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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Hebrew word: מן
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Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary

מן  מנה

There are quite a few different words of the form מן (mn), and much of the associated etymology is unclear. It's unclear how much the same these words are or in which way they essentially differ:


מן I

The masculine noun מן (man I) is what we know as Manna (Exodus 16:31, Numbers 11:7, Joshua 5:12), which isn't a translation but a transliteration of a Greek interpretation. In short, we don't know what it is, apart from it being the miraculous bread from heaven that sustained Israel for the forty years trek through the Negev.

מן II

The interrogative pronoun מן (man II), meaning what? is used only in Exodus 16:15, in reference to Manna. Similar pronouns occur in Arabic, Aramaic, Ethiopian, Mandean and Syriac, and it seems likely that Manna was named after this pronoun. Perhaps the allegorical value of all this suggests that where the protecting archangel Michael (= What's God Like?) inspired Israel to seek after the identity of God, so Israel was sustained in the desert by being inquisitive (see Exodus 23:20).


מן

The preposition מן (min) expresses the idea of separation, and is translated mostly with from or out of. This particle is very often attached to a noun, and then the ן (nun-final) is absorbed, leaving only the מ (mem). This is strikingly demonstrated in the name(s) Miniamin and Mijamin. Our particle is used:

  • With verbs of motion or that imply separation: from.
  • With other verbs: out of.
  • Partitively: some of, one of.
  • Of time: from.
  • In geographical sense: from
  • Encompassing a group from one extreme to the other: from.
  • Comparatively: than.
  • Prefixed to an infinitive: from or on account of.
  • As a conjunction, although this happens only once, in Deuteronomy 33:11: (so) that.
The ubiquitous term ממנו (Genesis 2:17) or ממנה (Genesis 3:19) or ממני (Genesis 22:12), etcetera, regards a double extraction, which is not all that odd. The first extraction (מנו, or 'from him/it', or מנה, 'from her/it') would refer to, say, the general harvest of one apple tree: a basket full of apples. The second extraction (ממנו) would concern an apple taken from the basket taken from the tree. In general, it refers to a specific helping from a general produce.
מן

The noun מן (men) is an Aramaic loan word, meaning (harp) string. In the Bible it occurs only twice: once in Psalm 45:8 (although somewhat disputed; the KJV leaves it out but most other translations speak of 'the music of strings' or something like that) and once, in plural (מנים), in Psalm 150:4.


מנה

Morphologically not far removed from the previous root מנן (mnn), the root-verb מנה (mana) means to count (Genesis 13:16, 2 Samuel 24:1, Psalm 90:12) or assign (Isaiah 53:12, Daniel 1:5) — which brings it in close vicinity of the preposition מן (min). In order to count something, it has to be distinguished from others, after all. Studies of cognates show that this verb may have also been used in the sense of to be bounteous.

Its derivatives are:

  • The feminine noun מנה (mana), meaning portion or part (Exodus 29:26, Nehemiah 8:10).
  • The masculine noun מנה (maneh), which is a unit of weight, a.k.a. the mina (Ezekiel 45:12, 1 Kings 10:17).
  • The masculine noun מנה (moneh), meaning time (not clock-time but as in "ten times"). This word occurs only once, in Genesis 31:7.
  • The feminine noun מנת (menat), meaning portion (Nehemiah 12:44, Jeremiah 13:25).
  • The masculine noun מנון (manon), which is a dubious word (says BDB Theological Dictionary). It occurs only in Proverbs 29:21: ". . . will in the end find him to be a מנון (manon)" and translations vary widely, from "successor" (J.P. Green) and "continuator" (Young) to "thankless one" (BDB Theological Dictionary). The King James Version translated this word curiously with "son," but so do NAS and Darby. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament translates this word with "grief" and so does NIV. JSP translates our word with "master".

Associated Biblical names

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