Biblical Archaeology Review 32:5, September/October 2006

Strata: The Bible in the News

By Leonard J. Greenspoon

“Stairway to Heaven,” “Tears in Heaven,” “Manna from Heaven.” Which one of these has connections with the Biblical book of Exodus and is a godsend to aspiring journalists and perspiring headline writers alike?

As recorded in Exodus 16, the Israelites had no sooner crossed the sea than they felt double-crossed by the Lord: What, they grumbled, was the vaunted value of freedom when their stomachs were empty? In response, God “rained down bread from the sky ... a fine and flaky substance.” Man hu? the people queried (“What is it?”); “It is manna,” they declared.

Each aspect of this Biblical story resonates in popular press accounts of recent vintage. West Australia provides a tasty story under the header “Banana Manna from Heaven.” (Oh, how this delights a headline reader like myself!) The “champion banana-cake baker is not a grey-haired lady [but] a middle-aged bloke with a beard, a Uniting Church minister” whose cooking prowess has filled charity coffers with an appropriately Biblical bounty.

The world of entertainment and politics houses a huge number of people willing to squeeze the maximum amount of (self-serving) manna out of any phenomenon. Individuals as otherwise disparate as Mel Gibson and Michael Moore can be lumped together as “true believers who wear the thorned crown of victimhood, lashing out at anyone critical of their deeply held beliefs.” For both men, “controversy is like manna from heaven.”

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