The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’ So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?’ And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.’
In the morning, when the layer of dew lifted, there was a flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. They did not know what it was. Right there, in front of their tents. Had they not noticed it before? Had they not woke early enough to see the dew evaporate? Was there a change of season happening - where dew would be more obvious?
Or maybe the aphids (often called plant lice) had just migrated to the trees outside of the Israelites camp. Whatever the reason, they asked one another, "What is it?"
From Wikipedia - Man is possibly cognate with the Arabic term man, meaning plant lice, with man hu thus meaning "this is plant lice", which fits one widespread modern identification of manna, the crystallized honeydew of certain scale insects. In the environment of a desert, such honeydew rapidly dries due to evaporation of its water content, becoming a sticky solid, and later turning whitish, yellowish, or brownish; honeydew of this form is considered a delicacy in the Middle East, and is a good source of carbohydrates. In particular, there is a scale insect that feeds on tamarisk, the Tamarisk manna scale (Trabutina mannipara), which is often considered to be the prime candidate for biblical manna.
I tend to agree with this analysis. Manna = tree lice poop.
What fascinates me then about this story is that their answer lay right in front of them. Every morning. Overlooked? Maybe. Arrived with a new season? Maybe. They complained for hunger and the next morning, right in front of them was an unknown substance that could be made into bread.
It's not the bread they had in Egypt. But it was the bread they had for today, for this season of their lives together. And it was right in front of them, something within their grasp. I know myself and my own complaining. I would struggle to see that this flaky substance could be made into bread because it doesn't look like the flour we used in Egypt. I might fixate on not having bread like I know bread to be and not be able to see the gift of what I have in this flaky substance.
Plan A is flour and oil for bread. I'm looking for God to provide Plan A. That's what I've prayed for - or complained about which is truer to this story. And since I want Plan A, someone has to show me that Plan B is what God has provided. Plan B is an unknown flaky substance that when ground and baked tastes like honey. Plan B, also known as God's answer to complaining, comes every morning.
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
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