Simeon stood at the entrance of his tent gazing at the barren wilderness. “Rocks, nothing but rocks!” he thought. His mind wandered into a day-dream about wheat fields as if the barren wilderness had vanished. He could see the golden stalks of grain ripe for harvest. But the grumbling of his stomach brought him back to the present. “Ah, Egypt!” he lamented.
Outside the tent were voices-some strident, others just the low rumbling of complaint. “Why did you bring us to this desert to starve!” “In Egypt we had pots of meat and food!” “We’d be better off if the LORD had killed us off in Egypt!” Simeon joined the crowd waiting for answers.
The answers came, but how strange they were. “God is going to rain down bread from heaven!” They were told to gather only enough for one day, and then on the sixth day to gather twice as much, because the Sabbath was a day of rest.
But the strangeness of the answers was overtaken by the joy of finding food. It lay on the ground like frost, and tasted like wafers of honey. By the end of the day, Simeon still had some left. As he considered the instructions, he thought, “Why should the God of our fathers and creator of the heavens and earth care if I have leftovers?” But the next morning his jar was full of maggots and stank.
By the Sabbath, it seemed almost automatic for Simeon to go out and gather manna. He and few others went out and were stunned to find none. He almost dreaded going back to his tent. He remembered the maggots from the last time he tried to save some, but today was different. His manna was good to eat.
Simeon is imaginary, but the experiences reflect the narrative of Exodus 16. Concerning the manna, the Lord said, “I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions” (Exodus 16:4b, NIV). Later Moses would say of the manna, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3, NIV). Every word? Obedience, how hard it is to learn! Manna it seems was not only their daily bread, but food for thought.