Q. Thank you for your ministry. I learn so much from your answers. I have a question about the Israelites and manna. When they left Egypt they soon complained about being hungry. God provided food for them in the form of quail and manna. Now, in Chapter 16 verse 35 it says that they ate manna for 40 years until they “…..came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.” Other scriptures indicate that they had animals with them. In chapter 24 Moses sacrifices oxen. Later, when God directs Moses to make the Tabernacle, there is an altar for burnt offerings and also a table for the showbread (which was to be made of fine flour).
My question is, if they had animals and grain, why did the need the manna for 40 years? Was it possibly a supplement to their diet, like vitamins? Or did they just have the animals for sacrifices and the flour for grain offerings?
Thank you so much, and may God continue to bless this ministry.
A. In Exodus 16:4 the Lord told Moses He was going to rain down bread from Heaven to test the Israelites and see if they would obey Him. That means He wanted to see if they could live by faith, trusting Him to feed them, to sustain their earthly lives. The manna became a great model of the Messiah, who asks us to trust Him to sustain our eternal lives. (John 6:32-33)
In verse 8 he told them that their diet would be bread from Heaven in the morning and meat at night. That night quail flew into the camp for their dinners and the next morning the manna came. We’re not told whether it was quail every evening, only that it was manna every morning from then on. The manna stopped when they crossed the Jordan and began eating the produce of the Promised Land.
Estimates as to the number of people Moses took into the desert vary wildly, but the Bible tells us that there 600,000 men of military age. (Numbers 1:46) If you triple that number for the women, the children and the elderly and provide 1/2 pound of manna for each of them each day, it would require that 450 tons of manna be produced each night. Growing and transporting a corresponding amount of grain for 40 years would be an impossible job. The same goes for the meat. The simple fact is that they had to be supernaturally fed. Their supplies of grain and animals were reserved for sacrificial purposes.
The same is true of us. Saving ourselves and staying that way for a lifetime would be an impossible task for us. (Mark 10:26-27) The simple fact is that we have to be supernaturally sustained.