on Exodus 16 :15
They said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was - This is a most unfortunate translation, because it not only gives no sense, but it contradicts itself. The Hebrew מן הוא man hu, literally signifies, What is this? for, says the text, they wist not what it was, and therefore they could not give it a name. Moses immediately answers the question, and says, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. From Exodus 16:31 we learn that this substance was afterwards called מן man, probably in commemoration of the question they had asked on its first appearance. Almost all our own ancient versions translate the words, What is this?
What this substance was we know not. It was nothing that was common to the wilderness. It is evident the Israelites never saw it before, for Moses says, Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 8:16 : He fed thee with manna which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; and it is very likely that nothing of the kind had ever been seen before; and by a pot of it being laid up in the ark, it is as likely that nothing of the kind ever appeared more, after the miraculous supply in the wilderness had ceased. It seems to have been created for the present occasion, and, like Him whom it typified, to have been the only thing of the kind, the only bread from heaven, which God ever gave to preserve the life of man, as Christ is the true bread that came down from heaven, and was given for the life of the world. See John 6:31-58.
on Exodus 16 :15
It is manna - "Man" or "man-hut," i. e. white manna, was the name under which the substance was known to the Egyptians, and therefore to the Israelites. The manna of the Peninsula of Sinai is the sweet juice of the Tarfa, a species of tamarisk. It exudes from the trunk and branches in hot weather, and forms small round white grains. In cold weather it preserves its consistency, in hot weather it melts rapidly. It is either gathered from the twigs of tamarisk, or from the fallen leaves underneath the tree. The color is a greyish yellow. It begins to exude in May, and lasts about six weeks. According to Ehrenberg, it is produced by the puncture of an insect. It is abundant in rainy seasons, many years it ceases altogether. The whole quantity now produced in a single year does not exceed 600 or 700 pounds. It is found in the district between the Wady Gharandel, i. e. Elim, and Sinai, in the Wady Sheikh, and in some other parts of the Peninsula. When therefore the Israelites saw the "small round thing," they said at once "this is manna," but with an exclamation of surprise at finding it, not under the tamarisk tree, but on the open plain, in such immense quantities, under circumstances so unlike what they could have expected: in fact they did not know what it really was, only what it resembled.
on Exodus 16 :15
16:15 What is this? Manna descended from the clouds. It came down in dew melted, and yet was itself of such a consistency as to serve for nourishing strengthening food, without any thing else: It was pleasant food; the Jews say it was palatable to all, according as their tastes were. It was wholesome food, light of digestion. By this spare and plain diet we are all taught a lesson of temperance, and forbidden to desire dainties and varieties.