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These small group studies of Exodus 16 contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Exodus 16 Bible Study – Manna from Heaven


I. God provides Manna (1-7)

II. God provides meat (8-12)

III. Rules are given for gathering the manna (13-21)

IV. Rules for manna and the Sabbath (22-30)

V. One jar of manna is kept as a memorial of God’s provision (31-35)

I. God provides Manna (1-7)

Discussion Questions

How long had this been since they left Egypt?

How would you describe the condition of the people?

How would you describe the attitude of the people?

Why do you think they are forgetting again the miracles God had done for them?

What does this tell us about the nature of sin?

Do you think Egypt was really as good and plentiful as they remember it to be? Then what can we learn from the fact that they exaggerate how good it is in their memory?

How would you describe God’s attitude in responding to their grumbling?

Why did God want to test them in verse four? What would the test be? If God already knew the results why test them? Does God test people today? Any examples of what a test would be? What is the difference between a test a temptation?

II. God provides meat (8-12)

Who were the people really grumbling against? Why was Moses not really their target even if they spoke out against Moses? Who is all grumbling really against? Is it grumbling against God if we grumble against an unfair boss? Why?

What lesson did God want to teach them (12) as he provided the manna to them?

III. Rules are given for gathering the manna (13-21)

Where did the manna come from? Can science explain it? Has the world ever seen any phenomenon like it?

What rules were given for collecting the manna? What was the point of these rules? What could they learn from these rules?

Why did some of them not listen to Moses and save some until morning?

This manna was freely provided by God. Did the Israelites have to do anything in order to eat it? What biblical principle is there in this? Why do you think God didn’t just send a bucket to each one of their tents every morning?

IV. Rules for manna and the Sabbath (22-30)

Why did God want them to rest on the Sabbath?

How would the manna’s absence on the Sabbath day act as an object lesson for this?

Can we work on the Sabbath or Sunday these days? Why or why not?

Why did it not become foul on this day after a whole night?

Why do you think some people still went out to gather on the seventh day? What principle about people’s nature can we get from this (many times people just don’t listen or follow instructions)?

What did God do when people disobeyed by going out on the Sabbath day? (He repeated His instructions.)

V. One jar of manna is kept as a memorial of God’s provision (31-35)

Why did God command that a jar be kept?

What can you learn from this chapter?

What applications can we make to our own lives?

The Living Bread from Heaven

Exodus 16:1-3 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

If you read Exodus 16:1-3 you will notice that Israel was back again doing what Israel did well – moaning and groaning looking only at the natural, and completely forgetting, once again, the gracious and miraculous provision that God had repeatedly made for them. You will also note that they were even starting to exaggerate as to how good it really was back in Egypt! Moral of the story? Always remember God’s goodness and be confident of His future grace.

Now, before we race into the rest of the chapter, I have decided to do things slightly differently. I asked at the start of this study that you read the entire chapter of Exodus 16, thinking while you do so of how it relates to Jesus. Now that we are at that chapter I’m getting the distinct impression that you didn’t even read it! The only way to confirm my deep seated suspicions is with a good old fashioned quiz. Now, in answering these questions, remember that it is how it relates to Jesus and the Christian life that is the most important.

Does the New Testament link Jesus to the manna in Exodus?
If so, where and in what ways?
How often did the people gather the manna?
When did they gather?
Was the manna accessible?
Was the manna a complete food?
Was the manna a reminder of anything else?

That should be enough to prove your guilt! Let’s look at the answers comparing them to Exodus chapter 16.

1 & 2: Jesus compared Himself to the manna from Heaven.

John 6:32-35 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

So Jesus contrasted Himself with the manna from Heaven, saying that He was the true bread from Heaven. In doing so, He emphasised that just as the manna was supplied straight from God in Heaven, so He was God’s provision from Heaven, for mankind. This is what was declared in Exodus 16:4 ‘Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.’

3: The people gathered every day

Exodus 16:4 The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.

Clear enough isn’t it? They were to gather every day… except on the Sabbath however, as the seventh day was a day of rest. I’m sure you see the application here – Jesus is the true manna from Heaven. We are to feed on Him as Jesus Himself said. That is, we are to find our nourishment and spiritual strength through our relationship with Christ. And notice that they gathered every day. So is the Christian life a daily relationship.

Exodus 16:19-20 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Notice also the reason that the manna was collected each day… because it didn’t last till the next day. It gave strength and nourishment for that day but not beyond. Have you found that in your Christian life? Now I’m not saying that Jesus is of no use for you tomorrow… Far from it! But this passage again emphasised the need of daily feeding on Christ and His word. When you go through hard trials you definitely see the wisdom of this! The strength you received yesterday is not enough for today. Renewing your mind with the truth is on a daily basis and is essential in the difficult times. It also emphasises the need to use what God provides.

4. They gathered in the morning

Exodus 16:21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.

They had to gather in the morning before the manna was melted by the hot sun. The application? Well, there are certainly verses in the Bible which emphasise starting each day with the Lord (especially in the Psalms such as 5:3, 59:16, 143:8). It makes sense to renew your mind early with God’s word so that you start each new day with how God sees things. Whatever you do however, don’t read this footnote.

Exodus 16:17-18 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little…he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.

Notice also these little verses. For an application of this verse, it could be said that the amount of feeding on Christ and His word isn’t the main emphasis. The need of a daily feeding is. Those who gathered a little did not have too little. And those that gathered a lot didn’t have too much! That’s not to encourage laziness in anyway when it comes to our quiet time with the Lord, but it does show that the Lord can still feed us when we look to Him and don’t have the time to ‘gather much’.

5. The manna was easily accessible

Exodus 16:13-14 ‘…in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.’

Just a small point, but the manna was easily assessable. They didn’t have to struggle and strive to get it. They didn’t have to cross great rivers or hills to obtain it. God brought it straight to the people. God has also made Jesus assessable for all. The word encourages us to come boldly to His throne of grace! Fantastic! This also challenges us concerning our quiet times for God has opened the way for us to come freely and easily. No going through a priest on earth. No sacrificing an animal. The challenge is, are we going to come? Are we going to receive God’s provision daily? Are we going to gather?

6. The manna gave them everything they needed

For 40 years, while Israel wandered in the wilderness, they lived on the manna! It was a complete food in and of itself, giving them everything that their bodies needed. The Psalmist called it the ‘bread of angels’. (Ps 78:25). This gives us a picture of how Jesus is totally complete in Himself and is all we need. Watchman Nee once said‘It does not matter what your personal deficiency is… God has always one sufficient answer, His Son Jesus Christ, and He is the answer to every human need.’

So the challenge is, what are you feeding on? If you are a born again Christian then you are a heavenly person. And a heavenly person needs to be sustained by heavenly things! A.B Simpson hammers it home when he writes ‘The reason why multitudes of Christians are famished and feeble is because they are trying to live upon the husks or the fruits of this world. They are longing for the flesh pots of Egypt or the quails of lust and are weary of the simple bread of God. They feed on man’s philosophies, the protoplasm’s of materialism, the sensationalism of the novel… or the husks of the market and stock exchange, instead of the pure, sweet, sustaining word of God.’

7. The manna was a daily reminder of the things to come!

Exodus 16:31 The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.

I think I like this the best! The manna tasted like wafers made with honey. So everyday, if they gathered, God gave them a small taste of what was to come…a small taste of their final destination – the Promised Land ‘flowing with milk and honey!’ So it is with Jesus! The Bible says that we currently ‘see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.’ (1 Cor 13:12). It seems a good place to stop as we think of how awesome that day will be when

‘…the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

We may only see and experience the Lord Jesus in part right now, but it is certainly a good taste of the wonderful things still to come! And one day soon it will be face to face!

Comment – What did you think of this Bible study on Exodus 16? We would love to hear your thoughts. Share below in the comment section.