Manna & Egyptian Craftsmanship

Finger Pointing UpThat answers my question, they still complained.  But did they at least listen to what You said, and walk with You like Moses did?  

The Bible says they left Elim, by the Red Sea, and wandered into the wilderness of Sin (between Elim and Sinai).  The people were mad at God again, assuming that they were going to die in the wilderness, when in Egypt, even though they were slaves and beaten, they did eat.  They had no faith in God.

“Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no” (Ex 16:4).

“Moses said to them…This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we?  Your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD” (Ex 16:8).

1. manna
According to the book of Exodus, manna is white, like Coriander seed, (although modern-day coriander seed is yellow/brown).

Some scholars have proposed that manna is cognate with the Egyptian term mennu, meaning “food”.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Arabs of the Sinai Peninsula were selling resin from the tamarisk tree as man es-simma, roughly meaning “heavenly manna”.

Tamarisk trees (particularly Tamarix gallica) were once comparatively extensive throughout the southern Sinai, and their resin is similar to wax, melts in the sun, is sweet and aromatic (like honey), and has a dirty-yellow color, fitting somewhat with the Biblical descriptions of manna.

However, this resin is mostly composed from sugar, so it would be unlikely to provide sufficient nutrition for a population to survive over long periods of time, and it would be very difficult for it to have been compacted to become cakes.

Black ant with a clear bubble of honeydew produced by a green aphid. Scale insects covered in waxy secretions.

In the Biblical account, the name manna is said to derive from the question man hu, seemingly meaning “What is it?”; this is perhaps an Aramaic etymology, not a Hebrew one.

Man is possibly cognate with the Arabic term man, meaning plant lice, with man hu thus meaning “this is plant lice”, which fits one widespread modern identification of manna, the crystallized honeydew of certain scale insects.

In the environment of a desert, such honeydew rapidly dries due to evaporation of its water content, becoming a sticky solid, and later turning whitish, yellowish, or brownish; honeydew of this form is considered a delicacy in the Middle East, and is a good source of carbohydrates.

In particular, there is a scale insect that feeds on tamarisk, the Tamarisk manna scale (Trabutina mannipara), which is often considered to be the prime candidate for biblical manna.

“And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning, the dew lay round about the host. 

And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground (it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey – vs  31).  

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was.  And Moses said unto them, This is the bread, which the LORD hath given you to eat” (Ex 16:13-15).

Moses told them to gather only as much Manna that they would eat that day, because if they saved any it would be rotten the next day.  Did they listen to God?

“And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less” (Ex 16:17).

“Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them” (Ex 16:20).

“And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 

And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the Holy Sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. 

And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein” (Ex 16:22-24). 

Still, even though they were told not to gather any, they did it anyway.  Yet, they found nothing.  When God told them not to gather they should have understood there wouldn’t be any, but they didn’t trust Him.

Trusting God does not mean to just believe what He says verbatim, but to also understand that we don’t have to worry about anything, He will take care of us if we trust Him.

For example, I read a case where a man had lost his job and he didn’t have any money to feed his baby so he went to the grocery store and stole food, but was caught.

If he would have trusted God and asked for assistance God would have given him what he needed.

“And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? 

See, for that the LORD hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day” (Ex 16:28-29).

From the wilderness of Sin, they went and camped at Rephidim and there was no water and the people again yelled at Moses.

“And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people?  They be almost ready to stone me.  

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. 

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it that the people may drink.  And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Ex 17:4-6).

Egyptian Craftsmanship

While Egyptian ships hugged the coast of Palestine as they sailed north to Phoenicia, other Egyptian ships made their way across 400 miles of open water to Crete to trade with the Minoans. 

2. Rock in Horeb
Rock in Horeb
The close up shows the significant water erosion.

At the command of the Lord, Moses smote what the bible refers to as ‘the rock’ and Fresh Water gushed forth, supplying the Hebrews, and their flocks for the two years they encamped there.

Egyptian pottery and stone vases of the pyramid age (c. 2500 B.C.) have been found in Crete, and pottery of Cretan manufacture in Egypt. 

While Joseph served as vizier of Egypt, Cretans were selling some of their famous pottery to the Egyptians, as witnessed by finds in the Fayum. 

And pictures of Cretans with various goods have been found painted on the walls of several tombs of high Egyptian officials during the Empire Period, especially during the days of Thutmose III.

Relations with Nubia to the south were not so much commercial as exploitive, as Egypt exacted tribute in gold from the region.

Actually, the arts and crafts of Egypt had progressed to the point that she could have the Middle and New Kingdoms, when the Hebrew was there. 

The royal family and the nobility seemed to be the primary consumers of many commodities. 

And, of course, they wanted to have representations of these items for use in the next life; so they stashed them away in their tombs. 

We don’t know whether the craftsmen could have produced enough of their creations in mass quantity for export. 

3. Thutmose III
Thutmose III was a great builder pharaoh and constructed over fifty temples, although some of these are now lost and only mentioned in written records.

He also commissioned the building of many tombs for nobles, which were made with greater craftsmanship than ever before. His reign was also a period of great stylistic changes in the sculpture, paintings, and reliefs associated with construction, much of it beginning during the reign of Hatshepsut.

Tomb paintings, especially of the nobility, picture all sorts of craftsmen at work, painstakingly making beds, chairs, wooden boats, chariots, leather goods, pottery, coffins, various kinds of metal objects, jewelry, and more.

The Egyptians developed the factory system during the pyramid age. 

That is, a number of craftsmen worked together in production centers as employees of the crown, the temples, or the nobility; and each workman carried out his part of the job. 

This arrangement continued through the Middle and New Kingdoms, and there were state monopolies for production and export in the Ptolemaic period (c. 300-30 B.C.).  

Craftsmen on their line of work, and if they had no son, occasionally they would train someone else’s son. 

There does not seem to have been an apprentice system, however, and the Egyptians maintained no schools of a manual training sort.

Examples of Egyptian workmanship in the crafts come from many combs or nobles, queens, and kings. 

But pride of place goes to the almost unrifled tomb of the young king Tutankhamen (King Tut), who ruled Egypt from 1366 to 1357 B.C., and does not seem to have been 20 Kinwhen he died. 

Howard Carter, working under the patronage of Lord Carnarvon, opened the tomb in November of 1922. 

4. Thutmose’s architects
Thutmose’s architects and artisans showed great continuity with the formal style of previous kings, but several developments set him apart from his predecessors. Although he followed the traditional relief styles for most of his reign, after his forty-second year, he began having himself depicted wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt and a sndyt-kilt, an unprecedented style.

Architecturally, his use of pillars also was unprecedented. He built Egypt’s only known set of heraldic pillars, two large columns standing alone instead of being part of a set supporting the roof. His jubilee hall was also revolutionary, and is arguably the earliest known building created in the basilica style. Thutmose’s artisans achieved new heights of skill in painting, and tombs from his reign were the earliest to be entirely painted, instead of painted reliefs.

Finally, although not directly pertaining to his monuments, it appears that Thutmose’s artisans had learned glass making skills – developed in the early eighteenth dynasty – to create drinking vessels by the core-formed method.

There are now 1703 objects from the tomb in the Cairo Museum catalog, and some in Egypt have privately expressed to that there may have been as many as 5,000 objects in the tomb when it was opened. 

As an example of how some of them may have been spirited away, over 300 objects from the tomb came to light in Lord Carnarvon’s castle, when a retired butler revealed their hiding place in 1988. 

The jewelry, alabaster vases and jars, chairs, beds, and the proliferation of gold in the young king’s tomb excite the imagination as to what may have been put in the tombs of kings who ruled for decades. 

This tomb is important to ancient art history and to our knowledge of craftsmanship in Egypt soon after the time of Exodus. 

Moreover, the contents give some idea of the “treasures of Egypt” (Heb 11:26) on which Moses turned his back when he chose to identify himself with the people of God.

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