Wilderness food: manna and quail
1The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Sin desert, which is located between Elim and Sinai. They set out on the fifteenth day of the second month#16.1 April–May, Iyar after they had left the land of Egypt. 2The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. 3The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the LORD had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.”
4Then the LORD said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. 5On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.” 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This 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 LORD’s glorious presence, because your complaints against the LORD have been heard. Who are we? Why blame us?” 8Moses continued, “The LORD will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning because the LORD heard the complaints you made against him. Who are we? Your complaints aren’t against us but against the LORD.”
9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community, ‘Come near to the LORD, because he’s heard your complaints.’” 10As Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned to look toward the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
11The LORD spoke to Moses, 12“I’ve heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat. And in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”
13In the evening a flock of quail flew down and covered the camp. And in the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the desert surface were thin flakes, as thin as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What#16.15 Heb man (= What?); cf Exod 16:31 is it?” They didn’t know what it was.
Moses said to them, “This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. 16This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Collect as much of it as each of you can eat, one omer#16.16 Two quarts per person. You may collect for the number of people in your household.’” 17The Israelites did as Moses said, some collecting more, some less. 18But when they measured it out by the omer, the ones who had collected more had nothing left over, and the ones who had collected less had no shortage. Everyone collected just as much as they could eat. 19Moses said to them, “Don’t keep any of it until morning.” 20But they didn’t listen to Moses. Some kept part of it until morning, but it became infested with worms and stank. Moses got angry with them. 21Every morning they gathered it, as much as each person could eat. But when the sun grew hot, it melted away.
22On the sixth day the people collected twice as much food as usual, two omers per person. All the chiefs of the community came and told Moses. 23He said to them, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. But you can set aside and keep all the leftovers until the next morning.’” 24So they set the leftovers aside until morning, as Moses had commanded. They didn’t stink or become infested with worms. 25The next day Moses said, “Eat it today, because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. Today you won’t find it out in the field. 26Six days you will gather it. But on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be nothing to gather.”
27On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather bread, but they found nothing. 28The LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to obey my commandments and instructions? 29Look! The LORD has given you the Sabbath. Therefore, on the sixth day he gives you enough food for two days. Each of you should stay where you are and not leave your place on the seventh day.” 30So the people rested on the seventh day.
31The Israelite people called it manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and tasted like honey wafers. 32Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept safe for future generations so that they can see the food that I used to feed you in the desert when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’”
33Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put one full omer of manna in it. Then set it in the LORD’s presence, where it should be kept safe for future generations.” 34Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses, and he put it in front of the covenant document for safekeeping. 35The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a livable land. They ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. (36An omer#16.36 Two quarts is one-tenth of an ephah.)