This chapter of Exodus opens with the people grumbling and murmuring against Moses and the Lord. This will be an ongoing theme throughout the desert wanderings. They actually say they preferred slavery to this new found freedom, because at least as slaves they had food to eat.
It’s easy to look at these people who are ungrateful at all times, and pine for “the good old days” even though they weren’t really that good, as say you’d never be so ungrateful or full of complaints. But this exodus story and the next 40 years of desert wanderings should be like holding up a mirror to our own lives. Even today, we can look fondly back on things in our past or complain to God with a “what have you done for me lately” type attitude, even though Jesus literally died for us and gives us grace daily. We should envision ourselves with these people in the desert and commit ourselves to thanksgiving and grateful attitudes towards God and our brothers and sisters in the New Covenant of Christ.
When Moses confronts them and takes this complaint, he is told by God that there will be bread coming from heaven in the mornings and quail in the evening. They’re given specific instructions for this bread from heaven and on the very first day some of them break the rules.
- Gather it every morning for that day, keeping none overnight.
- Only exception to that is gathering double on Friday, and then eating the second share on the sabbath.
- Gather and keep a jar of it as a witness to future generations.
The first rule is to teach the Israelites that they are completely relying on God for their existence. By telling them to not hoard the mana, Moses is telling them that there will always be mana and to trust God that it will be there each morning. This continued everyday until they cross the Jordan into the Promised Land 40 years from this point.
The ones who break this rules discovered that their gathered mana had rotted overnight and was being eaten by worms. What we can learn from this episode is that we can’t horde what God gives us as a gift, and that is basically everything. We have to be generous and freely give what from we’ve received says Saint John Chrysostom
God leads by example with the second rule. The seventh day is a day of rest, and so God rests from performing this miracle every sabbath day.
The mana is a prefigurement of the true bread that came down from heaven in Jesus Christ. During his bread of life discourse, Jesus mentions the miracle of the mana in the desert multiple times.
The jar that was to be gathered and kept as a witness to future generations was kept inside the The Ark of The Covenant along with the stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s staff that represented his priestly office. All three of these items pointed towards Christ, and in Christ were contained in the blessed mother’s womb when she was pregnant with Our Lord, making her the new Ark of the New Covenant.
After stumping the Pharisees, Jesus now turns to the disciples and the crowds and starts lambasting the Pharisees. He mentions that they “sit on Moses’ seat” so they have the authority to teach and preach, but he warns not to follow their example because they are hypocrites. This teaching authority passes on to the church in the New Covenant, and it’s why even during the Middle Ages, when some of the hierarchy acted reprehensibly, they still had the authority that was given to the apostles despite their moral failings.
Part of their hypocrisy was interpreting the laws in more strict ways but finding ways to skirt the spirit of the law while obeying its letter. They also loved being hailed as pious and having honored status in the community. This is why Jesus uses hyperbole and says to call no man father (see Question: Calling Priests Father?).
Jesus issues seven woes against the Pharisees and ends it by saying that they claim if they had lived in the days of their ancestors then they wouldn’t have spilled the blood of the prophets, but these same men are conspiring to spill the blood of the Son of God.
He then proclaims a judgment over the temple and city of Jerusalem before exiting via the eastern gate and heading to the Mount of Olives. This is like a second and more fuller fulfillment of a prophecy from Ezekiel where the glory of God departed from the temple and then it was destroyed by the Babylonians.