For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

16:1.  “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.”


Sin means thorn: clay: mire, and it would be difficult to find a more apt typological description of this present evil world, for thorns are the evidence of the earth’s cursed state, see Genesis 3:18; while clay is the material from which man’s physical body is created, see Genesis 2:7; and of that body Paul has declared, “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing,” Romans 7:18. Mire speaks eloquently of man’s evil deeds, see Isaiah 57:20, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”


Israel’s coming to “the wilderness of Sin” therefore teaches the truth that while the believer is no longer “of” this world, he is nevertheless still in it, and must remain here as a witness for God until he is taken home to heaven.


For the significance of Elim see comments on 15:27; and for the significance of Sinai see comments on 3:7.


The factors of 15 are 3 and 5, three being the number of resurrection; and five, that of responsibility, so that their coming into the wilderness of Sin on the fifteenth day points symbolically to their being spiritually on resurrection ground (as is every believer), and to their being responsible to walk in obedience before God (as is also every believer).  Their physical geographical location is a symbolic picture of our spiritual position.  We are in a world which for us has become a desert, a spiritual wilderness.


Since two is the biblical number of witness or testimony, their coming into the wilderness on the second month serves to remind us of our responsibility to be God’s witnesses to others.  And since a month is the twelfth part of a year we are being further reminded of our responsibility to obey God.


16:2.  “And the whole congregation of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:”


As has been discussed already Moses represents the Law; and Aaron, grace, so that Israel’s murmuring, grumbling, and complaining against these two leaders is the reminder that we duplicate their evil conduct every time we resent God’s ordering of our lives, forgetting that His will is “good, and acceptable, and perfect,” Romans 12:2, and that “... all things work together for good, to those who love God,” Romans 8:28.


16:3.  “And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”


This has been duplicated in the lives of some new converts faced with the reality of having to sever themselves from associations incompatible with the profession of faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, e.g., certain types of business or business associations such as the sale or service of liquor, gambling operations, entertainment, Sunday business, et al.  Those who haven’t had to make such decisions can easily underestimate the courage and faith needed to make such decisions.


16:4.  “Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.”


The “bread” of course was the manna with which God fed the people for the forty years of their sojourn in the desert, that food being a type of the spiritual food, the written Word given for the nourishment of our souls during our passage through the wilderness of this world on our way home to heaven.  As they were to “gather a certain rate every day” so are we to daily read, meditate on, and obey what we read, see 1 Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”


We must note however, that the manna wasn’t just to be picked up and eaten: it was to be baked or boiled, see Exodus 16:23, that cooking process being the equivalent of reading and meditation.  It isn’t sufficient just to mechanically read a chapter a day as though we were reading a book.  Without meditation and obedience the mere reading will be of little profit; and he who has no desire to meditate on Scripture would do well to examine whether he has really been born again, as Paul exhorts, “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves,” 2 Corinthians 13:5.  One infallible proof of the reality of our professed faith is whether we love the written Word.


Relative to baking and boiling, fire is an essential element, and fire is one of the biblical symbols of the Holy Spirit.  His enlightenment is imperative if we are to understand the deeper spiritual significance of what we read, but when we grieve Him by doing what He forbids, or quench Him by refusing or neglecting to do what He commands, we automatically deprive ourselves of His illumination.


We must note also the distinction between baking and boiling.  Baking requires only fire, but boiling involves also the use of water, one of the biblical symbols of the written Word, see Ephesians 5:26, and the lesson being taught in boiling is that one of the methods used by the Holy Spirit is to have us compare Scripture with Scripture, as it is written, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual, but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Corinthians 2:13-14.


As food is boiled by being bubbled up, so does Scripture become our spiritual food as the Holy Spirit bubbles up in our minds what we have already learned from previous study of the Word, and uses that knowledge to help us understand the verse or passage presently being studied.


16:5.  “And it shall come to pass that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”


The amount to be gathered on the sixth day was to be sufficient for two days, so that there was no gathering on the sabbath, see verse 22.  It can scarcely be doubted that some at least would give thanks on the sabbath for the gracious provision that delivered them from the necessity of having to go out to gather the manna as on the other six days, reminding us that Israel’s seventh day has become for us the first day of the week, and is the day appointed by God for us to assemble around the Lord’s table to remember His death, and to present our worship for Him Who is the true Bread Who came down from heaven, He Himself declaring, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world ... I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” John 6:32-36.


16:6.  “And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the Lord hath brought you out from the land of Egypt:”


This prompts the question, In what way could God’s giving the quails confirm the belief of the Israelites that it was He Who had delivered them from Egyptian bondage? and the answer may be that the death of the quails would remind the Hebrews of the death of the Passover lambs whose blood had preserved each firstborn Israelite from death.


It is instructive to note that the quails were given twice: here in grace to meet their need as they began their journey to Canaan, and again in anger to punish their rebellion, see Numbers 11:4-33, the obvious lesson being that the Christ Who came once as Savior, the living bread for believers, is coming again as Judge to destroy the wicked, the unbelievers.


16:7.  “And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord; for that he heareth your murmurings against the Lord: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?”


That revelation of God’s glory is recorded in verse 10.  No specifics are given relative to that glory, but it is generally believed to have been an effulgence of dazzling brightness impossible to look upon except from a distance or through a vail, see for example Exodus 33:20-23, “And he (God) said (to Moses), Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.  And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock; and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: and I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen.”


Moses in the cleft of the rock is a type of each believer, for the cleft rock is a figure of Christ slain at Calvary, while Moses, from that safe place, being permitted to see only God’s back parts, represents each believer safe in Christ, and being enabled to “see” God on the pages of Scripture.  While here on earth however, “... we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known,” 1 Corinthians 13:12.  In other words, we now see only as it were God’s “back parts,” but at the end of life’s journey we shall see Him “face to face.”


16:8.  “And Moses said, This shall be, when the Lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord.”


This was fulfilled by God’s giving the quails in the evening, and the manna in the morning, as recorded in verse 13.  Those quails given once, and having to be slain to feed Israel, portray Christ given once to die for the expiation of our sins, and to give us spiritual life.  The manna given every day during their wilderness wanderings portray Him in resurrection as our spiritual food set before us in the Scriptures.


16:9.  “And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the Lord: for he hath heard your murmurings.”


16:10.  “And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.”


There is special significance in its being said that the congregation saw the glory of God, veiled in a cloud, as they looked toward the wilderness.  It is only as man turns his back on the things of this world - symbolically portrayed here in Israel’s looking toward the wilderness - that he can see God, for the more he is taken up with earthly things, the more clouded will his spiritual vision become.  But even the most spiritual man can see God only dimly here on earth, as noted already, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known,” 1 Corinthians 13:12.


16:11.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


16:12.  “I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.”


16:13.  “And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.”


16:14.  “And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.”


The quails given here represent Christ given to die once for the expiation of man’s sin, but the manna given thereafter every day as their food for the forty years of their wanderings in the wilderness portrays Him in resurrection as the spiritual food of those who have been redeemed by His precious blood, that food being the written Word which nourishes the believer’s new spiritual life obtained by faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.


The quails given in the evening, the end of the day, portray Him given to die for our sins even while we were in nature’s darkness “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1, as it is written, “... once in the end of the world (age) hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” Hebrews 9:26.  The manna given every day speaks of Him as the believer’s spiritual food presented in the Scriptures, and given for the nourishment of his new spiritual life.


“... on the ground” reminds us of the Lord’s coming down to earth as the living Word, of which it is written, “The word is nigh (near) thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach,” Romans 10:8.


The dew represents the Holy Spirit by Whom the Word is ministered to us as our spiritual food.  The manna’s being “small” speaks of Christ as despised and rejected by the unbelieving world; but its being “round” speaks of Him as the eternally existing One, having neither beginning nor end; and “hoar” in the present context means white, the color of purity, and speaking of His sinlessness.


16:15.  “And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist (knew) not what it was.  And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.”


Manna is defined in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance as “a whatness (so to speak), i.e., manna (so called from the question about it),” but Moses the man of God knew; and so is it still: spiritual men recognize the Scriptures as man’s spiritual food, given by God to sustain the believer’s new spiritual life, the Lord Himself declaring, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.  As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.  This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever,” John 6:53-58. 


The Lord of course was referring to the written Word, and declaring that all who believed that Word, and trusted in Him Whom it presented, would receive God’s priceless gift of eternal life, the life of God Himself, that life being nourished by the daily reading and obeying what is written in Scripture.  He who claims to be a believer, but who evinces no desire to read, study, and obey the written Word, is a false professor.


The teaching of Roman Catholicism, that in the Eucharist the bread and wine become by transubstantiation the literal body and blood of Christ, is unsupported by Scripture.  The Lord was very clearly appointing the bread and wine to be symbols of His body and blood.  On the night when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, the bread was literal bread, and the wine literal wine, and so has it been ever since.  There is nothing in Scripture to support the idea of transubstantiation.


16:16.  “This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.”


An omer was about the equivalent of three quarts dry measure; and the head of the family was to gather the manna for his household.  The lesson is easily read.  The head of each household is responsible to gather from the Scriptures each day what will minister to the spiritual needs of his family.  The fact that it was to be gathered early in the morning before “the sun waxed hot” verse 21, teaches the additional truth that we are to begin each day with the reading of Scripture.


16:17.  “And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.”


16:18.  “And when they did mete it with an omer, he that had gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.”


This is the typological declaration of the truth that we have varying capacities relative to understanding the deeper spiritual truth woven into the fabric of the Bible’s literal language.  It is not to be expected that the new convert, the babe in Christ, will have the same ability to discern the deeper truths of Scripture as does the mature spiritual believer; but it is also true that when the Holy Spirit is quenched and/or grieved by carnality, His power to enlighten is correspondingly reduced, hence the need of obedience if we would enjoy the full measure of His ministry.


This certainty of each man’s having sufficient for his individual daily need translates into the assurance that as we are faithful in reading and studying His Word each day so will He also be faithful in using that Word to meet our need for each day.


16:19.  “And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.”


This refers to the case of the man who gathered more than he had need of for one day in expectation of saving himself the trouble of having to go out and gather again the next morning.  He represents the man who refuses to recognize the need of nurturing his soul each day with a fresh reading of and meditation on the written Word.  The lesson God would teach is that there is to be a daily feeding on the written Word, for it is written, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” Matthew 6:34.  As each day brings its new portion of evil, so is it necessary to fortify our souls with a corresponding fresh intake of God’s Word appropriate to that day’s need.


16:20.  “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them.”


This teaches the folly of refusing to read and study a fresh portion of Scripture each day, the literal corruption resulting from Israel’s disobedience pointing to the moral defilement that accompanies neglect of God’s Word.  We do well to heed what is written in Psalm 119:9, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”


16:21.  “And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.”


The emphasis continues to be upon the need to begin each day with the reading and study of a portion of Scripture, for the melting of the manna when “the sun waxed hot” sounds the warning that effective study is impossible amid the distractions and cares of daily living.


16:22.  “And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.”


Their gathering a double amount of manna on the sixth day clearly implies instruction from God to do so, but leaves unexplained the ignorance of the rulers relative to that instruction.  There is no easily discernable reason for His not having commanded them also to gather a double portion, one explanation which suggests itself being that the common people were in closer touch with God than were the rulers, a state that is unfortunately sometimes duplicated in the local church today.  Another reason may be that God doesn’t leave us entirely dependent on men for teaching.  While He certainly does use men for this ministry, He would have us remember that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit Who teaches us, He enabling us to discern between sound and unsound doctrine.


16:23.  “And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe (boil) that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.”


During this present dispensation of grace the order for the keeping of a day of rest has been changed from the seventh to the first day of the week, the spiritual truth being declared in this changed order being that under law man sought rest through works, but under grace he enters into the enjoyment of present rest through faith in Christ’s perfectly completed work at Calvary.  In this age of grace the believer begins the week by assembling with other believers around the Lord’s table to eat the Lord’s Supper, and present his worship for all that God’s grace has provided through Christ.


Fire is the essential element common to baking and boiling, but since fire is one of the biblical symbols of the Holy Spirit, the lesson being taught here is that there is to be preparation for our coming to the Lord’s table, that preparation involving the reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word, so that when we come together the result of our previous study may furnish material which the Holy Spirit can use in connection with the presentation of our present worship.


It is to be noted also that while both involve the action of fire, there is a distinction between baking and boiling.  In baking the fire works directly on what is being cooked, but in the boiling process water is the element through which the fire works to complete the cooking process, and the spiritual lesson is easily read.  The baking represents the Holy Spirit’s direct revelation of the spiritual truth contained in the portion presently being read and studied: in boiling that revelation comes by His bubbling up in our minds and bringing to bear on the portion being studied what He has previously revealed in connection with our earlier studies of Scripture.


While it is essential that we come to the Lord’s Table with something prepared to present in worship, it is equally imperative that we be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as to when He would have us present that worship, that leading applying not only to the right moment during the present meeting, but also to whether He would perhaps have us offer it during a future observance of the Lord’s Supper.  Only eternity will reveal how many remembrance feasts have been marred by the presentation of what emanated from the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit.


16:24.  “And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.”


What results from obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit is blessed: what is prompted by the flesh is corrupt, and must die.


16:25.  “And Moses said, Eat that today; for today is a sabbath unto the Lord: today ye shall not find it in the field.”


Since eating is synonymous with satisfaction, their eating the manna on the sabbath, without having to go out to gather it, speaks of the contentment that results from obeying God.


16:26.  “Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.”


16:27.  “And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.”


The ultimate application here is to the eternal loss of those, who by deliberate choice or careless neglect, come to the end of life without having appropriated the bread of life, that is without having accepted Christ as Savior and Lord.  The literal hunger suffered by the disobedient Israelite during the sabbath, is but a faint foreshadowing of the eternal suffering to be endured by those who die without having received Christ as Savior, He being the true bread of life, as He Himself declared, “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world .... I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst,” John 6:32-35.


16:28.  “And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?”


Moses himself had not been disobedient, but his being charged here as the representative of the people confirms that he is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ Who willingly assumed responsibility for our sins, and then did what Moses couldn’t: He died to expiate them, and make available to everyone who would trust Him as Savior, a full pardon, and God’s priceless gift of eternal life.


16:29.  “See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”


16:30.  “So the people rested on the seventh day.”


God’s edict that they rest on the seventh day was accompanied by His provision which made obedience easy; and so is it with all His commands, see Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


16:31.  “And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: for it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.”


See comments on verse 15 for the meaning of the name “manna.”  It is clearly a type of Christ as the spiritual food for His redeemed people, His purity being indicated in the white color of the coriander seed, while the honey may speak of the pleasure His people find in the presentation of Him in every page of Scripture, and unfolded to them through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.


16:32.  “And Moses said, This is the thing which the Lord commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt.”


16:33.  “And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations.”


Since, as has been noted already, the manna is a type of Christ, this preservation of an omer of it as a perpetual reminder to future generations, declares the truth that Christ’s sacrifice will be remembered eternally, not only by the Father and by the redeemed of all ages, but also by the damned who will bewail for ever the folly that led them to reject Him as Savior.


16:34.  “As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.”


The “Testimony” is generally understood to have been the Ark of the Covenant which was located in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, so that the memorial potful of manna was figuratively before the eye of God perpetually, this being the typological announcement of the truth that the Father will remember eternally that sacrifice at Calvary which has brought eternal glory to Him, and eternal salvation to every sinner who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.


16:35.  “And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.”


This is the symbolic foreshadowing of the truth that until we finish our earthly journey and enter heaven, we too are to feed our souls on the Christ presented in the pages of Scripture.


Since the factors of forty are four, the number of earth and testing; and ten, the number of Divine government, the lesson of the forty years is that our sojourn here on earth is a time which tests the degree of our obedience, and which therefore determines also the measure of our eternal reward.


16:36.  “Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.”


The mention of the tenth (ten being the number of Divine government) continues to emphasize our responsibility to be obedient under that government. 


An ephah was about the tenth of a bushel.

[Exodus 17]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough