1. Manna – Communion (Exodus 16)
2. Water from the Rock and the War against the Amalekites (Exodus 17)
3. Small-groups: the Trinitarian Theology of Jethro (Exodus 18 )
1. Manna – Communion (Exodus 16)
Thus Israel continues there journey towards Canaan. They set out from Elim (‘trees’) and the congregation of ISraelites came to the wilderness of Sin (meaning ‘muddy’ or ‘clay-like’), which is between Elim and Sinai (‘thorny’), on the 15th day of the Second Month (‘Iyyar – this month is not named throughout Scripture, but in Jewish tradition the 14th day of the Second Month is the second Passover, thus these people left after the Second Passover if this tradition had already been instituted at this point in the Mosaic history).
It has been a short-month, and they had been spending time mostly in Elim. What justifies their grumbling? Absolutely nothing; but the LORD is gracious, and provides not only food, but manna, the bread from heaven! But this is a test (v.4-8):
“Behold, I am about to rain(E) bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may(F) test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in,(G) it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel,(H) “At evening(I) you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the(J) glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For(K) what are we, that you grumble against us?” 8And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—(L) what are we? Your grumbling is not(M) against us but against the LORD.”
The interesting thing about these verses is firstly how Moses and Aaron tell them not to grumble against them as if THEY were God. Perhaps they misunderstood the Trinity? Perhaps they had poor theology (which is unsurprising given the hard-heart of many of the Israelites). Whatever the case may be, they took Moses as their literal Mediator (Numbers 16), when Moses was just a type of Christ and even he had to have faith in the Saviour (Hebrews 11).
Secondly, they may only gather a day’s portion, and then gather twice as much on the sixth day prior to the Sabbath. At twilight they shall eat meat (quail), and in the morning they shall eat the bread (the manna) to the full.
This is an important imagery.
(a) They had spent around a month at Elim, the place of trees and springs (therefore they had ready access to water)
(b) They had then received both bread in the morning…
(c) And meat at night…
This is the specific command given for the bread:
14And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another,(V) “What is it?”[a] For they(W) did not know what it was. And Moses said to them,(X) “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. 16This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an(Y) omer,[b] according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.'” 17And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18But when they measured it with an omer,(Z) whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. 19And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and(AA) it bred worms and stank.
There is actually a lot that should be said about the manna. Firstly, outside of Exodus it has been referred to as the “Bread of Angels” (Psalm 78:24-25: “and he(A) rained down on them manna to eat and gave them(B) the grain of heaven. 25Man ate of the bread of(C) the angels; he sent them food(D) in abundance.”). Secondly, as v.14 says, it is a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost – this thing can melt when it is left till the morning, and in later v. 21, when the sun grew hot it melted.
Some people have understood the manna to be the very bread of life which pointed to Christ, the bread which came down or was sent from heaven for us to consume on earth. So also Christ came down from heaven for us to consume. But this manna is merely a prototype of Christ, and pointed towards Christ. Here are some views within Scripture which explain the truth of the manna.
12And(A) the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.
17(D) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.(E) To the one who conquers I will give some of(F) the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with(G) a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
So the despite eating the manna, we will still die – and we await the hidden manna, Jesus Christ himself, the true bread of life, in heaven. Now, we partake in the Eucharist as the Spirit is the firstfruit, the deposit of things to come. BUT, we will STILL die. Thus, in a sense, the manna is equivalent to the Eucharist, the first bread that was offered, along with water, and the quail (a bird). The Water, the Bread, and the Meat – are all mock representations of the Eucharist to come, which will change to the Bread, and Wine – and the true meat-sacrifice which is Christ himself. Remember this – though we partake in the manna, though we partake in the bread, and drink the wine, we will still die (John 6:50) – but our everlasting life is something we look forward to, not something we have now.
How do I explain the verse in Joshua 5:12 then, and the ceasing of the manna? Well, Joshua/Yeshua, is a symbol of Jesus Christ himself, leading the Israelites (basically, all Christians) into the Promised Land which Canaan symbolises. Therefore, when we enter our Promised Land, the Eucharist of the manna, the bread, ceases – for afterwards we will be feeding on the fruit of the land of Canaan, we will be feeding from the Tree of Life which stands in New Jerusalem! Why should we dwell on the manna when there are greater things to come? And this is why the manna is characterised as something “fine” and “flaky” – because it cannot sustain us, let alone remain sustained! The manna will melt in the prime of the Morning Light, just as the manna will lose its purpose when Resurrection Morning Light comes to destroy all shadows, even Communion, Eucharist, Sacraments – all of these things which still point to that Great Morning, that Great Day! Why should the Israelites gather more than they can eat, when it is just a symbol and a shadow? God is teaching them that they may feed sparsely on it day by day, but that the manna will not live beyond its purpose.
And in all likeness, the Mosaic law will also not live beyond its purpose when Jesus came to fulfill the law in entirety; and although the manna bread symbolism is replaced by the Communion bread (just as circumcision is replaced by baptism), and the live-giving water is symbolised by the water-turning into wine, and the meat-sacrifice for our consumption is also manifest in the bread-of-life, so also we should not dwell on the symbolic things and learn to look on Christ himself, the Truth of all symbols and shadows.
Thus the Israelites ate manna for 40 years until they reached Canaan, the manna which tasted like wafers of honey (v.31) and was like coriander seed, and white. So we look forward to the land flowing with white-milk and tasty honey, and by feeding on this Seed constantly and daily will we inherit the nutrition of being in the firstfruit Christ himself through the sanctification of the Spirit and bear gifts and fruit from feeding on the temporary manna in these End of Days until we eat of the hidden manna!
2. Water from the Rock and the War against the Amalekites (Exodus 17)
The Israelites now move on to new complaints. As they move from the wilderness of Sin (muddy/clay-like) to Rephidim (meaning “rests/stays” or “resting place”), they complain about a lack of water. Therefore Moses, with the staff which he used to strike the Nile, and went to a rock of Horeb (“desert”) and struck it to give the Israelites water. This is all by the command of the LORD, and Moses named the place Massah and Meribah, respectively meaning temptation (where they “tested” the LORD) and contention (where they “struggled” against Moses and God). God still provides them with living water from Jesus, our Rock of Ages (Psalm 18:1-2, 31:2-3, 62:6-7, Isaiah 30:29, 1 Corinthians 10:4).
Then comes the battle against the Amalekites, which is odd. Surely God has provided safety for Israel throughout? Why is there suddenly one battle which takes place outside of Canaan?
Of course, this is odd if we don’t give it the necessary Christological reading. To begin with, they fought at Rephidim; quite an ironic name for a place where there isn’t exactly any rest, given Massah, Meribah and now the battle against the Amalekites. But God has provided water from the rock at Horeb, symbolising the Water of Life through Jesus Christ our Rock of Ages, to give Rephidim its full meaning; so surely we can offer a similar explanation for the battle with the Amalekites?
Here is some detail from Deuteronomy 25:17-19 which Exodus does not provide. It indeed shows how atrocious the attack was on Israel:
17(R) “Remember what Amalek did to you(S) on the way as you came out of Egypt, 18how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and(T) cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. 19Therefore(U) when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall(V) blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.
A brief background on Amalek – he is a son of Eliphaz by his concubine Timnah, the grandson of Esau, (the warring twin and brother of Jacob), the chieftain of Edom. No doubt, this proves that being a genetic descendant of Abraham is insufficient! IT is about spiritual heart-circumcision, and not physical circumcision.
So what did the LORD advise Moses to do to ensure success against the Amalekites? (v.9-13):
9So Moses said to(AY) Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with(AZ) the staff of God in my hand.” 10So(BA) Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and(BB) Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11Whenever Moses(BC) held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and(BD) Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13And(BE) Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
So Moses decided to:
(a) Stand on top of the hill
(b) Stretching out with the staff of God (which had already been used by God to work so many wonders)
(c) Joshua fought the Amalekites at the same time, and prevailed over them
(d) Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands when they grew weary
I think Justin Martyr’s fitting words should explain these rather odd commands:
“When the people,” replied I, “waged war with Amalek, and the son of Nave (Nun) by name Jesus (Joshua), led the fight, Moses himself prayed to God, stretching out both hands, and Hur with Aaron supported them during the whole day, so that they might not hang down when he got wearied. For if he gave up any part of this sign, which was an imitation of the cross, the people were beaten, as is recorded in the writings of Moses; but if he remained in this form, Amalek was proportionally defeated, and he who prevailed prevailed by the cross. For it was not because Moses so prayed that the people were stronger, but because, while one who bore the name of Jesus (Joshua) was in the forefront of the battle, he himself made the sign of the cross. For who of you knows not that the prayer of one who accompanies it with lamentation and tears, with the body prostrate, or with bended knees, propitiates God most of all? But in such a manner neither he nor any other one, while sitting on a stone, prayed. Nor even the stone symbolized Christ, as I have shown.
Indeed, so Moses holding out the staff of God, a type of the cross, stretching out in the shape of a cross, kept the sign alive while Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands so they would remain victorious. Moses deliberately went up a hill, to portray a picture of the ascension of Christ on the holy hill (Psalm 2:6, 24:3) and displayed the power of the cross by his physical imitation and the staff which had been used to work so many miracles which, in themselves, also pointed to the eschatological views of this world. And how else could they have effected such a powerful symbol if Joshua, whose true Hebrew name Yeshua is identical to that of Jesus (therefore God’s name is in Joshua), did not defeat the Amalekites with his sword, as Christ himself will use his own sword to cut down all non-Christians on judgment day?
And Amalek is of course just a representation of all unbelievers, as explained in Exodus 17:16, which seems to contradict v.14. On the one hand He says He will blot Amalek from under the skies; on the other He says he will war with Amalek from generation to generation. We know that approximately a time after David, the Amalekites are almost completely destroyed; yet this contradicts v.16. Thus, if we understand v.16 in its fullness, God isn’t speaking of the physical Amalekites, but who the Amalekites represented in this Christological and Prophetic vision of Christ fighting for us by the power of the cross.
3. Small-groups: the Trinitarian Theology of Jethro (Exodus 18 )
Finally, some sound advice from Jethro (his excellence), whose other name is Reuel (friend of God). If you are still not confirmed in your conviction as to whether Jethro is a Christian Priest or not, this will perhaps give you some satisfaction v.10-12:
10Jethro said,(BS) “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11Now I know that(BT) the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they(BU) dealt arrogantly with the people.”[j] 12And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law(BV) before God.
Jethro had not served some random “god” – he served the LORD who is “greater than all gods”! The news of the Exodus was certainly good news, and a testimony which gives him and us the much needed confirmation of hope in Christ. Thus, Jethro responds as every Christian does – provide a burnt offering and sacrifice to God. Remember: this is prior to the Mosaic law; yet he is merely following the pattern of all Christians like Noah, Abraham, Abel, who had a firm understanding of sacrifices and burnt offerings (possibly even more than the majority of Israelites in later books when they used the law for their own righteousness!).
Before leaving back to his home country, Jethro gives the following advice which Paul modelled after in the new age of the global church (v.17-25)
17Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you.(BZ) You are not able to do it alone. 19Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall(CA) represent the people before God and(CB) bring their cases to God, 20and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know(CC) the way in which they must walk and(CD) what they must do. 21Moreover, look for(CE) able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22And(CF) let them judge the people at all times.(CG) Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will(CH) bear the burden with you. 23If you do this, God will direct you, you will be(CI) able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” 24So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25(CJ) Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.
This is uncannily similar to 1 Timothy 3:1-7:
1The saying is(A) trustworthy: If anyone aspires to(B) the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Therefore(C) an overseer[a] must be above reproach,(D) the husband of one wife,[b](E) sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable,(F) hospitable,(G) able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but(H) gentle, not quarrelsome,(I) not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity(J) keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for(K) God’s church? 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may(L) become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by(M) outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into(N) a snare of the devil.
And Titus 1:7-9:
7For an overseer,[a](A) as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not(B) be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent(C) or greedy for gain, 8but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy,(D) and disciplined. 9He must(E) hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in(F) sound[b] doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
The significance of these leaders, modelled after Jethro’s advice of sharing the responsibility in the diversity and responsibility of the church of Israel is an important witness to the diversity and essential similarity of the Trinity. It is through the Holy Family that we are given the institution of marriage, of fellowship, of oneness with God despite being of various personalities. The Three Persons is what we model after; and one does not usurp the role of another. Jethro understood this, and his Trinitarian awareness shaped his theology of sharing responsibilites amongst trustworthy brothers (thus, not anyone could be a leader of a small group). The reason for that is explained in v.25 – these men were to be heads over the people! So Jethro instituted both a Trinitarian modelled-church, and headship in one go, stemming from his understanding of God!
You may find this slightly far-fetched, but understanding eastern oriental religions may help convince you otherwise. In Hinduism and certain branches of Buddhism, the doctrine of Monism and Oneness is certainly very important, to the extent where Enlightened Ones with disciples do not love their disciples but merely have compassion on them temporarily until all are effectively saved. However, the meaning of relationship, and a desire like love, is heavily frowned upon given their philosophy that all desire leads to suffering (a hasty and inadequate definition of the Pali word ‘dukkha‘). Given their understanding that the origin of dukkha is from such desire, then the Sangha (the Holy Order of Buddhist monks and nuns) have no purpose to have such loving relationships with one another. But Jethro’s understanding surpasses that – if he did not have a Trinitarian understanding of roles, male headship, of the Three Persons of the Trintiy thus the various personalities of the leaders, yet also the oneness of the Trinity (hence the strict moral guide of the leaders given in Exodus, 1 Timothy and Titus), then he would not have conjured up this model of ecclesiastical structure. Akin to the Sangha which reflects Buddhist philosophy, here are some rich gems of Jethro’s Trinitarian theology shown through Exodus 18.
So let us learn to respect the traditions of ecclesiastical structure, of male headship, of marriage given from Moses’ father-in-law, the friend of God, His excellence – for they explain the truth of the Trinity and provide one of the better physical analogies of the God whom we do not see, except in Christ alone.