Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes (Lk 9:16-9:16)

“Taking

The five loaves

And the two fish,

Jesus looked up

To heaven.

He blessed them.

He broke them.

He gave them

To the disciples

To set before

The crowd.”

 

λαβὼν δὲ τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας, ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς καὶ κατέκλασεν, καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς παραθεῖναι τῷ ὄχλῳ.

 

Luke said that Jesus took (λαβὼν) the 5 loaves (δὲ τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους) and the 2 fish (καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας).  He looked up to heaven (ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν).  He blessed them (εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς).  He broke them (καὶ κατέκλασεν).  He gave them to his disciples (αὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς) to set before the crowd (παραθεῖναι τῷ ὄχλῳ).  This is the only blessing miracle that is recorded in all four gospels, Matthew, chapter 14:18-19, Mark, chapter 6:41, and John, chapter 6:12, plus here.  The blessing of the bread and the fish was exactly the same in all the synoptic gospels, but merely summarized in John.  This feeding of a large group of people harkens back to the Exodus story, chapter 16:1-36, about the manna and the quails in the wilderness.  Yet the blessing itself has almost a foretaste of the Eucharistic Last Supper of Jesus, when Jesus blessed and broke the bread.  Mark said that Jesus took the 5 loaves and the 2 fish.  He looked up to heaven.  He blessed them.  Then he broke up the loaves of bread into pieces.  He gave the loaves of bread to his disciples.  They, in turn, set the broken pieces of bread or served them to the crowd.  Jesus also divided or shared the 2 fish among them all, something that Luke did not mention explicitly.  Matthew indicated that Jesus told his disciples to bring him the food, the 5 loaves of bread and the 2 fish.  Then he ordered or directed the crowd to sit down on the grass.  He took the 5 loaves and the 2 fish.  He looked up to heaven.  He blessed them.  Then he broke the loaves of bread and the fishes into pieces.  He gave the loaves of bread to his disciples.  They, in turn, gave them to the crowd.  This almost sounds like a large later distribution of Holy Communion.  Have you ever been to a large communion service?

Jesus blesses the loaves of bread (Mk 8:6-8:6)

“Then Jesus ordered

The crowd

To sit down

On the ground.

He took

The seven loaves.

After giving thanks,

He broke them.

He gave them

To his disciples

To distribute.

They distributed them

To the crowd.”

 

καὶ παραγγέλλει τῷ ὄχλῳ ἀναπεσεῖν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς· καὶ λαβὼν τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἄρτους εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ἵνα παρατιθῶσιν, καὶ παρέθηκαν τῷ ὄχλῳ

 

Matthew, chapter 15:36, has a similar statement about the thanksgiving, blessing, and the distribution of the 7 loaves of bread and fish.  Mark said that Jesus ordered or directed the crowd to sit down or recline on the ground (καὶ παραγγέλλει τῷ ὄχλῳ ἀναπεσεῖν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς), instead of earlier on the grass.  This was going to be like a large picnic.  Jesus took the seven loaves (καὶ λαβὼν τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἄρτους).  There is no mention of the fish here.  He gave thanks or eucharized them (εὐχαριστήσας) and then broke them apart (ἔκλασεν).  He gave them to his disciples to distribute (καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ἵνα παρατιθῶσιν).  Then the disciples gave or set them up before the crowd (καὶ παρέθηκαν τῷ ὄχλῳ).  This feeding of a large group of people harkens back to the Exodus story, chapter 16:1-36, about the manna and the quails in the wilderness, but on a smaller scale.  Yet the word “thanksgiving” was used here instead of a “blessing” as at the earlier feeding of the 5,000 people in chapter 6:30-44.  This has almost a foretaste of the Eucharistic Last Supper of Jesus, when he gave thanks, blessed and broke the bread.  Otherwise, this process is very similar to the first multiplication of the loaves of bread.  However, Jesus did not look up to heaven here.  Jesus gave the food to his disciples, who in turn gave the food to the people in the crowd.

Jesus blessed and broke the bread (Mk 6:41-6:41)

“Taking

The five loaves

And the two fish,

Jesus looked up to heaven.

He blessed

And broke

The loaves.

He gave them

To his disciples

To set

Before the people.

He divided

The two fish

Among them all.”

 

καὶ λαβὼν τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν καὶ κατέκλασεν τοὺς ἄρτους καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς ἵνα παρατιθῶσιν αὐτοῖς, καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἐμέρισεν πᾶσιν.

 

This is the only blessing miracle that is recorded in all four gospels, Matthew, chapter 14:19, Luke, chapter 9:16, and John, chapter 6:12, plus here.  The blessing of the bread and the fish is exactly the same in the synoptic gospels, but merely summarized in John.  This feeding of a large group of people harkens back to the Exodus story, chapter 16:1-36, about the manna and the quails in the wilderness.  Yet the blessing itself has almost a foretaste of the Eucharistic Last Supper of Jesus, when he blessed and broke the bread.  Mark said that Jesus took (καὶ λαβὼν) the 5 loaves (τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους) and the 2 fish (καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας).  He looked up to heaven (ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν).  He blessed them (εὐλόγησεν).  Then he broke up the loaves of bread into pieces (καὶ κατέκλασεν τοὺς ἄρτους).  He gave the loaves of bread to his disciples (καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς).  They, in turn, set the broken pieces of bread or served them to the crowd (ἵνα παρατιθῶσιν αὐτοῖς).  Jesus also divided or shared the 2 fish among them all (καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἐμέρισεν πᾶσιν).  This almost sounds like a large later distribution of Holy Communion.

Difference between Egypt and Israel (Wis 16:1-16:4)

“Therefore those people were deservedly punished

Through such creatures.

They were tormented by a multitude of animals.

Instead of this punishment,

You allowed kindness to your people.

You prepared quails to eat.

This was a delicacy to satisfy

The desire of their appetite.

Thus those people,

When they desired food,

Might lose the least remnant of their appetite.

Thus the odious creatures were sent to them.

Meanwhile your people,

After suffering want a short time,

Might partake of delicacies.

It was necessary

That upon those oppressors

Inescapable want should come.

At the same time

To these others,

It was merely shown

How their enemies were being tormented.”

These last few chapters will continue the parallels between Egypt and Israel, without explicitly mentioning them by name. The Egyptians are referred to as “those people or oppressors (οἱ ἐχθροὶ),” while the Israelites are called “your people (τὸν λαόν σου).” Those people were punished (ἐβασανίζοντο) with a multitude of animals. Odious creatures were sent to them. On the other hand, God showed kindness to his people. He sent quails for them to eat as in Numbers, chapter 11. Thus the Israelites had delicacies, while the Egyptians lost their appetite in their torments.

Moses in the desert (Ps 105:37-105:41)

“Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold.

There was no one among their tribes who stumbled.

Egypt was glad when they departed.

The dread of them had fallen upon Egypt.

He spread a cloud for a covering.

He spread a fire to give light by night.

They asked.

Then he brought quails.

He gave them food from heaven in abundance.

He opened the rock.

Then water gushed out.

It flowed through the desert like a river.”

This is quick summary of Exodus, chapters 12-17. The Israelites left Egypt with silver and gold. No one of their tribes stumbled or fell. Thus Egypt was glad that they were gone since they were afraid of what would happen next. In the desert, they had a cloud for covering during the day and a fire as light at night. They wanted food and water, so God provided quails that flew in and manna from heaven in abundance as food. Moses struck a rock so that there was water in abundance like a river in the desert.

Yahweh provides nourishment in the desert (Ps 78:23-78:29)

“Yet he commanded the skies above.

He opened the doors of heaven.

He rained down on them manna to eat.

He gave them the grain of heaven.

Mortals ate of the bread of the angels.

He sent them food in abundance.

He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens.

By his power he led out the south wind.

He rained flesh upon them like dust.

Winged birds like the sand of the seas.

He let them fall within their camp.

They were all around their dwellings.

They ate.

They were well filled.

He gave them what they craved.”

Yahweh was kind to the Israelites. He opened the skies of heaven and let manna rain down on them. Here this manna is called the bread of angels. This is an embellishment of the story in Exodus, chapter 16. There the manna was more quizzical “what is this stuff?” Here, this is the grain or bread of angels as if angels had to eat food like humans. Here, instead of quails it is winged birds that fall from the sky. These winged birds were as plentiful as dust on the earth or sand in the seas. They ate the manna and birds until they were filled. They got what they were asking for.

Manna and quails (Ex 16:1-16:36)

“The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim.  Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.   The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of Yahweh in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread.  You have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’”

They set out from Elim, into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Sinai.  They began to complain.  Would it not have been better to die in Egypt where they could eat bread whenever they were hungry?

“Then Yahweh said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.  By this way I will test them whether they will follow my instructions or not.  On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’   So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was Yahweh who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of Yahweh, because he has heard your complaining against Yahweh.  For what are we, that you complain against us?’  Moses said, ‘Yahweh gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because Yahweh has heard your complaining that you utter against him.  What are we?  Your complaining is not against us but against Yahweh.’”

Yahweh told Moses that he was going to rain bread from heaven each day.  This was a test to see if they could follow instructions.   Moses warned that their complaining against him was actual complaints against Yahweh.

 “Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, draw near to Yahweh, for he has heard your complaining.’   And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of Yahweh appeared in the cloud.  Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaints of the Israelites.  Say to them, At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread.  Then you shall know that I am Yahweh, your God.’”

Aaron gathered all the people as the glory of Yahweh appeared in a cloud.  Yahweh told Moses that he had heard their complaints so that he was going to send meat and bread.  This way they would know that Yahweh was their God.

“In the evening quails came up and covered the camp.  And in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.   When the layer of dew lifted, there was on the surface of the wilderness a fine, flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.   When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’  They did not know what it was.  Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that Yahweh has given you to eat.  This is what Yahweh has commanded. `Gather as much of it as each of you need, an omer to a person according to the number of the persons for those in their own tents.’ The Israelites did so.  Some gathered more, some less.  But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage.  They gathered as much as each of them needed. Moses said to them, ‘Let no man leave any of it over until morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses.  Some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul.  Moses was angry with them.  Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as each needed.  But when the sun grew hot, it melted.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was layer of dew around the camp.   They were confused about the dew with its fine flaky substance.  Moses explained that it was bread.  Manna comes from the expression, what is that?  They had no confusion about the quails, although it is not clear whether they were dead or alive.  The quails seem to fly in at twilight and then let themselves be captured and eaten.  Then they went out to gather the bread, as much as they needed.  Whether you gathered a lot or a little, there was no shortage or overage. They were not to leave any of it until morning. But they did not listen to Moses.  Moses was angry with them.  Every morning they gathered it as much as they needed, but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

“On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece.  When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, ‘This is what Yahweh has commanded. Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to Yahweh.  Bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’   So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them.  It did not become foul, and there were no worms in it.  Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahweh.  Today you will not find it in the field.  Six days you shall gather it.  But on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.’”

On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece.  An omer is nearly four quarts. On the Sabbath, the seventh day, there would be no heavenly bread.  The food from the day before would not rot.

“On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. Yahweh said to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my instructions?  See! Yahweh has given you the Sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days.  Each of you stay where you are.  Do not leave your place on the seventh day.’   So the people rested on the seventh day.”

On the seventh day, some of the people went out to gather food and there was nothing.  Yahweh was mad at Moses, saying they were not keeping his instructions.  Once again, the emphasis on the Sabbath dominates.

“The the house of Israel called its name manna.  It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.  Moses said, ‘This is what Yahweh has commanded.  Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’   Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before Yahweh, to be kept throughout your generations.’  As Yahweh commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant for safe keeping.  The Israelites ate the manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land.  They ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.  An omer is the tenth part of an ephah.”

The text itself tries to explain what manna is, like a coriander seed, white, with the taste of honey.   Coriander is both a spice and an herb like cilantro.  Other commentators have called it a honey-dew excretion of insects that feed on a tamarisk tree.  Anyway, Moses wanted to keep an omer of this manna for future generations, in order that they may see the food that they ate in the wilderness. They took a jar with an omer of manna in it and placed it before Yahweh.  The Israelites ate this manna for 40 years.  In case you did not know, the text explains that an omer is a tenth of an ephah, roughly the equivalent to a bushel or 33 liters.