The manna rained from Heaven in the wilderness (Exodus 16) is symbolic of the deeper teachings in the Word of God that have the ability to nourish our soul. Because the Israelites did not understand what they were receiving when the bread was poured out, they were not able to step into what God had for them. Just like the Israelites, if we do not understand the Word of God spiritually, we cannot be transformed and step into our true calling in Christ.
Although God had already shown His provision in a mighty way toward the children of Israel by taking them out of the bondage of Egypt, causing the Red Sea to part when they walked through (Exodus 14:16, 21-22) and drowning their enemies in that same Red Sea (Exodus 14:27-28) they were still unsatisfied and were complaining against Moses and Aaron:
“And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”” (Exodus 16:3)
Because of their continuous complaints, the Lord said He would send bread from heaven to test them:
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”” (Exodus 16:4-5)
When the bread was poured out from heaven, the children of Israel did not know what it was, so they called it “manna” which means “what is it” (1):
“And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat…” (Exodus 16:14-15)
Notice how the Israelites called it “manna”, or “what is it”, not Moses. Moses understood what was being given by God, but because it was different to the bread they had received in Egypt, the Israelites did not recognise it.
The Apostle Paul gives us an understanding that there is a deeper meaning hidden in the account of the manna from heaven:
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. (1 Corinthians 10:1-5, Emphasis added)
Paul unveils a mystery, that the manna the Israelites received was spiritual food, however, they did not recognise its true significance and they perished. God also told the Israelites they did not recognise the manna when it was sent to them:
“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3, Emphasis added)
Jesus openly stated that He is the true manna from Heaven:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:47-51, Emphasis added)
The Early Church was in agreement that the true manna is the Word of God. This is what Origen, a second-third Century Early Church Father had to say on the matter:
But even today I say that the Lord rains manna from the sky. For those words which have been read to us, and the words which descended from God which have been recited to us are from heaven. (2)
Notice it was not just the written Word that Origen referred to as the manna from heaven, he was referring to the apostolic traditions passed down orally by the Apostles and their disciples when he wrote above
“the words which descended from God which have been recited to us”
as being manna from heaven.
Origen goes on to discuss the way one receives the manna, or the Word of God:
Manna from the sky, therefore, is always given to us who received such manna. Those unfortunate people grieve and sigh and say they are miserable because they are not worthy to receive the manna as their fathers received it. They never eat manna. They cannot eat it because it is “small like the seed of the coriander and white like frost.”, For they perceive nothing in the word of God which is “small,” nothing subtle, nothing spiritual, but everything is fat, everything is thick “for the heart of that people has been made thick.”. . . Therefore, if you wish to eat manna, that is if you desire to receive the word of God, know that it “is small and very subtle like the seed of the coriander.” It is partially vegetable by which it can nourish and recreate the weak, for “he who is weak eats vegetables.” It is also partially hard and, therefore, is “as frost.” It is also very white and sweet. For what is whiter, what more splendid than divine instruction? What is sweeter or what more delightful than the words of the Lord which are “beyond honey and the honeycomb?” (2)
Above, Origen likens those who do not recognize the deeper meaning in the Word of God, with the complaining Israelites who did not recognize what they were being given. Those who do not understand the mysteries in scripture and only see the Word of God from the letter, perceiving nothing spiritual, are those whose heart is thick and uncircumcised (refer to Matthew 13:15).
Origen further explains how important our spiritual understanding of scripture is, verses us simply understanding by the letter:
THE APOSTLE PAUL, “TEACHER OF THE GENTILES in faith and truth” taught the Church which he gathered from the Gentiles how it ought to interpret the books of the Law.
These books were received from others and were formerly unknown to the Gentiles and were very strange. He feared that the Church, receiving foreign instructions and not knowing the principle of the instructions, would be in a state of confusion about the foreign document. For that reason he gives some examples of interpretation that we also might note similar things in other passages, lest we believe that by imitation of the text and document of the Jews we be made disciples. He wishes, therefore, to distinguish disciples of Christ from disciples of the Synagogue by the way they understand the Law. The Jews, by misunderstanding it, rejected Christ. We, by understanding the Law spiritually, show that it was justly given for the instruction of the Church. . . . Let us see, however, what sort of rule of interpretation the apostle Paul taught us about these matters. Writing to the Corinthians he says in a certain passage, “For we know that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all were baptized in Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. And they drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ.” Do you see how much Paul’s teaching differs from the literal meaning? What the Jews supposed to be a crossing of the sea, Paul calls a baptism; what they supposed to be a cloud, Paul asserts is the Holy Spirit. He wishes that to be understood in a similar manner to this which the Lord taught in the Gospels, “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” And again, the manna which the Jews supposed to be food for the stomach and the satiation of the appetite, Paul calls “spiritual food.” . . . What then are we to do who received such instructions about interpretation from Paul, a teacher of the Church? Does it not seem right that we apply this kind of rule which was delivered to us in a similar way in other passages? Or as some wish, forsaking these things which such a great Apostle taught, should we turn again to “Jewish fables?” It seems to me that if I differ from Paul in these matters I aid the enemies of Christ, and this is what the prophet says, “Woe to him who causes his neighbor to drink by foul subversion!”; Let us cultivate, therefore, the seeds of spiritual understanding received from the blessed apostle Paul, in so far as the Lord shall see fit to illuminate us by your prayers. (3)
Here, Origen uses the example of the historical account of the Israelites in the wilderness. He points out that just as Apostle Paul taught the spiritual meaning of the historical account in 1 Corinthians; for us to correctly interpret not only this scripture, but all Scripture, we must see deeper than just the letter, or face value. Origen admonishes us that if we understand the Word only as a history-book, and not spiritually, we reject Christ, just as the Jews did. There is no difference between us reading the Word of God by the letter today, versus the Pharisees 2000 years ago with their literal understanding of the law and feasts. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this (Matthew 23:2-36), so why would the requirement be any different for us today? Apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of studying the word and rightly dividing, or understanding it, to be approved unto God (refer to 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). He is the same Apostle that taught us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Origen writes something very significant above that we cannot miss- he warns us that we are not true disciples of Christ unless we have the spiritual understanding of the Word. This is confirmed even with Jesus Himself – when Jesus taught he spoke parables to the multitudes but expounded the deeper meaning to His true disciples (Mark 4:34). The literal understanding of the Word never had the ability to remove sin and transform the soul (refer to Hebrews 10:11), and that never changed.
Origen gives us more understanding of the true manna and what it does for the soul:
“And my Father, He says, gives you the true bread from heaven, for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. It is true bread that nourishes the true man who is made in God’s image, and he that has been nourished by it also becomes in the Creator’s likeness. What is more nourishing to the soul than Word, or what more precious to the mind of him that is capable of receiving it than the Wisdom of God? . . . This is the bread that is come down from heaven. Not as the fathers ate and died, he that eats this bread shall live unto eternity. Discoursing to infant Corinthians who walk in the way of man Paul says: I gave you milk to drink, not meat, for you were not yet able. Nay even now you are not yet able, for you are still of the flesh; and in the Epistle to Hebrews: And you are become in need of milk, not of solid nourishment. For any one who partakes of milk is devoid of moral reason, for he is infant. But solid nourishment is for mature men who by force of use have their senses trained to discriminate good and evil. In my opinion the words: One man hath faith to eat anything, but he that is weak eats vegetables are also in his intention meant to refer not to material forms of nourishment but to the words of God that nourish the soul: Of these the man most faithful and mature is able to partake of any, he being denoted in the words One man hath faith to eat anything, whereas the weaker and more immature is content with simpler teachings that do not quite produce full strength in him . . . “ (4)
Here, Origen explains that the manna, or deeper understanding of the Word is able to nourish our inner man (our soul) and with that nourishment we become in the image of God. He explains that those who are on the milk, or the letter of the word are like babies with weak souls and do not have the moral character of God. We all start on the milk of the Word, but we are expected to progress to the bread and the meat of the Word, just like the natural life cycle of a baby to an adult.
When we understand the deeper teachings in the Word of God, our soul is nourished, and we have the ability to be transformed. We should not just expect small changes- the spiritual understanding of the Word of God has the ability to completely transform our soul into the image of God (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Early Church was all of the same understanding that for us to have this transformation we need to correctly understand the Word of God by applying this principle of spiritual understanding to all scripture, not just some of it. They viewed those who remained only on the letter of the word as the Jews who rejected Christ, and someone who is not able to become a true disciple of Christ. The true test of this understanding is a transformed life. Are you being continually transformed in your walk with God? If you know deep down you aren’t being transformed, and you have become stagnant in your walk with God, you have come to the right place. Here, at the Voice of Healing, we see lives changed on a daily basis and souls being set free continually, because of the supernatural power in the deeper understanding of the word of God and a willingness to learn.
1. Brown-Driver-Briggs Dictionary: “manna” (H4478)
2. Origen, Exodus Homily VII [Emphasis added]
3. Origen, Exodus Homily V [Emphasis added]
4. Origen, On Prayer, Ch XVII [Emphasis added]