Exodus 16:1-81NIV New International Version Translations
1 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”
In the description in the Book of Exodus, manna is described as being available six mornings a week, after the dew had evaporated. It is described in the Book of Numbers as arriving with the dew during the night; Exodus adds that manna was comparable to hoarfrost in size (ice crystals) similarly had to be collected before it was melted by the heat of the sun, and was white like coriander seed in color. Numbers describes it as having the appearance of bdellium (an aromatic gum like myrrh that is exuded from a tree), adding that the Israelites ground it and pounded it into cakes, which were then baked, resulting in something that tasted like cakes baked with oil. Exodus states that raw manna tasted like wafers that had been made with honey.
The Israelites were instructed to eat only the manna they had gathered for each day. Leftovers or manna stored up for the following day “bred worms and stank”: the exception being the day before Shabbat (Preparation Day), when twice the amount of manna was gathered, which did not spoil overnight; because, Exodus 16:23-24 [states] “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ ” 24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.” Concisely, baked and or boiled manna kept overnight; that is, baked and or boiled manna “did not [spoil,] stink or get maggots in it” overnight.
The provisions of Israel, brought from Egypt, were spent by the middle of the second month, and they murmured. It is no new thing for the greatest kindness to be basely represented as the greatest injuries. They so far undervalue their deliverance, that they wished they had died in Egypt; and by the hand of the Lord, that is, by the plagues which cut off the Egyptians. We cannot suppose they had plenty in Egypt, nor could they fear dying for want in the wilderness, while they had flocks and herds: none talk more absurdly than murmurers. When we begin to fret, we ought to consider, that God hears all our murmurings. God promises a speedy and constant supply. He tried whether they would trust him, and rest satisfied with the bread of the day in its day. Thus he tried if they would serve him, and it appeared how ungrateful they were. When God plagued the Egyptians, it was to make them know he was their Lord; when he provided for the Israelites, it was to make them know he was their God.
Items for Discussion
- How are the difficulties of the Israelites who were wondering in the desert similar to those our society might be experiencing today?
- Why is it human nature to complain about circumstances (murmuring)?
- Exactly what was God trying to do for the Israelites?
- In what way does God do similar things for us today?
- Is there such a thing as modern day manna?
- God is asking us to depend on Him and trust Him for our very basic needs and existence – Is this harder or easier to do today? Why or why not?
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” 28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
The Gospel of John is one of four gospels in the Holy Bible and is the fourth book in chronological order presented in the New Testament. The Gospel of John is a unique perspective of the life of Jesus Christ. It varies from the other three gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (also known as the synoptic gospels), by focusing more on spiritual themes rather than historical events. The author of this gospel was the disciple John, one of the twelve disciples that followed Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. The author identifies himself in the last chapter of the gospel: “This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24). John was also known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (see John 13:23, 19:26, and 21:7.). Perhaps this explains the uniqueness of John’s record of the life of Jesus. The book is filled with firsthand accounts of experiences with Jesus Christ that occurred during Christ’s 33 years of life on earth. Scholars generally accept that the Gospel of John was written between 50 and 85 A.D.
Verses 25-27 The people found Jesus on the other side of the lake. And they wanted to know how he had travelled there so quickly.
But Jesus did not reply to their question. Instead, he told them that they were concentrating on the wrong things. They had seen him feed over 5000 people with only a small amount of food. This was a wonderful miracle. But they did not understand the real meaning of the miracle. They saw only that Jesus had satisfied their physical hunger. They were concentrating only on the things of earth, not on the things of heaven.
Food is essential for our bodies. We need food to remain alive and healthy. But we are more than just bodies. We have spirits, too. And even as we have physical hunger, we have spiritual hunger, too. When we are hungry for physical food, we feel empty inside our bodies. But also we can feel empty inside our hearts and our spirits. This is spiritual hunger. Only God can satisfy it, because he created this spiritual hunger in us. This hunger is the desire to know him and to love him. It is hunger (desire) for the life that only he can give to us by means of his Son, Jesus.
Some people do not know why they feel empty inside their hearts and their spirits. And other people are not even aware that they feel empty inside their hearts and their spirits. They feel strong desires, but they do not know how to satisfy these desires. They may buy more possessions because they want to achieve this. Or they may work hard and look after their families. Or they may do activities that they enjoy. Or perhaps they do activities that they consider important. But still they cannot satisfy their desires. They want to live a life that pleases God. But their problem is that they do not know how. And they may not even realise that this is their problem.
Physical things can never satisfy spiritual hunger. Physical things do not last. So Jesus told the people that they should desire to find eternal life, instead. He told them that he could give eternal life to them. That was why God had sent him to the earth.
We receive eternal life when we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Then we can start to live a life that pleases God. This is how God intended us to live. When our lives please God, we are content, too. We realise that our lives have a special purpose. This satisfies all the desires in our hearts and our spirits. And this satisfaction lasts. We can be content always, whatever our circumstances.
It is not enough just to read or to talk about eternal life. We have to receive it ourselves to know how wonderful it is.
Verses 28-29 Immediately, the Jews thought that to get eternal life they had to follow rules. Their religion had many rules already. So they were expecting Jesus to give them rules to obey. Then they could earn eternal life for themselves.
But we can never earn eternal life. We can never be good or holy enough for God. Eternal life is God’s gift to us. We must do just one thing to receive it. We must believe in God’s Son, Jesus. We must have faith in him. When we have faith, we become God’s friend. We know that he loves us. We know that he wants to forgive us. Faith is not a set of rules. But when we have faith in Jesus, we want to obey him. Because he loves us, we want to love other people. We want him to guide us so that we do good things. We want him to control every part of our lives.
Verses 30-31 Jesus had told them that God had sent him. He had God’s authority. They had to believe in him to have eternal life. These were very impressive statements! Jesus did not use the word ‘Messiah’ here. But really Jesus was saying that he was the Messiah. The Jews realised this. So they asked for proof.
They were thinking still about how he had fed them all with the bread and the fish. They connected this with the manna that their ancestors, the Israelites, ate in the desert. Manna was a special food that appeared on the ground at night (Numbers 11:9). It was white and it tasted good. When other food became available, the manna did not continue to appear (Joshua 5:12). The Israelites knew that the manna appeared by means of a miracle. And the Jewish teachers believed that the Messiah would cause manna to fall from heaven again. They considered that manna was God’s bread for them (Psalm 78:24; Exodus 16:15). Jesus had fed over 5000 people when he gave them real bread. Now the people wanted him to produce manna from nothing.
Verses 32-34 Firstly, Jesus reminded them that ‘he’ in this Scripture (see verse 31) referred to God, not to Moses. Again, Jesus referred to God as ‘my Father’. But the manna did not last. And it satisfied only their physical hunger. It was just a symbol of the real bread from heaven. The real bread from heaven gives life to people and it satisfies their spiritual hunger. But the real bread from heaven is not physical food. Instead, the ‘real bread from heaven’ means God’s Son, Jesus.
Verse 35 In John’s Gospel, Jesus made 7 important statements about himself. Each of these statements explained something about his nature and why he had come to the earth. The statements began with the words ‘I am’. This phrase had another important meaning, because ‘I am’ was also the name for God. God had told Moses that ‘I am’ was God’s name (Exodus 3:14). This name means that God has always existed. He will always exist. So Jesus used the words ‘I am’ on purpose in these statements. He wanted people to understand, by means of these words, that he is God. This is the first of these ‘I am’ statements.
Jesus is ‘the bread that gives life’. Bread is the most important daily food in many parts of the world. It gives energy and strength to our bodies. It helps us to stay alive. But Jesus does more than this on our behalf. He gives to us the life that comes only from God. God made us for himself. We can be really happy only when we know him as our friend and our Father. Jesus makes this possible. When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we can know God as our friend and our Father. He satisfies our desire (spiritual hunger and thirst) for love.
Items for Discussion
- Have we lost something today in understanding the Bible because we don’t depend on bread as a key food anymore?
- What are the other changes that have occurred in society that make it harder to understand our Bible?
- What kind of “life” is Jesus talking about when He says, “the bread of life?”
- How would you compare bread (from its place in society during Christ’s times) to faith in our times? Where are they similar and/or dissimilar?
- We know what drives the physical hunger of a human. What drives the spiritual hunger?
- What are the things a person can do to satisfy their spiritual hunger?
- What dangers come from a constant hunger that is not satisfied?
- How do we help others see their role as feeders of the flock?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations