🔼The name Manna: Summary
- What? Inquest
- From the interrogative pronoun מן (men), what?
🔼The name Manna in the Bible
The name Manna belongs to the white, flaky, miraculous food that sustained Israel on its forty year trek through the wilderness (Exodus 16:15).
When the people note that it would have been better to eat Egypt's food in slavery than to die of hunger as free men, YHWH responds by saying that he will let bread rain from heaven. The people are to gather their daily portion every day (and two portions on the day before the Sabbath). Later, Jesus most probably refers to this in the Lord's prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread," and follows it with "and lead us not into temptation" (Matthew 6:11-13).
We observe this same sequence during Jesus' own temptation, when he silences satan by stating, "Man shall not live on bread alone but from every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). When Moses first utters those words (Deuteronomy 8:3), he also explains that God gave this bread so that Israel would understand certain things, and the whole Manna-phenomenon appears to have an entire double meaning: one of physical sustenance and one of mental purification.
Obviously, all this ties directly into the communion rite, in which we consume the body of Christ (Matthew 26:26), but less obvious is the link to the bellicose side of this pattern of salvation.
The Hebrew word לחם (lehem), meaning bread or food in general, comes from the verb לחם (laham), meaning to eat or use as food. But the identical verb לחם (laham) means to fight or do battle. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which is commonly translated as House Of Bread, but to a Hebrew audience, the name Bethlehem would also have meant House Of War.
Jesus, because he is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), has no trouble beating sinners out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12), because disruptively cleansing the Temple is ultimately more peaceful than quietly tolerating it. War is caused by sin and wanting things that aren't ours (James 4:1), while God knows what people need (Matthew 6:8) and gives to people what they are supposed to have (Psalm 23:1).
And yes, God is love (1 John 4:8), but also "YHWH is a man of war" (Exodus 15:3). And one of the lost-or-absorbed source-texts of the Bible is a work called The Book Of The Wars Of YHWH (Numbers 21:14).
🔼Etymology of the name Manna
It's not certain (in an academic way of speaking) where the word Manna comes from, but anyone free of the burden of proof will notice the similarity between Manna and the interrogative pronoun מן (men):
The interrogative pronoun מן (man) means "what?" but the preposition מן (min) means "out of" or "from". The latter is often deployed as prefix, in which only the מ (m) is written. Nouns formed from "מ plus root" commonly describe an "agent" or "place-of" whatever the action of the root describes.
Noun מן (men) describes a harp string and is an Aramaic loan word.
Verb מנה (mana) means to count or assign. Nouns מנה (mana) and מנת (menat) mean portion or part. Noun מנה (maneh) is a unit of weight; the mina. And noun מנה (moneh) means time (not clock time but as in ten "times").
Manna, quite literally, means What? But translators who are willing to break the bonds of inefficacious traditions should probably try to translate this word with an English one that is (a) quite rare and special, and (b) expresses inquiry or curiosity.
The name Manna means Inquest.