Exodus 16 Study Notes


16:1 Wilderness of Sin uses a transliterated Hebrew word that may be a shortened form of Sinai. The traditional site of Mount Sinai, Jebel Musa in Arabic, is in the southern Sinai Peninsula. Other proposed sites for Mount Sinai are in central and northern Sinai and east of the Gulf of Aqaba. Only a month had passed since the Israelites had left Egypt.

16:2-3 This time Israel’s complaint is longer and more hostile. The people’s memory was short and their hearts ungrateful. If God were going to let them die, they would rather he had done so in Egypt. This discounted the actions of the Lord’s hand for them in the past as well as in the future (cp. 2Sm 24:13-14,17).

16:4 During the time between the exodus and the giving of the covenant at Sinai, the Lord and Israel tested each other, the Lord looking to see whether or not the Israelites would trust him and obey him after experiencing all his efforts on their behalf. The Israelites were attempting to put God in the position of meeting their demands. In the process of these experiments, dominant qualities and values of both are displayed (v. 4; 15:25-26; 17:2,7; 20:20; cp. Nm 14:22; Ps 78:17-22). Follow my instructions is literally, “walk in my instructions.” Since walking is the most common way for humans to move around, it is good terminology for talking about conduct of life (18:20; Lv 18:4; Dt 5:33; 8:6; Pr 1:15; 10:9; Eph 2:10; 4:1).

16:5 The sixth day would provide enough that no gathering would be needed on the seventh day.

16:6-8 The Lord continued to act to give knowledge of himself and reveal his glory (6:6; 7:17; 8:10,22; 9:14,29; 10:2; 11:7; 14:4,17-18). Who are we is literally, “What are we?” Moses’s use of the interrogative pronoun that usually refers to things rather than people presents himself and Aaron as unimportant in the situation. Their grumbling against Moses and Aaron was in fact a complaint against the Lord.

16:9-10 Like its English rendering, the Hebrew word for glory refers to God’s excellence on display, often in action, as here. It can also refer to the recognition of that excellence, as when someone is said “to give glory.”

16:11-15 Unlike manna, quail did not become part of the daily fare of the Israelites (Nm 11:4-6,13,31-32). When quail migrate between Europe and Africa, they fly over northern Sinai, and need to rest after flying over the Mediterranean Sea.

16:17-20 Those who ignored the instruction not to keep any of the manna overnight presumably went without enough to eat. They failed to enjoy the Lord’s provision because of their distrust.

16:21-26 Sabbath is an anglicized form of the Hebrew word shabbath, associated with a verb meaning “cease, stop, rest” (v. 30; 5:5; 31:12-17; Gn 8:22).

16:27-28 The rhetorical question expresses the Lord’s displeasure and returns to the theme of testing for obedience (v. 4; 15:25-26). The Israelites’ refusal to keep the Lord’s commands put them in the company of Pharaoh, who refused to humble himself (4:23; 7:14; 10:3; cp. Dt 8:16).

16:29-30 Pharaoh had refused to give the Israelites any days of rest, and he had withheld the straw needed for their work. But the Lord provided a day of rest each week and the food the Israelites needed for that day of rest.

16:31-36 The name manna is the anglicized form of the Hebrew word man (interrogative “What?”), which partially echoes the question in v. 15 (Hb man hu’), “What is it?” No naturally occurring substance matches the description, constancy, and duration of manna well enough to account for it. The testimony is a shortened form of “the ark of the testimony,” the box that would later contain the Ten Commandments and would testify about the covenant the Lord had given Israel (25:16,21; 26:33; 30:36; 31:18; Nm 17:1-10). The construction of the ark is described in Ex 37:1-9, so it was not built until after 16:33-34. God continued sending the manna until the day after the Israelites first ate food grown in their new land (Jos 5:12). Moses’s instructions to Aaron here could have been given any time after the tabernacle was built.

16:36 The measure of an omer (Hb ‘omer) appears only in Ex 16. It is explained as a tenth of an ephah (Hb ’eyphah). Apparently the ephah remained in use longer than the omer. The passing of a generation or a change in region can make such explanations helpful.