Mana (Bible)

According to Hebrew mythology, manna was a meal miraculously sent by the god Yajvé to the Israelites during their journey through the desert. The desert was only 300 km wide, so in less than three weeks they could have crossed it – since they walked about two hours at dawn and two hours at dusk – but the god Yajvé himself confused the Hebrews, who walked in circles for forty years until reaching Palestine.


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  • 1 Meaning of the word “manna”
  • 2 History
  • 3 Religious description
  • 4 Explanatory hypotheses
  • 5 Sources

Meaning of the word “manna”

According to the Book of Exodus (the second book of the Bible ), the “manna” ( Hebrew : מן) was the bread sent by God to the Israelites every day during the forty years that they wandered through the desert. The Israelites called it that when they said, “What is this?” They received it every day, except the seventh, Saturday , so they had to collect double rations on the sixth day, that is, one gomer per head (Exodus 16:22). References are also found in Jewish midrashes that manna had the flavor and appearance of what one most desired. A sample of this food was kept in the Ark of the Covenant.

Manna is also mentioned in the Koran , in the azoras (texts). al-Baqara, [1] al-Araf [2] and Ta ha, [3] in which manna is characterized as one of the miracles with which the god Yajvé favored the Israelites.


According to the Bible , manna fell overnight into small white flakes or grains that covered the ground and had the appearance of white frost. These grains are described as similar to coriander and bdellium seeds, with a taste of honey cake, or bread smeared with olive oil. (Manna fell for the first time when the Israelites were in the Sin desert , six weeks after their departure from Egypt, in response to their gossip about the deprivation of life in the desert, and thereafter fell daily, except in on Saturday, until they reached Gilgal , on the plain of Jericho(Palestine). During these years, manna was their main but not the only food, since the people of Israel ate it and enjoyed it every day for 40 years until they came to possess the “good land”. The manna had to be gathered in the morning, because the heat of the sun melted it. The amount to be collected was limited to one “gomor” or “gomer” (between six to seven pints) per person; but on the eve of Saturday a double portion was to be collected.

When it was stored at night, it rotted and filled with worms, except the portion that was saved for Friday night for Saturday. Although it was edible in its natural state, it was usually ground in the grinding wheel or crushed in a mortar and then boiled and made into cakes. As a reminder to future generations, a pot filled with mana was placed near the Ark of the Covenant.

It is said that 1986 ancient manuscripts were found that refer to manna describing it as mustard-like seeds and the color of Syrian dates.

Religious description

In the Book of Exodus it is related that manna appeared every night and tomorrow after the dew had disappeared [4] and that it had to be collected before the sun’s heat melted it. According to the Book of Numbers , it came with dew, at night. [5] Manna is described as a kind of seed similar to that of coriander , white in color, which after being ground and baked resembled wafers with honey, [6] although in the Book of Numbers it is described Indian myrrh color and adds that some of the cakes tasted like oiled cakes. [7]

Exegetes believe that these differences are due to the fact that the Book of Exodus is a text from the Yavista tradition , while the Book of Numbers was created by the priestly source . [8]

The Babylonian Talmud explains that the differences in the description were due to the fact that its taste varied according to who took it, honey for the children, olives for the young, bread for the elderly; [9] Classical rabbinic literature solves the question of whether manna fell before or after dew by explaining that it fell between two layers of moisture. [10]

Explanatory hypotheses

The phenomenon has been extensively studied and can be explained in various ways.

There is a vegetable substance that could have been the food of the Hebrews of that time, with much probability the manna that the Hebrews fed during the desert crossing was a small lichen, the Lencanora esculenta , which once dry, is raised by the wind and carried to great heights, descending to earth like rain when atmospheric pressure changes.

The liquid that transcends the trunk of the ash ( Fraxinus ornus ) has also been identified with manna .

In Sicily , the collection of manna, a sweet juice, which flows by incision of the trunk of ash trees ( Fraxinus ornes ), and which contains mannitol, sugar and dextrin, constitutes a small source of income, since they have various pharmaceutical uses, especially the preparation of the “manita” (sugary principle contained in the manna) which is a well-known laxative .

There is another mana, that of SINAB, which forms inside the trunk of the Tamarix tree manigera by the bite of insects or scratches on the bark caused by the passage of an animal, which also has curative uses.

Some scholars have proposed that manna derives from an Egyptian word mennu which means ‘food’. [11] At the end of the 20th century , the Arabs residing in the Sinai Peninsula sold the resin of the tamarisk tree as man es-simma , which means ‘heavenly manna’. [10]

Tamarisk trees are very abundant in southern Sinai, and their resin is wax-like, melts in the sun, is sweet and aromatic (like honey), and has a dirty yellow color, matching Biblical descriptions . However, it is made up of sugar, so it cannot provide enough nutrition for a population to survive for long periods, and it would be very difficult to turn it into cakes.

Some ethnomicologists , such as Terence McKenna, [12] indicate that most of the characteristics of manna are similar to those of Psilocybe cubensis fungi , [13] which have an entheogenic effect , [14] while causing the loss of appetite.


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