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(Ex 13:17 - 17:16)

Shemot/Exodus 16:22   And it was, on the sixth day, they gathered double bread, two omers for each


The Israelites are now out of Egypt, having crossed the Sea of Reeds, on their way through the wilderness towards Mt. Sinai, the mountain where Moshe met with G-d to be commissioned and was told that he would bring the people there to worship G-d. But after setting out from the oasis of Elim, food - as it is so often to be during the journey to the Land - proves to be an issue. What is everyone to eat? The people complain to Moshe and Aharon - "You have brought us out into this wilderness to starve this whole congregation to death" (Shemot 16:3, JPS) - and The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem responds with the promise of manna, a promise which will not cease until the day after the next generation of Israelites, now led by Joshua and Eliezer, have crossed the Jordan and celebrate Pesach in the Land: "On that same day, when they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased" (Joshua 5:12, JPS).

There are two verbs in the text: - the Qal 3ms prefix form of the root , to be, frequently used with a vav-conversive for narrative sequence, "and it was" or "and it happened" - and - the Qal 3cp affix form of the root , to collect, gather or glean, "they gathered". There are also two adjacent forms of the root . The one ending the text, is the dual construct of the number 'two'; the one that ends the first phrase, is here used as 'double' and can also mean a duplicate or copy.

The commentators seem to disagree, however, with the text about what exactly happened. The What Is ...

The Mekhilta: The earliest known halakhic midrash or commentary on (parts of) the book of Exodus; formally named for Rabbi Ishmael and therefore set around 100-135CE, it was redacted some years after his time; quoted many times in the Bavli Talmud as "Rabbi Ishmael taught ..."
Mekhilta records that, "Rabbi Joshua says: Behold, this means a double portion of bread, two omers for each person" and Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi explains that, "when they measured their gathering in their tents, they found twice the amount; two omers for each individual." This agrees with the instructions HaShem gave Moshe: "But on the sixth day, when they apportion what they have brought in, it shall prove to be double the amount they gather each day" (v. 5, JPS). Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch develops this to suggest that, "Quite unprepared, [the people] were to get the startling actual fact of the Sabbath and G-d's care and provision for the specifically Jewish requirements as a complete surprise, so that these facts should impress them the more poignantly."

Umberto Cassuto1, on the other hand, tells us that, "The quantity of manna on the ground was greater than on the previous days. The Israelites regarded this as an opportunity to gather more than usual, and so they actually did." This suggests that the Israelites were aware of the extra quantity as they gathered it, so gathered more than on the previous days, which not only disagrees with their instructions, but also what had happened before when they gathered more and it went rotten and wormy. Nahum Sarna takes that a step further, implicating Moshe in the process: "Presumably, the people had been told to collect double the usual daily amount on Fridays, but had not been told why." Who Is ...

Abraham Ibn Ezra: (1089-1167 CE), born in Tudela, Spain; died in the South of France after wandering all around the shores of the Mediterranean and England; a philosopher, astronomer, doctor, poet and linguist; wrote a Hebrew grammar and a commentary on the Bible
Ibn Ezra is even more definite about both the quantity and Moshe's involvement, but seems to want to try and hedge his bets about what actually happened: "More manna than usual fell, and they gathered twice as much as they usually did. For Moshe had told them to do this, though they did not know why. Notice the text does not say that they found double the amount, merely that they gathered double the amount."

The Mekhilta offers two other interesting suggestions. On the basis that the last three words of the text are "two omers for each", so that the doubled quantity is already covered, the Mekhlita proposes to revocalise , "double bread" as "unusual/different/other" bread, commenting, "Bread that is of a different quality. How so? For every day there was but one omer; for Shabbat there were two omers. Every days its savour spread; on Shabbat more so. Every day it shone like gold; on Shabbat more so." Rashi adds: "That day it changed for the better in its aroma and its taste." This two-word phrase only appears this once in the Tanakh; although "double portion" appears in the last conversation between Elijah and Elisha - "As they were crossing, Elijah said to Elisha, 'Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?' Elisha answered, 'Let a double portion of your spirit pass on to me'" (1 Kings 2:9, JPS) - but the Hebrew there is , literally "a portion of two of your spirit". Nahum Sarna reminds us that the double portion of manna "is the source of the Jewish custom of having two loaves of bread on the table at kiddish, the benediction ceremony consecrating Shabbat and festivals."

The Mekhilta's second suggestion is a comment on the instructions for gathering the manna - "a day's portion every day" (v. 4, ESV) - "Rabbi Eleazar of Modi'im says: This means that a man may not gather on one day the portion for next day, as is done on the eve of the Sabbath for the Sabbath. For it says, 'The day's portion every day.' He who created the day has also created its sustenance." Hence Rabbi Eleazar used to say: "He who has enough to eat for today and says, 'What will I eat tomorrow?' Behold, he is of little faith."

Speaking forty years later to the Children of Israel who were about to enter the Land under Joshua's leadership, Moshe reminded them that during that time, HaShem "humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the L-RD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years" (D'varim 8:3-4, NASB). Centuries later, Nehemiah prays for those people who have returned to the Land from exile in Babylon and reminds HaShem that, "You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell" (Nehemiah 9:20-21, ESV). Successive generations of Israelites, who were embarking on a time of challenge and needed to hear again the testimony of HaShem's faithfulness to our people, were focussed again on what G-d had done for them in the past as a reason for trusting Him completely in the time ahead.

Yeshua had to chide the disciples for their concern about the mechanical provisions of life: "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on>" (Matthew 6:25, ESV). He has to remind them about what G-d has done - "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (v. 26, ESV) - and is still doing every day: "But if G-d so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (v. 30, ESV). There's that comment about little faith again! So the disciples are not to run about, stressing about provision; G-d already knows what is needed and has it in hand: "For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all" (v. 32, ESV) - 'Gentiles' here is better understood as non-Jews, that is, those who are not in relationship with G-d. The disciples are to ask Him to release His provision into their lives and circumstances, "Give all your worries and cares to G-d, for He cares about you" (1 Peter 5:7, NLT) and instead devote their time and attention to the work if the kingdom: "seek first the kingdom of G-d and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33, ESV).

It is not a question of simply sitting around, waiting for everything to be brought to you on a silver salver. Action is required; the truly normal state for believer and non-believers alike is that we are to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow, working hard with our hands and our heads to bring in food and the normal necessities of life. The kingdom of G-d is no place for passengers! While for some that 'work' is directed in a secular way, making or counting widgets for the Acme Widget Company, for others the work will be spiritual, working directly on kingdom projects. But all are required - secular work earns money to feed and clothe both the worker and his family, and for sowing into the wider kingdom, providing for the orphan and the widow, preaching the gospel in a practical, physical way; spiritual work extends and grows the kingdom, ploughing the ground for the seeds to be sown. Perhaps this too is double bread, that double portion that has a different quality to the work of the everyday, that shines with the glow of heaven. That is what G-d provides for those who are His and who trust in Him.

1. - Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1983, 965-223-456-7

Further Study: Mark 10:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:8; Psalm 55:22; Shemot 31:14-17

Application: Do you look for the double portion that comes on Shabbat, or are you scurrying around trying to provide for yourself each and every day? To share the glow and aroma of heaven, you too must rest and trust in what G-d provides.

© Jonathan Allen, 2016



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