Though a pleasant and refreshing spot, Elim was not the permanent
resting place to which Israel had been called. So it had to be left
behind just one month after they had come out of Egypt, since it was on
the fourteenth day of the first month that the passover lamb was slain.
Immediately they entered the wilderness of Sin the murmurings of the
people broke out afresh.
Not water but food was now the
urgent necessity. By this time doubtless all that they could have
brought out of Egypt had been consumed, and in the wilderness there was
no visible source of supply. Sad to say, the people were walking by
sight, and though the marvels of both the passover night and the
passage of the Red Sea had taken place within the month, the power of
their God was completely forgotten. Only the flesh pots of Egypt were
and they reproached Moses and Aaron. They saw
nothing before them but death, and would have preferred it in Egypt
rather than in the wilderness.
The people were not yet
formally put under the law, hence the Lord at once intervened in mercy,
though by the bread from heaven there would be a preliminary testing to
see whether they would walk in His law when given or whether they mould
not. This we see in verse 4 It was made very plain to them however that
their complaints were really directed against God and not against His
servants, and that God would take up the challenge they had flung down.
This therefore immediately took place by the appearing of
the glory of the Lord in the cloud, when He spoke to Moses, promising
that by evening they should have flesh to eat and be filled with bread
by the next morning. They were still being treated not on the ground of
law but of grace.
The word of the Lord was fulfilled by an
extraordinary flight of quails that evening in the first place. This
bird is known for its migratory habits and being easy to capture, but
the immense numbers of this flight settling on the camp gave a
miraculous turn to the episode. Nothing more is said here as to them,
but when under the law this miracle was repeated, it was followed by
judgment, as we see in Numbers 11: 31-34.
Then, in the
second place, there was in the morning the falling of the manna round
about the host. This was a miracle not of a moment but one that
continued all the wilderness journey. The miracle of the quails is
dealt with in part of one verse only, but all the remainder of tour
chapter is occupied with details of the manna inasmuch as it is a type
finding its fulfilment in Christ, as the wilderness food of His saints.
The Lord's own words in John 6 make this manifest. The manna was the
type, but He is the "true bread from heaven." Again He said, "I am the
living bread which came down from heaven."
Let us notice a
few features that are marked in the type. First of all the manna fell
during the quiet hours of the night and not amidst the heat and bustle
of the day. Silently and unseen by the eyes of men it fell, and only
revealed itself lying on the dew when the morning was come. It is not
mere fancy when it is asserted that we Christians need times of
retirement and quiet that the spiritual manna may descend upon our
Secondly, in appearance it was "a small round
thing," so small as to be compared to the tiny particles of hoar frost.
By coming down from heaven into Manhood, so that He might give His
flesh for the life of the world, the Son of God did indeed make Himself
small and of no account in the eyes of men. Moreover it was round, and
not angular and uneven. Even so, in Christ once humbled here, there was
manifest an even-ness that was produced by perfection in every detail.
Thirdly, as we see in verse 31, it was like a certain seed—not a
crystal, which though attractive is but lifeless matter, but a seed
which has life—it was white in its purity, and in taste it had the
sweetness of honey. It was not honey though when made into wafers for
eating it had the sweetness of honey. In all these things we can see a
foreshadowing of the purity and sweetness found in the humbled Christ,
who became through His death the true seed of life for all His people.
The way in which it was to be gathered is very instructive. There was
enough for all but it was to be gathered according to the capacity of
the individual to assimilate it. Verse 13 reads almost as though the
manna had ability to accommodate itself to each person, so that he that
gathered much had nothing over and he that gathered little had no lack.
It is often said that we enjoy Christ and His grace according to our
capacity and our diligence, and here we have in type the basis for such
We inserted the word, diligence, as
well as, capacity, because of verses 19 and 20. The manna was given
according to capacity and was to be assimilated up to capacity, so that
none was left until the next morning. There were some who did not use
diligence to eat all they gathered and, leaving it till the next day,
it bred worms and stank. Thus it became worse than useless. We all know
the proverb, "The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in
hunting" (Prov. 12: 27) but here we have the case of the slothful man
who did not eat all the manna he gathered, with a very unpleasing
result. We may make an application of this, if we say that what we
gather of Christ from the Scriptures is for our immediate food and
enjoyment, and not something to be put aside for display to others. If
we treat it thus it will only stink when we display it.
every week there was one exception to this. They gathered it every
morning, but on the sixth morning there was a double supply and the
half could be retained so that there was no gathering on the sabbath.
Before the sun waxed hot it had to be gathered. Thus from the outset
God emphasized the rest of the sabbath day which was to be the sign of
the covenant shortly to be established. It had been "given" for man's
benefit, even from the days of creation. But in this matter the people
were careless. Some retained the manna when they should not, and some
transgressed in going forth on the sabbath, expecting to find it, and
they did not.
In the light of all this, how remarkable is
the instruction to Moses recorded in verses 32-34. A small pot—an omer,
the tenth part of an ephah—was to be filled with manna and laid up
before the Lord. In due time Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, and
thus it was preserved, without stinking or breeding worms, from
generation to generation and from century to century.
Epistle to the Hebrews, as is well known, furnishes us in several
places with details not mentioned in the Old Testament. Here is one of
them—"the golden pot that had manna" (Exodus 9: 4).
It was deposited in the Ark, which was made of shittim wood overlaid
with gold, speaking of the Deity and Humanity of Christ. So similarly,
the manna typifying the marvellous grace as manifested in His Humanity,
as come down from heaven, was laid up before God in a golden vessel,
which typified His Deity.
The promise to the overcomer of
Pergamos, "to eat of the hidden manna" (Rev. 2: 17), refers to this,
and indicates that the reality typified will endure for ever. When in
our Lord Jesus Christ the Deity entered into Humanity and was
manifested before the eyes of men, there was such a display of
excellence and beauty as shall be remembered for ever. Tested, as it
was, by the malignity of the adversary and the sin and sorrow of man,
these things served as a dark background, throwing its brightness into
relief. It is indeed true that,
"The touch that heals the broken heart
Is never felt above,"
yet the remembrance of the gracious and powerful touch, that once did
the healing, will be the worshipful joy of saints through an eternal
Another move forward now took place, as we learn in
the opening verse of Exodus 17. Rephidim was reached, and again there
was an emergency. At Marah there was bitter water; here was no water at
all. Again the people proved themselves to be a generation in whom was
no faith, and therefore no ability to profit by their past experience
of the power of God. They demand water from Moses with bitter
upbraiding, so bitter as to be almost ready to stone him. Moses
however, as a man of faith, knew where his resource lay, and referred
the matter to the Lord.
The rod of Moses had become the
symbol of the Divine authority that had been conferred upon him, and
from this point we find the word used in Scripture with this
significance, as, for instance, "The Lord shall send the rod of Thy
strength out of Zion: rule Thou . . ." (Ps. 110: 2). There was the rock in Horeb on which Jehovah would stand, and with the rod Moses was to smite the rock.
Now, remarkably enough, this is the first mention of a rock in
Scripture, and as 1 Corinthians 10: 4 tells us, "that rock was Christ."
The rock being smitten, the waters gushed forth; a clear type of the
Holy Spirit, as a river of living water flowing forth as a result of
the death of Christ. Here was all the water that the people needed,
furnished in grace in spite of theircomplainings.
refrain from a slight digression. As we read Matthew 16: 18, again we
have to say, "that Rock was Christ," the Son of the living God. How
great the error of those who imagine that the rock was Peter! Why, a
little lower down we find Peter trapped into doing the devil's work,
and wishing to hinder that smiting of the Rock in His death, that would
bring to pass the flowing forth of the Holy Spirit. No adverse power
can prevail against that church which is built by the Son of the living
God upon Himself, the Rock, from whom proceeds the Holy Spirit of God.
But to return to our chapter, Moses saw that the people's cry of
unbelief was in effect a tempting of the Lord, inviting from His hand
some drastic display of His might to show that He was amongst them. The
fact that He displayed His power in an act of mercy, and not one of
judgment, did not alter the fact that it was a tempting. If there is
one thing worse than unbelief it is self-satisfied presumption, such as
we find in Micah 3: 11. At the beginning of their national history
Israel doubted if God was amongst them, when He was. Towards theend of their history they were dogmatically sure that He was amongst them, when He was not, and they were ripe for judgment.
In the previous chapter we had Israel hungry and crying out for bread.
In contrast to this, we find in Matthew 4, that our Lord was tested by
hunger in the wilderness, but waited on God and would not act for
Himself. Now we have the people tempting God at Massah and Meribah,
whereas the Lord, when faced with the second temptation in the
wilderness, quoted, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." In Exodus
32, we find Israel worshipping the golden calf, but in contrast to this
the Lord replied to the third temptation by saying, "Thou shalt worship
the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." Israel had 40 years
in the wilderness and Jesus 40 days, but He re-trod their wilderness
way, and where they fatted He displayed His perfection.
closing section of Exodus 17 is occupied with the record of the first
fighting in the people's history. At the Red Sea they saw the Lord
fighting on their behalf, and they had but to enter upon the fruits of
His victory. Now Amalek appears and they have to arm themselves for the
battle. Amalek was descended from Esau, the man of fleshly appetite,
who for a morsel of meat sold his birthright; and so he becomes very
aptly a type of the flesh.
Now let us
recapitulate a little. In type, Israel had been sheltered from judgment
by the blood of the lamb, and redeemed from the world and Satan at the
Red Sea. They had been miraculously fed, and now through the smitten
rock the gushing water, typical of the Spirit, had been given.
Immediately after Amalek, typical of the flesh, appears. How fitting
all this is! We read that, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and
the Spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5: 17), So it is not until as
believers we receive the Holy Spirit that this conflict begins. In our
unconverted days the flesh reigned supreme, and its power in our lives
Many Christians are very disturbed in
mind when, soon after conversion, this conflict begins within them. But
at least it is a sign that they are indwelt by the Spirit of God. Now
Amalek was a very subtle foe, as we discover when we read Deuteronomy
25: 18, and in our experience the flesh acts just in this way,
attacking us in what we may call our weak points—though these may often
be what we may fancy to be our strong ones! Now God put the sentence of
death, in its extremest form, on Amalek, as we see in verse 14, just as
God has "condemned sin in the flesh" in the death of Christ.
Still in this conflict Israel had to fight, but under the leadership of
Joshua, the man who at the end of the 40 years was to be the captain
who led them into Palestine. This is the first time we meet with his
name, and from this point onwards he is presented to us as a man of
faith, and consequently as a man of conflict in a variety of ways.
In this incident he is seen acting under the direction of Moses,
deriving the power through him. Moses was on high; Joshua was below
leading the fighting men. The fortunes of the day hung upon the
intercessor on high who, being but a man, soon became weary with his
hands lifted up to heaven. It is easy to discern the spiritual
application of this. In our conflict today all depends upon our great
Intercessor on high. Truly the Spirit is also an Intercessor with us
here below, but He is with us as "another Comforter," who represents
the Man, Christ Jesus, who is out of our sight, having gone on high.
The interceding hands of our great Priest on high never hang down with
weariness; thanks be to God!
Amalek was repulsed and
discomfited but he was not yet utterly destroyed, as he will be. The
victory was a great one and commemorated by an altar, Jehovah-nissi,
for the victory belonged to Him. This fact too has a voice for us.
There is power for us to keep the sentence of death on the flesh, so
that we do not fulfil its lust, and are preserved from doing the things
that otherwise we might, but it still remains in us, though we have
received the Spirit. Hence the Spirit still lusts against it from
generation to generation. A time is coming when it will be blotted out
from under heaven, but that time is not yet.
there are to be found some who foolishly and falsely imagine that for
them the flesh has been utterly blotted out, and, in those who hold it,
this idea much distorts the understanding of what the flesh in its
subtilty really involves. It is too often reduced into meaning only the
grosser sins of the body, to the exclusion of many more refined and
less obvious sins. Let us never fall into this snare, but humbly
acknowledge that the flesh is not only a subtle but also an implacable
foe within us, and that only as we walk in the Spirit will the victory