Paul says in 1 Cor. 10:3 that the Israelites “all ate the same spiritual food.” This was, of course a reference to the manna and quail which God provided to them during their wilderness journey.
Revelation of Timing
This food was first provided one month after they left Egypt when the people ran out of food and complained to Moses and Aaron. The date of this provision is given in Exodus 16:1,
1 Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.
Israel had begun their journey on the fifteenth day of the FIRST month, that is, on Passover. Apparently, it took them a month to run out of food. A year later, the importance of this date was made evident, for it became known as the Second Passover. Num. 9:10, 11 says,
10 Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, “If any one of you or of your generations becomes unclean because of a dead person, or is on a distant journey, he may, however, observe the Passover to the Lord. 11 In the second month, on the fourteenth day at twilight, they shall observe it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”
The fourteenth day was the preparation day for Passover, when they killed the lambs between noon and sundown (“twilight”). The fifteenth, or the actual day of Passover, began at sundown, in both the first and second month. Every command of the regular Passover ceremony carried over into that of the second month, for Num. 9:12 says, “according to all the statute of the Passover they shall observe it.” Furthermore, they were to keep the feast “with unleavened bread” (Num. 9:11), which lasted a full seven days (Exodus 12:15).
We have an actual example of this second Passover being observed in a big way, for many years later, Hezekiah kept this feast in 2 Chron. 30:15 and 21,
15 Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth of the second month… 21 And the sons of Israel present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy…
In fact, they enjoyed the celebration so much that they decided to keep a double feast, fourteen days in all. 2 Chron. 30:23 says,
23 Then the whole assembly decided to celebrate the feast another seven days, so they celebrated the seven days with joy.
This reminds us of an earlier time, when Solomon had dedicated the temple in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles. They had such a good time that they decided to do it again and extend the feast “for seven days and seven more days, even fourteen days” (1 Kings 8:65). In both cases, the people went beyond the command in the law, but certainly God was well pleased at their joy. No doubt these double feasts will prove to be prophetic as well.
Quail and Manna
As we saw earlier, in Exodus 16, the people complained of their lack of food on the fifteenth day of the second month. So we read God’s answer in Exodus 16:4, 5,
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. 5 And it will come about on the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”
The people were fed a daily portion, but they were not to gather more manna than they could eat in a single day—except for the sixth day, when they were to gather enough for two days, because they were given no manna on the seventh day (Exodus 16:22, 26). In God’s mind, it was very important that the people follow this instruction and discipline. They were supposed to gather only a single portion each day “that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.”
How did this instruction “test” them? We read later that some of them could not follow even this simple instruction, for Exodus 16:20 says,
20 But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.
In other words, they gathered too much manna, so that they had some left over for the next day. No doubt this exhibited their lack of faith, thinking that God might not provide for them the next day. The lesson for us is that God provides His word (revelation) to us according to our daily need, and we ought not to worry about tomorrow’s portion. There is a time for each revelation, and God is faithful to feed us that which we need each day.
Likewise, some of the people gathered only a single portion on the sixth day, thinking that they would be fed on the seventh day as with all of the other days. Exodus 16:27-29 says,
27 And it came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? 29 See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore, He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”
The lesson for us today is that we ought not to be caught up in the mindset of going to church on the seventh day to gather the manna of the word of God. Many today gather no manna during the week but expect to be fed on the seventh day when no manna is given.
They ought to be getting their manna daily, and on the seventh day they should have an extra portion to bring with them to the church, so that they may share their revelation with others in a spiritual pot-luck meal.
This was the original plan of God, and this is the real test of obedience to God’s instructions. It seems that the church in the Age of Pentecost has had as much difficulty keeping this instruction as the church in the Passover Age under Moses.
In fact, for many centuries the people were forbidden to obtain their own manna during the week, for they were instructed to receive it only through a priest when they came to church. So it became a tradition that people must go to church on the seventh day to obtain manna—but this was contrary to the instruction of God.
Many Christians, therefore, receive no manna during the week, and (ironically) when they go to church on their seventh day, they are given very little manna on the seventh day. Why? Because the seventh day was never meant to be a day for dispensing manna. Hence, the church engages in praise and worship and/or they take sacraments, including communion, but very few are fed with the word of God. The church is starved for the word, and many do not even realize it, because their unbiblical pattern has become “normal.”
The Living Word
The apostle sets forth Israel’s example in the context of how “with most of them God was not well-pleased” (1 Cor. 10:5). The manna represented Christ Himself, the living Word, for Jesus said in John 6:48-51,
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.
The Israelites in the wilderness had difficulty following God’s instructions about when to gather manna; but they also got tired of it and showed their displeasure later in Num. 11:4-6, 10,
4 And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna…. 10 Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased.
This prophesied of their rejection of Jesus Christ, for if they had been satisfied with the manna, their faith in the Messiah would have been built up, and they would have qualified to enter the Promised Land as overcomers. However, this was one more evidence that the church in the wilderness was disqualified.
Paul understood the Scriptures, and so he took heed of its warning. He did not want to be disqualified, nor did he want the Corinthian believers to be ignorant of these things, lest they too would be disqualified.
The main lesson from 1 Cor. 10:3, though Paul mentions it only in passing, is that we ought to eat the “spiritual food” provided for us. We no longer eat literal manna, for we have been given the body of Christ to eat (through hearing the Word). Jesus said in John 6:54-58,
54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal [aionian] life; and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever [eis ton aiona, “into the age”].
When Jesus spoke of “eternal life,” He was not speaking of immortality, but of life in “The Age,” that is, in the Tabernacles Age. Those overcomers who are raised in the first resurrection will be immortal during the thousand-year Age prior to the general resurrection of the dead.
Those who truly eat of Christ’s flesh (as manna in the wilderness) are those who hear His word and assimilate His nature. These are qualified as Caleb and Joshua to receive the promises of God in the Age to come.
Paul expands upon this theme later in his letter, when he comments on communion.