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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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מן , Exodus 16:15 ; Exodus 16:33 ; Exodus 16:35 ; Numbers 11:6-7 ; Numbers 11:9 ; Joshua 5:12 ; Nehemiah 9:20 ; Psalms 78:24 ; μαννα , John 6:31 ; John 6:49 ; John 6:58 ; Hebrews 9:4 ; Revelation 2:17 ; the food which God gave the children of Israel during their continuance in the deserts of Arabia, from the eighth encampment in the wilderness of Sin. Moses describes it as white like hoar frost, round, and of the bigness of coriander seed. It fell every morning upon the dew; and when the dew was exhaled by the heat of the sun, the manna appeared alone, lying upon the rocks or the sand. It fell every day except on the Sabbath, and this only around the camp of the Israelites. Every sixth day there fell a double quantity; and though it putrefied and bred maggots when it was kept any other day, yet on the Sabbath there was no such alteration. The same substance which was melted by the heat of the sun when it was left abroad, was of so hard a consistence when brought into the tent, that it was beaten in mortars, and would even endure the fire, being made into cakes and baked in pans. It fell in so great quantities during the whole forty years of their journey, that it was sufficient to feed the whole multitude of above a million of souls.

Every man, that is, every male or head of a family, was to gather each day the quantity of an omer, about three quarts English measure; and it is observed that "he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack," because his gathering was in proportion to the number of persons for whom he had to provide. Or every man gathered as much as he could; and then, when brought home and measured by an omer, if he had a surplus, it went to supply the wants of some other family that had not been able to collect a sufficiency, the family being large, and the time in which the manna might be gathered, before the heat of the day, not being sufficient to collect enough for so numerous a household, several of whom might be so confined as not to be able to collect for themselves. Thus there was an equality; and in this light the words of St. Paul lead us to view the passage, 2 Corinthians 8:15 . To commemorate their living upon manna, the Israelites were directed to put one omer of it into a golden vase; and it was preserved for many generations by the side of the ark.

Our translators and others make a plain contradiction in the relation of this account of the manna, by rendering it thus: "And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna; for they knew not what it was;" whereas the Septuagint, and several authors, both ancient and modern, have translated the text according to the original: "The Israelites seeing this, said one to another, What is it? מן חוא ; they could not give it a name. Moses immediately answers the question, and says, "This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat." From Exodus 16:31 , we learn that this substance was afterward called מן , probably in commemoration of the question they had asked on its first appearance. What this substance was, we know not. It was nothing that was common in the wilderness. It is evident that the Israelites never saw it before; for Moses says, "He fed thee with manna which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know," Deuteronomy 8:3 ; Deuteronomy 8:16 ; and it is very likely that nothing of the kind had ever been seen before; and by a pot of it being laid up in the ark, it is as likely that nothing of the kind ever appeared after the miraculous supply in the wilderness had ceased. The author of the book of Wisdom, Wis_16:20-21 , says, that the manna so accommodated itself to every one's taste that it proved palatable and pleasing to all. It has been remarked that at this day, what is called manna is found in several places; in Arabia, on Mount Libanus, Calabria, and elsewhere. The most famous is that of Arabia, which is a kind of condensed honey, which exudes from the leaves of trees, from whence it is collected when it has become concreted. Salmasius thinks this of the same kind which fed the children of Israel; and that the miracle lay, not in creating any new substance, but in making it fall duly at a set time every day throughout the whole year, and that in such plenty as to suffice so great a multitude. But in order for this, the Israelites must be supposed every day to have been in the neighbourhood of the trees on which this substance is formed; which was not the case, neither do these trees grow in those deserts. Beside, this kind of manna is purgative, and the stomach could not endure it in such quantity as is implied by its being eaten for food. The whole history of the giving the manna is evidently miraculous; and the manna was truly "bread from heaven," as sent by special interposition of God.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Manna'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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