The complaints of the Israelites began almost immediately into their forty year wilderness journey; kind of like traveling with children. I’m hungry. I’m tired. I’m thirsty. Are we there yet? Can’t you hear them?
“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. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, … you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:1-3
The grumbling, the complaining, the road rage — Oi vey! What will Moses and Aaron do? They are as hungry as the people and no food is in sight. In Deuteronomy 8:15, Moses describes the desert as a vast and dreadful, waterless land with venomous snakes and scorpions.
“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.”’ Exodus 16:4
God comes to their rescue. He will provide the food needed to sustain them on their journey. Each day the bread would come from heaven. The people were only to gather daily what they needed and then on the sixth day, they were to gather twice as much because they would be gathering for the Sabbath as well.
“in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.’” Exodus 16:13-15
“The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.” Exodus 16:31
“The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil.” Numbers 11:8
Manna rained from heaven. A wonderful all-purpose survival ration. The Lord had given them the bread of angels to eat. They didn’t have to work for it. They didn’t even have to clean up the leftovers because only a daily portion was provided. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, the Hebrew word, manna means “What is it?”.
Scientists have discovered that the low tamarisk tree growing in the Sinai wilderness produces a sap that certain scale insects like to eat. As these insects eat the sap, they secrete a liquid called honeydew that when crystallized resembles manna and is a good source of carbohydrates. In the research, however, these scientists never mentioned if they had tasted it. Vine’s has a different viewpoint and states, “None of the natural substances called “manna” is to be identified with that which God provided for Israel.”
This source of nourishment, along with quail and water that God also provided, kept the people fed during their long years in the desert. As they neared the end of their wandering, Moses spoke with them.
“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son so the LORD your God disciplines you.” Deuteronomy 8:2-5
Under the guidance of Joshua, following the death of Moses, the Israelites finally crossed the Jordan river and made camp in their homeland. God had been their provider, their protector and their guide. When they made camp at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, God told Joshua that the reproach of Egypt had been removed from them. (Joshua 5:9) He instructed them to celebrate the Passover and so on the fourteenth day of the month, they held their first Passover in their homeland. On that night, they remembered how God had delivered them from the plague of the firstborn in Egypt, delivered them from judgment, and restored their freedom from slavery and oppression.
“The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.” Joshua 5:11,12
Baked manna. Fried manna. Manna casserole. Manna stew. Manna pudding. Do you think they ever missed the bread of angels?
Only a few weeks are left in our summer study series on angels. I hope you have enjoyed this topic of study. If you are interested in learning more about spiritual warfare or about equipping yourself with spiritual armor against evil, check out this week’s lesson. Click here for the Week 9 Lesson Plan.