Exodus 16:1
On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left the land of Egypt, the whole congregation of Israel set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai.
Sermons
MurmuringsJ. Orr Exodus 16:1-4
Bread, the Supreme QuestionLittle's, Historical Lights.Exodus 16:1-12
Grumbling, an Added BurdenExodus 16:1-12
Ingratitude of GrumblingH. W. Beecher.Exodus 16:1-12
Ingratitude of the PublicT. De Witt Talmage.Exodus 16:1-12
Moses in the Wilderness of SinJ. Parker, D. D.Exodus 16:1-12
Murmuring, the Result of ForgetfulnessG. Wagner.Exodus 16:1-12
The Pilgrimage of LifeClerical LibraryExodus 16:1-12
The Provision of the MannaD. Young Exodus 16:1-15
Manna for the SoulH.T. Robjohns Exodus 16:1-36
The Manna of the BodyH.T. Robjohns Exodus 16:1-36


In the "Wilderness of Sin," between Elim and Sinai, on the 15th day of the second month after the departing of Israel out of Egypt (ver. 1). One short month, but how much can be forgotten even in so brief a space of time! (cf. Exodus 32:1). Egypt now lay at a little distance. The supplies of the Israelites were failing them. God lets the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil run out (1 Kings 17:12), before interposing with his help. Thus he tries what manner of spirit we are of. Our extremity is his opportunity. Consider here -

I. THE PEOPLE'S MURMURINGS (ver. 2). These are brought into strong relief in the course of the narrative. "The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured" (ver. 2). "He heareth your murmurings against the Lord, and what are we that ye murmur against us?" (ver. 7). "The Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him, and what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord" (ver. 8). "He hath heard your murmurings" (ver. 9). "I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel" (ver. 12).

1. They murmured, and did not pray. They seem to have left that to Moses (cf. Exodus 14:15). Remembering what Jehovah had already done for them - the proofs he had already given them of his goodness and faithfulness - we might have thought that prayer would have been their first resource. But they do not avail themselves of it. They do not even raise the empty cries of Exodus 14:10. It is a wholly unsubmissive and distrustful spirit which wreaks its unreasonableness on Moses and Aaron in the words, "Ye have brought us forth into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (ver. 3). We who blame them, however, have only to observe our own hearts to see how often we are in the same condemnation. (See Hamilton's "Moses," Lect. 14. - "Murmurs.") It is ever easier, in times of difficulty, to murmur than to pray. Yet how much better for ourselves, as well as more dutiful to God, could we learn the lesson of coming with every trouble to the throne of grace.

"But with my God I leave my cause;
From Him I seek relief;
To Him in confidence of prayer
Unbosom all my grief" Had Israel prayed more, relief might have come sooner.

2. Their behaviour affords some interesting illustrations of what the murmuring spirit is. Distinguish this spirit from states of mind which bear a superficial resemblance to it.

(1) From the cry of natural distress. When distress comes upon us, we cannot but acutely feel the pain of our situation, and with this is connected the tendency to lament and bewail it. The dictates of the highest piety, indeed, would lead us to imitate David in studying to be still before God. "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth because thou didst it" (Psalm 39:9). Yet listen to this same David's lamentations over Absalom (2 Samuel 18:19). There are few in whom the spirit of resignation is so perfectly formed - in whom religious motives so uniformly and entirely predominate - that a wail of grief never escapes their lips. It would, however, be cruel to describe these purely natural expressions of feeling as "murmurings," though it is to be admitted that an element of murmuring frequently mingles with them.

(2) From the expostulations of good men with God, caused by the perplexity and mystery of his dealings with them. Such expostulations, e.g., as those of Moses in Exodus 5:22, 23; or of Job, in several of his speeches (Job 7:11-21; Job 10:1-22, etc.); or of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 20:7). As Augustine says of Moses, "These are not words of contumacy or indignation, but of inquiry and prayer."

3. Even from the desperate speeches of good men, temporarily carried beyond bounds by their sorrow. Job enters this plea for himself - "Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind" (Job 6:26); and we feel at once the justice of it. This was not murmuring. These wild speeches - though not blameless - were but a degree removed from raving. What elements, then, do enter into the murmuring spirit - how is it to be described?

(1) At the basis of it there lies distrust and unsubmissiveness. There is distrust of God's goodness and power, and want of submission to his will in the situation in which he has placed us. The opposite spirit is exemplified in Christ, in his first temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3).

(2) Connected with this, there is forgetfulness of, and ingratitude for, benefits formerly received. This is very conspicuous in the case of these Israelites (ver. 3).

(3) The characteristic feature of this spirit is the entertaining of injurious thoughts of God - the attempt to put God in the wrong by fastening on him the imputation of dealing harshly and injuriously with us. The murmuring spirit keeps the eye bent on self, and on self's fancied wrongs, and labours hard to make out a case of ill treatment. Its tone is complaining. It would arraign the Eternal at its puny bar, and convict him of injustice. It is narrow, self-pitying, egoistic.

(4) It expresses itself in accusations and reproaches. The mental point of view already indicated prepares the way for these, and leads to them being passed off as righteous charges. God is charged foolishly (Job 1:22).

(5) It is prone to exaggeration. The Israelites can hardly have been as well off in Egypt as they here pretend, though their words (ver. 3) show that their rations in bondage must have been fairly liberal. But the wish to make their present situation look as dark as possible, leads them to magnify the advantages of their former one. They did not think so much of it when they had it.

(6) Murmuring against God may not venture to express itself directly, and yet may do so indirectly. The murmuring of the Israelites was of this veiled character. They masked their rebellion against God, and their impeaching of his goodness, by directing their accusations against his servants. It was God against whom they murmured (ver. 7, 8), but they slightly veiled the fact by not mentioning God, but by speaking only of Moses and Aaron. We should remember this, in our contendings with Providence. The persons on whom our murmuring spirit wreaks itself may be secondary agents - the voluntary or involuntary causes of our misfortunes - or even persons in no way directly concerned with our trouble - but be they who they may, if the spirit be bitter and rebellious, it is God, not they, whom we are contending against (cf. Genesis 50:19, 20; 2 Samuel 17:10).

II. GOD'S SURPRISING TREATMENT OF THESE MURMURINGS (ver. 4). It is a most astonishing fact that on this occasion there is not, on God's part, a single severe word of reproof of the people's murmurings, far less any punishment of them for it. It could not at this time be said - "Some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (1 Corinthians 10:10). The appearance of the glory in the cloud warned and abashed, but did not injure them (ver. 10). The reason was not that God did not hear their murmuring, nor yet that he mistook its import, as directed ostensibly, not against him, but against Moses and Aaron. The Searcher of Hearts knows well when our murmurings are against Him (vers. 7, 8). But,

1. He pitied them. They were really in great need. He looked to their need, more than to their murmurings. In his great compassion, knowing their dire distress, he treated their murmurings almost as if they were prayers - gave them what they should have asked. The Father in this way anticipated the Son (Matthew 15:32).

2. He was forbearing with them in the beginning of their way. God was not weakly indulgent. At a later time, when the people had been longer under training, they were severely punished for similar offences (cf. Numbers 21:5); but in the preliminary stages of this wilderness education, God made large and merciful allowances for them. Neither here, nor at the Red Sea, nor later, at Rephidim, when they openly "tempted" him (ch. 17:1-8), do we read of God so much as chiding them for their wayward doings: he bore with them, like a father bearing with his children. He knew how ignorant they were; how much infirmity there was about them; how novel and trying were the situations in which he was placing them; and he mercifully gave them time to improve by his teaching. Surely a God who acts in this way is not to be called "an hard master." Instead of sternly punishing their murmurings, he took their need as a starting-point, and sought to educate them out of the murmuring disposition.

3. He purposed to prove them. He would fully supply their wants, and so give them an opportunity of showing whether their murmuring was a result of mere infirmity - or was connected with a deeply ingrained spirit of disobedience. When perversity began to show itself, he did not spare reproof (ver. 28). - J.O.









The wilderness of Sin.
People may be strong and hopeful at the beginning of a project, and most effusively and devoutly thankful at its close, but the difficulty is to go manfully through the process.

I. PROCESSES TRY MEN'S TEMPER. See how the temper of Israel was tried in the wilderness! No bread, no water, no rest! How do processes try men's temper?

1. They are often tedious.

2. They, are often uncontrollable.

3. They often seem to be made worse by the incompetency of others.

II. THE TRIALS OF PROCESSES ARE TO BE MET, NOT ALL AT ONCE, BUT A DAY AT A TIME. Daily hunger was met by daily bread. This daffy display of Divine care teaches —

1. That physical as well as spiritual gifts are God's.

2. That one of God's gifts is the pledge of another. "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." Why am I to be easy about to-morrow? Because God is good to-day! "He is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."

III. PROCESSES SHOW THE DIFFERENT DISPOSITIONS OF MEN. Though the people were told in the distinctest manner that there would be no manna on the seventh day, yet they went out to gather it just as if they had never been warned! Such men are the vexation of the world. They plague every community of which they are a portion.

1. We have the means of life at our disposal: the manna lies at our tent-door!

2. We are distinctly assured that such means are given under law: there is a set time for the duration of the opportunity: the night cometh!

IV. ALL THE PROCESSES OF LIFE SHOULD BE HALLOWED BY RELIGIOUS EXERCISES. There was a Sabbath even in the wilderness.

1. The Sabbath is more than a mere law; it is an expression of mercy.

2. No man ever loses anything by keeping the Sabbath: "The Lord giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days."

3. He is the loser who has no day of rest.

V. PROCESSES SHOULD LEAVE SOME TENDER AND HOPE-INSPIRING MEMORIES BEHIND THEM. "Fill an omer of it to be kept," etc.

VI. THE PROCESS WILL END. Are you ready?

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Clerical Library.
In the anecdote books of our boyhood we used to be told the story of an Indian faquir who entered an Eastern palace and spread his bed in one of its antechambers, pretending that he had mistaken the building for a caravanserai or inn. The prince, amused by the oddity of the circumstance, ordered — so ran the tale — the man to be brought before him, and asked him how he came to make such a mistake. "What is an inn?" the faquir asked. "A place," was the reply, "where travellers rest a little while before proceeding on their journey." "Who dwelt here before you?" again asked the faquir. "My father," was the prince's reply. "And did he remain here?" "No," was the answer; "He died and went away." "And who dwelt here before him?" "His ancestors." "And did they remain here?" "No; they also died and went away." "Then," rejoined the faquir, "I have made no mistake, for your palace is but an inn after all." The faquir was right, Our houses are but inns, and the whole world a caravanserai.

(Clerical Library.)

During the French Revolution hundreds of market-women, attended by an armed mob of men, went to Versailles to demand bread of the National Assembly, there being great destitution in Paris. They entered the hall. There was a discussion upon the criminal laws going on. A fishwoman cried out, "Stop that babbler! That is not the question; the question is about bread."

(Little's "Historical Lights.)

What unbelief and sad forgetfulness of God betrayed itself in these words! They quite forgot the bitter bondage of Egypt under which they had sighed and groaned so long. They now thought only of its "flesh-pots" and "its bread." They altogether overlooked the mercy and the grace which had spared them when the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain. The miracles of love at the Red Sea and at Marah, so great and so recent, had passed away from their memories. They thought nothing of the promise of the land flowing with milk and honey. The argument, so evident and so comforting, "Can the faithful God who has brought us out of bondage mean to let us perish in the wilderness?" did not withhold them from the impatient conclusion, "Ye have brought us forth into the wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger." And if you watch your own hearts, you will find that there is always this forgetfulness in a murmuring and discontented spirit. We forget, first, that we deserve nothing but punishment at God's hands; and, secondly, we forget all the mercy and love which He has shown us in His acts and promises.

(G. Wagner.)

If I grumble because life is so arranged that I tear my clothes, and get many a scratch in the upward journey, my grumble is only an added burden. The difference between a soul that is soured by unbelief and a soul that honestly struggles and strives as the gymnast does, who tries to lift the heavy weight, knowing that, whether he succeeds or fails, the muscular development, which is the end sought, is still attained, is incalculable. To trudge along the moor after nightfall, then now knee deep, with the feeling that you are going nowhere, is indeed discouraging; but to do the same thing with the feeling that you are going home to the fireside of the loved and expectant, is to keep both feet and hands warm through our power of anticipating the heat and the welcome under the roof tree not far off. Rude, discourteous experience has taught us that an evil which is all an evil is a double evil, and that an evil with a joy behind it or beyond it is the healthy and invigorating toil by means of which a man may acquire a lasting good.

Daniel Webster, after his wonderful career, and in the close of his life, writes: "If I were to live my life over again, with my present experiences, I would under no considerations allow myself to enter public life. The public are ungrateful. The man who serves the public most faithfully receives no adequate reward. In my own history those acts which have been, before God, most disinterested and the least stained by selfish considerations, have been precisely those for which I have been most freely abused. No, no; have nothing to do with politics. Sell your iron, eat the bread of independence, support your family with the rewards of honest toil, do your duty as a private citizen to your country, but let politics alone. It is a hard life, a thankless life. I have had in the course of my political life, which is not a short one, my full share of ingratitude, but the 'unkindest cut of all,' the shaft that has sunk the deepest in my heart, has been the refusal of this administration to grant my request for an office of small pecuniary consideration for my only son."

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

I heard a good man say once, as we passed the home of a millionaire: "It doesn't seem right that such a man as he is should be rolling in wealth, while I have to work hard for my daily bread." I made no reply. But when we reached the home of the grumbler, and a troop of rosy children ran out to meet us, I caught one in my arms, and, holding him up, said: "John, how much will you take for this boy?" And he answered, while the moisture gathered in his eyes: "That boy, my namesake! I wouldn't sell him for his weight in gold." "Why, John, he weighs forty pounds at least, and forty pounds of gold would make you many times a millionaire. And you would probably ask as much for each of the others. So, according to your own admission, you are immensely rich. Yes, a great deal richer than that cold, selfish, childless millionaire whom you were envying as we came along. Nothing would tempt you to change places with him. Then you ought to be grateful instead of grumbling. You are the favourite of fortune, or, rather, of Providence, and not he."

(H. W. Beecher.)

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