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Exodus 16:15

Context
16:15 When 1  the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, 2  “What is it?” because they did not know what it was. 3  Moses said to them, “It is the bread 4  that the Lord has given you for food. 5 

1 tn The preterite with vav consecutive is here subordinated to the next verb as a temporal clause. The main point of the verse is what they said.

2 tn Heb “a man to his brother.”

3 tn The text has: מָן הוּא כִּי לאֹ יָדְעוּ מַה־הוּא (man huki loyadÿu mah hu’). From this statement the name “manna” was given to the substance. מָן for “what” is not found in Hebrew, but appears in Syriac as a contraction of ma den, “what then?” In Aramaic and Arabic man is “what?” The word is used here apparently for the sake of etymology. B. S. Childs (Exodus [OTL], 274) follows the approach that any connections to words that actually meant “what?” are unnecessary, for it is a play on the name (whatever it may have been) and therefore related only by sound to the term being explained. This, however, presumes that a substance was known prior to this account – a point that Deuteronomy does not seem to allow. S. R. Driver says that it is not known how early the contraction came into use, but that this verse seems to reflect it (Exodus, 149). Probably one must simply accept that in the early Israelite period man meant “what?” There seems to be sufficient evidence to support this. See EA 286,5; UT 435; DNWSI 1:157.

4 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 454-55) suggests that Moses was saying to them, “It is not manna. It is the food Yahweh has given you.” He comes to this conclusion based on the strange popular etymology from the interrogative word, noting that people do not call things “what?”

5 sn For other views see G. Vermès, “‘He Is the Bread’ Targum Neofiti Ex. 16:15,” SJLA 8 (1975): 139-46; and G. J. Cowling, “Targum Neofiti Ex. 16:15,” AJBA (1974-75): 93-105.



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