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The Bible says God gave the children of Israel manna in the desert for forty years, six days a week.

“Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭16:31, 35‬

Manna was said to have come down (from above) just as the dew falls and condenses into water droplets, mamma descended down likewise.

“When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.” ‭‭Numbers‬ ‭11:9‬

The children of Israel cooked it or with it. The psalms speak of it falling like rain

  • “Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.”* ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭78:23-25‬

Is there any reason to believe manna was not a physical food? And that it didn’t come through the door/s of the firmament of Heaven as per Biblical cosmology?

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The short answer to your question "was manna physical or spiritual?" is - Yes.

God provided the Israelites both physical and spiritual sustenance. And today, God still provides us the spiritual food that we need in Jesus (John 6: 32-35)

From the Exodus onward the idea of Manna takes on largely spiritual meaning in the mind of both Jews and Christians.

For instance, if we allow "text to interpret text," we can look at Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 10:2-4:

"They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ"

The word manna comes from the Hebrew words (מן) man "what is" and (הוא) hu "it" - "what is it?" This is the question the Israelites asked in Exodus 16:15.

According to the Anchor Bible Dictionary (vol. 4/K-N, pg. 511) - the Manna has been associated with a natural phenomenon that occurs in the Sinai and a gum resin that is produced by a number of plants such as the Tamarisk Gallica

Based on Moses telling Aaron to place Manna in a jar (Ex. 16:32):

So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”

a Jewish legend came about that this Manna which was hidden away will not be found until the arrival of the Messiah (2 Apoc. Baruch 29:8) and also in (2 Maccabees 2: 4-8).

The book of Revelation reflects this idea - in the letter to Pergamum (Rev. 2:17) - John writes:

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.

Essentially - if the "hidden manna" is now available - then the Messiah is here.

As far as the description of Biblical cosmology and where the manna comes from:

To the ancient mind - particularly the Jewish mind - God is always up and any gift from God comes from above (we think this way as well when we describe which direction heaven or hell is). So the biblical language is probably more metaphorical than literal when describing the direction that the manna comes from.

For instance - whenever someone is moving toward Jerusalem in the New Testament - the direction is always "up." If you are heading away from Jerusalem (like to Egypt) you are going "down." Today, we use "up" to describe driving north and "down" to describe heading south - "I'm heading down to the Florida keys for a vacation and then back up to New York in two weeks."

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  • I only referenced the manna they collected which, in light of your answer, is a spiritual food that is physical to the touch and is nourishing to the human material body. – Nihil Sine Deo Jul 30 '20 at 20:08
  • Unfortunately, the answer is much more ambiguous than we would like it to be. That is why I started my answer with a quote from Paul. If Paul interprets it as spiritual food then I'm ok with that. But I also believe God provided the Israelites physical food in the desert. The fact that manna translates "what is it?" is a clue that there is a mystery involved. – S. Broberg Jul 30 '20 at 20:40
  • But you must agree manna was not the only thing they ate from God and two Paul never explicitly says manna was the spiritual food. – Nihil Sine Deo Jul 30 '20 at 20:59

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