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Psalm 78:23-25

23. But he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, 24. And had rained down manna 328328     The manna received its name, either from מנה, manah, he prepared, appointed, distributed, to intimate that this food was prepared by God for the Israelites, and was their appointed portion which was daily distributed to them by measure; or, it is from the words הוה מן, huh man, What is this? Exodus 15:16, ן being used for ה in euphony. This was the question which they asked when they first saw this species of food, not knowing what it was. upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. 25. Man had eaten the bread of the mighty: he had sent them meat to the full.

 

23. But he had commanded the clouds from above. It is a mistake to suppose that this miracle is related merely in the way of history. The prophet rather censures the Israelites the more severely from the consideration, that although fed to the full with manna, they ceased not to lust after the dainties which they knew God had denied them. It was the basest ingratitude to scorn and reject the heavenly food, which, so to speak, associated them with angels. Were a man who dwells in France or Italy to grieve and fret that he has not the bread of Egypt to eat, nor the wine of Asia to drink, would he not make war against God and nature, after the manner of the giants of old? Much less excusable was the inordinate lust of the Israelites, whom God not only furnished with earthly provision in rich abundance, but to whom he also gave the bread of heaven for their support. Had they even endured hunger for a lengthened period, propriety and duty would have required them to ask food with more humility. Had they been supplied with only bran and chaff to eat, it would have been their bounden duty to have acknowledged that in the place where they were — in the wilderness — this was no ordinary boon of Heaven. Had only coarse bread been granted them, they would have had sufficient reason for thanksgiving. But how much stronger were their obligations to God, when he created a new kind of food, with which, by stretching out, as it were, his hand from heaven, he supplied them richly and in great abundance? This is the reason why the manna is called corn of heaven, and bread of the mighty Some explain the Hebrew word אבירים, abbirim, as denoting the heavens, 329329     Abu Walid and Kimchi read, “the bread of heaven.” an opinion which I do not altogether reject. I, however, prefer taking it for angels, as it is understood by the Chaldee interpreter, and some others who have followed him. 330330     The Chaldee paraphrase of the expression, the bread of the mighty, is, “the food that descends from the dwelling of angels;” so that, according to this view, it signifies no more than, “corn of heaven,” by which the manna is described in the preceding verse. Dr Geddes and Williams observe, that the Hebrew word אבירים, abbirim, never signifies angels, but persons of the higher classes, the rich, the great, the noble; and that the meaning of the Psalmist is, that the Israelites found in the manna a dainty, delicate food, such as might suit the palates of the great; that it was bread fit for princes; the best, the choicest of bread. This agrees with Simonis’ rendering of the phrase, “cibus nobilium, scilicet principum; hoc est, cibus exquisitus, delicatus, eximius.” Such also is the view taken by Fry, Walford, and others. If by אבירים, abbirim, the mighty, angels should be understood, as it is rendered in all the ancient versions, the meaning will be substantially the same; for the manna, by an obvious poetical figure, may be called the bread of angels, to denote food of the most exquisite kind; just as Paul speaks of the tongues of angels, (1 Corinthians 13:1,) to indicate eloquence of the highest order. The miracle is celebrated in high terms, to present the impiety of the people in a more detestable light; for it was a much more striking display of divine power for manna to be rained down from heaven, than if they had been fed either with herbs or fruits, or with other increase of the earth. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:3, calls the manna spiritual meat, in a different sense — because it was a figure and symbol of Christ. But here the design of the prophet is to reprove the twofold ingratitude of the people, who despised not only the common food which was produced from the ground, but also the bread of angels. Some have translated the verbs in the past tense, He commanded the clouds he opened the doors of heaven he rained down manna, etc 331331     “Les autres ont traduit les verbes par un temps passe, Il a commande aux nuees, Il a ouvert les portes du ciel, Il a fait pluvoir la Manne,” etc. — Fr. But to remove all ambiguity, I have thought it preferable to translate the verbs in the preterpluperfect tense, He had commanded, he had opened, he had rained, to enable my readers the better to understand that the prophet does not here simply relate this history, but recalls it to remembrance for another purpose, as a thing which happened long ago.


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