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Manna was a kind of food that God first gave to the Israelites soon after they left Egypt. It remained their daily food for the next forty years (Exodus 16:4; Numbers 11:6; Psalms 78:23-24). It was not, however, their only food (Exodus 18:12; Leviticus 7:14-15; Leviticus 11:2-3; Leviticus 11:9; Numbers 11:31-34). God’s provision of the manna ceased once the people arrived in Canaan (Joshua 5:12).

The people of Israel gave the food the name ‘manna’ (meaning ‘What is it?’) because they did not know what else to call it (Exodus 16:15; Exodus 16:31). We today do not know exactly what the manna was or how it was made. Possibly it was a substance prepared by insects that sucked the gum from trees. It formed during the night and was ready to be collected in the morning. It was fine, flaky, tasted like wafers mixed with honey, and could be cooked in various ways (Exodus 16:14; Exodus 16:23; Exodus 16:31; Numbers 11:7-9).

God supplied the manna every morning, and the people had to eat it the same day. The only exceptions concerned the Sabbath rest day. There was no manna on Saturday mornings, but God gave two days’ supply each Friday, half of which the people kept for use on Saturday. Because the manna spoiled quickly, the people preserved the supply for Saturday by baking or boiling it beforehand. Moses controlled the collection and distribution of the manna so that no one had too much or too little (Exodus 16:4-5; Exodus 16:15-18; Exodus 16:23).

The command that prohibited keeping the manna overnight tested the people’s obedience. The promise that ensured complete Sabbath rest through the double supply each Friday tested their faith. But in both matters they failed (Exodus 16:19-30).

In accordance with God’s instructions, Moses put part of the manna in a jar, to keep as a memorial of how God fed his people in the wilderness. This jar was later placed in the ark of the covenant together with Aaron’s rod and the stone tablets inscribed with the law (Exodus 16:31-35; Hebrews 9:4).

God also used the manna to teach the Israelites that their lives depended not merely on the food they ate, but on their spiritual relationship with God (Deuteronomy 8:3; cf. Matthew 4:4). Jesus compared the gift of manna to satisfy physical hunger with the gift of himself to satisfy spiritual hunger. He did not need to make food fall from heaven, for he himself was the true bread from heaven (John 6:31-35). He gave himself as a sacrifice for sin, so that those who trust in him may have eternal life (John 6:48-51; cf. Revelation 2:17).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Manna'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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