by Carolyn Schmitt

Exodus 16:1-36 and Numbers 11:1-34 both tell about the Israelites complaining to Moses and Aaron about not having the kind of food available to them when they were slaves in Egypt. 

And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Exodus 16:3


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” Exodus 16:4-5


And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’ ” Exodus 16:11-16


In the Lord’s Prayer there is a change in pronouns: The first three petitions have the pronoun “your”, about God’s name being hallowed, His kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. The next three pronouns are “us”, about our need for daily bread, forgiveness of our debts, and protection from temptation.  The first three are a request for what happens in heaven that it will also happen on earth, and the next three are what is needed by us who live on earth. 

In the request, “Give us this day our daily bread”, my research brought to light a variety of responses to what it meant when Jesus spoke it to the people then and what it may mean to us in our time.  Taken literally, it might  mean that we should only have on hand what we can eat up in a day and we should not be making sure that we have food on hand to fix for us or our family the next day or beyond.  

I remember on our farm we always kept what are called, “staples” in the house.  They were basic ingredients that we could use to make various kinds of bread. They included flour, salt, yeast, baking powder, lard, and milk from our cows, eggs from our chickens, butter and buttermilk from our own making.  Our farm was 10 miles from town, so it would have been unrealistic to go somewhere every day to get our “daily bread”.  

I lived  for a time in a small town where  the grocery store was walking distance from our house. Even after moving to Denver in 1953, the grocery store was only 4 blocks from home.  Food still had to be prepared.  There were no fast food or take out shops for convenience.  

Something that was mentioned in several sources was that this prayer might mean praying for how God makes it possible for farmers to grow food and for people who do the work of processing, packaging, transporting and making food available to buy.  

It might mean that, unlike the Israelites who complained about what they didn’t have,  we are to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness to God for all who labor for what we do have.

I had forgotten until I looked it up that the Israelites only received the food the Lord provided them from heaven during their 40 year sojourn in the wilderness. 


Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho. And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year. Joshua 5:10-12


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