(Heb. Imãn, 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).