Grumbling in the Desert

The Story of Redemption from Exodus 16-18

[For the previous stories from Exodus, read “The Birth and Calling of Moses” and “The Exodus“.]

For the next three months, the people of Israel journeyed from the Red Se to the wilderness of Sinai. Right away, the people started to grumble to Moses. When they made it to the wilderness of Shur, they found no water. Once they finally found water at Marah, they couldn’t drink it because it was bitter. They complained to Moses, and Moses brought the complaint to God. So God showed him a log, which, when Moses threw it into the water, made the water sweet. They ended up finding a better source of water at Elim and camped out there.

Grumbling about Food

Something similar happened in their desert wanderings with food. Two and half months into their journey — when they had apparently run out of food — they came to the wilderness of Sin. All the people cried out to Moses and Aaron, “We wish we would have died in the disasters of Egypt, where at least we had food, because you brought us out here to die of hunger!”




So God told Moses his plan. He said, “I’m going to rain down bread from heaven so they can eat, but I’m going to give them a day’s worth of bread at a time. That will give them an opportunity to build trust by obeying me.” It was like a test that God wanted them to pass.

The test was that God would give them meat in the evening and bread in the morning. He would give everyone just enough for the day, five days a week, and on the sixth day, he would give enough for two days. That way they could have a day of rest every week, where they didn’t have to gather and prepare food. All this so they could build trust with God.

The Significance of Manna

The people named the bread “Manna”, which means “what is it?” because they hadn’t see anything like it. It was like coriander-seed wafer that tasted like honey.

This is how God fed and sustained the people for the next 40 years while they were in the desert, all the way until they entered Canaan.

This bread was so important and symbolic that God asked them to put some of it in a jar to keep forever.

After they left the wilderness of Sin, it happened again: they doubted God. They couldn’t find any water so they fought with Moses about it; they were about ready to stone him. They said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? To let us, our children, and our animals die of thirst?”

Moses told God, and God had him strike a rock, out of which flowed water for the people. That place was called Massah and Meribah, because that’s where the people quarreled and tested God, wondering if God was even with them. Massah sounds like the Hebrew word for quarreling and Meribah sounds like the word for testing.

Then, exactly three months after they had left Egypt, they entered the wilderness of Sinai. Here, for the first time since they left, they were able to relate peaceably with God. It was here that God revealed his whole heart with them about who they were and what he wanted for them, words they would never forget.