. 78:5; Eccl. 10:1).

16:21 "when the sun grew hot, it would melt" This refers to the manna but the later rabbis say it refers to the layer of dew on top of the manna which kept it fresh.

22Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23then he said to them, "This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning." 24So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. 25Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none."

16:22 "Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one" The term "omer," like all ancient measurements, is somewhat difficult to precisely equate into our measurement system. We are told in Exod. 16:36 that an omer is a tenth of an ephah. In Arabic this can simply mean a "cup full." In later Judaism it was defined as a full gallon. It is obvious that we just do not know. Rashi, Jewish commentator of the Middle Ages, says that an ephah is equal to three selahs; a selah is equal to six kabs; a kab is equal to four logs; and a log has a capacity of six eggs; therefore, an omer would equal 43 1/5 eggs. Great help, huh?! See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN WEIGHTS AND VOLUMES.

▣ "leaders" This (BDB 672) refers to family leaders or tribal leaders. They became "the elders" (cf. Exod. 34:31).

16:23 "holy" See SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY.

▣ "sabbath" See SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH (OT).

16:24 This shows the supernatural element related to the preservation of the manna for the Sabbath. All preparations were to be done on Friday (cf. Exod. 16:23).

16:25-27 Manna did not appear on the Sabbath. Its appearance and disappearance was not a natural event.

16:26 "seventh day" The origins of the Sabbath are lost in antiquity (see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 473-483). It is obvious even in the creation account that significance was placed on a seven-day unit of time. In Egypt there were ten day cycles. Some have said that the origin of the seventh day comes from Babylon, which had a special day on the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days of the month. That seems very convincing until one realizes that they also had two other days in the same category which did not follow a seven-day cycle. It seems that the seven-day week was unique to the people of God. The term "Sabbath" comes from the Hebrew word "to cease." See SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH (OT). It was a temporal sign to worship God, and in a theological sense, meant that the whole week belonged to Him. The same truth is seen in the tithe or the firstborn or first fruits.

27It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28Then the Lord said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? 29See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." 30So the people rested on the seventh day.

16:29 This verse has several commands related to the seventh day.

  1. see - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERATIVE used in the sense of "understand clearly"
  2. remain every man in his place (lit. "sit" or "dwell") - BDB 442, KB 444, Qal IMPERATIVE
  3. let no man go out of his place - BDB 422, KB 425, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense
YHWH had specific guidelines about the manna, how to use it and when/who should use it.

31The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. 32Then Moses said, "This is what the Lord has commanded, 'Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.'" 33Moses said to Aaron, "Take a jar and put an omerful of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations." 34As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the Testimony, to be kept. 35The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36(Now an omer is a tenth of an ephah.)

16:31 The term "coriander" (BDB 151 I) is found only here and Num. 11:7 (see UBS, Fauna and Flora of the Bible, pp. 110-111). Its seeds are grey but some varieties do have small white flowers. See SPECIAL TOPIC: MANNA.

▣ "honey" Honey (BDB 185) could be from two sources.

  1. bees (cf. Jdgs. 14:8-9,18; 1 Sam. 14:26-27; Pro. 16:24)
  2. condensed fruit juices (the normal usage)

16:32 "Then Moses. . .'Let an omerfull of it be kept throughout your generations'" Although the name "Moses" is used in the third person, this does not automatically mean another author or a later editor. This could simply be a way of referring to oneself in a written document of this period and culture. Again, we see the miraculous nature of this substance called manna; it decayed after being kept overnight or it would last two days for the Sabbath. This verse shows that some manna that was kept throughout the years.
In Exod. 16:33-34 one wonders if it was kept in the ark of the covenant (cf. Heb. 9:4) or inside of it ("before the Testimony," Exod. 16:34; 26:33; 27:21; 30:6,26,36). As a matter of fact, at this point there was no ark of the covenant (cf. Exodus 25). It was constructed later. There are many elements in this chapter which seem to assume the existence of the tabernacle.

16:33 "jar" This term (BDB 897, KB 1039) is found only here. The meaning is uncertain. There have been various theories.

  1. jar (most translations)
  2. basket (Arabic)
  3. urn
  4. vase (Vulgate)
  5. jug
  6. little bottle (Targum)
  7. pot (NKJV)
  8. golden jar/pot (cf. Heb. 9:4)

16:35 "forty years" This refers to a long period of indefinite time and not a precise, forty years. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE.

16:36 This appears to be a later editorial note. Although I affirm the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, there are editorial additions such as this which were either added by Moses as an afterthought or a later editor, such as Joshua, Jeremiah, or more probably, Ezra. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ADDITIONS TO DEUTERONOMY.
A new book by John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture, discusses the nature of oral cultures and their view of how it was passed from generation to generation.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why did the children of Israel complain so much?
  2. Why did God provide manna for them on a daily basis for over forty years?
  3. Is this account of the giving of quail exactly parallel to Numbers 11?
  4. How did God test the children of Israel during the wilderness wandering period?

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