Numbers 11:7
And the manna was as coriander seed, and the color thereof as the color of bdellium.
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(7) And the manna was . . . —The design of the description of the manna in this place (comp. Exodus 16:14; Exodus 16:31, and Notes in loc.; also Article Manna, in “Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible”) was probably to exhibit in its just light the sinfulness of the Israelites in repining at the merciful provision which God had made for the supply of their wants. The dissatisfaction of the Israelites with the sweet bread of heaven, and their craving after the more savoury and more stimulating food of Egypt may be regarded as typical of man’s natural repugnance to the spiritual food which is provided in the Gospel, and his restless cravings after the pleasures of the world.

Numbers 11:7-8. As coriander-seed — Not for colour, for that is black, but for shape and figure. Bdellium — Is either the gum of a tree, of a white and bright colour, or rather a gem or precious stone, as the Hebrew doctors take it; and particularly a pearl, wherewith the manna manifestly agrees both in its colour, which is white, (Exodus 16:14,) and in its figure, which is round. Fresh oil — Or, of the most excellent oil; or, of cakes made with the best oil, the word cakes being easily supplied out of the foregoing member of the verse; or, which is not much different, like wafers made with honey, as it is said, Exodus 16:31. The nature and use of manna are here thus particularly described, to show the greatness of their sin in despising such excellent food.11:4-9 Man, having forsaken his proper rest, feels uneasy and wretched, though prosperous. They were weary of the provision God had made for them, although wholesome food and nourishing. It cost no money or care, and the labour of gathering it was very little indeed; yet they talked of Egypt's cheapness, and the fish they ate there freely; as if that cost them nothing, when they paid dearly for it with hard service! While they lived on manna, they seemed exempt from the curse sin has brought on man, that in the sweat of his face he should eat bread; yet they speak of it with scorn. Peevish, discontented minds will find fault with that which has no fault in it, but that it is too good for them. Those who might be happy, often make themselves miserable by discontent. They could not be satisfied unless they had flesh to eat. It is evidence of the dominion of the carnal mind, when we want to have the delights and satisfaction of sense. We should not indulge in any desire which we cannot in faith turn into prayer, as we cannot when we ask meat for our lust. What is lawful of itself becomes evil, when God does not allot it to us, yet we desire it.There is nothing at all ... - literally, "Nought at all have we except that our eyes are unto this manna;" i. e. "Nought else have we to expect beside this manna." On the manna see Exodus 16:15 note; on bdellium see Genesis 2:12 note.6-9. But now … there is nothing … beside this manna—Daily familiarity had disgusted them with the sight and taste of the monotonous food; and, ungrateful for the heavenly gift, they longed for a change of fare. It may be noticed that the resemblance of the manna to coriander seed was not in the color, but in the size and figure; and from its comparison to bdellium, which is either a drop of white gum or a white pearl, we are enabled to form a better idea of it. Moreover, it is evident, from the process of baking into cakes, that it could not have been the natural manna of the Arabian desert, for that is too gummy or unctuous to admit of being ground into meal. In taste it is said to have been like "wafers made with honey" (Ex 16:31), and here to have the taste of fresh oil. The discrepancy in these statements is only apparent; for in the latter the manna is described in its raw state; in the former, after it was ground and baked. The minute description given here of its nature and use was designed to show the great sinfulness of the people, in being dissatisfied with such excellent food, furnished so plentifully and gratuitously. As coriander seed; not for colour, for that is black, but for shape and figure.

Bdellium is either,

1. The gum of a tree, of a white and bright colour; or rather,

2. A gem or precious stone, as the Hebrew doctors take it; and particularly a pearl, as some render it, wherewith the manna doth manifestly agree both in its colour, which is white, Exodus 16:14, and in its figure, which is round. See more on Genesis 2:12. And the manna was as coriander seed,.... Not in colour, for that is black or darkish, whereas the manna was white, as is generally observed; of which See Gill on Exodus 16:31; however it might be like the coriander, because of its form and figure, being round, and because of its quantity, being small, Exodus 16:14; Some think the mustard seed is meant, as Aben Ezra observes, which is the least of all seeds; it seems that the manna fell in small round grains, like to such seed. This, with what follows, is observed, to expose the folly and ingratitude of the Israelites, that having such bread from heaven, angels food, that they should slight it, and hanker after other food:

and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium; not an aromatic gum, which Pliny (k) speaks of, which is clear as wax, for that is black or blackish, and not white as the manna; besides, this should be read, not "bdellium", but "bdeloah", and is a precious stone, and, according to Bochart, the pearl; so Ben Melech observes, that it is a precious stone; some say the diamond, and others a round white stone, which they bore and join stones together, and make a chain of, he doubtless means a pearl necklace; though Jarchi says it is the crystal, and so the Jewish writers commonly; See Gill on Genesis 2:12; hence it appears the manna was very pleasant to look at, being of a round form, and of a pearl or crystal colour.

(k) Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 9.

And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of {e} bdellium.

(e) Which is a white pearl, or precious stone.

7. coriander seed] It is rather the fruit of the coriander, which is about the size of a pepper-corn. Cf. Exodus 16:14; Exodus 16:31. In the former of these verses it is described as ‘a small scale-like thing, small as the hoar frost.’

bdellium] A resinous substance of a pale yellowish colour. In Exod. the manna is ‘white.’

7–9. A parenthetical description of the manna.Verse 7. - The manna was as coriander seed. On the name and the nature of the manna see Exodus 16:31. It is commonly supposed that the brief description here inserted was intended to show the unreasonableness of the popular complaints. There is no trace whatever of any such purpose. So far as the description conveys fresh information, it was simply suggested by the occurrence of the word "manna," according to the artless style of the narrative. If any moral purpose must be assigned to this digression, it would rather be to suggest that the people had some real temptation to complain. It is often forgotten that, although the manna was supernatural, at least as to the amount and regularity of its supply, yet as an article of food it contained no supernatural elements. If we had to live upon nothing but cakes flavored with honey or with olive oil, it is certain that we should soon find them pall upon our appetite. To the eye of the Psalmist the manna appeared as angels' food (Psalm 78:25); but then the Psalmist had not lived on manna every day for a year. We have to remember, in this as in many other cases, that the Israelites would not be "our ensamples" (τύποι ἡμῶν, 1 Corinthians 10:6) if they had not succumbed to real temptations. As the colour of bdellium. See on Genesis 2:12. As no one knows anything at all about bdellium, this adds nothing to our knowledge of the manna. The Septuagint has here εῖδος κρυστάλλου, "the appearance of ice," or perhaps "of hoar-frost." As it translates bdellium in Genesis 2:12 by ἄνθραξ (carbuncle), it is probable that the comparison to ice here is due to some tradition about the manna. Taking this passage in connection with Exodus 16:31, we may reasonably conjecture that it was of an opalescent white, the same colour probably which is mentioned in connection with manna in Revelation 2:17. After a three days' march the Israelites arrived at a resting-place; but the people began at once to be discontented with their situation.

(Note: The arguments by which Knobel undertakes to prove, that in chs. 11 and 12 of the original work different foreign accounts respecting the first encampments after leaving Sinai have been woven together by the "Jehovist," are founded upon misinterpretations and arbitrary assumptions and conclusions, such as the assertion that the tabernacle stood outside the camp (chs. Numbers 11:25; Numbers 12:5); that Miriam entered the tabernacle (Numbers 12:4-5); that the original work had already reported the arrival of Israel in Paran in Numbers 10:12; and that no reference is ever made to a camping-place called Tabeerah, and others of the same kind. For the proof, see the explanation of the verses referred to.)

The people were like those who complain in the ears of Jehovah of something bad; i.e., they behaved like persons who groan and murmur because of some misfortune that has happened to them. No special occasion is mentioned for the complaint. The words are expressive, no doubt, of the general dissatisfaction and discontent of the people at the difficulties and privations connected with the journey through the wilderness, to which they gave utterance so loudly, that their complaining reached the ears of Jehovah. At this His wrath burned, inasmuch as the complaint was directed against Him and His guidance, "so that fire of Jehovah burned against them, and ate at the end of the camp." בּ בּער signifies here, not to burn a person (Job 1:16), but to burn against. "Fire of Jehovah:" a fire sent by Jehovah, but not proceeding directly from Him, or bursting forth from the cloud, as in Leviticus 10:2. Whether it was kindled through a flash of lightning, or in some other such way, cannot be more exactly determined. There is not sufficient ground for the supposition that the fire merely seized upon the bushes about the camp and the tents of the people, but not upon human beings (Ros., Knobel). All that is plainly taught in the words is, that the fire did not extend over the whole camp, but merely broke out at one end of it, and sank down again, i.e., was extinguished very quickly, at the intercession of Moses; so that in this judgment the Lord merely manifested His power to destroy the murmurers, that He might infuse into the whole nation a wholesome dread of His holy majesty.

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