What Is The Bread of Angels? 

What Is The Bread of Angels? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“Man did eat the bread of angels; He sent them food in abundance” (Psalm 78.25 NASB1995).  

The Bible is a book whose depths we cannot comprehend. As a result, we discover something new every time we read the Scriptures. Recently, as our devotional Bible reading turned to Psalm 78, I had one of those moments. In verse 25, Asaph refers to manna and says God gave the Israelites “bread of angels.” I couldn’t recall hearing that addressed by any preacher I’d heard, nor had I previously read any commentaries on the verse. So I put on my “scuba gear” and went for a dive. 

We must establish the context first. The main goals of Psalm 78 are that Israel should not repeat their unruly past and properly instruct future generations about God’s Law. Asaph recalls God’s miracles in Israel’s history, but Israel still rebelled. Asaph mentions one of these wonders: God feeding the people with manna from heaven. And God did this, although the Israelites had repeatedly enraged Him. According to Asaph, they put God to the test in their hearts (78.18). 

As a result, our “bread of angels” was a providential answer to a need. The people were hungry, and God satisfied their hunger and provided more than they required. However, Asaph recalls that the people believed God should cater to their food preferences (78.18). So, God punished them again because they complained after He sent the manna (78.31-33). Asaph’s point was that they were unappreciative of a lavish gift. 

Following the context, we will move on to the Hebrew language. Lechem abbirim is Hebrew for “bread of the mighty ones.” The word “abbir” appears 47 times in the Old Testament, referring to everything from animals to strong or stubborn men. However, only twice in some of our English translations is this word rendered as angels (Psalm 78.25,cf. Psalm 103.20). Why is this the case? The Septuagint is most likely the answer because the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures uses the word “angels” here. We should also mention that the Latin Vulgate uses the phrase “panem angelorum” (bread of angels). And the translators of the King James Version were heavily influenced by the Latin Vulgate. But there could be more to it than that. 

Another hint comes from a non-canonical book written by a Jew living in Alexandria during the first century BC who pretended to be Solomon. People refer to this as the Book of Wisdom. “In contrast, you fed your people with the food from angels,” Wisdom 16.20 says. Again and again, you provided your people with a bread that had been prepared in heaven. It was a bread that was able to satisfy anyone’s longing and please anyone’s taste.” (Common English Bible) Even though it lacks the weight of what God-breathed (cf. 2 Timothy 3.16), it still provides valuable commentary for understanding Jewish thought before Christ’s birth. 

As a result, Asaph may have referred to angels—mighty ones—as ministering spirits (cf. Psalm 103.20-22; Hebrews 1.14). In other words, God prepared and sent the manna from heaven via the angels. If true, it would not be the first time the Bible mentions angels in passing. For example, Stephen stated that an angel was present in the burning bush (Acts 7.35). Otherwise, all we know about manna is that it came with the dew (Numbers 11.9). As a result, it descended from heaven. 

Finally, most commentators agree that the bread of angels refers to food fit for angelic consumption or the king’s table (cf. Daniel 1.8). Manna, in other words, was a dish fit for heaven. Nonetheless, God gave it to men who did not value it. We might find a modern parallel in being given a free meal at a three-star Michelin restaurant but complaining that we would rather have eaten at McDonald’s. (With no offense to McDonald’s.) 

Fortunately, this is not a matter of salvation, and there is room for debate. I agree with most commentators that the phrase refers to the quality of the food rather than the consumers’ identity. However, it is intriguing to speculate that angels may have been responsible for distributing it to the people. After all, people did not always see the angels who were present. The Arameans, for example, once pursued Elisha to his home in Dothan. The servant of Elisha was terrified, but Elisha prayed to God to open his eyes. God complied, and the servant saw the heavenly host encircling Dothan, protecting Elisha (2 Kings 6.15-17). So, even if manna arrived with the dew, it could still have been brought down from heaven by angels. 

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[No, I haven’t given up on the book of Proverbs. Chapter 8 will pick up where the previous installments left off. I believe that my articles on Proverbs have become white noise for some of my readers. And they’ve lost interest. I appreciate the kind words of individuals who have read and valued those posts. Your kind words always make their way to me. Before tackling another block of Proverbs for a month or two, I’ll present a few weeks of non-Proverbs-related content. And God willing, I shall eventually conclude my study of Proverbs. Even once I resume the series, I anticipate taking a few more breaks, so please be patient with me until we finish the book of Proverbs. Thanks, Brent] 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes 

From Common To Crude: “Vulgar”

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Brent Pollard

I am a word nerd. I enjoy looking into the etymology of commonly used words, such as “vulgar.” I noted that modern English translations use the word “vulgar” in 2 Samuel 6.20.  

And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (ESV) 

How are we to interpret Michal’s words? Was David acting crudely or like a commoner? Perhaps, the Amplified Version gives us a clue. It uses the term “riffraff.” The implication, then, seems to be that David was conducting himself as a commoner rather than the king. Yet, Michal specifies that uncovering oneself was a “shameful” act. In other words, a refined person, like a king, would not behave crudely like an ordinary person.  

David did not argue with her, but it is interesting to note that she had no children following this incident, implying that she and David became estranged because of this incident (2 Samuel 6.23). (Commentators disagree about whether Michal was made barren by God or that she and David never had children together. The Septuagint and Josephus indicate that Michal did have five sons. Hence, she bore no children with David, at least from the point of this confrontation. Fortunately, salvation does not require our understanding of the truth regarding this statement.) 

“Vulgar” is a Latin word derived from “vulgus,” meaning “common people.” 1 By the 17th century, however, it had come to mean “coarse” and “ill-bred.” 2 The noun form, “vulgarity” was employed to describe “crudeness” by the 18th century. 3 So, obviously, wordsmiths associate the behavior of the masses with something or someone unseemly and lacking refinement.  A king, therefore, would not behave in that way. (To believe that, of course, you would have to ignore the histories of the many monarchies existing throughout the world’s past.)  

A synonym for “vulgar” is now “pornographic.” 4 Thus, vulgar is not a word well-esteemed in modern parlance. Yet, the Latin translation of the Scriptures is called the “Latin Vulgate.” In this instance, the term “vulgar” pertains to the language spoken by the common man. 5The type of Greek used to write the New Testament, Koine Greek, was likewise the common language spoken by the people. So, we would have to agree that God wants His Will to be easily accessible to the common man, in his common language.  

Herein lies the distinction, however. Jesus describes the rabble as making their way through life on the “highway to hell” (Matthew 7.13-14). There will be many who travel that way. The few, on the other hand, travel the difficult path leading to Heaven. You may have heard the expression, “Might makes right.” It is not that the many are evil because they are common, but that multitudes often justify committing evil deeds within their larger numbers (cf. Exodus 23.2). It is easy to get lost in a sea of faces, but God will judge us individually before His throne (Romans 14.12).  

So, it is acceptable for us to be common, but we should refrain from acting common (i.e., vulgar). From our speech to our actions, we have been called to follow a higher standard. Indeed, we are God’s special people (1 Peter 2.9). Let us then act accordingly.  

 

WORKS CITED 

1 Lexico Dictionaries | English. 2020. Vulgar | Definition Of Vulgar By Oxford Dictionary On Lexico.Com Also Meaning Of Vulgar. [online] Available at: <https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/vulgar> [Accessed 24 September 2020]. 

2 Harper, D., 2020. Vulgar | Origin And Meaning Of Vulgar By Online Etymology Dictionary. [online] Online Etymology Dictionary. Available at: <https://www.etymonline.com/word/vulgar>. 

3 Harper, D., 2020. Vulgarity | Origin And Meaning Of Vulgarity By Online Etymology Dictionary. [online] Online Etymology Dictionary. Available at: <https://www.etymonline.com/word/vulgarity>. 

4 Lexico Dictionaries | English. 2020. Vulgar | Definition Of Vulgar By Oxford Dictionary On Lexico.Com Also Meaning Of Vulgar. [online] Available at: <https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/vulgar> [Accessed 24 September 2020]. 

5 Lexico Dictionaries | English. 2020. Vulgate | Definition Of Vulgate By Oxford Dictionary On Lexico.Com Also Meaning Of Vulgate. [online] Available at: <https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/vulgate>  [Accessed 24 September 2020]