Manna: Heb. man-hu, "What is that?" the name given by the Israelites to the
food miraculously supplied to them during their wanderings in the
(Exodus 16:15-35) The name is commonly taken as derived from
man, an expression of surprise, "What is it?" but more probably it
is derived from manan, meaning "to allot," and hence denoting an
"allotment" or a "gift." This "gift" from God is described as "a
small round thing," like the "hoar-frost on the ground," and "like
coriander seed," "of the colour of bdellium," and in taste "like
wafers made with honey." It was capable of being baked and boiled,
ground in mills, or beaten in a mortar
(Exodus 16:23; Numbers 11:7) If any was
kept over till the following morning, it became corrupt with worms;
but as on the Sabbath none fell, on the preceding day a double
portion was given, and that could be kept over to supply the wants of
the Sabbath without becoming corrupt. Directions concerning the
gathering of it are fully given
(Exodus 16:16-18,33; Deuteronomy 8:3,16) It fell for
the first time after the eighth encampment in the desert of Sin, and
was daily furnished, except on the Sabbath, for all the years of the
wanderings, till they encamped at Gilgal, after crossing the Jordan,
when it suddenly ceased, and where they "did eat of the old corn of
the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more"
(Joshua 5:12) They now no longer needed the "bread of the wilderness."
This manna was evidently altogether a miraculous gift, wholly
different from any natural product with which we are acquainted, and
which bears this name. The manna of European commerce comes chiefly
from Calabria and Sicily. It drops from the twigs of a species of ash
during the months of June and July. At night it is fluid and resembles
dew, but in the morning it begins to harden. The manna of the Sinaitic
peninsula is an exudation from the "manna-tamarisk" tree (Tamarix
mannifera), the el-tarfah of the Arabs. This tree is found at the
present day in certain well-watered valleys in the peninsula of Sinai.
The manna with which the people of Israel were fed for forty years
differs in many particulars from all these natural products. Our Lord
refers to the manna when he calls himself the "true bread from heaven"
(John 6:31-35; 48-51) He is also the "hidden manna"
(Revelation 2:17) comp.