Daily Devotional: Exodus 16:1-21

Manna, a light film of secreted honeydew left when insects consumed the sap from the Rimth Shrub in the Desert of Sinai—still collected and used as an ingredient in the modern day. The Israelites did not know about the naturally occurring food. Like we see in God’s command about purifying bitter water (Genesis 15:22-27), here we see God teaching Israel about His creation—particularly how to forage manna without a way to preserve it. He also teaches His people the importance of making sure everyone eats by instructing the not to forage more than they need.

God does, indeed, rain bread from heaven. Bread is often used to generally refer to food. Moses includes a detail about quail that come form the sky as if to show that the origin of this manna is something airborne. Though it is not the quail themselves, it is something the quail eat–insects. Insects drop in from the sky, often what is meant by the word “heaven,” and leave this honeydew film behind with the morning dew. This is providence, not necessarily miracle—which seems to me God’s normative way of providing for people.

The story is not without miracle, however. God does seem to miraculously preserve the manna from the sixth day for use on the Sabbath. For the Israelites, avoiding gluttony made the difference between life and death. We see why gluttony breeds injustice and inequality in a society. When we are gluttonous, when we take more than we need, others always suffer. In God’s economy (not the doctrine of divine economy but commercial economy), those who take much don’t have too much, and those who take little have enough. The way God instructs us to act means we care for our neighbors, making sure everyone has enough but not too much. No human economic model has yet achieved the economy of God. I believe God’s economy depends more on the hearts of the people than it does a specific model.

Moses becomes angry with the people who gathered too much because it breeds worms and becomes foul. Though literal for the Israelites, it serves a nice metaphor for gluttony in our modern day. 

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