Heb. man-hu, "What is that?" the name given by the Israelites to
the food miraculously supplied to them during their wanderings
in the wilderness (Ex. 16:15-35). The name is commonly taken as
derived from "man", an expression of surprise, "What is it?" but
more probably it is derived from "manan", meaning "to allot,"
and hence denoting an "allotment" or a "gift." This "gift" from
God is described as "a small round thing," like the "hoar-frost
on the ground," and "like coriander seed," "of the colour of
bdellium," and in taste "like wafers made with honey." It was
capable of being baked and boiled, ground in mills, or beaten in
a mortar (Ex. 16:23; Num. 11:7). If any was kept over till the
following morning, it became corrupt with worms; but as on the
Sabbath none fell, on the preceding day a double portion was
given, and that could be kept over to supply the wants of the
Sabbath without becoming corrupt. Directions concerning the
gathering of it are fully given (Ex. 16:16-18, 33; Deut. 8:3,
16). It fell for the first time after the eighth encampment in
the desert of Sin, and was daily furnished, except on the
Sabbath, for all the years of the wanderings, till they encamped
at Gilgal, after crossing the Jordan, when it suddenly ceased,
and where they "did eat of the old corn of the land; neither had
the children of Israel manna any more" (Josh. 5:12). They now no
longer needed the "bread of the wilderness."

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.

Our Lord refers to the manna when he calls himself the "true
bread from heaven" (John 6:31-35; 48-51). He is also the "hidden
manna" (Rev. 2:17; compare John 6:49,51).