Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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manna is the magical biblical substance provided by God to sustain the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years after the exodus from Egypt until they arrived in the land of Canaan. The name of the food itself evokes wonder and mystery. When the Israelites first saw it, they asked one another, “What is it?” (Hebrew, mān hû’ [Exodus 16:15]), which yielded the name of the substance (in Hebrew, mān). The earliest Greek translators of the Hebrew Bible associated the sound of the word with Greek manna (meaning “morsel” or “crumb”), which became the standard term in English and other European languages.