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EXODUS 16:1-18, 31-35; JOHN 6:30-35, 48-51

A small, round, white-looking flake that appeared in grain form, manna looked like the coriander seed and resembled the early morning frost. It fell with dew each morning and had the taste of honey wafers. It was ground, beaten, boiled and baked into cakes. It began one month after Israel left Egypt and continued without fail for forty years until they reached the Promised Land. Josephus, the Jewish historian, called it a "sweet spice" and it was poetically described by the Psalmist in Psalm 78:24 as "angelsí food" because of its divine origin.

Though used by Christ as an anti-type in John 6, manna also portrays in an extensive way our Saviourís person and work. The various definitions of manna summarize the incarnation of Christ. In the Hebrew, manna means "What is it?" In Chaldean it is translated, ""It is a portion;" in English it simply means "Bread;" while in the Egyptian language "manna" comes from the word "menu," from which we get our word "menu." Some scholars say the word means "it is a gift." Placing these linguistic meanings together in a sentence, the various translations of manna read, "What is it? It is a gift, a portion of bread."─That bread from heaven is Jesus Christ (John 6:51). This breadlike substance described in Exodus 16 presents a threefold picture of Christ.


(a) The manna describes the nature of our Saviourís birth, since its descent and composition were both supernatural (Exodus 16:6 cp. Matthew 1:18-23). It descended with the early morning dew when the Israelites were asleep and appeared in the garb of simplicity, symbolizing the Jewsí unawareness of the great event that historic night─the lowliness of His birth and the simple clothing of "humanity" in which He became incarnate.

(b) The manna also declares the nature of Christís being. It was small, depicting Christís humility (Phillippians 2:7-8); round, illustrating His perfection and smoothness of character, and also expressing His holiness and purity of nature (John 8:46). It was also like the morning frost, depicting Christís crisp, energizing life. It was compared to the coriander seed with its tender leaves, representing Christís tenderness (Isaiah 53:2). It tasted like honey (Exodus 16:31), describing His sweetness; and it possessed the color of bdellium, a precious commodity in the land of Havilah (Genesis 2:12). Bdellium, probably being a pearl or precious stone, is a picture of Christ as the Pearl of Great Price.

(c) The manna depicts the nature of Christís bruises, for when the coriander plant to which manna is compared was crushed and broken, it produced a perfuming aromatic flavor, thus portraying the spiritual fragrance that issued from Christís suffering (Isaiah 53:5; Hebrews 2:10).


(a) The manna was undeserved (Exodus 16:2), being bestowed upon an unthankful and ungrateful people.

(b) It was also unsought (Exodus 16:3), being the sole result of Godís kindness in the midst of their murmuring and complaining.

(c) It was urgent and it met a great need, since there was nothing before them but certain death in a desert place of barrenness and drought. Left to themselves, the Israelites would have fallen the victims of nature. The choice was either eat the manna or die, picturing Christ as the sole means of Salvation (Acts 4:12). It was eventually appreciated, since Israel was both humbled and hungry.

(d) The manna was unbroken (Exodus 16:13), since it fed them continually for forty years without fall, thus portraying Christ as meeting every need in this earthly pilgrimage.

(e) It was universal in the sense that it was freely given for all Israel, as Christís sacrifice was freely given for all the world (I John 2:2). Since it fell around the entire camp, it was within reach of everyone, giving it a universal inference. Its appeal was also universal in that it could be prepared in many ways, making it palatable for all ages, young and old.

(f) In contrast to the manna received by Israel during those years, the Manna─Christ─is unaccepted by most individuals today. Though available for all, each individual had to gather the manna for himself, indicating the need to personally appropriate the Gospel. It could not be borrowed of a neighbor, thus indicating the personal nature of Salvation. The Israelites did not have to understand it to experience it and never could fully explain its miracle (Deuteronomy 8:3); likewise with Christ and the New Birth.

There was, however, the danger of procrastination. If they waited until after the deadline to attempt to collect it (Exodus 16:26-27), they would receive nothing, depicting the danger of neglecting the Gospel invitation (Proverbs 29:1).


(a) The manna came daily and had to be gathered each day, depicting the need for constant dependence upon Christ and His Word for daily spiritual nourishment. It could not be hoarded for future days (Exodus 16:19-20), picturing that once a believer has missed a day of fellowship with Christ in the World, there is no way to recapture that day (Joshua 1:8).

(b) It came in the morning with the dew, portraying the necessity of beginning each day yielded afresh to the Holy Spiritís control.

(c) The manna had to be gathered before the sun became hot since the manna would become dry and hard if not gathered early. The sun represents the influences of the day, and believers must get the dew and manna before the temptations and stresses of the day press upon them (Psalm 5:3; Mark 1:35).

The manna also describes the ability of the written Word to meet the spiritual needs of all ages. It could be baked for the strong, seethed for the weak, ground and beaten for the aged, and made into cakes for the children. The head of each household (Exodus 16:16) was responsible to gather enough for all within his family, picturing the spiritual responsibility of fathers (Joshua 24:15) to teach the Word to their families.

The manna provided every essential nourishment of the Israelites since it was (1) sufficient, (2) suitable, (3) satisfying, (4) sustaining and (5) sure (Exodus 16:35; see also Jeremiah 15:16 and I Peter 2:2). The Scriptures present Christ as the "manna" from Heaven who provides all the spiritual nourishment the human soul ever needs or desires (John 6:30-35, 48-51). D

February-March 2007 The Fundamentalist Digest. Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given. The above item is a sample of the numerous timely articles that are contained in the bi-monthly issues of The Fundamentalist Digest
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