What Is Manna?
The Israelites express their ingratitude toward God at the very beginning of their wilderness journey. Rather than acknowledging and appreciating their recent rescue from the Egyptian oppressors, the Israelites instead complain and longingly recall the richly varied cuisine in their enemy’s land. They bewail their predicament: “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots, when we ate our fill of bread! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to starve this whole congregation to death” (Exodus 16:3). The Lord hastens to reassure His disbelieving people, and Moses reports that “the LORD… will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread in the morning to the full” (v. 8). The “meat” to which Moses refers is quail; the “bread” none other than manna.
The promise of manna, however, comes with a test: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread for you from heaven, and the people shall go out and gather each day that day’s portion — that I may thus test them, to see whether they will follow My instructions or not’” (Exodus 16:4). The same instructions are repeated with the giving of the manna: “Six days you shall gather it; on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none” (v. 26). Each day of the week the people are to collect only the manna that they will need for that single day; on the sixth day, Friday, they will gather twice that amount (for that day and the seventh day, the Sabbath), for on the Sabbath no manna will fall from the sky.
The daily gathering of the day’s food constitutes a test: Will the Israelites place their trust in God, that He will indeed fulfill His promise