The Wilderness of Sin. 1Having set out from Elim, the whole Israelite community came into the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month* after their departure from the land of Egypt. 2Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!”
The Quail and the Manna. 4Then the LORD said to Moses:a I am going to rain down bread from heaven* for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not. 5On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in, let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days. 6So Moses and Aaron told all the Israelites,b “At evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt; 7and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, when he hears your grumbling against him. But who are we that you should grumble against us?” 8And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and in the morning your fill of bread, and hears the grumbling you utter against him, who then are we? Your grumbling is not against us, but against the LORD.”
9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole Israelite community: Approach the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.” 10But while Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they turned in the direction of the wilderness, and there the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud! 11The LORD said to Moses: 12I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, and then you will know that I, the LORD, am your God.
13In the evening, quailc came up and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all about the camp, 14and when the layer of dew evaporated, fine flakes were on the surface of the wilderness, fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground. 15On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?”* for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.d
Regulations Regarding the Manna. 16“Now, this is what the LORD has commanded. Gather as much of it as each needs to eat, an omer* for each person for as many of you as there are, each of you providing for those in your own tent.” 17The Israelites did so. Some gathered a large and some a small amount. 18* But when they measured it out by the omer, the one who had gathered a large amount did not have too much, and the one who had gathered a small amount did not have too little. They gathered as much as each needed to eat. 19Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” 20But they did not listen to Moses, and some kept a part of it over until morning, and it became wormy and stank. Therefore Moses was angry with them.
21Morning after morning they gathered it, as much as each needed to eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers for each person. When all the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses, 23he told them, “That is what the LORD has prescribed. Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy sabbath of the LORD. Whatever you want to bake, bake; whatever you want to boil, boil; but whatever is left put away and keep until the morning.” 24When they put it away until the morning, as Moses commanded, it did not stink nor were there worms in it. 25Moses then said, “Eat it today, for today is the sabbath of the LORD. Today you will not find any in the field. 26Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, it will not be there.” 27Still, on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather it, but they did not find any. 28Then the LORD said to Moses: How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my instructions? 29Take note! The LORD has given you the sabbath. That is why on the sixth day he gives you food for two days. Each of you stay where you are and let no one go out on the seventh day. 30After that the people rested on the seventh day.
31The house of Israel named this food manna.e It was like coriander seed,* white, and it tasted like wafers made with honey.
32Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded. Keep a full omer of it for your future generations, so that they may see the food I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.” 33Moses then told Aaron, “Take a jar* and put a full omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to keep it for your future generations.” 34As the LORD had commanded Moses, Aaron placed it in front of the covenant* to keep it.
35The Israelites ate the manna for forty years, until they came to settled land;f they ate the manna until they came to the borders of Canaan. 36(An omer is one tenth of an ephah.)*
* [16:1] On the fifteenth day of the second month: just one full month after their departure from Egypt. Cf. 12:2, 51; Nm 33:3–4. The Septuagint takes the date to be the beginning of the Israelites’ grumbling.
* [16:4] Bread from heaven: as a gift from God, the manna is said to come down from the sky. Cf. Ps 78:24–25; Wis 16:20. Perhaps it was similar to a natural substance that is still found in small quantities on the Sinai peninsula—probably the honey-like resin from the tamarisk tree—but here it is, at least in part, clearly an extraordinary sign of God’s providence. With reference to Jn 6:32, 49–52, the Christian tradition has regarded the manna as a type of the Eucharist. Test: as the text stands, it seems to leave open the question whether the test concerns trusting in God to provide them with the daily gift of food or observing the sabbath instructions.
* [16:15] What is this: the Hebrew man hu is thus rendered by the ancient versions, which understood the phrase as a popular etymology of the Hebrew word man, “manna”; but some render man hu, “This is manna.”
* [16:16] Omer: a dry measure of approximately two quarts.
* [16:18] Paul cites this passage as an example of equitable sharing (2 Cor 8:15).
* [16:31] Coriander seed: small, round, aromatic seeds of bright brown color; the comparison, therefore, refers merely to the size and shape, not to the taste or color of the manna.
* [16:33] Jar: according to the Greek translation, which is followed in Heb 9:4, this was a golden vessel.
* [16:34] The covenant: i.e., the ark of the covenant, in which were placed the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. Cf. 25:16, 21–22.
* [16:36] Omer…ephah: see note on Is 5:10.
a. [16:4] Ps 78:24–25; 105:40; Jn 6:31–32; 1 Cor 10:3.
c. [16:13] Nm 11:31; Ps 78:27–28.