Psalm 78:23-29 - Receiving the manna and quail from heaven

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23 So he commanded the clouds above *

and opened the doors of heaven.

24 He rained down manna upon them to eat *

and gave them grain from heaven.

25 So mortals ate the bread of angels; *

he provided for them food enough.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens *

and led out the south wind by his might.

27 He rained down flesh upon them like dust *

and winged birds like the sand of the sea.

28 He let it fall in the midst of their camp *

and round about their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled, *

for he gave them what they craved.


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This is the accompanying Psalm for the Track 2 Old Testament reading from Exodus 16, where Yahweh promised to rain manna from the sky and quails would be provided for an evening dinner. This song of praise speaks of that event in Israelite history, making it a perfect companion reading. If chosen, these will be read before the Epistle selection from Ephesians, where Paul wrote, “each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift.” All will accompany the Gospel reading from John 6, where Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”


Psalm 78 is one of the “contemplations of Asaph,” who is said to be a singer-musician for the Tabernacle in Jerusalem, appointed by David. It appears that the story told in song is much aligned with what is written in Scripture, becoming mush like songs sung in churches today, where the lyrics are chosen to match what Scripture says [in translation].


In verse twenty-three is said metaphorically that the “clouds above” [“šə·ḥā·qîm mim·ma·‘al”] hide the “doors of heaven” [“wə·ḏal·ṯê šā·mā·yim”]. In a physical sense, a cloud is the collection of water droplets that have evaporated from the land, rising to gather in collections in the air. Physically, a “cloud” is where rain normally comes from. Spiritually, a “cloud” reflects the soul’s presence within a body of flesh, where the soul cannot be seen due to it being captured in the form of material cells. This makes verse twenty-three say metaphorically that Yahweh “opened” a channel between His heavenly presence and the souls within the Israelites.


In verse twenty-four, it is important to know [from the Exodus reding this accompanies] that “manna” means “what is it?,” as a question about that collected daily. The aspect of “rained down manna upon them” [“way·yam·ṭêr ‘ă·lê·hem mān”] should be a materialization that fell downward through the air, most likely as tiny flakes [like snow] or a fine mist [like dew], which collected on the ground and became transformed into a soft solid. The people were told to consume this as divine “grain ,“ which would become “bread from heaven” [“ū·ḏə·ḡa·nō·šā-ma-yim”]. The element of “what is it?” should be applied to how yeast is explained to be a living creature that changing sugar into alcohol. The question is then relative to seeing it as a necessary ingredient that brings a desired result, where knowing answers as to why become irrelevant. Here, the Israelites must be seen as the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, and milk, into which yeast must be added to give rise to them.


When verse twenty-five sings, “So mortals ate the bread of angels,” the literal might imply that, but actually says, “bread of strength eaten.” The implication of angels is not stated; however, to intuit this as the “bread of angels,” one must then be aware that the angels are “elohim,” so mortals [from “’îš” – “man”] could become the creations of Yahweh, as His servants or messengers. This must then be seen as the “strength” of spiritual uplifting that was necessary to become truly a ‘child of God.’ This “food enough” literally states “provisions sent to them” [by Yahweh] to keep them “full” of divine strength.


Verse twenty-six then sings, “He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens and led out the south wind by his might,” which is not a detail of the event of Moses explaining the coming of manna and quail. Moses was aided in the crossing of the Red Sea [or reed sea] by a strong “east wind.” There is nothing in Exodus about a south wind, so both directions of wind must be read in spiritual terms, not physical terms. An “east wind” becomes metaphor for sunrise [“the east”] in the “spirit” [“ruach” as “wind,” although not written here], where this “east wind” [“qā·ḏîm”] symbolizes the souls of the Israelites [full of manna] were mixed and ready to be placed in the spiritual over of “heaven” [“baš·šā·mā·yim”]. The “south wind” is then the necessary heat added, which makes the dough rise, through the yeast releasing gasses within the mixture. This bring about spiritual enlightenment [“the east”].


Verse twenty-seven speaks of the arrival of the quail. Here, the same word as used to begin verse twenty-four is used [“way·yam·ṭêr”], such that the metaphor of “rain” is repeated. This shows the meaning being “heaven-sent,” where “rain” is the natural way the gods [“elohim”] of nature prepare the earth so it can produce fruit. By then referring to this “rain” as being “like the dust” [“ke·‘ā·p̄ār”], this bears the metaphor of “flesh,” which means the quail reflect upon the bodies of the Israelites being nourished, after their souls had been fed spiritual food. That “flesh” then being identified as those of “winged birds” [“‘ō·wp̄ kā·nāp̄”], the metaphor is the Israelites were visited by “angels,” who were consumed so their souls were merged with those angels, making them “elohim.”


This leads to verse twenty-eight, which sings of Yahweh letting this “fall in their midst” [“way·yap·pêl bə·qe·reḇ”], where the word translated as “midst” means “inward parts.” Rather than this be a statement that the angles dropped into their “camp,” it says the two became married as one inwardly, on a soul-spirit level of being. It was there the angels [the formation of elohim] made their ‘camp.” The whole of the Israelite people became a “camp” of elohim. Therefore, “round about their dwellings” is less about the tents the Israelite people lived in and more a statement about their being divinely possessed, so the “quail” became one with those who consumed them after the manna.


Verse twenty-nine is the last in this selection about the manna and quail sent by Yahweh to His complaining people. The NRSV translation says, “So they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.” In this, one needs to remember the sayings of Jesus, about being fed for a day, verses being fed for a lifetime. By this verse singing, “and they were filled” [“way·yiś·bə·‘ū”] the meaning is spiritually. Their souls hungered for the uplifting motivation to serve Yahweh, which had to be more than simply listening to what Moses and Aaron said. By being “filled” they were married to Yahweh spiritually. They had become His elohim. By giving them “what they craved,” their “desire” was to be like Moses and Aaron, so they could lead themselves just as they led themselves. That desire was a necessary “filling” of Spirit, in order for their time spent in the wilderness to last.


In these translations, I see that Asaph was indeed divinely inspired to write in the same manner as did David. The ruth comes forth from his words in the same way. This tells me that the “appointment” by David that made Asaph become a musician-singer in the Tabernacle system is more in line with the “appointments” of twelve disciples of Jesus, raising them to become apostles. This tells me that the fact that David was an elohim of Yahweh he then ‘touched’ Asaph, so he became one too. In fact, the appearance of Nathan as a prophet advising David, with no history as to how he rose to that rank, suggests that Nathan also had been “appointed” to that position, through a divine need for a spiritual assistant. Because Yahweh flowed throughout Israel via David, mush like Yahweh flowed throughout the Israelite encampments via Moses, all became reflections of those leaders, as ‘touched’ to follow their leads. Thus, Nathan told David the news of his judgment after having been put in contact with Yahweh by David; and, in the same way, Asaph was assisted by Yahweh’s Spirit to summarize in song the events of Exodus 16, because Asaph had been ‘touched’ by David.


As the accompanying Psalm to the Exodus reading, it is self-explanatory as to why it is chosen to be sung aloud on the tenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry to Yahweh should already be well underway. This sings praise of the receipt of Yahweh’s Spirit within one’s soul, so one becomes a “winged creature” for Yahweh. One needs to understand Scripture from the manna exposing “what it is.” Then one needs to fly to others and touch their souls. This is the purpose of ministry; and, one can only complain about religion not being enough, until one shows Yahweh a desire to be filled with His truth.