Exodus 16:15
And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they knew not what it was. And Moses said to them, This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.
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(15) It is manna.—This is certainly a wrong translation. The words of the original, man hu, must either be rendered, as in the LXX. And the Vulg., “What is this ?” Or, as by Kimchi, Knobel, Gesenius, Kurtz, and others, “This is a gift.” It is against the former rendering that man does not mean “what” in Hebrew, but only in Chaldee, and that “what is this” would be a very strange name to give to a substance. Against the latter it may be said that neither is man found elsewhere in Hebrew in the sense of “a gift;” but it has that sense in Arabic; and in Hebrew manan is “to give.”

This is the breadi.e., the promised bread. (See Exodus 16:4.)

Exodus 16:15. They said one to another, It is manna — The original words, מן הוא, man hu, should certainly have been rendered here, as they literally mean, what is it? or what is this? for it is plain, from what follows, they could not give it a name, for they wist not what it was — It is to be observed, that although it came down from the clouds, not only with the dew, but in a kind of dew, melted, yet it was of such a consistency, as to serve for strengthening food without any thing else. It was pleasant food: the Jews say it was palatable to all, according as their tastes were. It was wholesome food, light of digestion. By this spare and plain diet we are all taught a lesson of temperance, and forbidden to desire dainties and varieties.16:13-21 At evening the quails came up, and the people caught with ease as many as they needed. The manna came down in dew. They called it Manna, Manhu, which means, What is this? It is a portion; it is that which our God has allotted us, and we will take it, and be thankful. It was pleasant food; it was wholesome food. The manna was rained from heaven; it appeared, when the dew was gone, as a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost, like coriander seed, in colour like pearls. The manna fell only six days in the week, and in double quantity on the sixth day; it bred worms and became offensive if kept more than one day, excepting on the sabbath. The people had never seen it before. It could be ground in a mill, or beaten in a mortar, and was then made into cakes and baked. It continued the forty years the Israelites were in the wilderness, wherever they went, and ceased when they arrived in Canaan. All this shows how different it was from any thing found before, or found now. They were to gather the manna every morning. We are hereby taught, 1. To be prudent and diligent in providing food for ourselves and our households; with quietness working, and eating our own bread, not the bread of idleness or deceit. God's bounty leaves room for man's duty; it did so even when manna was rained; they must not eat till they have gathered. 2. To be content with enough. Those that have most, have for themselves but food and raiment; those that have least, generally have these; so that he who gathers much has nothing over, and he who gathers little has no lack. There is not such a disproportion between one and another in the enjoyment of the things of this life, as in the mere possession of them. 3. To depend upon Providence: let them sleep quietly, though they have no bread in their tents, nor in all their camp, trusting that God, with the following day, would bring them in their daily bread. It was surer and safer in God's storehouse than their own, and would come thence sweeter and fresher. See here the folly of hoarding. The manna laid up by some, who thought themselves wiser, and better managers, than their neighbours, and who would provide lest it should fail next day, bred worms, and became good for nothing. That will prove to be most wasted, which is covetously and distrustfully spared. Such riches are corrupted, Jas 5:2,3. The same wisdom, power, and goodness that brought food daily from above for the Israelites in the wilderness, brings food yearly out of the earth in the constant course of nature, and gives us all things richly to enjoy.It is manna - "Man" or "man-hut," i. e. white manna, was the name under which the substance was known to the Egyptians, and therefore to the Israelites. The manna of the Peninsula of Sinai is the sweet juice of the Tarfa, a species of tamarisk. It exudes from the trunk and branches in hot weather, and forms small round white grains. In cold weather it preserves its consistency, in hot weather it melts rapidly. It is either gathered from the twigs of tamarisk, or from the fallen leaves underneath the tree. The color is a greyish yellow. It begins to exude in May, and lasts about six weeks. According to Ehrenberg, it is produced by the puncture of an insect. It is abundant in rainy seasons, many years it ceases altogether. The whole quantity now produced in a single year does not exceed 600 or 700 pounds. It is found in the district between the Wady Gharandel, i. e. Elim, and Sinai, in the Wady Sheikh, and in some other parts of the Peninsula. When therefore the Israelites saw the "small round thing," they said at once "this is manna," but with an exclamation of surprise at finding it, not under the tamarisk tree, but on the open plain, in such immense quantities, under circumstances so unlike what they could have expected: in fact they did not know what it really was, only what it resembled. 13-31. at even the quails came up, and covered the camp—This bird is of the gallinaceous kind [that is, relating to the order of heavy-bodied, largely terrestrial birds], resembling the red partridge, but not larger than the turtledove. They are found in certain seasons in the places through which the Israelites passed, being migratory birds, and they were probably brought to the camp by "a wind from the Lord" as on another occasion (Nu 11:31).

and in the morning … a small round thing … manna—There is a gum of the same name distilled in this desert region from the tamarisk, which is much prized by the natives, and preserved carefully by those who gather it. It is collected early in the morning, melts under the heat of the sun, and is congealed by the cold of night. In taste it is as sweet as honey, and has been supposed by distinguished travellers, from its whitish color, time, and place of its appearance, to be the manna on which the Israelites were fed: so that, according to the views of some, it was a production indigenous to the desert; according to others, there was a miracle, which consisted, however, only in the preternatural arrangements regarding its supply. But more recent and accurate examination has proved this gum of the tarfa-tree to be wanting in all the principal characteristics of the Scripture manna. It exudes only in small quantities, and not every year; it does not admit of being baked (Nu 11:8) or boiled (Ex 16:23). Though it may be exhaled by the heat and afterwards fall with the dew, it is a medicine, not food—it is well known to the natives of the desert, while the Israelites were strangers to theirs; and in taste as well as in the appearance of double quantity on Friday, none on Sabbath, and in not breeding worms, it is essentially different from the manna furnished to the Israelites.

It is manna; or, What is this? which best suits with the following reason,

for they wist not what it was. Man signifies what in the Egyptian tongue; and it is not strange that the Israelites use one of their words, being newly come out of their land. Hence this is called manna; but it is of a different nature from the ordinary manna, which now we use only as physic for purging; whereas this manna was food, and nourishing, being prepared by the great God for this use. And when the children of Israel saw it,.... As they could not but observe it, it being spread over the face of the wilderness; and besides, as they were told, that in the morning they should have bread to the full, they were up early to look after it:

they said one to another, it is manna; not such as is known by that name now, which is only used in medicine; nor anything that was then known by any such name; but so they called it, because it was, as Jarchi says, a preparation of food, or food ready prepared for them, from "manah", which signifies to appoint, prepare, and distribute, see Daniel 1:5, so Christ is appointed of God, and prepared in his purposes and decrees, and delivered out, by his grace as proper food for his people, who have everyone their portion in due season: for Kimchi and Ben Melech give the sense of the word, a gift and portion from God; and such is Christ, the gift of his grace, and an unspeakable one. Some think these words were spoken by the Israelites on first sight of the manna, by way of question, "Man hu, what is it?" and so Josephus (o) says it signifies in their language; but it does not appear that the word is so used in the Hebrew tongue, though it might in the Syriac or Chaldee, which was more in use in the times of Josephus. But it can hardly be thought that the Israelites could speak in either of these dialects at this time; it is much more probable what others say, that it so signifies in the Egyptian tongue; and it is not at all to be wondered at that Israel, just come out of Egypt, should use an Egyptian word: and this best agrees with the reason that follows, "for they wist not what it was"; which contradicts our version; for if they knew not what it was, how came they to call it manna? but taking the above words as an interrogation, asking one another what it was, those come in very pertinently, and assign a reason of the question, because they were ignorant of it, having never seen any such thing before; and this sense is confirmed by what Moses says in the next clause, telling them what it was: and thus Christ is unknown to his own people, until he is revealed unto them; not by flesh and blood, by carnal reason or carnal men, but by the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; and he remains always unknown to natural men, though ever so wise and prudent:

and Moses said unto them, this is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat; which he had promised them the day before, and which he had now rained in plenty about them; and which they had as a free gift of his, without any merit and desert of theirs, and without their labour, diligence, and industry, and which they had now power from him to eat of freely and plentifully.

(o) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 1. sect. 6.

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is {f} manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.

(f) Which signifies a part, portion, or gift: also meat prepared.

15a What is it?] Heb. mân hû’. The question is intended as a popular etymology of ‘manna’ (Heb. mân). Mân, however, in the sense of What? is not a Hebrew word, though, as a contraction from mâ dçn, ‘what, then?’ ( being the ordinary Aramaic for what?) it is common in Syriac; and man (not mân) in both Aram. and Arab. means Who? Mân is evidently used here merely for the sake of the etymology: and, though we do not know how early the Aram. contraction mân came into use, the verse seems to have been written by one who was acquainted with it. The real origin of the Heb. mân, Arab. man, ‘manna,’ is not known: Ebers, 226–8, identifies it with mannu in two (Ptolemaic?) inscriptions at Edfu; but, though this may be ‘manna,’ it is still uncertain if it is an Egyptian or (Ebers) Bedawi word.

wist not what it was] Here the proper Heb. word for ‘what’ (mâh) is employed.

15b–21. Directions for gathering the manna.

15b. It] Heb. That (Genesis 41:28, 1 Kings 1:45).

bread] The manna is always spoken of as bread (v. 4): it was a substitute, not for other food (e.g. flesh), but, as Numbers 11:8 especially shews (‘ground’ in the hand-mill, and made into ‘cakes’), for corn, or other grain.Verse 15. - They said one to another, this is manna. Rather, "this is a gift." To suppose that they recognised the substance as one known to them in Egypt under the name of menu or mennu, is to make this clause contradict the next. To translate "what is this?" gives good sense, but is against grammar, since the Hebrew for "what" is not man but mah. The Septuagint translators (who render τί ἐστι τοῦτο) were probably deceived by their familiarity with the Chaldee, in which man corresponds to "what." Not knowing what to call the substance, the Israelites said one to another, "it is a gift" - meaning a gift from heaven, God's gift (compare verse 8); and afterwards, in consequence of this, the word man (properly "gift") became the accepted name of the thing. But before Jehovah manifested Himself to the people in His glory, by relieving their distress, He gave them to behold His glory in the cloud, and by speaking out of the cloud, confirmed both the reproaches and promises of His servants. In the murmuring of the people, their unbelief in the actual presence of God had been clearly manifested. "It was a deep unbelief," says Luther, "that they had thus fallen back, letting go the word and promise of God, and forgetting His former miracles and aid." Even the pillar of cloud, this constant sign of the gracious guidance of God, had lost its meaning in the eyes of the people; so that it was needful to inspire the murmuring multitude with a salutary fear of the majesty of Jehovah, not only that their rebellion against the God who had watched them with a father's care might be brought to mind, but also that the fact might be deeply impressed upon their hearts, that the food about to be sent was a gift of His grace. "Coming near before Jehovah" (Exodus 16:9), was coming out of the tents to the place where the cloud was standing. On thus coming out, "they turned towards the desert" (Exodus 16:10), i.e., their faces were directed towards the desert of Sin; "and, behold, the glory of Jehovah appeared in the cloud," i.e., in a flash of light bursting forth from the cloud, and revealing the majesty of God. This extraordinary sign of the glory of God appeared in the desert, partly to show the estrangement of the murmuring nation from its God, but still more to show to the people, that God could glorify Himself by bestowing gifts upon His people even in the barren wilderness. For Jehovah spoke to Moses out of this sign, and confirmed to the people what Moses had promised them (Exodus 16:11, Exodus 16:12).
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