Exodus 16:31
And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) Manna.—Rather, man. (See Note on Exodus 16:15.) “Manna” is a Greek form, first used by the LXX. translator of Numbers (Exodus 11:6-7; Exodus 11:9).

It was like coriander seed.—The appearance of the manna is compared above to hoar frost (Exodus 16:14); here, and in Numbers 11:7, to coriander seed. The former account describes its look as it lay on the ground, the latter its appearance after it was collected and brought in. The coriander seed is “a small round grain, of a whitish or yellowish grey.” In Numbers it is further said that the colour was that of bdellium, which is a whitish resin.

The taste of it was like wafers made with honey.—In Numbers the taste is compared to that of fresh oil (Numbers 11:8). The wafers or cakes used by the Egyptians, Greeks, and other ancient nations as offerings, were ordinarily composed of fine wheaten flour, oil, and honey. According to a Jewish tradition which finds a place in the Book of Wisdom (Exodus 16:20-21), the taste of the manna varied according to the wish of the eater, and “tempered itself to every man’s liking.”

Exodus 16:31. It was like coriander-seed — In size, not in colour, for that is dark coloured, but this was white, as is here said, or like bdellium or pearl, Numbers 11:7; and its taste like wafers — Or little cakes made with honey; that is, when it was raw, for when it was dressed, it was like fresh oil. The reader ought to be informed, however, that the Hebrew word here used, and rendered coriander-seed, is of rather doubtful interpretation. It may possibly mean some other small seed.

16:22-31 Here is mention of a seventh-day sabbath. It was known, not only before the giving of the law upon mount Sinai, but before the bringing of Israel out of Egypt, even from the beginning, Ge 2:3. The setting apart one day in seven for holy work, and, in order to that, for holy rest, was ever since God created man upon the earth, and is the most ancient of the Divine laws. Appointing them to rest on the seventh day, he took care that they should be no losers by it; and none ever will be losers by serving God. On that day they were to fetch in enough for two days, and to make it ready. This directs us to contrive family affairs, so that they may hinder us as little as possible in the work of the sabbath. Works of necessity are to be done on that day; but it is desirable to have as little as may be to do, that we may apply ourselves the more closely to prepare for the life that is to come. When they kept manna against a command, it stank; when they kept it by a command, it was sweet and good; every thing is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. On the seventh day God did not send the manna, therefore they must not expect it, nor go out to gather. This showed that it was produced by miracle.manna - It was not indeed the common manna, as they then seem to have believed, but the properties which are noted in this passage are common to it and the natural product: in size, form and color it resembled the seed of the white coriander, a small round grain of a whitish or yellowish grey. 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 was like coriander seed, in shape and figure, but not in colour, for that is dark-coloured, but this white, as it follows here, like bdellium, &c., Numbers 11:7.

The taste of it, when it was raw; but when it was drest it was like fresh oil, Numbers 11:8.

And the house of Israel called the name thereof manna,.... For till now they had given it no name; which shows that the words are not to be read as we render them in Exodus 16:15 it is manna, unless this is to be considered as a confirmation of that name; but rather as an interrogation, "what is it?" though, from thence, "man" being the first word they made use of on sight of it, might so call it; or as others, from its being now an appointed, prepared, portion and gift, which they every day enjoyed; see Gill on Exodus 16:15,

and it was like coriander seed, white that the colour of the manna was white is not only here asserted, but is plain from other passages, it being like the hoar frost, which is white, Exodus 16:14 and its colour is the colour of bdellium, Numbers 11:7 or pearl, which is of a white bright colour, as the word is interpreted by the Jews; and who say (u), that the manna was round as a coriander seed, and white as a pearl; but then if it is here compared to the coriander seed on that account, some other seed than what we call coriander seed must be meant, since that is off darkish colour; though it is thought by most that the comparison with it is not on account of the colour, but its form being round, as a coriander seed is, and as the manna is said to be, Exodus 16:14. Josephus (w) thinks it is compared to the coriander seed for its being about the size of that seed; though I must confess it seems to me to be compared to the coriander seed for its colour, and therefore "Gad", the word used, must signify something else than what we call coriander seed; but what that is, is not easy to say: Ben Gersom is of the same mind, and thinks it refers to colour, and fancies the "Gad" had his name from his whiteness, Genesis 20:11. Artapanus (x), the Heathen, makes mention of this food of the Jews in the wilderness, where, he says, they were thirty years; during which time God rained upon them meal like to panic (a sort of grain like millet), in colour almost as white as snow: and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey; or cakes that had honey mixed in them: though in Numbers 11:8 the taste of it is said to be as the taste of fresh oil, which Saadiah Gaon, Aben Ezra, and others, account for thus; that if a man ate of it as it came down, it was as cakes of honey, but, when dressed, it was as the taste of fresh oil; however, it was very palatable and agreeable to the taste; honey that drops from palm trees is said to be not much different in taste from oil: the Jews (y) have a notion that there were all kinds of tastes in the manna, suited to the ages and appetites of persons, and that as they would have it, so it tasted; which notion the author of the book of Wisdom seems to give into,"Instead whereof thou feddest thine own people with angels' food, and didst send them from heaven bread prepared without their labour, able to content every man's delight, and agreeing to every taste. For thy sustenance declared thy sweetness unto thy children, and serving to the appetite of the eater, tempered itself to every man's liking.'' (Wisdom 16:20-21)Leo Africanus (z) speaks of a sort of manna found in great plenty in the deserts in Libya, which the inhabitants gather in vessels every morning to carry to market, and which being mixed with water is drank for delight, and being put into broth has a very refreshing virtue: of the round form and white colour of manna, as applicable to Christ, notice has been taken on Exodus 16:14 and the sweetness of its taste well agrees with him the antitype: his person is so to them who have tasted that the Lord is gracious; his word or Gospel is sweeter than the honey or the honeycomb; his mouth is most sweet, the doctrines that proceed from it, and the exceeding great and precious promises of it; his fruits and the blessings of his grace, peace, pardon, righteousness, &c. are sweet to those that sit under his shadow, where faith often feeds sweetly and with delight upon him,

(u) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 75. 1.((w) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 1. sect. 6. (x) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 436. (y) Shemot Rabba, sect 25. fol. 108. 4. & Bemidar Rabba, sect. 7. fol. 188. (z) Descriptio Africae, l. 7. p. 631.

And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like {n} coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

(n) In form and figure, but not in colour; Nu 11:7.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
31. the house of Israel] Unusual: cf. Exodus 40:38, Numbers 20:29, Joshua 21:45 (all P). Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 17:3; Leviticus 17:8; Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 22:18 (P and H) are rather different.

like coriander seed] So Numbers 11:7. Coriander is an umbelliferous plant, which grows wild in Egypt and Palestine, producing small greyish white round seeds, about the size of a peppercorn, with a pleasant spicy flavour. The seeds are used largely in the East as a spice to mix with bread, and to give an aromatic flavour to sweetmeats (NHB. p. 440). In Numbers 11:8 the manna is also said to have resembled bdellium (Genesis 2:12), i.e. the transparent wax-like gum or resin, valued for its fragrance, called by the Greeks βδέλλα.

wafers] Only here: LXX. ἐγκρίς, i.e. (Athen. xiv. 54, p. 645, cited by Kn.) pastry made with oil and honey. The root means in Arab. and Eth. to spread out. In Numbers 11:8 the taste of the manna is said to have been like a rich oily cake (לְשַׁד הַשֶּׁמֶן, i.e. oily richness; LXX. ἐγκρὶς ἐξ ἐλαίου, Vulg. panis oleatus; RVm. cakes baked with oil). Travellers state that the manna gathered from trees (see below) is used by the natives of the Sinaitic Peninsula as ‘a dainty instead of honey.’

31–34. A further description of the manna, and directions for a pot of it to be preserved in the sanctuary, as a witness to future generations how Israel had been sustained in the wilderness.

Verses 31-36. - THE APPEARANCE OF THE MANNA, ITS CONTINUANCE, AND ITS DEPOSITION IN THE TABERNACLE. - In bringing the subject of the manna to a conclusion, the writer adds a few words.

1. On its appearance;

2. On its deposition by divine command in the Ark of the Covenant; and

3. On its continuance during the forty years of the wanderings.

It is evident that verses 32-34 cannot have been written until after the sojourn in Sinai, and the command to make a tabernacle (ch. 26.): as also that verse 35 cannot have been written till the arrival of the Israelites at the verge of the land of Canaan. But there is nothing in the passage that militates against the Mosaic authorship of the whole. Verse 31. - The house of Israel. This expression is unusual, and is not admitted by the Septuagint, the Syriac, or the Arabic versions, which all have "the children of Israel." Several Hebrew MSS. have bent, "sons," instead of beyth "house." Manna. Literally, as in the Septuagint, man - the word used when they first beheld the substance (verse 15), and probably meaning "a gift.:' The elongated form manna, first appears in the Sept. rendering of Numbers 11:6, 7. It was like coriander seed. This is "a small round grain of a whitish or yellowish grey." The comparison is made again in Numbers 11:7, where it is added that the colour was that of bdellium - either the gum so called, or possibly the pearl. The taste of it was like wafers made with honey. Such wafers or cakes were constantly used as offerings by the Egyptians, Greeks, and other nations. They were ordinarily compounded of meal, oil, and honey. Hence we can reconcile with the present passage the statement in Numbers 11:8, that "the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil." Exodus 16:31The manna was "like coriander-seed, white; and the taste of it like cake with honey." גּד: Chald. גּידא; lxx κόριον; Vulg. coriandrum; according to Dioscorid. 3, 64, it was called γοίδ by the Carthaginians. צפּיחת is rendered ἔγκρις by the lxx; according to Athenaeus and the Greek Scholiasts, a sweet kind of confectionary made with oil. In Numbers 11:7-8, the manna is said to have had the appearance of bdellium, a fragrant and transparent resin, resembling wax (Genesis 2:12). It was ground in handmills or pounded in mortars, and either boiled in pots or baked on the ashes, and tasted like השּׁמן לשׁד, "dainty of oil," i.e., sweet cakes boiled with oil.

This "bread of heaven" (Psalm 78:24; Psalm 105:40) Jehovah gave to His people for the first time at a season of the year and also in a place in which natural manna is still found. It is ordinarily met with in the peninsula of Sinai in the months of June and July, and sometimes even in May. It is most abundant in the neighbourhood of Sinai, in Wady Feirn and es Sheikh, also in Wady Gharandel and Taiyibeh, and some of the valleys to the south-east of Sinai (Ritter, 14, p. 676; Seetzen's Reise iii. pp. 76, 129). In warm nights it exudes from the branches of the tarfah-tree, a kind of tamarisk, and falls down in the form of small globules upon the withered leaves and branches that lie under the trees; it is then gathered before sunrise, but melts in the heat of the sun. In very rainy seasons it continues in great abundance for six weeks long; but in many seasons it entirely fails. It has the appearance of gum, and has a sweet, honey-like taste; and when taken in large quantities, it is said to act as a mild aperient (Burckhardt, Syr. p. 954; Wellsted in Ritter, p. 674). There are striking points of resemblance, therefore, between the manna of the Bible and the tamarisk manna. Not only was the locality in which the Israelites first received the manna the same as that in which it is obtained now; but the time was also the same, inasmuch as the 15th day of the second month (Exodus 16:1) falls in the middle of our May, if not somewhat later. The resemblance in colour, form, and appearance is also unmistakeable; for, though the tamarisk manna is described as a dirty yellow, it is also said to be white when it falls upon stones. Moreover, it falls upon the earth in grains, is gathered in the morning, melts in the heat of the sun, and has the flavour of honey. But if these points of agreement suggest a connection between the natural manna and that of the Scriptures, the differences, which are universally admitted, point with no less distinctness of the miraculous character of the bread of heaven. This is seen at once in the fact that the Israelites received the manna for 40 years, in all parts of the desert, at every season of the year, and in sufficient quantity to satisfy the wants of so numerous a people. According to Exodus 16:35, they ate manna "until they came to a land inhabited, unto the borders of the land of Canaan;" and according to Joshua 5:11-12, the manna ceased, when they kept the Passover after crossing the Jordan, and ate of the produce of the land of Canaan on the day after the Passover. Neither of these statements is to be so strained as to be made to signify that the Israelites ate no other bread than manna for the whole 40 years, even after crossing the Jordan: they merely affirm that the Israelites received no more manna after they had once entered the inhabited land of Canaan; that the period of manna or desert food entirely ceased, and that of bread baked from corn, or the ordinary food of the inhabited country, commenced when they kept the Passover in the steppes of Jericho, and ate unleavened bread and parched cakes of the produce of the land as soon as the new harvest had been consecrated by the presentation of the sheaf of first-fruits to God.

But even in the desert the Israelites had other provisions at command. In the first place, they had brought large flocks and herds with them out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38; Exodus 17:3); and these they continued in possession of, not only at Sinai (Exodus 34:3), but also on the border of Edom and the country to the east of the Jordan (Numbers 20:19; Numbers 32:1). Now, if the maintenance of these flocks necessitated, on the one hand, their seeking for grassy spots in the desert; on the other hand, the possession of cattle secured them by no means an insignificant supply of milk and flesh for food, and also of wool, hair, and skins for clothing. Moreover, there were different tribes in the desert at that very time, such as the Ishmaelites and Amalekites, who obtained a living for themselves from the very same sources which must necessarily have been within reach of the Israelites. Even now there are spots in the desert of Arabia where the Bedouins sow and reap; and no doubt there was formerly a much larger number of such spots than there are now, since the charcoal trade carried on by the Arabs has interfered with the growth of trees, and considerably diminished both the fertility of the valleys and the number and extent of the green oases (cf. Rppell, Nubien, pp. 190, 201, 256). For the Israelites were not always wandering about; but after the sentence was pronounced, that they were to remain for 40 years in the desert, they may have remained not only for months, but in some cases even for years, in certain places of encampment, where, if the soil allowed, they could sow, plant, and reap. There were many of their wants, too, that they could supply by means of purchases made either from the trading caravans that travelled through the desert, or from tribes that were settled there; and we find in one place an allusion made to their buying food and water from the Edomites (Deuteronomy 2:6-7). It is also very obvious from Leviticus 8:2; Leviticus 26:31-32; Leviticus 9:4; Leviticus 10:12; Leviticus 24:5., and Numbers 7:13., that they were provided with wheaten meal during their stay at Sinai.

(Note: Vide Hengstenberg's Geschichte Bileam's, p. 284ff. For the English translation, see "Hengstenberg on the Genuineness of Daniel, etc.," p. 566. Clark. 1847.)

But notwithstanding all these resources, the desert was "great and terrible" (Deuteronomy 9:19; Deuteronomy 8:15); so that, even though it is no doubt the fact that the want of food is very trifling in that region (cf. Burckhardt, Syria, p. 901), there must often have been districts to traverse, and seasons to endure, in which the natural resources were either insufficient for so numerous a people, or failed altogether. It was necessary, therefore, that God should interpose miraculously, and give His people bread and water and flesh by supernatural means. So that it still remains true, that God fed Israel with manna for 40 years, until their entrance into an inhabited country rendered it possible to dispense with these miraculous supplies. We must by no means suppose that the supply of manna was restricted to the neighbourhood of Sinai; for it is expressly mentioned after the Israelites had left Sinai (Numbers 11:7.), and even when they had gone round the land of Edom (Numbers 21:5). But whether it continued outside the true desert, - whether, that is to say, the Israelites were still fed with manna after they had reached the inhabited country, viz., in Gilead and Bashan, the Amoritish kingdoms of Sihon and Og, which extended to Edrei in the neighbourhood of Damascus, and where there was no lack of fields, and vineyards, and wells of water (Numbers 21:22), that came into the possession of the Israelites on their conquest of the land, - or during their encampment in the fields of Moab opposite to Jericho, where they were invited by the Moabites and Edomites to join in their sacrificial meals (Numbers 25:2), and where they took possession, after the defeat of the Midianites, of their cattle and all that they had, including 675,000 sheep and 72,000 beeves (Numbers 31:31.), - cannot be decided in the negative, as Hengstenberg supposes; still less can it be answered with confidence in the affirmative, as it has been by C. v. Raumer and Kurtz. For if, as even Kurtz admits, the manna was intended either to supply the want of bread altogether, or where there was bread to be obtained, though not in sufficient quantities, to make up the deficiency, it might be supposed that no such deficiency would occur in these inhabited and fertile districts, where, according to Joshua 1:11, there were sufficient supplies, at hand to furnish ample provision for the passage across the Jordan. It is possible too, that as there were more trees in the desert at that time than there are now, and, in fact, more vegetation generally, there may have been supplies of natural manna in different localities, in which it is not met with at present, and that this manna harvest, instead of yielding only 5 or 7 cwt., as is the case now, produced considerably more.

(Note: The natural manna was not exclusively confined to the tamarisk, which seems to be the only tree in the peninsula of Sinai that yields it now; but, according to both ancient and modern testimony, it has been found in Persia, Chorasan, and other parts of Asia, dropping from other trees. Cf. Rosenmller ubi supra, and Ritter, 14, pp. 686ff.)

Nevertheless, the quantity which the Israelites gathered every day, - Viz. an omer a head, or at least 2 lbs., - still remains a divine miracle; though this statement in Exodus 16:16. is not to be understood as affirming, that for 40 years they collected that quantity every day, but only, that whenever and wherever other supplies failed, that quantity could be and was collected day by day.

Moreover, the divine manna differed both in origin and composition from the natural produce of the tamarisk. Though the tamarisk manna resembles the former in appearance, colour, and taste, yet according to the chemical analysis to which it has been submitted by Mitscherlich, it contains no farina, but simply saccharine matter, so that the grains have only the consistency of wax; whereas those of the manna supplied to the Israelites were so hard that they could be ground in mills and pounded in mortars, and contained so much meal that it was made into cakes and baked, when it tasted like honey-cake, or sweet confectionary prepared with oil, and formed a good substitute for ordinary bread. There is no less difference in the origin of the two. The manna of the Israelites fell upon the camp with the morning dew (Exodus 16:13, Exodus 16:14; Numbers 11:9), therefore evidently out of the air, so that Jehovah might be said to have rained it from heaven (Exodus 16:4); whereas the tamarisk manna drops upon the ground from the fine thin twigs of this shrub, and, in Ehrenberg's opinion, in consequence of the puncture of a small, yellow insect, called coccus maniparus. But it may possibly be produced apart from this insect, as Lepsius and Tischendorf found branches with a considerable quantity of manna upon them, and saw it drop from trees in thick adhesive lumps, without being able to discover any coccus near (see (Ritter, 14, pp. 675-6). Now, even though the manna of the Bible may be connected with the produce of the tamarisk, the supply was not so inseparably connected with these shrubs, as that it could only fall to the earth with the dew, as it was exuded from their branches. After all, therefore, we can neither deny that there was some connection between the two, nor explain the gift of the heavenly manna, as arising from an unrestricted multiplication and increase of this gift of nature. We rather regard the bread of heaven as the production and gift of the grace of God, which fills all nature with its powers and productions, and so applies them to its purposes of salvation, as to create out of that which is natural something altogether new, which surpasses the ordinary productions of nature, both in quality and quantity, as far as the kingdom of nature is surpassed by the kingdom of grace and glory.

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