The Bible

God and the Hebrew Nation in the Story of the Manna and Quails

Exodus 16 and Numbers 11 both recount the story of the manna and quails. Though these two chapters concern the same story, they offer different details and variable facts. The two stories differ especially in their characterization of the Hebrew people, God, and the relationships between them. Exodus focuses on the Israelites’ relationship with God as a chosen people, while Numbers represents Israel’s earthly concerns and estrangement from God. The juxtaposition of these two seemingly conflicting stories in the Bible represents the duality of the Israelites’ relationship with God: on one hand, they are a “chosen people” especially close to God, while on the other hand they are a “stiff-necked” people, characterized by fickleness and a lack of faith (Ex. 32.9).

Exodus’s and Numbers’ accounts of the story of the manna and quails share many similarities. In both versions, God answers the Israelites’ complaints and provides food for them. This indicates that God does have a special relationship with the Hebrews over other peoples. Similarly, in both stories Moses acts as a representative of the Hebrew people to God; the attitudes of all the Israelites are often embodied in Moses, and his interactions with God become representative...

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