Tag Archives: manna

Joshua 1-6:

Joshua leads the Israelites over the Jordan River:
If Deuteronomy was Moses’ summary of the Law, then Joshua is the epilogue to Moses’ Pentateuch (the five Books of Moses). Joshua takes over from Moses to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.  Joshua is one of seven figures in the Bible who has their names changed to correspond with their specific role in salvation history.  (Others, for example, are Abraham, Sarah, and Peter). Joshua’s original name was “Hosea” (meaning “salvation”; see Num. 13:8) but Moses changed it to “Joshua” (meaning “the Lord saves.”)  Joshua is a type of Jesus.  Interestingly, Joshua and Jesus are the same names in Hebrew, ישוע (“Yeshua”).  Joshua bears the name of the Messiah, Yeshua, or in English, Jesus.  In effect, “Jesus” is leading the chosen people of God into the “Promised Land.”  In the New Testament, Jesus does, in fact, lead Christians into the promised land of Heaven.  As Joshua prepares Israel to cross over into the Promised Land, they first prepare their provisions “for three days.”

Joshua Sends Spies to Jericho, and They Meet Rahab:
Joshua’s first conquest in the Promised Land will be Jericho, so he sends two spies to the city to reconnaissance it.  They end up going “into the house of a harlot named Rahab, where they lodged.” (Josh. 2:1)  Rahab conveys to them that tales of the Israelites and the Red Sea drying up have reached them, and the city of Jericho is terrified to fight the Israelites. So, Rahab tries to help them, and save her family’s lives.  She says, “Now then, swear to me by the Lord that as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign, and save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (Josh. 2:12-13) The two spies answer her, “Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the Lord gives us the land.” (Josh. 2:13)  Rahab is a sinner (prostitute) and a Gentile (non-Jew).  Yet, the Israelites agree to save her if she helps them.  Rahab is saved by making a covenant with the people of God.  Rahab has been defined by the Church Fathers as a type for the Church and Christians. She is a sinner, a Gentile, non-Jew, yet she is saved.  Rahab also conspicuously shows up in the genealogy of Jesus (Mt. 1:5).  Jesus’ lineage is not just to save the Jews.  He has come with a universal mission to save all people.  Rahab reflects this part of his ancestry.  She is a symbol and a type of Church that will be saved by Jesus Christ. In this instance, she will be saved from the destruction wrought by Joshua on the city of Jericho.

Rahab’s Scarlet Cord:
Rahab then let the two Israelite spies down with a rope over the city wall.  She tells them to go up into the hill country and “hide there for three days, until they return.” (Josh. 2:16)  Again, as so many other times in the Old Testament, we see this motif of “three days.”  This has Christological significance as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ three days in the tomb and death, where He was hidden. The spies tell her to: “Behold, when we come into the land, you shall bind this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down; and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household.” (Josh. 2:18) By the scarlet cord, the Israelites will know not to attack her house, so as to save Rahab and her whole family. Similarly, by the scarlet blood of Jesus are we (as spiritual descendants of Rahab) spared from death and destruction.  By the “scarlet cord” of Jesus’ blood, much like the blood of the Passover Lamb on the Israelites’ doors, are we saved.  The blood of the Passover lamb on the door equates to the scarlet cord on Rahab’s window equates to the blood of Christ on the Cross applied to our souls. Then, the spies departed into the hills where they stayed for “three days.”

Preparations to Cross the River Jordan:
Joshua moves the Israelites to Shittim before crossing over the Jordan River.  There they waited for “three days,” and Joshua tells them to: “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will perform wonders among you.” (Josh. 3:5)

The Miraculous Crossing of the Jordan River:
Now, just as Moses had led the Israelites miraculously through the Red Sea as on dry land, so now too, Joshua, the new Moses, was going to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River as if on dry land. Just as the Israelites’ were “baptized” through the Red Sea, now too, they will pass-over the veil into the Promised Land.  The Baptism of water leads to the entering the Promised Land.  The priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant went into the Jordan River first and the waters miraculously dried up:

“priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap far off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off; and the people passed over opposite Jericho. And while all Israel were passing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.” (Josh. 3:14-17)

The whole nation of Israel crossed over the Jordan River while the waters had stopped flowing while the priests holding the Ark of the Covenant stood in the midst of the riverbed.  Once they were all across, Joshua told them to set up twelve stones there as a “perpetual memorial to the Israelites.”  (Josh. 4:7)  This miraculous event exalted Joshua in the eyes of all the Israelites, to “know there is a living God in your midst.” (Josh. 3:10)  And, when the priests carrying the Ark left the riverbed, as “the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.” (Josh. 4:18)

The Hill of Foreskins:
At this point, we learn that the second wilderness generation under the leadership of Moses had never been circumcised.  So, the Lord tells Joshua: “Make flint knives and circumcise the people of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made flint knives, and circumcised the people of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. (“Hill of Foreskins”)  And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt. Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people that were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised.” (Josh. 5:2-5) Moses had neglected his spiritual duty as part of the Covenant, perhaps this was another reason why God was angry with him and did not let him into the Promised Land.

They Celebrate the Passover:
Just as the crossing of the Red Sea is recapitulated by Joshua, so too now, they recapitulate the Passover celebration. The Passover is eaten before Israel embarks on their next miraculous stage, just as it was originally eaten on the night of Passover in Egypt, and again on Mt. Sinai after with the Covenant. The striking parallels continue between Joshua, the second wilderness generation, with Moses, and the first Exodus generation.  The Passover is the feast par excellence.  It is the ultimate Jewish feast that precedes the miraculous and the saving.  It is the Passover that foreshadowed Jesus’ death on the Cross.  This is what Passover predicted in word and action, and where it drew its ultimate symbology and power.  The Passover Lamb of Christ, through His sacrifice of Body and Blood, that we are miraculously saved.

The End of the Manna:
As soon as the Israelites passed over into the Promised Land the miraculous manna ceased.  The Israelites had lived off of and eaten the miraculous manna in the wilderness for forty years.  But now, as soon as they step into the Promised Land, the manna stops.  “And on the morrow after the passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain.  And the manna ceased on the morrow, when they ate of the produce of the land; and the people of Israel had manna no more, but ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” (Josh. 5:11-12)  The manna is our Holy Eucharist.  It is our food for the journey in this life.  As soon as we cross over into the Promised Land of Heaven, we no longer have or need the Eucharist to sustain us.  The Eucharist is the bread from Heaven that feeds us on our wilderness journey on the earth.  Now, the Israelites no longer need the manna, as they will live off the fruit of the land of Canaan.

Joshua’s Vision Before Jericho:
“When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood before him with his drawn sword in his hand; and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”  And he said, “No; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and said to him, “What does my lord bid his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.” (Josh. 5:13-15)  Here too, just like the Angel of Death before the Passover in Egypt, the Angel of the Lord’s army stands ready to slay the pagans at Jericho.  So often, it seems, we are predisposed to believe in Jesus and God as a milquetoast figure, but clearly the Lord in the Exodus years is a warrior God of fierce strength and justice.

The Conquest of Jericho:
The Lord tells Joshua that He has delivered Jericho into his hands.  He instructs them to encircle the city and walk six times around it, with the priests and the Ark of the Covenant and ram’s horns.  “On the seventh day march around the city seven times, and have the priests blow the horns.  When they give a long blast on the ram’s horns and you hear the signal, all the people shall shout aloud.  The wall of the city will collapse, and they will be able to make a frontal attack.” (Josh. 6:4-5)  Then, Joshua commanded the people to follow the Lord’s instructions.  Troops marched in front of the Ark.  Then, the seven Levite priests carried the Ark with the ram’s horns.  And behind the Ark marched picked troops.  “The blowing of horns was kept up continually as they marched.” (Josh. 6:9)  The people were to remain silent until Joshua gave the signal.  They did this for six days.

The Seven Day Siege of Jericho:
Seven is the sacred number of the Covenant, and it is the day of the Sabbath, when Israel shall rest. The whole Exodus is geared towards “rest” and worship of God in the Temple in the Promised Land. The whole Exodus from the beginning is oriented towards worship. (Ex. 4:23; 5:3) The siege of Jericho is presented as an offering dedicated to God as part of a liturgical ceremony. “On the seventh day they rose early at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times: it was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout; for the Lord has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers that we sent. . . . So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. Then they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword.” (Josh. 6:15-21)  As they marched around the city 7 times on the 7th day, the priests blew their trumpets, and the people shouted.  When they had done all of that, the walls of the city collapsed, and the Israelites conquered Jericho.  Joshua was faithful to his promise though and commanded Rahab and her family to be saved.  It is through Rahab’s line that the Messiah would later come to be born.

The Liturgical Conquest of Jericho:
The conquest of Jericho is more liturgical in nature than strategic and military.  The Israelites are led by the Levite priests in processions around the city.  They do this procession each day for six days. Then, they do the liturgical procession seven times on the seventh day.  The priests are in the procession carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the holiest object in the Old Testament.  The priests are also carrying the ram’s horns, sacred objects, which herald the destruction of the pagan town of Jericho.  If the Israelites’ celebrated Passover before the siege of Jericho, then they seven days of circumambulation around the city of Jericho coincided with the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The siege of Jericho began with the ritual Feast of the Passover, and continued with the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  On the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the walls of Jericho come collapsing down.  The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are prefigurements to Jesus’ death and Crucifixion, and to the Holy Mass and Eucharist respectively.  By way of typology then, by Jesus’ Body and Blood through His death, and the Holy Eucharist of the Mass, we will conquer sin and evil in the world.  The Israelites show us physically how we are to conquer spiritually through religious ritual and liturgical worship.

The Fall of Jericho, Trumpet Blasts, and the End of the World:
The fall of Jericho has long been understood by the Fathers of the Church as a prefigurement of the end of the world.  Just as the world will be full of evil-doers under the control of the Antichrist, so too, was Jericho under the control of pagan idolatry.  Only the harlot Rahab and her family renounced Jericho and pledged allegiance to the Israelites.  In the end of the world, only a remnant of the people, the Church, will renounce the Antichrist and pagan idolatry, and cling to the faith (ie, Christianity).  But, it is through their faith, and the blood of Christ (ie, the scarlet cord) that they will be saved.  Just as Rahab was saved from Jericho, so too, will the Christian remnant gain salvation from the Antichrist, the world, and death.  Salvation will come liturgically through the foreshadowed feasts of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (ie, through Jesus’ Cross and holy sacrifice of the Mass in the Eucharist).  The Levite priests are blowing the trumpets throughout the procession. The trumpet (“shofar”) is associated with the Feast of Trumpets (or “Yom Teruah” the Feast of Blowing ‘Trumpets’).  This is to symbolize the end of the world.  The ram’s horn (the “shofar”) is a reminder of the ram that Abraham sacrificed in place of Isaac.  The ram was the substitute sacrifice for Isaac, just as Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed in our place, as our substitute.  Trumpets signaled Yahweh’s descent upon Mt. Sinai to the camp of Israel, amidst fire and darkness, thunder and lightning, and trumpet blasts, a foreshadowing of God’s return at the Second Coming of Christ.  The Book of Revelation reveals the end of the world and Jesus’ Second Coming all amidst trumpet blasts.  At the final trumpet blast, the walls of the Antichrist will come crashing down, and the New Joshua, Jesus, will return to destroy the evildoers (Jericho), and save the Christian remnant (Rahab).

Numbers 11-14:

The Israelites Complaining:
The Israelites complained in hearing the Lord and “when he heard it his wrath flared up so that the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp.” (Num. 11:1)  But, Moses prayed and the fire died out.  The “foreign elements among them were so greedy for meat that even the Israelites lamented again, ‘Would that we had meat for food!'” (Num. 11:4)  The Israelites complained, “we see nothing before us but his manna.”

The Manna and the Complaining for Meat:
“Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium.  The people went about and gathered it, and ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, and boiled it in pots, and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil.  When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.” (Num. 11:7-9)  The manna fell like the dewfall, just as we hear in the liturgy of the Eucharist as Mass.  Moses likewise complained to the Lord, “Where can I get meat to give to all this people?  For they are crying to me, ‘Give us meat for our food.’  I cannot carry all this people by myself, for they are too heavy for me.'” (Num. 11:13-14)  Moses takes his complaining to the Lord to the extreme saying, “If this is the way you will deal with me, then please do me the favor of killing me at once, so that I need no longer face this distress.” (Num. 11:15)  Moses is ready for death rather than face the Israelites’ complaining any more.

The 70 Elders:
The Lord then tells Moses that He will bestow some of His Spirit upon the Elders so that Moses will not have to bear the Israelites alone.  The Lord tells the Moses to tell the people: “Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, when you shall have meat to eat.” (Num. 11:18)  Further, He says: “Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you..” (Num. 11:19-20)  The Lord promises to provide meat for them, reminiscent of Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse that His flesh is “meat indeed.” It is of particular importance too that the spirit if conferred upon the 70 Elders through the laying on of hands. The ordination rite is passed, like today in the Christian dispensation for Holy Orders, through the bishops’ laying-on of hands of the priests and bishops. So too, was it in the days of Moses and the 70 Elders.

The Quail:
“And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and it brought quails from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of the earth.” (Num. 11:31) The Lord provided flesh and meat for the Israelites to eat.

Aaron and Miriam Complain against Moses:
Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ sister, complain against the intimacy that Moses enjoys with the Lord.  They use the pretext of him marrying a “Cushite woman” to complain against him.  Yet, Moses was the “meekest man on the face of the earth.”  The Lord addresses Aaron and Miriam directly saying He speaks “face to face” with Moses. “Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?” (Num. 12:8)  In the Lord’s anger, He afflicts Miriam with leprosy. Moses again intercedes for her, and the Lord let her be afflicted for 7 days, and to stay outside the camp with the affliction, “only then may she be brought back.”

The Twelve Scouts and the “Bad Report”:
The Lord tells them to send one scout from each tribe to the land of Canaan. The scouts reported back: “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Yet the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anakim there.” (Num. 13:27-28)  The large, giant people live there.  Most of the scouts are intimidated and advise against taking the land that the Lord has promised.  So, they “spread discouraging reports among the Israelites.”  They said, “And all the people we saw there are huge men, veritable giants [the Anakim were a race of giants]; we felt like mere grasshoppers, and so we must have seemed to them.” (Num. 13:32-33)

The Israelites Panic and Joshua Responds:
The Israelites panicked and said, “Let us appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.”  Yet, Joshua tore his garments saying, “If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us in and give us that land, a land flowing with milk and honey. But do not rebel against the Lord!  You need not be afraid of the people of that land; they are but food for us!” (Num. 14:8-9)

The Ten Complaints, and None shall enter the Promised Land:
Despite all of the signs and wonders the Lord worked for them in releasing them from bondage in Egypt, yet the Israelites “have put me to the test ten times already and have failed to heed My voice, not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their fathers.  None of these who have spurned Me shall see it.”  (Num. 14: 22-23)  The Israelites’ grumbling and testing of the Lord leads Yahweh to declare that no one of that generation shall enter the Promised Land.  The Lord declares that, “Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall.”  “Forty days you spent in scouting the land; forty years shall you suffer for your crimes: one year for each day.” (Num. 14:34)  Thus, the Lord condemns the Israelites to wander the desert for 40 years.

The Ten Tests Against the Lord by the Israelites:
1. Rejection of Moses and message (Ex. 5:15-6:9)
2. Complains and loses faith at the shores of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:10-12)
3. Murmurs at the bitter waters of Marah (Ex. 15:22-25)
4. Murmurs against hunger, so God provides manna (Ex. 16:1-36)
5. Murmurs and tests the Lord at Massah; God provides water from the rock (Ex. 17:1-19)
6. The Golden Calf Incident (Ex. 32:1-35)
7. Complaints against God at Taberah (Num. 11:1-3)
8. Demanding meat, so God provides quail (Num. 11:4-35)
9. Miriam and Aaron question and rebel against Moses (Num. 12:1-16)
10. Revolt after the bad report from the spies (Num. 14:1-38)

Only Caleb and Joshua Shall Enter the Promised Land:
Caleb and Joshua believed in the Lord and in the Promised Land, so they alone of this ‘wicked generation’ shall enter the Promised Land.  The people felt “great remorse,” yet they still tried to seize the Promised Land.  Moses advised against it as they had disobeyed the Lord. And so, “the Amalekites and Canaanites who dwelt in that hill country came down and defeated them..”

Exodus 16-19:

The Manna and the Quail:
From Elim, the Israelites set out into the desert of Sin.  Just as the Egyptians had suffered ten plagues sent from Yahweh, so now too, the Israelites will be tested by God with ten trials, the first of which was the bitter water at Marah.  The next test the Israelites suffer is hunger. They grumble to Moses that they are starving and have nothing to eat.  The Lord then said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.  Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not.” (Ex. 16:4)  In the morning God promises to give them bread to eat and in the evening flesh to eat.  God says, “In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the Lord, am your God.” (Ex. 16:12) Here is a frequent pairing in Scripture of bread and meat. Moses later instructs Aaron to put some of the manna in the Ark of the Covenant with the Ten Commandments tablets. Jesus, who is the Eucharist, is carried in the new Ark of the Covenant, Mary.

Manna Foreshadows the Eucharist:
In John 6, Jesus references the manna in the desert as a sign of Himself in the Eucharist as the true bread from heaven.  This typology and foreshadowing of the Eucharist are obvious, and perhaps, the most striking of all the events of Exodus. The description of the manna even resembles that of a Communion host – white wafers.  Just as the Israelites live off the manna from heaven for their 40 years in the wilderness until they reach the promised land of Israel, so too, the Church lives off the body and blood of Christ in our earthly pilgrimage until we reached the promised land of heaven. “The Israelites ate this manna for forty years, until they came to settled land; they ate manna until they reached the borders of Canaan.” (Ex. 16:35)  God nursed the Israelite nation like a mother to a small child giving them food and water for forty years in the desert.  For forty years, He sought to break them of their slave mentality, and nurture them into a more mature faith and dependence upon Him.

Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse and the Eucharist:
“Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32)  “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;  he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” (John 6:48-58)

Quail:
“In the evening quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.  On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?” for they did not know what it was.  But Moses told them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. ” (Ex. 16:13-15)  Manna is a conjunction of the words what is this?  Again, the miracle of the manna and the quail link the bread and the flesh together as one miraculous event, in which Yahweh feeds and sustains His people.

Manna Regulations and the Sabbath:
Moses instructs the Israelites that they should gather “an omer for each person.”  Moses further tells them, “Let no one keep any of it over until tomorrow morning.” (Ex. 16:19)  This was part of God’s test of them.  Yahweh was providing for their “daily bread,” just as Jesus included this line in the Our Father prayer “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We are to trust that God will provide for our needs each day.  “Morning after morning they gathered it, till each had enough to eat; but when the sun grew hot, the manna melted away.” (Ex. 16:21) On the sixth day, Yahweh provides extra manna for the following day, the Sabbath, when they are instructed to not collect any food.  This demonstration shows that it is indeed a miraculous event.  The manna rains down from heaven for six days a week, but on the day before the Sabbath, extra manna comes down and does not “become rotten or wormy.”  On the Sabbath, the manna miraculously does not come down.  This is the beginning of God’s commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day by resting.  “On the seventh day everyone is to stay home and no one is to go out.” (Ex. 16:29)  The manna from heaven is linked to the Sabbath and the seventh day of creation when God rested. In the Eucharist that we receive on the new Sabbath, we become new creations in Christ.

The Water from the Rock at Horeb, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit:
Here again, the Israelites are tested, and murmur and grumble against Yahweh and Moses. “Give us water to drink.” (Ex. 17:2)  The Lord answers Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.” (Ex. 17:5-6)  The water flowed out of the rock at Horeb.  This prefigures Jesus offering us the life-giving waters of the Holy Spirit. Again, in the gospel of John it reads: “On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.”  Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. The Spirit had not yet been given to anyone, since Jesus had not yet been given his full glory.” (John 7:37-39)  Jesus is the new Moses, providing not just water to quench our thirst, but the life-giving waters of eternal life.

Battle with Amalek and Moses’ Raised Hands:
Amalek came and waged war against Israel. (Ex. 17:8)  This is the fourth trial and crisis to befall the Israelites.  The Amalekites were another race of giants that existed here. Moses then commands Joshua to pick his best warriors to go engage the Amalekites in battle, and as long as Moses keeps his hands raised up, “Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” (Ex. 17:11)  As they rested Moses’ tired arms upon Aaron and Hur, his hands remained steady till sunset. “And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Ex. 17:13)  The Lord instructs Moses to write down this victory over Amalek “as something to be remembered.” “I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.” (Ex. 17:14)

The Israelites arrive at Mt. Sinai:
The most likely location of Mt. Sinai is probably Jabal al-Lawz (28° 39′ 15″ N, 35° 18′ 21″ E) in Northwest Saudi Arabia.  There are many fascinating similarities to Jabal al-Lawz and the scenes described in Exodus, not the least of which is the top of the mountain is blackened as if it has been exposed to extreme fire and heat.  Many other details found in the next few chapters of Exodus match archeological and geographic features of the Jabal al-Lawz mountain and vicinity.  There is a large split rock formation that seems to have had water flowing out of it as the wear on the rocks indicates.  There are pillars around the mountain, presumably demarking a distance the Israelites should stay away from the mountain when Yahweh is there.  There is an altar of stones at the base of the mountain with painted reliefs of a calf or cow worship. The local nomads refer to it as the mountain of Moses. The list of similarities and matching descriptions goes on and on.

Israel, God’s Special Possession, a Holy Nation:
Yahweh tells Moses, “Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Ex. 19:5-6)  This is one of the most important lines in the Jewish Pentateuch.  God tells Moses and the Israelites, if, if they keep His covenant, then they will be God’s special people, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.  God is preparing them for a new Covenant.  A fulfillment of the old Abrahamic Covenant but now a deepening of it. God is drawing the Israelites out from the nations and separating them as a special, holy people to Himself alone.  Yahweh is drawing them into a new special relationship.  St. Peter draws on this same Exodus imagery and wording and applies it to Christian’s new creation in Christ.  He says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

The Great Theophany:
Yahweh tells Moses “I am coming to you in a dense cloud.” Tell the people to go sanctify themselves, “wash their garments and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people.” (Ex. 19: 10-11)  Yahweh will descend on the mountain on the “third day.” The mention the third day echoes the three days of Jesus in the tomb, and on the third day Christ rises from the dead. The people are to prepare and make themselves holy for three days in preparation, even to wash their very clothes. Yahweh tells them to “set limits for the people all around the mountain” and “take care not to go up the mountain, or even to touch its base. If anyone touches the mountain he must be put to death.” (Ex. 19:12) They are to be stones or killed with arrows.  Only when the ram’s horn resounds, can they go to the mountain.  Moses warns the people, “Be ready for the third day.” (Ex. 19:15)

The Terrifying Presence of Yahweh on Mt. Sinai:
“On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.  And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to gaze and many of them perish.” (Ex. 19:16-21)  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  The Israelites were rightly terrified and afraid at the powerful presence of the Lord.  God came in a great display of power highlighting this seminal moment in the history of God’s people and the history of the world.

Our Supersubstantial Bread – December 5, 2016

“Grant us this day our daily manna.” Dante, Purgatorio, Canto XI

The Lord has left us a mystery to contemplate. It is right there in the middle of the “Our Father” when Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Mt. 6:11) This is generally recognized to mean pray for our basic daily necessities. (CCC 2837) This is true. Yet, hidden in the mundane and seemingly redundant word “daily” is the veiled, mysterious Greek word epiousios (επιούσιος). Epiousios is a unique word, sacramental-like in nature, a visible sign of a hidden reality. Epiousios occurs nowhere else in the Greek Bible except in the same Our Father passage in Luke 11:3 and the Apostle’s Didache. In fact, epiousios is not found anywhere else at all in Greek literature. The only recorded reference to epiousios, ever, is Jesus’ prayer.

As the early Church Father and master of the Greek language Origen (d. 254 AD) concludes, epiousios was “invented by the Evangelists.” The millennia have bore out his assertion that epiousios was a new word, a neologism of uncertain etymology. The usual Greek word for “daily,” hemera, is, after all, used elsewhere in the New Testament, but not in this instance. Why did St. Matthew and St. Luke feel compelled to create a new Greek word to accurately reflect the words of Jesus? They most likely had to use a new word to faithfully translate a novel idea or a unique Aramaic word that Jesus used in His prayer. What was Jesus’ new idea? Although there are multiple levels of meanings to epiousios, Jesus is making a clear allusion to the Eucharist. “Our daily bread” is one translation of a word that goes far above our basic needs for sustenance, and invokes our supernatural needs.

St. Jerome translated the Bible in the 4th century from the original Latin, Hebrew and Greek texts to form the Latin Vulgate Bible. When it came to the mysterious word epiousios, St. Jerome hedged his bets. In Luke 11:3, St. Jerome translated epiousios as “daily.” Yet, in Matthew 6:11, he translated epiousios as “supersubstantial.” The root words are: epi, meaning “above” or “super;” and ousia, meaning “being,” “essence,” or “substance.” When they are read together, we come to the possible translations of “super-substantial,” “above-essence,” or, in effect, “supernatural” bread. This translation as supersubstantial is still found today in the Douay-Rheims Bible. Taken literally, our supersubstantial bread is the Eucharist. (CCC 2837) In his commentary on St. Matthew’s gospel, St. Jerome states this directly: “We can also understand supersubstantial bread in another sense as bread that is above all substances and surpasses all creatures.”

St. Jerome also suggests that the Hebrew word for epiousios was the word maar meaning “for tomorrow,” invoking an eschatological interpretation of epiousios. In this sense, we are praying “this day” for our bread “for tomorrow,” or our future bread. We are petitioning God for tomorrow’s future bread today. Pope Benedict reflects on this “petition for an anticipation for the world to come, asking the Lord to give already ‘today’ the future bread, the bread of the new world – Himself.” This again has Eucharistic overtones, as the Catechism states, “the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come.” (CCC 2837)

This eschatological interpretation is also borne out in the parable for the “coming day’s bread,” that Jesus teaches immediately following the Our Father. In Luke 11:5-8, Jesus tells the story of a man, who at “midnight” asks a friend to lend him three loaves of bread, as another friend of his has arrived from a journey and he has nothing to give him. As scholars have noted, there is the crucial matter of timing in this parable. In the morning the man can provide an abundance of food and bread for his guest, but at midnight he has nothing. This is an allusion to the fact that in the coming day of the Lord in heaven we will have a superabundance to meet our every need, both material and spiritual. But, as of yet, in this temporal life, a constant need remains.

Ours, like the man in the parable, is a matter of timing. We desire to have a measure of that superabundance now, and not just to meet our needs, but also to share with others. Thus, in praying today for tomorrow’s bread, we are praying to realize now, in time, a bit of the fulfillment of eternity. This is in line with the theme of “realized eschatology” that runs through the Our Father, in which we pray for “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Even now on earth, we share daily in the realized eschatology of the heavenly Mass.

In asking God for our daily, supernatural bread, we are also reminded of the manna from heaven that the Israelites supernaturally survived on in the desert for forty years. In the exodus, where there was no food or water in the desert, God miraculously rained down bread from heaven each day, both a supernatural and daily occurrence. In the morning dew, they gathered manna for their daily sustenance, and in the evening they ate the flesh of quail. As the psalmist says, “Man ate of the bread of the angels,” and “He rained flesh upon them like dust.” (Ps. 78:25; 27) The Israelites ate of the heavenly bread and flesh from the time they crossed the waters of the Red Sea (a foreshadowing of Baptism) until they reached the Promised Land (a foreshadowing of heaven). Then, as soon as they completed their journey, the heavenly manna ceased. (Joshua 5:12) Our daily manna is with us too from the time we enter into the Church until the time we cross over into eternity.

Jesus makes a direct connection of Himself to the manna from heaven, calling Himself the “Bread of Life.” The Jews, citing Moses and the manna from heaven, demanded a similar sign from Jesus. In response, Jesus tells them, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever.” (Jn. 6:51) Jesus is the new Moses, leading a new exodus, with a new heavenly manna. Like the Israelites’ manna, Jesus offers His bread and flesh for us to survive on for our journey. He tells them “he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” (Jn. 6:54) Evidently Jesus wanted to make sure His scandalous words were not glossed over, because He repeated six times that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood have eternal life.

This theme of “eating and living forever” is mentioned in only one other place in the Bible – in the Garden of Eden with the Tree of Life. After the fall of man, God sent Adam and Eve out of paradise, lest he “take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” (Gen. 3:22) However, now with the Incarnation of the God-man, Jesus, paradise is, at last, opened fully to humanity to “eat and live forever.” The Tree of Life, cut off to us by our sins, is now open to us through the tree of the Cross, and resurrection of Christ. The fruit of this tree is given to us sacramentally in His supernatural manna, the Holy Eucharist. It is our spiritual bread without which we cannot live.

Thus, Jesus is making a direct reference in the Our Father for our daily supernatural bread of the Eucharist. As Jesus instructs us in the beginning of the Bread of Life discourse to not work for “food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” (Jn. 6:27) The theme of bread runs through the life of Christ, as visible signs pointing to a hidden reality. He is a priest-king, the order of Melchizadek, who offered bread and wine. He was born in Bethlehem, Hebrew for the “house of bread.” He performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves to feed 5,000. He refers to Himself as the “Bread of Life,” the true manna from heaven. In the culmination of the Last Supper, the Passover feast and the feast of Unleavened Bread, He offered bread and wine as His Body and His Blood of the New Covenant. After His Resurrection, He revealed Himself to His disciples in the “breaking of the bread.” Jesus lives on with us sacramentally in the Holy Eucharist, under the guise of bread. In the final revelation He promises to give us “some of the hidden manna.” (Rev. 2:17) This is our food of salvation, our medicine of immortality, which gives eternal life. It is not surprising then that the disciples beseeched Jesus saying, “Lord, give us this bread always.” (Jn. 6:34) And, so it remains with us.

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