A-Z: Famous stories from the Bible: Provision in the wilderness


Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, to travel to their Promised Land in Canaan. But walking from Egypt to Canaan took a long time and the Israelites began to be very short of food. Many grumbled rebelliously, wishing they had never left Egypt, where food was available. 

God informed Moses that he would provide enough food for the Israelites. They were to go outdoors each morning and evening and gather the food they found there. Moses and his brother, Aaron, reminded the people that it was God who had brought them out of Egypt and that they should look to see the glory of God the next day. 

MannaA cloud signified God’s presence and that evening the camp was covered with quail, which had fallen to the ground. The Israelites gathered, cooked and ate them. In the morning there was something which looked like frost all around the camp. These flakes, called manna were edible and the people were able to gather exactly enough for everyone, whether they took a little or a lot. 

This provision of food was maintained throughout the Israelites’ journeying in the wilderness. On the sixth day each week God provided enough food for two days so that the people did not have to gather any food on the Sabbath, the day set apart as a holy day.

At the Israelites’ next resting place, called Horeb there was no water and again they grumpily complained to Moses. Many wanted to return to Egypt and some even wanted to stone Moses. To address their need, God told Moses to take his staff (the one he had held out as the Red Sea and Jordan river were parted) and strike a rock. When he did so, enough water for everyone came gushing out. 

The story illustrates:

  • His followers need to trust that God will provide, even in difficult circumstances
  • God is concerned about the practical needs of his people, despite their grumbling
  • God is able to work miracles to accomplish his purposes.

Related topics

Big ideas from the Bible: Moses; Miracles; Journey of faith, Exodus, pilgrims and sojourners

Bible References

Exodus 16:1-18; Exodus 17:1-7
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