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Manna was an unknown kind of bread or grain[1] that covered the ground in the desert six days per week for forty years to be used as food by the Israelites. It covered the ground surrounding the encampment early in the morning, looking like a thin white frost of powdery white flakes[2].

Beginning just a month after the miracle at 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].

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. They were told that they would need to gather only enough for each day[10] -- that is, about a cup per person[11]. 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[12].

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

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[13].

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[14].

Bread of Life

Before he died, Jesus declared himself to be the "bread of heaven"[15] -- the ultimate fulfilment of the flaky white stuff -- that was to bring life to God's people around the world. Days later, he was to institute a meal at the time of Passover that proved the truth about life in his body and blood.

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. Exo 16:4 (Link)
  11. Exo 16:16, 36. (Link)
  12. Exo 16:5 (Link)
  13. Num 4:7 (Link)
  14. Exo 12:19-20 (Link)
  15. John 6:31-33 (Link)

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