Food in the Bible: Exodus 16

This is the story of God raining down bread from heaven to feed the Israelites in the wilderness. The story is another episode reiterating the theme of complaining. Now, the complaining is much worse in Numbers where the manna is described as the color of gum resin and like cakes with oil. Exodus has a little rosier outlook and describes it as white and tasting like wafers with honey. The difference is subtle (perhaps more to modern readers than ancient ones), but important.

After the people complain, the Lord describes the manna and the meat and the rules about only gathering enough as a test to see if the people will be obedient. So, in the morning the flaky bread covers the ground like dew. In the evening the quail covers the ground of the camp. I don’t know if you have stopped long enough to think about quail covering the ground. That’s a lot of quail. My Old Testament professor suggested that perhaps this was almost a punishment for their complaining and disobedience. In Numbers of course, everything is worse. The quail are described as being three feet deep and miles from the camp. So they had to trek to get their provision and then deal with three feet deep of quail. Yikes!

The point of both stories in Exodus and Numbers is the lack of faith in the abundant provision of God through nature. In Numbers God gets a little sarcastic by really overdoing it on the provisions. Many of us in the “good food movement” complain about the state of our food industry. Lord knows there’s a lot to complain about. However, real movements have to progress beyond complaining and defining ourselves by what we’re against. When we start embodying the values of good healthy food, we begin to provide an alternative for people to support and encourage.

Basically that’s what it means to be the people of God. We embody the alternative world in which God reigns and orders our lives. Then people want to get involved and on board.

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