Manna from Heaven and the Bread of Life

After the Hebrews left Egypt, they grumbled. And God said, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you” (Exod 16:4). “Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (16:31). “The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan” (16:35).

Now, one should think that the Israelites should be grateful for this, but Numbers records grumbling: “And the people of Israel also wept again and said, ‘Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at’” (Num 11:4–6).

God gave bread from heaven, but this did not satisfy the people. It provided some nourishment, but the people foolishly and sinfully grumbled at God’s provision—a provision that sustained life. This event typifies the Son of God who came down from heaven. 

In the NT, Jesus fed five thousand with five barely loaves and two fish (John 6:1–14). On the next day (6:22), people searched him out for food again (6:26). Jesus said that the Son of Man—himself—could give “the food that endures to eternal life” (6:27). But the people responded and asked for a sign and said, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (6:31). Jesus replied, saying “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (6:32).

After this, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (6:35). Jesus is the true bread of heaven that truly satisfies our souls unto eternal life. Unlike the bread that came down that left the people in their original state (though did feed their hunger), Jesus came down from heaven (6:38) as the satisfaction of our souls. When we receive and treasure and believe in him, we never hunger or thirst, but are satisfied in him. The manna falling from heaven prefigured the bread of life that came down from heaven to satisfy our needy souls.