Exodus 16:1-3 God brought Israel out of bondage but did not lead them immediately to the Promised Land. They needed to be prepared by God in order to represent Him in His Land. God’s intention for them was that they would be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation so the world might know that the God of Israel is the one true God. Their training for this key role consisted of trials or tests that were designed to strengthen their faith. So far there have been two tests, Chapter 14, the Egyptian Army and the Red Sea. The second was Chapter 15, the bitter waters of Mara. Now a third: Can God provide Israel with food in the wilderness? Their grumbling, while directed at Moses and Aaron was really against the Lord as Moses in v 7 makes plain. Their complaints reveal that they failed to understand what kind of God He is.
Exodus 16:4-5 God tells Moses He will provide food in a totally unexpected way to determine if they will trust and obey Him. God calls it bread from heaven (Jn 6:31-32). They were to gather only what they would need for a day, which goes against the natural human instinct to gather and store. God was testing them to build their trust that He would provide for them. They were to gather twice as much manna on Friday to be able to keep the Sabbath. This is one of the reasons why on Shabbat we have two loaves of bread for our evening dinner. It helps us to remember that on Friday evening we gathered twice as much manna and it did not spoil.
Exodus 16:6-8 Moses’ words demonstrate that the plagues and their deliverance from Egypt was not enough to fully believe and trust in God, so God graciously gives them more signs to strengthen their faith. God would fulfill His word to Moses by giving them meat in the evening and bread in the morning. This provision would demonstrate the glory of the Lord. Glory “Kavod” = heaviness, honor as from royalty worthy of awe, respect, submission.
Exodus 16:9-12 Moses spoke through Aaron to the people, likely because of their grumbling which was probably directed to Moses. Moses called the people to come before the Lord. To come before the Lord here means before the pillar of cloud and not through Moses and Aaron. “He has heard your grumbling” the omniscience knows that, but here it means, God is attentive to your needs and is planning to respond. Faith is strengthened in situations when we’re confused, afraid, and desperate, when we wonder if we can survive. God appeared in the cloud, while Aaron was speaking. God’s glory may have been revealed with a greater than normal fiery brilliance in the cloud (see 24:16–17). The Lord spoke, almost surely from the cloud. God said in evening you will have meat, and in the morning, you will have bread.
Exodus 16:13-15 The Lord sent meat in the form of quails (Ps 78:27 He “rained meat” upon them). This was not the only food they had. They had flocks and herds, so they had plenty of food; but if they ate all their livestock, they would have had none to re-stock the promised land when they settled in the Land. The quail was a one-time provision while the manna would be God’s provision for them daily in the wilderness. Manna literally means “What is it” and Moses told them in response, that it’s the bread God has given them. It is described as a thin flake like substance like frost on the ground. It may have been like filo dough used for making strudel.
Exodus 16:16-18 The manna could not be over gathered or overeaten without consequence. The amount allowed to be collected was set by God based on what and an average person would need. An omer was about two quarts and it would provide what they needed for nourishment. These verses report something miraculous; that is, no matter what anyone gathered a lot or a little, it would be the amount needed for the day.
Exodus 16:19-21 A day’s manna had to be eaten that day, otherwise it would breed worms and stink. God designed it so that they could learn to trust His daily provision for them. Some tried to save leftovers but those who did found it inedible. When word came to Moses about their actions, he was rightfully angry over their disobedience. He likely had a fear of the consequences of disobedience. The fact that it melted as the sun grew hot required people to get up early in the morning to gather it daily.
Exodus 16:22-26 The amount of manna on Friday morning was more abundant. The leaders of Israel report the change to Moses, and he instructs them that this is God’s provision for Shabbat. Miraculously on Shabbat God provided a double portion that would not go bad as on other days. This was so that they would be prepared for the blessing of keeping the Sabbath. There were no sabbath’s in slavery. This provision was given so they could experience a weekly rest from their daily burdens. God rested on the seventh day of creation and He wanted His children to have a foretaste of what eternal rest will be like. The book of Hebrews speaks about how the Sabbath foreshadowed the rest of heaven (Heb. 4:1-3).
Exodus 16:27-30 Just as people tried to save manna overnight, so people went out on Shabbat failing to gather failing to obey God’s command through Moses. Either they did not trust that the double portion of Friday would be enough or that it would last on the Sabbath without rotting. God asks Moses rhetorically how long will you refuse to keep my commandments? Their failure to obey compromised their ability to be a nation of priests and kings. That role is only assured through faith, trust and obedience.
Exodus 16:31-35 Here we have a further description of the manna as well as a call to preserve a jar as a testimony of God’s provision for His people. It would be placed later in the Ark of the covenant in Holy of Holies after the Tabernacle is built. It would miraculously be kept throughout their generations. The manna ended when Israel entered the Promised Land. And the manna ceased the day after they began to eat the produce of the Promised land. “And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (Josh 5:12). An omer was about 2 quarts or 2 liters, An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters.