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Manna was the unknown kind of bread or grain[1] that was the primary food for the Israelites during their wandering in the desert for forty years. God supernaturally rained down the food in a white flaky powdery form, every day, except for the Sabbath[2]. Beginning just a month after the parting of the Red Sea, the supply of the mysterious food continued until the day that the tribes entered into Canaan to begin possession of the land.

A container of the manna was preserved within the Ark of the Covenant as a reminder of the provision for the needs of the people of God[3]. Later, Jesus explained how the Manna was a symbol for himself and his sole power to satisfy the soul's hunger.

Description

At first appearance manna looked like a light frost on the ground[2]. Upon closer inspection, it was described to be like small round seeds, that glistened like resin[4]. Eaten raw it tasted like wafers made with honey [5]. When grounded and prepared it had a fresh creamy taste[6].

The name the people gave the substance was indicative of the difficulty to understand its sudden appearance and subsequent disappearance in the heat of the day. The bread itself was confusing in what it was, leaving the Israelites asking what it was or "manna"; hence the naming for the bread[7].

History

Bread from Heaven

One month after coming out of Egypt[8], the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron due to a lack of food, complaining that in Egypt there was a plentiful amount[9]. God then told Moses that He would "rain bread from heaven" for the Israelites. God had hungered the Israelites and given them Manna purposefully, that they would recognize their need for God's words[10]. They were told that they would need to gather only enough for each day[11] -- that is, about a cup per person[12]. God also instructed that on the sixth day of the week twice as much would need to be gathered and prepared to prepare for the weekly day of rest[13].

The manna was a high density substance that reacted adversely to sunlight. In addition, it spoiled quickly, for it appears to have attracted flies overnight. Like clockwork, though, a hardier variety appeared the morning of the sixth day. This sixth-day manna would not draw the files with their maggots, but provided a source of food after eating one's portion the day before. When tested, this proved to be true to those who attempted to gather extra on other days.

At the end of forty years, as the soldiers crossed into the land of Canaan, manna stopped forming. The tribes that had settled on the east bank had settled into an agricultural lifestyle in which they had food enough for their families. As the Israelites took possession of the land, the storehouses of the inhabitants were the spoils of war. As God had promised, the land had been prepared. God had provided once again for a people who had refused to trust Him.

Legacy

A Purposeful Bread

Moses recognized that the purpose of the manna far exceeded that of satiating hunger. In a homily about remembering God's works of the past, he informed the Israelites that the manna had a purpose. God allowed them to hunger with the intention of sending them manna, in order that they may rely on God's revelation[10]. This made the comparison of revelation- especially Scripture- with the necessity of bread, particularly manna. Since bread was the staple of the diet and in the case of manna, was practically the only food the Israelites had, they were to depend on it as if their entire life depended on it.

Jesus used this comparison in his defense against Satan's temptations. Jesus had fasted for forty days, so Satan tried to tempt him into transforming stones into bread. In reply Jesus went back to Moses' speech, asserting his reliance on God, rather than food during his time of fasting.[14]

Shewbread

With only a cup of the solid, miraculously preserved inside the Ark of the Convenant[3], manna faded from common knowledge. However, there was a practice in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple, that reminded the priests and God Himself of what had happened in the desert. In the inner court, separated from the crowds, was a table with loaves prepared to be eaten in the presence of God. Fresh bread was placed there every morning to meet the need of the sacrifices[15].

Passover

Though the annual feasts never incorporated the gift of manna, the most significant feast -- passover -- revolves around bread. That bread, while made of common flour, was to be flat and without any leavening. It was to be prepared with oil, but without honey (so it didn't taste like manna). Made in haste, it was similar to the daily preparation needed for manna[16].

Bread of Life

During his ministry, a large crowd of over five thousand followed Jesus onto a mountain. Miraculously, Jesus used five loaves of bread to feed this large crowd with an overabundance of twelve leftover baskets.The following day members of the crowd approached Jesus. These people did not seek him for his miracles, but rather to discover why they were satisfied by the bread. Jesus went on to instruct the Jews to not work for perishing food, but for "food" that is everlasting.He went on to explain that the only kind of work that could obtain eternal food was to believe in God's sent one, referring to himself. [17]

When the Jewish people heard this, they demanded a sign. The crowd quoted a line from a Psalm and suggested that Jesus needed to perform a miracle, like raining bread from the sky to prove his authority from God. In reply Jesus told them that he was the bread that came down from Heaven and gave eternal life. Unlike the Manna, when someone was to believe in Jesus they would never perish.

Days later, he was to institute a meal at the time of Passover that proved the truth about life in his body and blood

Hidden Manna

The manna idiom of Jesus is referenced to in the Book of Revelation. In a letter addressed to the Church of Pergamum (dictated by Jesus, recorded by John) Jesus proclaims that those willing to listen to the Spirit would receive some "hidden manna", referring to eternal life given by Christ[18].

Verses

  1. Exo 16:4 (Link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Exo 16:13
  3. 3.0 3.1 Exo 16:33-34, Heb. 9:4
  4. Numbers 11:7 (Link)
  5. Exodus 16:31 (Link)
  6. Numbers 11:8 (Link)
  7. Exo 16:15 (Link)
  8. Exo 16:1 (Link)
  9. Exo 16:2-4 (Link)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Deut 8:3
  11. Exo 16:4 (Link)
  12. Exo 16:16, 36. (Link)
  13. Exo 16:5 (Link)
  14. Matt 4:4, Luke 4:4 (Link)
  15. Num 4:7 (Link)
  16. Exo 12:19-20 (Link)
  17. John 6:5-12, 25-29 (Link)
  18. Rev 2:17 (Link)