Thursday, March 8, 2012

Exodus 16:1-8 Grumblers

"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, 'If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt!
There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted,
but you have brought us out into this desert
to starve this entire assembly to death.'

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.
In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in,
and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.'

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,
'In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt,
and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD,
because he has heard your grumbling against him.
Who are we that you should grumble against us?'

Moses also said, 'You will know that it was the LORD
when he gives you meat to eat in the evening
and all the bread you want in the morning,
because he has heard your grumbling against him.
Who are we?
You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.'

Exodus 16:1-8 (NIV)
Exodus 16 is really one whole unit, but there is so much going on in this passage that it is really too much to cover in just one blog post.  Besides, I hate making people's eyes glaze over.  So I'll split it into several posts, as long as you will remember to consider it all together.  Deal?
  • The whole Israelite community set out together from Elim and went to the desert of Sin.  As a kid, I used to wonder if that name had something to do with 'sin', (as in, something very sinful had happened there and they named it accordingly) but the NIV Study Bible's commentary on Exodus 16:1 (pg. 111) notes that this name probably had something to do with the fact that the desert of Sin was in the southwestern Sinai.  So it seems to be more of a linguistic thing.
  • Note that Numbers 33:10-11 says that the Israelites left Elim, camped by the Red Sea, and then camped in the Desert of Sin.  This is not an error.  It is just that the author of these accounts of the Israelites' journey may have had different purposes in Exodus than in Numbers in writing things this way.  Sometimes in the Bible you will see differences between lists (like genealogical lists, where there may be an additional name or two), because the author may have had different purposes in different places.  One genealogy may have been covering every person who descended from a certain individual, while another may have been a more general listing of names for military purposes, or some other reason, like to show that someone originally came from a certain tribe.  Same here.  Maybe Exodus just shows the general flow of travel, while Numbers gives more details.
  • The NIV commentary also notes that it is now one month to the day from when the Israelites had left Egypt. (See Exodus 12:2,6,29,31, which, when considered all together point to them leaving on the fifteenth of the month.)
  • Also, in mapping the possible route of the Israelites, verse 16:1 notes that the Desert of Sin is between Elim and Sinai.  I assume that it is either midway between, or at a similarly logical stopping place on the way to Sinai.  This may be of help later when we try to map it out.
  • Verse 2 notes that the whole community began grumbling against Moses and Aaron.  You thought your job was rough, and that everyone complains to you?  Well, try having a million or two hot, dusty, hungry people getting on your case and then you will know what a rough job is really like!
  • Moses notes correctly (v.8) that the people are not really complaining against himself or Aaron, but against the LORD.
  • The people long for the meat and other foods that they enjoyed while in Egypt.  However, I wonder if they are perhaps forgetting that they were slaves there, and that their taskmasters used them ruthlessly (Exodus 1:11-14; 5:6-19).  Not to mention that the Pharaoh had attempted several times to reduce their nation, trying to kill their sons so that the nation would eventually be absorbed into Egypt.  (Exodus 1:8-22)
  • The hungry Israelites accuse Moses of terrible things which he never would have arranged -- they accused him of wanting to starve the nation to death. (v.3)  Many times a leader will have to deal with such false accusations.  Moses does not seem to try to defend himself.
  • The LORD told Moses that He would rain bread from heaven down on the Israelites.  They were to gather enough for their daily needs, and collect twice as much on the sixth day, so that they would not have to work on the Sabbath.  This was not only provision for their needs, but also a test to see if they would obey the LORD and follow His instructions. (v.4-5)
  • Moses also predicts that they would be given meat in the evening and bread in the morning, and that they would see the LORD's glory.  They would know that the LORD had given them these things, but Moses also warns the people that their grumbling was actually directed against the LORD, and that He had heard it.

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