19 April 2012

Exodus 16:13-26

"When the sun grew hot, it melted." (v. 21)


The Mechilta, a Jewish commentary on the book of Exodus, says that when the manna melted in the heat of the day, it formed streams in the wilderness, from which wild creatures drank - especially deer and gazelle. The creatures roamed far and wide and some fell prey to hunters from other lands. When the hunters ate the flesh, they tasted the sweetness of the manna and discovered something of the greatness of Israel's praise to God. We might enjoy a connection with the words of Psalm 34:8: "taste and see that the Lord is good", or 42:1: "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God".

The manna then, is not just a gift to the Israelites. While it serves their needs first, it also provides for wild animals, which are known by God as we read for example in Psalm 50:10-11:

"For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the air,
and all that moves in the field is mine."

Through these creatures, it also becomes sustenance and blessing for non Jews, who appreciate the goodness of the divine gift even without knowing or understanding its origin. This reflects a universal spirit in Judaism: although the faith is for the people themselves, they are to be priests for the peoples of the world, who are all known by God. In the Scriptures, we find several passages (eg Psalm 67:1-4Isaiah 49:6) expressing joy as "the nations" turn to acknowledge the one true God.

Thus in one verse, we discover a door which opens this blessing of heavenly bread to all the world, the creatures and the peoples who, although they may be 'outside', are still touched with the grace and sweetness of God's goodness.

To Ponder

"Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). How does this passage speak to your experience of God?

When have you felt nourished by God's "manna" in the "desert"?

Bible notes author

Ray Gaston and Annie Heppenstall

Ray Gaston is inter faith tutor and enabler for The Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education and the Birmingham Methodist. Prior to that he was in parish ministry in inner city Leeds for 12 years.