וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִי־יִתֵּן מוּתֵנוּ בְיַד־יְהוָה בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בְּשִׁבְתֵּנוּ עַל־סִיר הַבָּשָׂר 16:3
בְּאָכְלֵנוּ לֶחֶם לָשֹׂבַע כִּי־הֹוצֵאתֶם אֹתָנוּ אֶל־הַמִּדְבָּר הַזֶּה לְהָמִית אֶת־כָּל־הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה בָּרָעָב
16:3 and the children of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt with our sitting down over the pot of meat, with our eating bread to the full, for you have brought us to this wilderness to kill this whole assembly by starvation.”
This verse suggests something that could have been deeply troubling. How could the Israelites be complaining about a lack of food? We know that there were continual daily sacrifices and extra offerings on feast days once the Tabernacle was erected. The Israelites must have left Egypt with hundreds of thousands of their flocks and herds along with the treasures they gleaned from the Egyptians (see Exod. 12:32 and 12:38). How could they now be complaining about hunger? What does all this mean? Fortunately the mystery is apparently explained later in Deuteronomy as a miracle that seems to go unacknowledged by the scribe at this point, and later in Numbers as well.
To my mind there is far more miraculous about this astounding incident in the wilderness. First of all we have here what seems to be revealed later as a miracle, that is, the Israelites’ hunger in the presence of possibly a million or more of their livestock. Then we have the additional miracle of this reality in the Torah going unacknowledged for perhaps three thousand years by Jews who have been studying these words diligently since then. And finally, we have the miracle that I was given the insight (or whatever you want to call it) that I at this time in history should uncover the miracle and recognize the mystery in all this. So as I see it, we have a miracle within a miracle within a miracle. How incomprehensible! How mysterious and mighty is the Lord!
There is yet another aspect of this situation that should be explored. Suppose the seeming explanation in Deuteronomy does not actually reveal a miracle. Then we would have to conclude that the scribe (Moses?) made a colossal error by ignoring the fact of the Israelites’ flocks and herds that accompanied them in the wilderness. But as I see it, this is just as miraculous as the first miracle. How could this glaring inconsistency in the narrative have escaped the scribe? And the sages? Thus, either way we have the same -- or similar -- triple miracle.
One final point to consider in this discussion: The people had not yet reached Sinai and received the ten commandments or the Torah. Therefore, although Moses had pleaded with Pharoah to let the people go into the wilderness to serve the Lord, they apparently did not yet know to make sacrifices to the Lord. Possibly the Tabernacle was needed before they could do that. This would be the reason for the first miracle -- that is, the people’s hunger.
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וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם הוּא אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה שַׁבָּתֹון שַׁבַּת־קֹדֶשׁ לַיהוָה מָחָר אֵת אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאפוּ אֵפוּ וְאֵת 16:23
אֲשֶׁר־תְּבַשְּׁלוּ בַּשֵּׁלוּ וְאֵת כָּל־הָעֹדֵף הַנִּיחוּ לָכֶם לְמִשְׁמֶרֶת עַד־הַבֹּקֶר
Exod. 16:23 And he said to them, “This is what the Lord speaks: ‘Tomorrow is a complete rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you would have baked, and boil what you would have boiled, and all the remainder lay up for yourselves to preserve until the morning.’”
This is the first time that the Hebrew word שַׁבָּתֹון, the seventh in the verse, normally translated as solemn rest, appears. I suspect one of two interpretations of it are possible, one being a misunderstanding of the word when applied to the Sabbath, the other explained below. First of all, I imagine that the Sabbath should be an occasion of quiet restful joy, not solemnity. After all, the Lord blessed and hallowed the day by Himself resting on it (Gene. 2:3). Furthermore, God “means” it to be a sign and in commemoration of His Creation. Why would that call for a rest that was solemn? Shouldn’t we rejoice on this day as we rest?
Secondly, it’s possible that use of the term here is another example of Moses’ exaggeration of God’s words. I could see his characterizing the day as one of solemn rest if he feared that the people, freed from their daily work, could become unduly over exuberant in their observance of the day. It is quite apparent that Moses doesn’t trust the people. They have disappointed him and will continue to do so many times. Of course, Moses might have intended the word to mean complete rest. However, when the word is used in conjunction with Yom Kippur, solemn rest seems more appropriate.
As a result of the above discussion, I prefer, except in the case when Yom Kippur is mentioned, to translate the word as complete rest. [Back] [Return to Levi. 16:31]
שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תִּלְקְטֻהוּ וּבַיֹּום הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבָּת לֹא יִהְיֶה־בֹּו 16:26
16:26 “Six days you shall gather, but on the seventh day there shall be rest. It shall not be on it.”
Verses 16:23 to 16:26 spell out the Lord’s first law of the Sabbath. What does it say? You may do on the Sabbath eve what you may not do on a weekday eve, and you may not do on the Sabbath what you do on the other six days. Obviously this cannot apply to every act. If it did, we would be prohibited from breathing, eating, sleeping, talking, dressing, walking, and even opening and closing our eyes on the Sabbath. Then to what does it apply? First, we are required to prepare for the Sabbath on the previous day, so that on the Sabbath we need not do what we normally do during the week. And, according to these verses, what we normally do during the week is prepare our daily food. Suppose we showered every day of the week. Would we be prohibited from showering on the Sabbath? We can dress on the Sabbath, so could we not shower? We might brush our teeth at least once every weekday. May we brush on the Sabbath?
This can become very complicated. The more questions we ask the more confusing it seems to become. Is there a uniformity to what is permitted and what is prohibited that we can distinguish and apply to each questionable act? From these verses, it would seem that first we can do everything on the Sabbath except gather and prepare our food. Second, we can lay over cooked and baked food on the Sabbath eve, something we can’t do during the week. This latter would obviously apply in biblical times, especially in the desert, for sanitary reasons, but not necessarily in modern times. Does that mean that we may now ignore the prohibition against laying up food during the week for the next day? Or are we meant to observe this as an everlasting prohibition? Oh no! I love leftovers.
The manner in which the law is explained and the consequences of disobedience are revealed, that is, as the week progresses the law is laid out, event by event, leads me to presume that, in this exposition, it is a temporary law, meant only for the desert experience. Later we will receive the formal eternal law, which will be more general in nature. From this I am relieved to suggest that we are permitted to lay away food during the week until the next day (or later).
However, as we shall see later, we are still not permitted to prepare food on the Sabbath. Food for that day is to be prepared on the previous day.
One last point: The first occurring “it” in the second sentence of the verse refers to the manna and the second “it” refers to the Sabbath.
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