Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Exodus Chapter 16 we read about the Hebrews one month into their desert sojourns.
By that time, the nation began to experience extreme hardships due to dwindling food and water

“And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the Children
of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and
Sinai…And the whole congregation murmured against Moses and Aaron
in the wilderness. Then God said unto Moses: Behold I will cause to rain
bread from heaven…”

Abravanel poses two questions on our verses. The first has to do with the Bible’s chronicling of the
places where the Jews encamped. Why, Abravanel asks, are some venues omitted from our chapter?
Second, why didn’t the Maker lead His people along friendlier desert pitstops that offered basic
amenities, like potable water? People and animals can only survive three days without that most basic
of all provisions.

Abravanel puts the nation’s first, post-Exodus travels into perspective. God was about to reveal Himself
to the entire encampment at Mount Sinai. There, the Hebrews would receive the Five Books of Moses
and divine precepts. Given that impending rendezvous with the Maker, it was deemed necessary to
keep the early desert rest stops bare and desolate. In a word, God wanted the Hebrews to arrive at Sinai
with the requisite religious sensibilities.

Dependency on God started the intimate relationship on the right foot, per se. It also instilled within the
body politic the need to plead for relief before the Almighty. God would heed the cries, delivering
provisions. Belief in the compassionate, and attentive, Creator would be etched in Jewish souls. He is the
One Who causes water to flow from flint. He is the One Who drizzles bread from heaven. Gradually, the
Chosen People would acknowledge God’s omnipotence.

In brief, God meticulously planned the pre-Sinai setting. The main thing was planting a religious mindset.
When Jews hurt, they call to Heaven for help. The God of Israel will be there; He is forever reliable. That
explains why our chapter does not chronicle each venue, but rather only identifies those places where
the nation got schooled in divine faith. Bible students also learn why God hadn’t punished the Jews for
speaking out. Acute hunger had triggered injudicious speech and conduct.

See Abravanel’s World for the full discussion.