The manna is a beautiful type of both the written and living (incarnate) Word of God. The Lord Jesus declared Himself to be the antitype of the manna in John 6:31-32: “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. … my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven” (KJV). And while there are many comparisons to be made, as we shall see, note also the contrast. The manna sustained God’s people physically in the wilderness for 40 years, but the True Bread satisfies God’s people spiritually for time and eternity. Hence the promise of the Lord Jesus to the overcomers in Pergamos: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna” (Rev 2:17 KJV). While the manna that fell in the wilderness speaks of Christ in humiliation, the hidden manna laid up in the golden pot (Heb 9:4) speaks of that same Christ in glory, hidden from the world. We shall feast upon Him eternally, and never exhaust His person. As the hymn writer says, “Whose glories through eternal years shall never all unfold.”
The Environment of the Manna
The manna first fell in the “wilderness of Sin” thirty days after their departure from Egypt (Exo 16:1). The word “Sin” is of uncertain derivation but is related to the “thorn-bush” and is thus symbolic of the curse. Why did God wait a month before feeding His people with manna? He was teaching them humility and dependence upon their God. Deuteronomy 8:3 reads, “that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD” (KJV). Israel must realise they were in a barren, sin-cursed, arid desert with nothing to feed or satisfy their souls but the Word of God. When will we learn the same? We are strangers and pilgrims in a wilderness scene. While we must live in and use the world, it is a satanically-originated system designed to make man comfortable without God. It is evil (Gal 1:4), full of corruption (2Pe 1:4), and lies in the power of the “wicked one” (1Jn 5:19). Sadly, Israel did not learn the lesson. Two years later they cried for the food of Egypt (Num 11:4-6). It is most solemn to learn that God gave them their request but sent leanness into their souls (Psa 106:15). If we seek after and feed upon the allurements and attractions of this world, don’t expect anything less than spiritual impoverishment. Rather, let us seek to gather Christ in the Scriptures (manna) morning by morning and make Him our daily portion.
The Essence of the Manna
Much can be gleaned from the manna to thrill the soul with Christ:
He is heavenly (Exo 16:4). In His grace, God did not rain fire and brimstone upon His murmuring people but “bread from heaven”! Likewise, God sent not His Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world through Him might be saved.
His glory (Exo 16:7). Remarkably, this is the first mention of God’s “glory” in the Bible. The manna wasn’t much to look at, but the miracle of bread from heaven was a manifestation of the glory of God. Likewise, the Lord Jesus is the fullest exposition of the glory of God (see Joh 1:14), exhibited in grace (God is love) and truth (God is light).
His humility (Exo 16:14). The manna was “small” – oh the marvel of the eternal Word made flesh! Here is One who is represented in the finest of flour (Lev 2:1) and two small sparrows (Lev 14:4). What condescension! The manna was as small as the “hoar frost,” a Hebrew word which comes from the same root as “atonement” and “mercy seat.” See the small baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger? This same One will make atonement, even propitiation, for the sins of the whole world!
His eternity (Exo 16:14). The manna was “round,” speaking of One who is eternal, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. He is the One who could say, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (Joh 8:58).
His infinity (Exo 16:15,18). “Manna” means “What is it?” This was something they had never seen before. It came from outside their experience, even from another world. In like manner, the Lord Jesus was totally beyond the comprehension of even His closest companions. The disciples would have to confess, “What manner of man is this?” He was alien – from another world. In addition, there seemed to be a kind of elasticity to the manna. It precisely met the appetite of the one who gathered. If there were approximately two million people in the wilderness, and an omer was gathered for each, then God was supplying 4,500 tonnes of manna every day (a million tonnes annually). Truly, the person of Christ is unsearchable, and we can have as much of Him as we desire to have.
His purity (Exo 16:31). The color of the manna was both white and “bdellium” (Num 11:7), having a pearl-like luminescence. It is delightful to think that the manna fell upon the dew. Nothing of the dust or dirt of the wilderness floor touched or contaminated the pure white manna. We often sing, “Thy stainless life, Thy lovely walk, In every aspect true, From the defilement all around, No taint of evil drew.”
The Enjoyment of the Manna
We close this article on a practical note. The abundant supply of manna was of no benefit to the average Israelite unless he had an exercise to gather (v21) and eat (v15); they must collect and consume! I trust we all daily engage in the reading of the Word of God. But to sustain our spiritual lives we must do more! We must daily gather Christ in the Word. What have I learned of Him today? Every verse of Scripture can teach me something of Him – it is this that we must appropriate and assimilate into our hearts. Feeding upon the manna will bring sweetness to the soul (honey, Exo 16:31), spiritual strength (fresh oil, Num 11:8) and the soothing of sorrowing hearts (coriander, Exo 16:31).
¹ Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon