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The Lord Sends Food from Heaven

16 On the fifteenth day of the second month after the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, they left Elim and started through the western edge of the Sinai Desert[a] in the direction of Mount Sinai. There in the desert they started complaining to Moses and Aaron, “We wish the Lord had killed us in Egypt. When we lived there, we could at least sit down and eat all the bread and meat we wanted. But you have brought us out here into this desert, where we are going to starve.”

The Lord said to Moses, “I will send bread[b] down from heaven like rain. Each day the people can go out and gather only enough for that day. That’s how I will see if they obey me. But on the sixth day of each week they must gather and cook twice as much.”

Moses and Aaron told the people, “This evening you will know that the Lord was the one who rescued you from Egypt. And in the morning you will see his glorious power, because he has heard your complaints against him. Why should you grumble to us? Who are we?”

Then Moses continued, “You will know it is the Lord when he gives you meat each evening and more than enough bread each morning. He is really the one you are complaining about, not us—we are nobodies—but the Lord has heard your complaints.”

Moses turned to Aaron and said, “Bring the people together, because the Lord has heard their complaints.”

10 Aaron was speaking to them, when everyone looked out toward the desert and saw the bright glory of the Lord in a cloud. 11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard my people complain. Now tell them that each evening they will have meat and each morning they will have more than enough bread. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.”

13 That evening a lot of quails came and landed everywhere in the camp, and the next morning dew covered the ground. 14 After the dew had gone, the desert was covered with thin flakes that looked like frost. 15 The people had never seen anything like this, and they started asking each other, “What is it?”[c]

Moses answered, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 And he orders you to gather about two quarts for each person in your family—that should be more than enough.”

17 They did as they were told. Some gathered more and some gathered less, 18 according to their needs, and none was left over.

19 Moses told them not to keep any overnight. 20 Some of them disobeyed, but the next morning what they kept was stinking and full of worms, and Moses was angry.

21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and in the heat of the day the rest melted. 22 However, on the sixth day of the week, everyone gathered enough to have four quarts, instead of two. When the leaders reported this to Moses, 23 he told them that the Lord had said, “Tomorrow is the Sabbath, a sacred day of rest in honor of me. So gather all you want to bake or boil, and make sure you save enough for tomorrow.”

24 The people obeyed, and the next morning the food smelled fine and had no worms. 25 “You may eat the food,” Moses said. “Today is the Sabbath in honor of the Lord, and there won’t be any of this food on the ground today. 26 You will find it there for the first six days of the week, but not on the Sabbath.”

27 A few of the Israelites did go out to look for some, but there was none. 28 Then the Lord said, “Moses, how long will you people keep disobeying my laws and teachings? 29 Remember that I was the one who gave you the Sabbath. That’s why on the sixth day I provide enough bread for two days. Everyone is to stay home and rest on the Sabbath.” 30 And so they rested on the Sabbath.

31 The Israelites called the bread manna.[d] It was white like coriander seed and delicious as wafers made with honey. 32 Moses told the people that the Lord had said, “Store up two quarts of this manna, because I want future generations to see the food I gave you during the time you were in the desert after I rescued you from Egypt.”

33 Then Moses told Aaron, “Put some manna in a jar and store it in the place of worship for future generations to see.”

34 Aaron followed the Lord’s instructions and put the manna in front of the sacred chest for safekeeping. 35-36 The Israelites ate manna for forty years, before they came to the border of Canaan that was a settled land.[e]

The Lord Gives Water from a Rock

17 The Israelites left the desert and moved from one place to another each time the Lord ordered them to. Once they camped at Rephidim,[f] but there was no water for them to drink.

The people started complaining to Moses, “Give us some water!”

Moses replied, “Why are you complaining to me and trying to put the Lord to the test?”

But the people were thirsty and kept on complaining, “Moses, did you bring us out of Egypt just to let us and our families and our animals die of thirst?”

Then Moses prayed to the Lord, “What am I going to do with these people? They are about to stone me to death!”

The Lord answered, “Take some of the leaders with you and go ahead of the rest of the people. Also take along the walking stick you used to strike the Nile River, and when you get to the rock at Mount Sinai,[g] I will be there with you. Strike the rock with the stick, and water will pour out for the people to drink.” Moses did this while the leaders watched.

The people had complained and tested the Lord by asking, “Is the Lord really with us?” So Moses named that place Massah, which means “testing” and Meribah, which means “complaining.”

Israel Defeats the Amalekites

When the Israelites were at Rephidim, they were attacked by the Amalekites. So Moses told Joshua, “Have some men ready to attack the Amalekites tomorrow. I will stand on a hilltop, holding this walking stick that has the power of God.”

10 Joshua led the attack as Moses had commanded, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur stood on the hilltop. 11 The Israelites out-fought the Amalekites as long as Moses held up his arms, but they started losing whenever he had to lower them. 12 Finally, Moses was so tired that Aaron and Hur got a rock for him to sit on. Then they stood beside him and supported his arms in the same position until sunset. 13 That’s how Joshua defeated the Amalekites.

14 Afterwards, the Lord said to Moses, “Write an account of this victory and read it to Joshua. I want the Amalekites to be forgotten forever.”

15 Moses built an altar and named it “The Lord Gives Me Victory.” 16 Then Moses explained, “This is because I depended on the Lord.[h] But in future generations, the Lord will have to fight the Amalekites again.”

Jethro Visits Moses

18 Jethro was the priest of Midian and the father-in-law of Moses. And he heard what the Lord God had done for Moses and his people, after rescuing them from Egypt.

2-4 In the meantime, Moses had sent his wife Zipporah and her two sons to stay with Jethro, and he had welcomed them. Moses was still a foreigner in Midian when his first son was born, and so Moses said, “I’ll name him Gershom.”[i]

When his second son was born, Moses said, “I’ll name him Eliezer,[j] because the God my father worshiped has saved me from the king of Egypt.”[k]

5-6 While Israel was camped in the desert near Mount Sinai,[l] Jethro sent Moses this message: “I am coming to visit you, and I am bringing your wife and two sons.”

When they arrived, Moses went out and bowed down in front of Jethro, then kissed him. After they had greeted each other, they went into the tent, where Moses told him everything the Lord had done to protect Israel against the Egyptians and their king. He also told him how the Lord had helped them in all of their troubles.

Jethro was so pleased to hear this good news about what the Lord had done, 10 that he shouted, “Praise the Lord! He rescued you and the Israelites from the Egyptians and their king. 11 Now I know that the Lord is the greatest God, because he has rescued Israel from their arrogant enemies.” 12 Jethro offered sacrifices to God. Then Aaron and Israel’s leaders came to eat with Jethro there at the place of worship.

Judges Are Appointed

13 The next morning Moses sat down at the place where he decided legal cases for the people, and everyone crowded around him until evening. 14 Jethro saw how much Moses had to do for the people, and he asked, “Why are you the only judge? Why do you let these people crowd around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered, “Because they come here to find out what God wants them to do. 16 They bring their complaints to me, and I make decisions on the basis of God’s laws.”

17 Jethro replied:

That isn’t the best way to do it. 18 You and the people who come to you will soon be worn out. The job is too much for one person; you can’t do it alone. 19 God will help you if you follow my advice. You should be the one to speak to God for the people, 20 and you should teach them God’s laws and show them what they must do to live right.

21 You will need to appoint some competent leaders who respect God and are trustworthy and honest. Then put them over groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand. 22 These judges can handle the ordinary cases and bring the more difficult ones to you. Having them to share the load will make your work easier. 23 This is the way God wants it done. You won’t be under nearly as much stress, and everyone else will return home feeling satisfied.

24 Moses followed Jethro’s advice. 25 He chose some competent leaders from every tribe in Israel and put them over groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand. 26 They served as judges, deciding the easy cases themselves, but bringing the more difficult ones to Moses.

27 After Moses and his father-in-law Jethro had said good-by to each other, Jethro returned home.


  1. 16.1 the western edge of the Sinai Desert: Hebrew “the Sin Desert.”
  2. 16.4 bread: This was something like a thin wafer, and it was called “manna,” which in Hebrew means, “What is it?”
  3. 16.15 What is it: See the note at 16.4.
  4. 16.31 manna: See the note at 16.4.
  5. 16.35,36 land: The Hebrew text adds, “An omer is one tenth of an ephah.” In the CEV “omer” is usually translated “two quarts.”
  6. 17.1 Rephidim: The last stopping place for the Israelites between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai; the exact location is not known.
  7. 17.6 Sinai: The Hebrew text has “Horeb,” another name for Sinai.
  8. 17.16 This. . . Lord: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  9. 18.2-4 Gershom: See the note at 2.22.
  10. 18.2-4 Eliezer: In Hebrew “Eliezer” means “God has helped me.”
  11. 18.2-4 saved. . . Egypt: See 2.1-15.
  12. 18.5,6 Mount Sinai: Hebrew “the mountain of God.”