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What Was Manna?

"And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of The Lord [see Rock Of Ages] appeared in the cloud. And The Lord said to Moses, "I have heard the murmurings of the people of Israel; say to them, 'At twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; then you shall know that I am The Lord your God.'" In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning dew lay round about the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When the people 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, "It is the bread which The Lord has given you to eat." (Exodus 16:10-15 RSV)

The Desert

The word manna is derived from the The Hebrew words meaning, What is it? Although some have speculated that manna was some sort of naturally-occurring substance that God miraculously multiplied and delivered to the Israelites, there is no solid proof for that possibility. If it were something natural to the desert region however, very near to where the Israelites had been living for over 400 years, would they have had to ask what it was?

What we do know for sure is:

  • "Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it, and ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, and boiled it in pots, and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil." (Numbers 11:7-8 RSV)

  • "When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it." (Numbers 11:9 RSV)

  • During first 5 work days of the week, the people were only to gather enough for that day, because it would badly spoil before long (Exodus 16:19-20). On the sixth day however, they were to gather enough for 2 days because no manna came down during the Sabbath. The manna supplied on the sixth day did not spoil like it did on the other days (Exodus 16:23-26)

  • The manna began about 1 month after the Exodus, and they ate it during the entire 40 years of the Wilderness Journey (Exodus 16:35).

  • The manna stopped immediately after they entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua:
    "While the people of Israel were encamped in Gilgal they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month [see Bible Calendar and Bible Months] at evening in the plains of Jericho. And on the morrow after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased on the morrow, when they ate of the produce of the land; and the people of Israel had manna no more, but ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year." (Joshua 5:10-12 RSV)

Jesus Christ spoke of manna, revealing its true significance:

"Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world." (John 6:31-33 RSV)


"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh." (John 6:48-51 RSV)

Fact Finder: Was a jar of manna placed in The Ark Of The Covenant along with The Ten Commandments and Aaron's rod that had budded?
Exodus 16:32-34, Hebrews 9:4

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