Text for the Week: Enough for the Day

Scripture: Exodus 16:13-26

13 In the evening a flock of quail flew down and covered the camp. And in the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the desert surface were thin flakes, as thin as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” They didn’t know what it was.

Moses said to them, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Collect as much of it as each of you can eat, one omer per person. You may collect for the number of people in your household.’” 17 The Israelites did as Moses said, some collecting more, some less. 18 But when they measured it out by the omer, the ones who had collected more had nothing left over, and the ones who had collected less had no shortage. Everyone collected just as much as they could eat. 19 Moses said to them, “Don’t keep any of it until morning.” 20 But they didn’t listen to Moses. Some kept part of it until morning, but it became infested with worms and stank. Moses got angry with them. 21 Every morning they gathered it, as much as each person could eat. But when the sun grew hot, it melted away.

22 On the sixth day the people collected twice as much food as usual, two omers per person. All the chiefs of the community came and told Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the Lord has said, ‘Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. But you can set aside and keep all the leftovers until the next morning.’” 24 So they set the leftovers aside until morning, as Moses had commanded. They didn’t stink or become infested with worms. 25 The next day Moses said, “Eat it today, because today is a Sabbath to the Lord. Today you won’t find it out in the field. 26 Six days you will gather it. But on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be nothing to gather.”

Theme- God listens to complaints and graciously provides for our needs.


  1. Why do the people complain about Moses and Aaron and not God?
  2. What does it say about human nature that the first two stories after the crossing of the Sea involve the people complaining about their situation?
  3. Why is the Sabbath rest brought up in this passage when the people have not been given any prior instruction about the Sabbath?
  4. How are we to understand that each person collected the same amount of manna, were the collections miraculously evened out or were the people compelled to share?

Helpful Information

Related texts: Exodus 20:8-11, John 6:25-71, 1 Peter 1:3-9

The way Aaron is used to address the people is reminiscent of the way Moses spoke through Aaron to Pharaoh.

The name “manna” given to the food God provides is the Hebrew phrase that means “what is it”.

 An “omer” was a unit of volume and is estimated to be approximately 2-3 quarts.

For more background see my video here


One of the linchpins to understanding the gift of food in Exodus 16 is how we understand “Come near to the Lord, because he’s heard your complaints” in verse 9. For most of my life I read this as God calling out a guilty community that was unable to appreciate the good things God has done for them. I think this is easy to do because we are so accustomed seeing the Israelites complaints in the wilderness as negative sinful behavior because later in the narrative that is how the grumbling is portrayed. However, I am not sure this is the best reading of the text. Exodus 16 begins with the people approaching Moses and complaining about the lack of food, but Moses never answers the people, instead the next paragraph is God discussing the matter with Moses and telling the people to draw near. I think this is a picture of God hearing the complaints of the people and saying they are legitimate complaints but directed to the wrong person. God is not telling the people to approach for punishment but for justice, but it is not Moses who has led the people out and so must provide food for the people that responsibility is God’s. There is no hint of condemnation in this passage, God willingly hears the people’s complaints and provides food, both an extravagant food as a one-time provision and a daily sustaining provision. But this provision comes with guidelines, guidelines intended to teach the Israelites how to treat one another and to relate to God.

The first thing to notice is that the manna is provided daily, there is no collecting it to save or resell. God’s provision for the Israelites was daily and must be treated as such, the Israelites had to respond to God’s grace daily. The manna decaying forces the people to collect new every day, every day they would be placed in a situation where they would be forced to meditate on God’s provision, and I think there is an expectation that this mediation would lead them to a daily prayer of thanksgiving. Daily they would be reminded that God’s nature is to provide for their needs and to remember that their existence is dependent on God’s love and mercy, not their labor alone.

The second major expectation God has for the people is equity, no matter how much a person gathered or how little (seemingly as long as they made an effort) they ended the day with the one omer per day quota. Was this a miraculous evening of the containers from the hand of God or were the people forced to share in order to partake of the manna? I think there is a case for either understanding but the point is the people were being taught that their efforts were meant to provide evenly throughout the community. Reading about how God equitably provided for everyone is meant to help us see that even when we are not dependent on manna for provision, God still provides enough for all humanity and before we go hoarding too much, we should recognize that others were not able to collect as much, and our responsibility is to help them. God is not willing that someone should have less than enough and is not willing to allow someone to hoard all the blessings for themselves.

The third regulation builds on the first two and that is the double provision on the sixth day to provide for a Sabbath. The Sabbath would become a major part of the Israelite lifestyle in the Pentateuch, and this is the first reference to it, and it comes in relation to how one provides for oneself. We are meant to notice that God’s rest is so important that God’s provision accounts for it, Israelite culture, economy, personal relationships, and way of life would have been built around this. God distributes the manna in a way that everyone in the community would be forced to remember the rest prescribed on the seventh day. God recognized the validity of the Israelites’ complaint about a lack of food and used that complaint to both show Israel the grace of food in the desert and as an opportunity to teach Israel about how they are to construct their society. As we approach the text we are called to read between the lines of historical story of provision and ask what kind of community is God trying to create through this experience and then begin to form that community in response to God’s provision.

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