Jan. 23 Reading: Exodus 16-18 Commentary

Below is our Exodus 16-18 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Ex. 16:4)

Exodus 16 – Daily Bread From Heaven

commentaryIt’s now been about a month and a half since the Passover event in Egypt (Ex. 16:1). Israel had evacuated Egypt, survived the army of Pharaoh at the Red Sea crossing, and seen God turn bitter water into something drinkable at Marah (Ex. 15:22-27). The whole congregation is now on the move again, journeying from the oasis at Elim (15:27) to Sinai in the Wilderness of Sin.

And wouldn’t you know it, they complain again, this time about their lack of food

“Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Ex. 16:3)

This is now the third time Israel complained. Moses probably couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Really? You’d rather be dead with a full belly in Egypt than be free and hungry in the wilderness?

Nevertheless, God had a word for Moses. He would provide meat for the people in the form of quail (v. 13) and a daily provision of bread the people called “Manna” (v. 31). In this way, God would sustain them through their wilderness journey. Little did they know it at this time, but they would eat manna for the the next 40 years (v. 35).

This event does show us that God will always provide. He knows your need and will meet it in time. We should never doubt that he wants to bless us. As the psalmist says, “…No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Ps. 84:11)

Characteristics of and Commands About Manna

So what was manna? The people didn’t really know. That’s why they called it manna. The word can be translated as “What” or “What is it?” (v. 15).  The closest description of it comes from verse 31: “…it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” And apparently it had a round shape (v. 14).

God left specific instructions about the manna, how to collect it and how to store it:

1. Ever man was to gather one omer (about 2.3 liters) every morning for each person in his tent (v. 16).

2. They were not to leave any of it until the next morning (v. 19). Those who disobeyed saw that it spoiled overnight (v. 20).

3. On the sixth day, they gathered double to give them provisions for the Sabbath day of rest (vv. 22-30). This collection of bread did not spoil on the first night, lasting them  two days.

4. God commanded Moses to store some of the manna in a pot and keep it before the Lord for generations (v. 33). This manna also did not spoil.

This action by God highlights how He provides for our daily needs. It brings new meaning to the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” that Jesus would use when he taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6.

Exodus 17 – Water From a Rock

Food wasn’t the only thing the people needed. Water was scarce in the wilderness. And once again the people complain to Moses that there was nothing to drink. This is their fourth complaint since leaving Egypt.

It had to be difficult for Moses to listen to all the complaining. In essence, he was the hand of God to these people. He’d been the vehicle through which God performed all the miracles. He knew firsthand, more than anyone, what God was capable of.

We see his frustration leak out in Ex. 17:4 when he says to God, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!” Maybe he is overstating the situation, but at the least, he is at a loss with what to do.

Once again, God provided just what the people needed:

“And the Lord said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” (vv. 5-6)

Moses did as the Lord commanded. He called this place Massah (meaning “tempted”) and Meribah (meaning “contention”) because the people tempted the Lord and doubted he was among them (v. 7).

The First Battle

Out of nowhere come the Amalekites in an unprovoked attack on Israel. The name may not appear familiar but they were descendants of Esau (Gen. 36:1, 12).

It is here we are first introduced to Joshua. At some point, Joshua had been chosen to be a leader and Moses’ right hand man. In later years, he succeeded Moses as the leader of the people (Deut. 31). In this instance, he is charged with the task of leading the men out to fight against Amalek.

While Joshua and the men would be fighting the battle, God would be in charge of the outcome. He commanded Moses, Aaron and another close associate of Moses, a man by the name of Hur, to go to the top of a nearby hill. He instructed Moses to bring along his rod, the one that had figured so prominently in the plagues of Egypt.

On the hill, Moses lifted his rod into the air. When his rod was lifted high, Israel prevailed. When he grew tired and his rod lowered, Amalek prevailed. So Aaron and Hur provided support to Moses’ arms so that the rod could always be in a lifted position. In this way, Joshua was able to defeat Amalek.

Exodus 18 – Jethro Visits Moses

Many people and nations heard about what God did to the Egyptians. One of those people was Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. Exodus 18 gives us the account of his visit with Moses.

Of course Jethro is interested in all that God has done for Moses. He had given his daughter Zipporah to Moses and they had two sons together, Gershom and Eliezer (v. 2-6). So this family reunion was a joyous one (v. 7) and gave Moses the chance to tell Jethro all that God had done in Egypt and the challenges they had experienced since leaving Egypt.

Upon hearing the wonderful works of the Lord,  Jethro worshipped the Lord through a burnt offering sacrifice (v. 12).

Wisdom from Jethro

But the big idea to come out of their interaction occurred the next day when Jethro saw Moses interacting with the people. Jethro observed Moses serving as judge over all the people. They would come with questions, quarrels and complaints and ask Moses to let them know the statutes of the Lord.

Jethro must have noticed the strain this put Moses under because he said: The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself” (vv. 17-18).

The great thing is that Jethro did not just point out a problem for Moses. He gave him an idea that could be a solution. His counsel first directed Moses to teach the people the statutes of the Lord. Then he advised Moses to:

“…select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.” (vv. 21-22)

Moses appreciated the wisdom Jethro gave him on this matter and implemented the plan, but only after he made sure it was the will of the Lord (v. 23). That’s a key point to remember because sometimes we follow advice that sounds good and leave the Lord out of the equation.

Questions to Consider:

The Israelites couldn’t seem to get it through their heads that God would look out for them if they only trust in him. Do you ever find yourself complaining to God? Why do you think we do that, even when we know God is on our side? 

The Israelites immediately faced hardships in the wilderness. No food, no water, and no protection from their enemies equaled no problem for God, as He miraculously met each need. What needs has God met for you? Do you ever doubt that He will do it again?

Are you too proud to take advice from someone? Why is it that we think we have all the answers? 

What other points would you want to know about in our Exodus 16-18 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.