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Shemot/Exodus 16:4 Behold, I am raining bread for you from heaven; and let the people go out and let them gather the day's matter each day.
HaShem is speaking to Moshe in response to the second bout of grumbling since the people left Egypt. Although given sweet water at Marah (15:22 ff.) and now comfortably situated at the oasis of Elim, with shade and fresh springs, the people hallucinate about about life back in Egypt: "... we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full" (16:3, ESV) and grumble because they are hungry. Without pausing to correct the people's self-delusions, HaShem provides for their physical needs; "At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread" (16:12, ESV). This was to go on for forty years, so that Moshe reminds the next generation of Israelites on the Plains of Moab, "I led you through the wilderness forty years; the clothes on your back did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet; you had no bread to eat and no wine or other intoxicant to drink" (D'varim 29:4-5, JPS) and Nehemiah reminds the next set of returnees - not from Egypt, but from Babylon - "You did not withhold Your manna from their mouth; You gave them water when they were thirsty. Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness so that they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell" (Nehemiah 9:20-21, JPS).
Two themes seem to dominate the ancient conversations about these words. The first is concerned about the rain from heaven. The Hebrew's - the Hif'il participle of the root , to rain, so "I will cause it to rain ... from the heavens" is too picturesque forTargum Onkelos, who translates it "I will cause to descend", perhaps worried that the people might think that G-d rained. Nahum Sarna points out that "bread from heaven" contrasts with the blessing made at the start of every meal which includes bread, "Blessed are You ... who brings forth bread from the earth". Ibn Ezra, citing "the L-RD rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulphurous fire from the L-RD out of heaven" (B'resheet 19:24, JPS), says that 'rained' is metaphorical, adding that is often used in a generic way for 'food', for meat in "a food offering to the L-RD" (Vayikra 3:11, ESV) and fruit in "Let us destroy the tree with its fruit" (Jeremiah 11:19, ESV).
Two comments come from theMekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, the first an anonymous comment: "from the good treasure of heaven as it is said, 'The L-RD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens' (D'varim 28:12, NASB)"; G-d gives us good things from His storehouse. The second is ascribed to Rabbi Simeon ben Gamliel, "Come and see how much the Israelites are beloved ... for their sake He made the upper like the lower and the lower like the upper. In the past, the bread came up from the earth and the dew came down from heaven, as it says: 'a land of grain and wine, under heavens dripping dew' (D'varim 33:28, JPS), but now bread came down from heaven and the dew came up from the earth, as it says, 'bread from heaven' (here) and 'when the dew had gone up' (v. 14, ESV)". Rabbi Simeon suggests that G-d can and will turn the natural order of the world upside down for those who love Him and whom He loves. May we see and know that in our days!
We should remember too that between the end of Sukkot and Pesach we bless HaShem in the second stanza of the Amidah (, Mighty Acts) for the wind and rain that He makes, and then specifically ask for dew and rain as a blessing on the face of the earth in the ninth stanza (, Blessings of the Year). At least three times a day, we proclaim that it is HaShem who sends the rain and then ask Him to exercise His power to do so.
The second theme is very different and focuses on the last two words of the text: , literally, "a day in it's day", perhaps, "each day at a time" or just "each day". Whilst Sarna suggests that this is simply an administrative formula used in connection with work schedules, sacrifices and rations (e.g. Shemot 5:13; Vayikra 23:37; 2 Kings 25:30), the ancient commentators draw great significance from these words: "Rabbi Elazar used to say: He who has enough to eat today and says, 'What will I eat tomorrow?' Behold he is of little faith" (Mekhilta). Here is an echo of Yeshua's words about trusting in G-d for daily provision: "Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" (Matthew 6:31-32, NASB). Our faith demands that we be satisfied with today's provision and - on the basis that there is provision for today - trust that there will be provision also for tomorrow. Now the Mekhilta builds its case: "Rabbi Simon ben Yochai used to say: only to those who have manna to eat is it given to study the Torah. For behold, how can a man be sitting and studying when he does not know his food and drink will come from, nor where he can get his clothes and coverings?" How can we have the peace to sit and study constructively if we are stressed about food and clothing?Rashi adds, "The amount required for each day's eating they shall gather 'on its day' and they shall not gather for the need of tomorrow." Again we can hear Yeshua teaching: "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34, NASB).
Hirsch goes a step further, putting this interpretation in HaShem's mouth: "For bearers of My Torah it is essential that I find men for whom it suffices to be provided for wife and family for each day. Men who can cheerfully and happily enjoy today, carry out their duties for today and leave the worry for tomorrow to Him who has provided for today and who can be trusted for tomorrow." He is saying that the true meanings of the Torah are only given to those who are content to do their work and study each day, trusting in G-d not only for themselves, but for their family's needs as well. They are considered worthy bearers, carriers, of Torah.
The third interesting theme in the text is the use of the word , here translated 'matter', but more usually 'word'. This makes a Hebrew word-play work: the Israelites gather the 'stuff' for the day, while Moshe is later to use the word the other way "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of G-d" (D'varim 8:3). The fifth stanza in the prayer Yeshua taught the disciples says, "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). As with the Hebrew, the Greek the word for bread can be generic, 'food', and the word translated 'daily' only appears in the Greek Scriptures here and in the Lucan parallel (11:3); an unusual word, it can have the meaning 'daily', 'for the day', 'each day'. If we connect that to Hirsch's idea, then in asking for provision for the day, we are also asking for peace and contentment in that day, which will give us the time and the ability to study and and connect with G-d. That, in turn, allows us to be bearers of the Torah, the Living Torah, not only of G-d's word in a written sense, but Yeshua Himself.
Now we can connect back to Nehemiah's words to the Babylonian returnees. In the verse and a half leading into the word about the manna, Nehemiah acknowledges: "You, in Your abundant compassion, did not abandon them in the wilderness ... You endowed them with Your good spirit to instruct them" (Nehemiah 9:19-20, JPS). Just as the Spirit "will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I [Yeshua] said to you" (John 14:26, NASB) for us today, so the Ruach brought the word and food of G-d together for our ancient people in the days before Yeshua. We need to ask G-d each day not only for His provision, but for His Spirit, so that we may have both physical and spiritual food. We need to ask G-d to rain down His bread and His Spirit upon us that we may be alive in Him, connected to His Son and His word.
Finally, we can see the context and background of Yeshua's words as He taught the people at Capernaum. He claimed to be the "bread of life" (John 6:48, NASB), facing down a challenge about the manna in the wilderness: "it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven" (v. 32, NASB). G-d, not Moshe provides the bread of life. Finally, He puts His cards on the table: "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven" (v. 51, NASB). Do you have that living bread in your life?
Further Study: Psalm 78:23-29; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Application: How are you doing with your bread today? Have you been out to gather the fresh bread for today or are you trying to manage on stale scraps from yesterday or the day before? Ask the master baker for your portion of fresh bread for today!
09:08 25Jan15 Gareth Lane: Love the picking up on the wordplay and the whole fresh bread for the day. Thanks for the insight.
© Jonathan Allen, 2015
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