Breast Milk and Manna
I have been reading in ‘Breastfeeding News’ that you do not need to feed babies water, as breast milk contains everything that they need to survive. On this basis, do you think that manna was made from the same basic ingredients as breast milk?? What do you think that God added to it to make it solidify and do you think that the Israelites were told not to save any until the next day because they didn’t have refrigerators?
Jewish people connect Manna and Breast milk symbolically, as God fed the nation of Israel in its infancy with just one food for a long time, meeting all their food needs, as you point out.
We are told in Ex 16 31 that manna tasted like wafers made with honey, and in Numbers 11 7 that it tasted like olive oil. It lay on the ground like white coriander seed, and the people gathered it and cooked cakes made from it.
It is said that human breast milk tastes very sweet, the earlier milk in a feed is more watery, and that later in the feed is more creamy. I can’t remember myself. Many say that while these tastes are always there, if the mother certain foods the milk gets a slight flavouring of that food.
A baby can live exclusively on breast milk for at least six months, according to WHO recommendations. After that, the high iron levels the baby is born with start to drop and they recommend that other foods should be introduced.
Different cultures then affect how long breastfeeding continues, figures from the UK suggest around 20% still breastfeed at one year, but there are many who continue to breastfeed for years. The worldwide average has been said to be around 4 years, though in western societies this is often secretly –The Australian Breastfeeding Association calls it “Closet Nursing”.
[Paradoxically, there seems to be an “Ugh” factor about this – it seems mainly from women – (the same ones who were so keen to breastfeed in the first place, one wonders?) At our Bible College there was a very stable family with an older mother, who caused a “frisson” around the College by continuing to breastfeed (quite decorously) her children (I seem to remember a boy and a girl) when they were around three to five. The Bible College staff appeared very supportive. They were only there for a year, and we didn’t get to know how long she continued.]
So, did Manna contain everything the People of Israel needed? Well, except water, which they used to bind the manna into cakes. Nehemiah 9 19 says they lived on Manna and water.
So here’s the situation:
Breast milk contains everything baby humans need, except iron.
Manna contains everything adult humans need, except water.
(Manna had little water, so it was solid because it was dry.)
Except for these differences, it must be that the constituents which make up breast milk, and those which made up Manna, both have the right balance of nutrients to perfectly sustain human life.
I therefore conclude that you are probably right! Manna and breast milk must be very similar indeed in their nutritional content.
On the subject of Manna’s keeping properties, the curiosity was that it would go off overnight, except on the day before the Sabbath, when it would last overnight. Ex 16 20 & 24.
I can think of no natural reason why food will go off overnight every night except once every seven days, when it won’t. This has got to be God, making a thinly veiled point about the Sabbath and obedience.