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Old 08-22-2002, 02:12 AM
Helen Helen is offline
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: southern Oregon
Posts: 11,703

My husband and I got interested in manna last night and spent several hours tracking everything we could. There are all kinds of ideas about what it was, but we found something wrong with just about everyone of them. First of all, though, here is a good summary of some of the material concerning the Exodus from this website:

No story has done more to put Sinai on the map than Exodus, and for many, a visit to the land where manna fell from heaven and Moses received the Ten Commandments is nothing short of a pilgrimage.

Most of the places mentioned in Exodus are unknown. Where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, where they first set foot in Sinai, and even the location of biblical Mt. Sinai itself is the subject of relentless argument among scholars, historians, and theologians. Exodus may have put Sinai on the map, but putting Exodus back into a geographical context is an unfinished labor that often involves sifting through desert sands and Old Testament manuscripts for minute clues.

There are three main theories as to the route the Israelites used when they crossed into Sinai. The first has Moses and his tribes moving out of Egypt past modern-day Suez, then crossing into Sinai near Ain Musa. The second places the crossing further south, near a place called Ain Sukna. The third and most popular theory focuses on the north and the Nile Delta region. This region is far richer in pastures, water, and manna-producing tamarisk trees, and it also would have been the safest: the southern routes would have taken the Israelites dangerously close to Pharaoh's turquoise and copper mines ( ), which were heavily garrisoned.
Barry told me he had heard of the tamarisk being the possible source of the manna, so I started looking it up on the net. I was amazed at how many sermons and essays discussed manna as being the product of the tamarisk, but there were different explanations. What was going on? Then I found THIS page:

B: Herbal Mannas
The word Manna has been adapted in Persian, convoying the same meaning. Mannas are the sweet herbal secretions created by elements such as , insects activities on different parts of the plant, plant's reaction to mechanical stimuli or temperature. The difference between mannas, and gums and resins is in the fact that although gums and resins may change with time, mannas retain their properties before and after secretion. while mannas, are created simultaneously as they are secreted. The most prominent Iranian mannas are:

1- Tamarisk Manifera.
This manna is a light brown translucent substance created by the activities of an insect called " Cyamphyla dicora " on a special type of milk vetch by the name of " Astragalus adscedence " belonging to " Papilionacea " family. Tamarisk Manifera which contains 40% Ferroctose, has been used as the traditional suger substitute for diabetes. In some medical books this manna has been prescribed as a laxative and also heart tonic. The main use of Tamarisk Manifera is in production of the famous Iranian sweet called " Gaz ".
The production of Tamarisk Manifera is totally dependent on the co - existence of the plant and the insect. It is for this reason that although in many areas in the western and the central provinces the plant is abundant, no Manna is produced due to the absence of the insect which is ironically a pest. As a result in these areas, the plants remain sterile due to the lack of the insect. Current production centres of Tamarisk Manifera in Iran are, Isfahan, Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari, and Loristan provinces. The variations in the insect population cause considerable fluctuations in the annual quantity of the yield of Tamarisk Manifera and the alternative cycles follow this pattern.

The harvest time of this manna is but a short period of the last days of summers to the early days of the autumn when the harvesters start the harvest using primitive equipment for collecting the small particles of the manna from the high branches of the milk vetch by shaking those branches. The pieces are then sifted and separated from the leaves. Although each harvester follows his or her individual work pattern, the work is generally done in groups working side by side in strips of land. Since shaking the branches would also cause the fall of the insects, observing the three year interval of harvest is mandatory. Tamarisk Manifera has local market, and is not exported abroad.

2 - Quercus Valonica
. This manna is a sweet substance secreted through the holes created by the bites of a certain insect on the young shoots and leaves of some types of oak , botanically known as "Qurcus infectoria" and "Quercus persica" from "Fagaceae" family. This manna contains more than 50% saccharose, ferroctose, and other kinds of sugar. This manna was traditionally used as sweetener and laxative. Its most prominent application is in the production of the famous traditional sweet, " Gaz ". The harvest times of Quercus Valonica are late spring and late summer, or, early autumn. This period varies with the sudden changes of the weather conditions and the activity of the insect. The harvest is done in the early hours of the morning by beating on the top branches. The manna is collected and left to dry after grinding. The pieces of the manna are separated from the unwanted material, or by washing the leaves and thus dissolving the manna. The resultant liquid is later baked in big special cauldrons and then refined, producing a thick manna syrup. In the unknown past times, this manna was solely harvested in western Azarbaijan and Kurdistan provinces. Quereus Valonica is used domesticcally and is not exportect.

3- Shahdad Manna. This type of manna is solely produced in Shahdad region of Kerman province and is thus named Shahdad manna. This type of manna appears on the young shoots of a type of tamarisk botanically known as "Tamarisk Manifera" or "Tamarisk galica" from the "Tamaricaceae" family. The use of this manna is limited in confectionery because of its briny ingredients. This manna may have some meagre medical applications in traditional medicine. The harvest time is the months of June and September. The background of this type of manna is limited within Shahdad region in Kerman province. The main harvest is done by the women folk. This product has no export value and the total production is negligible.

4- Purgative Manna. This an intensely sweet substance supplied in Iranian medical markets under two separate names of "Shahri" and "Harati". The plants producing this manna are "Cotonaster nummlaria" and "Cotonaster nummularioides" and possibly "Cotonaster Kotschyi" and "Cotonaster Oaatus" from the "Rosaceae" family. The major uses of this manna in traditional medicine are its application as laxative, tonic and anti pyrene. An anti cancer medicine has also been recently extracted from this manna. Like Tamarisk Manifera, this substance was also used in making the famous Iranian sweet called " Gaz " . Some research scholars attribute the production of this manna to the activities of some unidentified kind of insect, while, some harvesters associate the formation of this manna to the onset of hot dry weather of mid - summer.

The harvest time is limited to the few last days of the first month, and the first few days of the second month of summer. During this period, drops of this manna run off the branches of the plant congealing in pea size balls. Harvesters start in the cool hours of the early morning when the low temperature facilitates the harvest. The work is done in groups, collecting the sap by special spatulas. The still soft, newly harvested balls are kept in sacks containing barley flour to keep the product more or less in the same condition. Some Cow Parsnips is also added to the flour to protect the manna from pests.

Despite the existence of these shrubs in many parts of Iran, the " Harati " type of purgative manna from Khorasan area has a specially high quality. The "Shahri" type is mainly produced in certain areas of Central Alborz region. The current annual production is limited, this product having a traditional local market is not exported.

5- Persian Manna.
This manna is a sugar substance produced in the form of white, yellow, or light brown pebbles produced by the activities of a coleoptere insect ( probably of " Larinus" genus) on the top tender branches of a type of Teasel the plant botanically known as "Al- hagi Camelorum" from "Papilionaceae". In traditional medicine, this manna was used as laxative , antipyretic, expectorant, chest pain relief, and sweetener of other medicine. However, its use in modern medicine is not known.

Although the plant exists in most parts of Iran, , the production is limited to the hot desert edge areas due to the lack of the creator insect. The harvest time is in September, when the harvester groups start in the early hours of the morning by shaking the top branches of the plant and then collect the droppings on the sheets spread under the plant. This manna is known as the Persian Manna in Europe.

6- Trehala Manna.
also known as Echinops Sphaerocephalos. This is a cocoon shaped type of manna in the form of an egg as big as a pistachio nut and white in colour. It is produced as the result of the activities of an insect by the name of "Larinus mellificus" on the tender shoots and the back side of the leaves of some types of Echinops plant with the scientific names of E.sphaerocephalus and E.cephalotes belonging to the "Compositeae" family. The larva of this insect metamorphoses within the cocoon. The cocoon has an uneven surface. Echinops which is locally called Sugar Cotton and Shikar Tihal, when dissolved in water, it gives a sweet resinous substance. This substance has been known since the time of Avicena as a laxative, antipyretic, and relief in breathing disorders.

The mother plant exists in most parts of Iran and it is harvested all over the country. The harvest time of this product is in summer when the cocoons are picked up by pliers or by bare hands from the thorny plant. Each plant may produce an average of 50 grams.

7- Sarcocolla ( Red and white Oil Cake )
. This sweet substance is in the form of small yellow white or clear red crystals, and has a mixture of sweet, bitter, and hot taste. This manna is created as the result of the activities of an insect on some kinds of milk vetch botanically known as " Astragalus Fascicolifolius " and " Astragalus glaucacanthus ". According to some scientific sources, a manna by the same name is produced by a plant from chicory family botanically known as " Launea accanthodes ". Like Gum Targacanth, Sarcocolla has colloidic properties and was used in traditional medicine as anti- hemorrhage medicine and in orthopaedic cases for relieving the pains in joints, bone fractures and also as a skin softener.

Sarcocolla is harvested in summer time before the autumn seasonal rains. In harvest times, sheets are spread under the plant and then the branches are shaken by hand or by sticks. The fallen Sarcocolla is then collected from the sheets. Sarcocolla is produced in most parts of Iran and specially in desert edge areas.

8- Brittle Willow Manna.
Locally called Bid Khesht and Bid Angebin ( Literally meaning Willow Honey ), is another kind of manna produced in white relatively hard pieces of irregular shapes. This manna is also produced as the result of the activities of an unidentified type of insect on the brittle willow, botanically known as "Salix Fragilis" and "Salix Excelsa" from "Salicaceae".
This manna is easily dissolved in water creating a sweet solution traditionally prescribed as a laxative, antipyretic, cure for blisters and aphtha. The growth region of this plant is north, west, and southern parts of Iran. The harvest process of this manna is similar to Quercus Valonica, however the area is more limited and is normally within the privately owned arid agricultural lands.

Of all these type of mannas introduced herein, the two products of Tamarisk Manifera and Qurcus Valonica are among conditionally permitted products whose harvests must be controlled and overseen by the authorities. Accordance to the present rules, production of other types of mannas are not limited by the government regulations.
Well, THAT explained why different ministers and essay writers gave different ideas about the manna, but were these plants named manna AFTER the Israelites were in the desert as a nice, natural explanation for what Moses found on the ground each morning.

Here is one of the essays that was so sure about it:
"'Manna' still occurs in the desert. Insects which live on the feathery tamarisk trees in the Sinai area suck the sap of the tree. Then they exude drops of a sweet, resinous secretion, varying in size from a pinhead to a pea. These stick on the ground and evaporate into white, frost-like particles before turning yellowish brown. They taste like solidified honey. Modern Bedouin gather the manna early in the day, before ants - possibly the 'maggots' of the Bible - become active and eat it. They seal it up in pots, away from the ants, kneading it later into a paste which is a nourishing addition to their everyday diet.

"Depending on favorable conditions it is possible for one man to gather four pounds of manna in a morning. As early as the 15th century AD monks and Arabs in Sinai gathered manna soon after daybreak in order to sell it...Manna is not only a local product. The 'ambrosia' of the Greek gods was probably also the resinous secretion associated with the tamarisk - which grows widely in Mediterranean countries."
- Marshall Cavendish, Genesis and Exodus

The problem with the tamarisk explanation is that these plants only yield this resinous material for a few months a year! And why would they have stopped each Sabbath? The following quote helps explain a little trouble here:

(Heb. Imăn, Gr.Im nna), a special food provided for the Hebrews during the exodus from Egypt. The name is of uncertain meaning. The Heb ImanI is a question and added to IhuI would be "What is it?" On the other hand it may be an adaptation of the Egyptian ImennuI, food. Josephus and other ancient writers attribute the name to the question "Is it food?" which is in keeping with the wilderness setting. Just what it was has puzzled naturalists for ages. It came at night, resembling hoar frost, coming with the dew (Num. 11:9), and may have collected in dewdrops (Exod. 16:4). It was white, of delicious flavor, and resembled seed of the coriander, a plant of the eastern Mediterranean area which was both tasty and nourishing (Exod. 16:31). That it came by miraculous means is shown by its nature, its time of coming, and its preservation over the Sabbaths (Exod. 16:20-26; Deut. 8:3). Being seed-like in form it had to be ground (Num. 11:7-8). As soon as other food was available, the manna ceased (Josh. 5:12).

While many attempts have been made to explain the manna as a natural phenomenon, ancient Hebrew scholars knew it to be of supernatural origin ( Wisdom of Solomon. 17:20). No known substance meets the description of this food. A tamarisk plant grows along the route of the Hebrews from Sinai, that exudes a sweet liquid which collects at night upon twigs and falls to the ground. After sunrise it disappears unless protected. But this plant produces the food for only a brief period each year. Other naturalists would identify it with a peculiar mossy plant which, when mature, is ground and mixed with honey. It, however, is not available for the entire year.

The Bible makes it certain that manna came as a temporary provision for the chosen people. The poet Asph called it "corn from heaven" (Ps. 78:24). It was also bread form heaven (Ps. 105:40). Hebrew writers called it "angels' bread" (II Esdras. 2:1; Wisdom of Solomon. 16:20 [Apocalyptic Literature]). Jesus referring to Himself, used it as a metaphor (John 6:31-63). John called it spiritual food, meaning a hidden agent for spiritual sustenance for the risen saints (Rev. 2:17).
It is true, however, that extraordinary things were happening with the environment – but were they extraordinary enough to keep that manna coming out of those shrubs for forty years? Sabbaths excluded? Variability is one thing, but that going on for forty years straight goes past simple variability.

And didn’t the manna come from the sky?

That part, as it turned out, was “not necessarily.” The manna was associated with the dew, for when the dew dried, these flakes were left. Did the people then think the dew came from the sky? They might have, and this might have given rise to the idea that the manna came from heaven. In Numbers 11:9, we read (NIV) “When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.” The King James reads, “And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.” Whether this is translator error in believing dew ‘falls’ or whether Moses’ error in not knowing, I don’t know. But this concept of the dew and manna ‘falling’ seems to have been adopted rather quickly if it did not begin there. In Psalm 78:23-24, we read (NIV), “Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens,
He rained down manna for the people to eat,
He gave them the grain of heaven.

And later in Jewish history we read from Josephus:

But presently after this first supply of food [the quail], he sent them a second; for as Moses was lifting up his hands in prayer, a dew fell down; and Moses, when he found it stick to his hands, supposed this was also come for food from God to them: he tasted it; and perceiving that the people knew not what it was, and thought it snowed, and that it was what usually fell at that time of year, he informed them that this dew did not fall from heaven after the manner they imagined, but came for their preservation and sustenance. So he tasted it, and gave them some of it, that they might be satisfied about what he told them. They also imitated their conductor, and were pleased with the food, for it was like honey in sweetness and pleasant taste, but like in its body to bdellium, one of the sweet spices, and in bigness equal to coriander seed. And very earnest they were in gathering it; but they were enjoined to gather it equally; the measure of an omer for each one every day, because this food should not come in too small a quantity, lest the weaker might not be able to get their share, by reason of the overbearing of the strong in collecting it. However these strong men when they had gathered more than the measure appointed for them, had no more than others, but only tired themselves more in gathering it, for they found no more than an omer apiece; and the advantage they got by what was superfluous was none at all, it corrupting, both by the worms breeding in it, and by its bitterness. So divine and wonderful a food was this! It also supplied the want of other sorts of food to those that fed on it; and even now, in all that place, this manna comes down in rain, according to what Moses then obtained of God, to send to the people for their sustenance. Now the Hebrews call this food manna; for the particle ‘man’, in our language, is the asking of a question, ‘What is this?’ So the Hebrews were very joyful at what was sent them from heaven. Now they made use of this food for forty years, or as long as they were in the wilderness.
Josephus, “The Antiquities of the Jews”, Book 3, chapter 1:6

So from Moses we get that it appeared WITH the dew and that the dew came down. But if it was dew, it didn’t come down, and so perhaps the manna did not either.

Which causes us to look at the tamarisk trees again.


Here are some other ideas:

The manna which "fell from heaven" and which they complained
about, may have been either of two lichens which grow upon vast
barren areas in western Asia today. Sometimes they are lifted by
strong winds and carried great distances. In 1854 a shower of these
lichens fell in Persia during a great famine, much to the grateful joy of the people, because such lichens can be cooked or made into bread.
However, part of the manna may have been an alga which will grow
with great rapidity during a night with heavy dew. Being soft and
jelly-like, it dries up and disappears under a hot sun, and in Exodus
16:21, where this manna is discussed at length, it says: "and when the
sun waxed hot, it melted. "
This one is improbable because of the dew. When there is dew you don’t have winds, and when you have winds, you don’t have dew. And as for the ‘jelly-like’ algae, how would that be ground into flour?
The only substance which in all respects seems to agree with the Manna of the Israelites is that described a few years ago by Mr. A. J. Swann, in his book on Fighting the Slave Driver in Central Africa. The Manna which he saw on the plateaux between the lakes Tanganyika and Nyasa occupied by the Ananbwi tribe Mr. Swann describes as possessing all the characters of the Manna which is said to have fallen for the benefit of the Israelites. In appearance it resembled coriander seed, was white in colour like hoar-frost and sweet to taste, melted in the sun, and if kept overnight was full of worms in the morning. It required to be baked to keep it any length of time. A cake of this Manna was baked and sent to England, but no one seemed able to identify it, though there can be little doubt that it is a small fungus. The baking process would, of course, destroy its structure, and it is evident that to determine its nature, some of the Manna should be sent home in formaldehyde or corrosive sublimate, when it would be quite possible to make out its structure and classification and to describe it, if new. It does not appear to be regular in its occurrence, as travellers have reported its appearance only at long intervals.
This one remains a mystery! What was actually found is not known that I could find out.

This manna was evidently altogether a miraculous gift, wholly different from any natural product with which we are acquainted, and which bears this name. The manna of European commerce comes chiefly from Calabria and Sicily. It drops from the twigs of a species of ash during the months of June and July. At night it is fluid and resembles dew, but in the morning it begins to harden. The manna of the Sinaitic peninsula is an exudation from the "manna-tamarisk" tree (Tamarix mannifera), the el-tarfah of the Arabs. This tree is found at the present day in certain well-watered valleys in the peninsula of Sinai. The manna with which the people of Israel were fed for forty years differs in many particulars from all these natural products.
Under the circumstances, this is not an unreasonable explanation!
And this one says it was not from the plant but from an insect feeding on the plant. The one thing it has going for it is that it is not limited to seasonally:
This genus of leaf-hopper has a biblical history. When the Israelites ran out of food on their desert trek, Moses prayed for food and the Lord sent them manna. Manna is the sugary coating of the ground exuded by Opsius leafhoppers feeding in tamarisk. (An aside to the adventurous, it tastes reasonably good.)

and, finally, Velikovsky’s rather wild explanation. The main reason I am including it is because of the parallels he finds in other cultures which may or may not provide a clue. Velikovsky was terrific at gathering information, but not always so great with his conclusions! Nevertheless, here:
Excertps from Worlds in Collision, Ambrosia & Milk and Honey
by Velikovsky, pp 134-138
[I]In what way did this veil of gloom dissolve itself? Has any testimony been preserved that during the many years of gloom carbohydrate precipitated? After the nightly cooling, the carbohydrates precipitated and fell with the morning dew. It had an oily taste like honeycomb, and was ground between stones and baked in pans. The clouds brought the heavenly bread, it is also said in the Talmud.
There was a world fire, says the Icelandic tradition, followed by the Fimbul-winter, and only one human pair remained alive in the north. They fed on morning dew, and from (this pair) come the folk who people the renewed earth.
The Maoris of New Zealand tell of fiery winds and fierce clouds that lashed the waters into tidal waves that touched the sky and were accompanied by furious hailstorms. The ocean fled. The progeny of the storm and hail were "Mist, the Heavy dew and Light dew".
The Greeks called the heavenly bread ambrosia. It is described by the Greek poets in identical terms with manna: it had the taste of honey and a fragrance. The Atharva-Veda hymns say that honey-lash came down from fire and wind; ambrosia fell, and streams of honey flowed upon the earth. The grains also fell upon the water, and the rivers became milky in appearance (i.e. lands of milk and honey).
The traditional explanation, it should be noted, of “a land of milk and honey” is that the land is so agriculturally rich and fertile that the cows have more than enough milk and the bees more than enough honey from the abundant flowers.

So what was manna? Quite honestly, we don’t know. Many think they know, but there are problems with every offered explanation. But whatever it was, God provided it for a full forty years, every week of every year with every Sabbath off. So even if there is a natural explanation for the manna itself, there are miracles involved in the Sabbath rest and the cutoff after forty years.

I know not everyone is interested when we go this deep into an areas, but thank you for your patience and tomorrow the text study resumes with chapter 16 of Exodus.

[ August 22, 2002, 02:18 AM: Message edited by: Helen ]
Old 08-22-2002, 01:09 PM
jcrowe jcrowe is offline
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Chillicothe, MO
Posts: 93

Wow! Great research Helen. I am gonna have to visit this section of the forums more often.

Old 08-22-2002, 07:11 PM
ElizabethB ElizabethB is offline
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Tidewater, VA
Posts: 100

I really like this, because I am not anywhere near intellectual enough to do all this research, but it is so interesting to read (after Helen does all the work!)
Old 08-23-2002, 01:37 AM
tyndale1946 tyndale1946 is offline
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Excellent post Helen and I thought I would add this... Manna and for its white colour, as well as its smallness, it looked like hoar frost on the ground. Jarchi says there were two dews, within which it lay as something covered in a box, and he seems to be right; for it is certain from Nu 11:9, that there was a dew which fell first, and then the manna fell upon it; and from hence it is plain also, that there was a dew over the manna, which went up from it when the sun rose: and the design of this seems to be to keep this heavenly bread pure and clean for the Israelites, that it might neither partake of the dust nor sand of the wilderness where it fell, and that nothing might light upon it until the time of gathering it came. The Jews, in memory of this, will sometimes put bread upon the table between two table cloths {n}; and it is highly probable, that to this the allusion is of the "hidden manna" in Re 2:17, by which is meant our Lord Jesus Christ, the antitype of this manna, as will be observed as we pass on, in all the circumstances of it; the manna came with the dew, and was covered with it, and hid in it; Christ is the gift of God's free grace to the sons of men, and is exhibited in the word of grace, where he lies hid to men in the glory of his person and the fulness of his grace, until revealed and made known. The figure of the manna being "round", which is a perfect figure, may denote the perfection of Christ in his person, natures, and office; he being perfectly God and perfectly man, having all the essential perfections both of the divine and human natures in him, as well as all fulness of grace; and being made perfect through sufferings, is become a complete Saviour, and by his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, has perfected for ever his sanctified ones: and the manna being "small", may signify the meanness of Christ in the eyes of men in his state of humiliation, and the unpromising appearance he made of being the Saviour and King of Israel; the white colour of it may direct to the purity of Christ, to the holiness of his natures, and the beauty of his person, being white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousands... Dr. John Gill on the spiritual application of manna... Brother Glen [img]smile.gif[/img]
Old 09-28-2002, 01:05 PM
Clint Kritzer Clint Kritzer is offline
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