There is a connection between the natural manna and the supernatural. The natural is the sweet juice of the tarfa, a kind of tamarisk. It exudes in May for about six weeks from the trunk and branches in hot weather, and forms small round white grains. It retains its consistency in cool weather, but melts with heat. It is gathered from the twigs or from the fallen leaves. The Arabs, after boiling and straining, use it as honey with bread. The color is a greyish-yellow, the taste sweet and aromatic. Ehrenberg says it is produced by an insect's puncture. It abounds in rainy seasons, some years it ceases. About 600 or 700 pounds is the present produce of a year. The region wady Gharandel (Elim) and Sinai, the wady Sheich, and some other parts of the peninsula, are the places where it is found. The name is still its Arabic designation, and is read on the Egyptian monuments (mennu, mennu hut, "white manna".) Gesenius derives it from manah, "to apportion." The supernatural character of the manna of Exodus at the same time appears.
(1) It was found not under the tamarisk, but on the surface of the wilderness, after the morning dew had disappeared.
(2) The quantity gathered in a single day exceeded the present produce of a year.
(3) It ceased on the sabbath.
(4) Its properties were distinct; it could be ground and baked as meal, it was not a mere condiment but nutritious as bread.
(5) It was found not merely where it still is, but Israel's whole way to Canaan (and not merely for a month or two each year, but all the year round). The miracle has all the conditions and characteristics of divine interpositions.
(1) A necessity, for Israel could not otherwise have been sustained in the wilderness.
(2) A divine purpose, namely to preserve God's peculiar people on which His whole providential government and man's salvation depended.
(3) Harmony between the natural and the supernatural; God fed them, not with the food of other regions, but with that of the district.
The local coloring is marked. Moses the writer could neither have been deceived as to the fact, nor could have deceived contemporaries and eye-witnesses. (Speaker's Commentary) The Scripture allusions to it are in Exodus 16:14-36; Numbers 11:7-9; Deuteronomy 8:3-16; Joshua 5:12; Psalm 78:24-25 ("angels' food"; not as if angels ate food, but food from the habitation of angels, heaven, a directly miraculous gift), Matthew 4:4; John 6:31-50; 1 Corinthians 10:3. The manna was a "small round thing as the hoar-frost on the ground," falling with the dew on the camp at night. They gathered it early every morning before the sun melted it.
If laid by for any following day except the sabbath it bred worms and stank. It was like coriander seed and bdellium, white, and its taste as the taste of fresh oil, like wafers made with honey (Numbers 11:7-9). Israel subsisted on it for 40 years; it suddenly ceased when they got the first new grain of Canaan. Vulgate, Septuagint, and Josephus (Ant. 3:1, sec. 6) derive manna from Israel's question to one another, maan huw' " 'what is this?' for they knew not what it was." God "gave it to His beloved (in) sleep" (Psalm 127:2), so the sense and context require. Israel each morning, in awaking, found it already provided without toil. Such is the gospel, the gift of grace, not the fruit of works; free to all, and needed by high and low as indispensable for true life.
To commemorate Israel's living on omers or tenth deals of manna one omer was put into a golden pot and preserved for many generations beside the ark. Each was to gather according to his eating, an omer apiece for each in his tent, a command testing their obedience, in which some failed, gathering more but gaining nought by it, for however much he gathered, on measuring it in his tent he found he had only as much as he needed for his family; type of Christian charity, which is to make the superfluity of some supply the needs of others. "that there may be equality" (2 Corinthians 8:14-15); "our luxuries should yield to our neighbor's comforts, and our comforts to his necessities" (John Howard). The manna typifies Christ.
(1) It falls from above (John 6:32, etc.) as the dew (Psalm 110:3; Micah 5:7) round the camp, i.e. the visible church, and nowhere else; the gift of God for which we toil not (John 6:28-29); when we were without merit or strength (Romans 5:6; Romans 5:8).
(2) It was gathered early; so we, before the world's heat of excitement melt away the good of God's gift to us (Psalm 63:1; Hosea 5:15; Hosea 6:4; Matthew 13:6).
(3) A double portion must be gathered for the sabbath.
(4) It was ground in the mill, as Christ was "bruised" for us to become our "bread of life."
(5) Sweet as honey to the taste (Psalm 34:8; Psalm 119:103; 1 Peter 2:3).
(6) It must be gathered "day by day," fresh each day; so today's grace will not suffice for tomorrow (1 Kings 8:59 margin; Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3). Hoarded up it putrefied; so gospel doctrine laid up for speculation, not received in love and digested as spiritual food, becomes a savor of death not life (1 Corinthians 8:1).
(7) To the carnal it was "dry" food though really like "fresh oil" (Numbers 11:6; Numbers 11:8; Numbers 21:5): so the gospel to the worldly who long for fleshly pleasures of Egypt, but to the spiritual it is full of the rich savor of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).
(8) Its preservation in the golden pot in the holiest typifies Jesus, now in the heavenly holiest place, where He gives of the hidden manna to him that overcometh (Revelation 2:17); He is the manna hidden from the world but revealed to the believer, who has now a foretaste of His preciousness; like the incorruptible manna in the sanctuary, the spiritual food offered to all who reject the world's dainties for Christ is everlasting, an incorruptible body, and life in Christ at the resurrection.
(9) The manna continued with Israel throughout their wilderness journey; so Christ with His people here (Matthew 28:19).
(10) It ceases when they gain the promised rest, for faith then gives place to sight and the wilderness manna to the fruit of the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14).
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'manna' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".