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The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of Yahweh in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Then Yahweh said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to Yahweh, for he has heard your complaining.’“ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of Yahweh appeared in the cloud. Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am Yahweh elohekem.’“
In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that Yahweh has given you to eat.”
This is the Track 2 Old Testament option for the tenth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 13], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. If chosen, it will be paired with a reading from Psalm 78, which sings, “He rained down manna upon them to eat and gave them grain from heaven.” Those will precede the Epistle reading from Ephesians, where Paul wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” All will accompany a Gospel reading from John, where Jesus told the people who followed him there, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
I wrote an update of this reading and posted it publicly on my website in 2020. I welcome all who are interested in reading that commentary by clicking on this link. I had previously written about this and published in 2017 [including all verses 2-15], which can be read by following this link. I welcome all to read what I have written prior on this Exodus story about the manna and quail, as nothing has changed that keeps that meaning seen from still being applicable today. Now, I will offer a slight angle on this reading that is designed to make it an easier reflection on the Track 1 Old Testament choice [Nathan tells David, “You are that man!”] and the Gospel where Jesus is encountered in Capernaum after having fed the multitude free food.
An adjustment that I am now doing is relative to my refusal to continue the naming of Yahweh as “the Lord.” In that effort, I have place [in bold type] the name “Yahweh” in the places it was written, but changed by some translation company to “the Lord.” Just so everyone is clear that the Israelites have a word that translates as “lord” [“adon” in the singular, “adonay” in the plural], there are absolutely zero uses of that word anywhere in Exodus chapter sixteen. Also, I have come to the realization that the plural number of “god” [in the Hebrew “elohim”] must not be altered to the singular and then be given capitalization status, as “God.” There are many “gods” that have been created by Yahweh, which can be a universal law [non-human], an angel [non-human], and a Saint [a human soul united with Yahweh’s Spirit]. Moses, David, and Jesus are just three examples of Yahweh elohim, and Yahweh has the power to create as many elohim as He sees fit. Since the translators of Scripture into English most certainly are not elohim, they make mistakes like calling Yahweh a lord and changing “gods” into “God.”
To hear the Israelites complain, “If only we had died by the hand of Yahweh in the land of Egypt,” that is a major statement against having the protection of Yahweh guarding their souls. It says, “If only we had not sacrificed an unblemished yearling lamb, cooked it and ate it, after marking our doorways with that lamb’s blood.” If says, “If only Yahweh had come into our houses and struck dead the firstborn, like happened to Pharaoh and all others who did not follow Moses’ instructions.” That is like hearing a famished Esau say to his brother Jacob, “Birthright!? What birthright? I wants stew now!” In other words, it is something only a child or a fool would say.
When Nathan told David the parable about a rich man and a poor man, the rich man with many flocks and herds is like Egypt, where fleshpots and bread a plenty was always readily available … as long as there was no famine or war that would interrupt that image of what was once before. The metaphor of a poor man is like the Israelites out in the wilderness, with nothing of value that would make him stand out above the crowd. That then makes the metaphor of the little ewe lamb be these men Moses and Aaron and this God named Yahweh, which was not just something representing immense value, but family. The little ewe lamb meant abounding love, both to and from the poor man’s family and the lamb. The complaints made to Moses and Aaron say the Israelite people were still of a mindset that saw themselves as rich men and women, who deserved all their wealth reflected in their many flocks and herds, while also having the birthright to snatch away someone else’s God as their own too. The complaints of the Israelites said they were selfish; and, being selfish is not the way to have one’s soul assured of salvation.
Now, the people who followed Jesus from the synagogue by the sea, where they reclined in the grass and ate their fill of fish and bread [like the rich did, way back in Egypt], they had followed Jesus simply because he meant free food for pilgrims from out of town. They were not poor, as they had traveled long and far to go to Judea for the Passover, so they had enough money to take along food for the trip. Finding Jesus was only a way to keep their many flocks and herds and snatch this ewe lamb as their own, to save cash while feeding their bellies. In that way, they were just like the Israelites complaining to Moses and Aaron, with one exception. That exception is the pilgrim following Jesus were not babies. They were full-grown adults.
The Israelites were like the glint in the Father’s eye, forty years before they would be formed into a fetus in the womb called Israel. That baby would be born when it was cast out into the world when the water burst and the uterus that was Israel and Judah squirted out a new religion for the world to come to know. Because of that difference in age, Yahweh treated the complaining Israelites like would a Father and His screaming baby, who was always either hungry, thirsty, or so messy it needed to be cleaned. Babies are totally incapable of caring for themselves, so parents have to do everything. By the time the pilgrims followed Jesus and began acting like babies, Jesus told them acting like babies no longer cuts it.
The gifts of manna and quail [the quail being a onetime feast] was the equivalent of setting baby in a high chair and letting it splash around in pablum and Cheerios. Because all the Israelites were adults and quite capable of eating goat stew, with cheese and water, the baby in them was their souls. The manna and quail was soul food, designed to pacify the baby, so the ugly adult did not take control and complain unnecessarily.
The manna was akin to spiritual food, before Moses completed writing his five books called the Torah. The manna stopped raining like bread from heaven when Moses left them at the Jordan River with five scrolls he wrote. After that, the spiritual food of the Israelites came from memorizing those words. By the time David was sent as the man with a little ewe lamb, showing all the Israelites they needed to be just like him for the meaning of all those memorized words to come forth. When David changed back into a rich man with many flocks and herds, Uriah became the poor man with one ewe lamb; and, David then sacrificed that as a symbolic act that the Israelites had a soul that knew Yahweh, but to realize salvation would come after their birth and stumbles into adulthood. Jesus then came to touch those souls, waking them up from their slumbers that had allowed the memorization of Scripture to make them rich men with many flocks and herds, but none understood as requiring self-sacrifice.
When David loudly said to Nathan after hearing the parable about his sins, “As Yahweh lives, the man who has done this deserves to die,” he was proclaiming the answer to understanding self-sacrifice. That self-sacrifice would mean trouble being raised in David’s own house. The embryo Israel would be born with a pure soul, in a body of sinful flesh. It would be born from failure and raised with the troubles of a world that offered no safe harbor. It had been blessed by being given manna from heaven; but it had been cursed by thinking that gift – which it could not understand – made it special in Yahweh’s eyes. To learn self-sacrifice, Israel would have to live up to its name by becoming elohim. It would have to stop being the crying infant only concerned with “me, me, me!” It had die, so it could be reborn and rise again as “He Retains God” [the meaning of “Israel”].
As a reading option for the tenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry to Yahweh should be well underway, the lesson to be found is learning that Egypt and its fleshpots with plenty of bread reflects where civilization demands the sacrifice of a soul for material things. By having the angel of death pass onto one’s soul, “Welcome to Egypt! Land of a seventy year existence [beyond childhood].” The problem is an eternity of reincarnation, coming back time and time again as some loser, scattered to the four corners of the earth, never finding a place to call home. Get used to worshiping Mammon in this life and find abject poverty and enslaving abuses for several lifetimes after. The only release from that cycle is getting in touch with that pure soul, before it is sold on the free market one more time. There has to come a time when the soul stands up against the flesh and stops selfishly selling out for an illusion that is here today and then gone in a flash.
The only way to have the soul stand up is spiritual food. Spiritual food comes from the divine Scripture that is found in the Holy Bible. It is written in codes that your eyes can read, but not quite understand. To begin to understand, one needs to gather the manna daily – not just once or twice a year [Easter and maybe Christmas]. One needs to consume a day’s worth before trying to eat the who book all at once. Yahweh will be watching, as Scripture is a test, to tell “whether you will follow His instruction or not.” The longer you follow the gathering instruction, the more spiritual food will begin to feed you soul and return it to strength, allowing it to stand up against the flesh. Spiritual food gives the soul the desire to marry Yahweh [not some nameless lord, as the world has too many of those to list]; and, marriage to Yahweh makes one’s soul in union with His Spirit become one of His elohim.
Ministry is worthless when placed in the hands of the selfish, whose only soul cared for is one’s own. The selfish prance about in clothes that make them appear higher and mightier than everyone else, all the while they are abusing those who are poor, with only a pure soul to hold onto. A bad shepherd is one who never leads a flock to green pastures of spiritual food, beside still waters, because that thief has no interests whatsoever in tending one flock. There is money to be made in having many flocks to steal from and many herds to point at as perfections of creation, as unclean as them may be in reality.
The world is so full of bad ministers that is why Yahweh had Moses lead the Israelites away from where sin pulses freely and loudly. It is impossible for a bad shepherd to tell anyone the meaning of manna from heaven, because he or she [add in its these days] has never been taught any meaning beyond Sunday School and children’s church, when the point of manna being said to mean “what is it?” says a minister explains what it is. When false shepherds begin to make up stuff, they begin taking the little ewe lamb of some published author and pretending that baby lamb is their own to serve up for dinner. One has to come to Yahweh to know the meaning of His bread from heaven.