Receiving The Hidden Manna And The White Stone (rev. 2:17)

17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

Once again, like the two previous calls, the one who hears is called to obey. Hebrew has no word for obedience. To hear someone means to obey him. He who obeys is described as conqueror and overcomer. To this particular overcomer, Christ is promising something very special – hidden manna and a white stone with a new secret name. First promise is easier to interpret than the second one.

Manna is a symbol of God’s sustenance and provision for the people of Israel in the wilderness as they came out of Egypt in obedience to God’s call, risking their own lives to go to a land they would only later be shown. When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan Israelite woman (John 4), his Judean Israelite disciples were returning from a nearby town with food acceptable for consumption by the Judeans (Ioudaioi). The disciples asked among themselves if perhaps someone already had brought Jesus food. He then answered them that he had something that was now, in this passage in Revelation, also being promised to the one who overcomes – the hidden manna. He said: “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (Jn.4:32) This secret food that “the rest” did not know about is nothing less than divine energy that is able to provide sustenance in the most unimaginable and perilous circumstances. This characterized the-soon-to-be reality for believers in Pergamum. Jesus promised this energy to the one who obeys God’s words. This is why the one who obeys also is the one who overcomes.

As to the identity of the white stone things are more complicated. Among the most-likely interpretations that may fit the context is a suggestion that the white stones, with names of the recipients inscribed, were given to contest winners of the Roman sport races. The white stone inscribed with a personal name presumably served as a pass to a prestigious banquet only attended by the winners. This stone would have been received upon completion of the race. While this is not a particularly Jewish cultural reference, we do know of many biblical examples of the use of Greco-Roman cultural references as illustrations for and by the Jews. For example, the Apostle Paul used many Roman sports metaphors to make his points (Phil. 3:12-14; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). The writer of the letter to the Hebrews also employed Roman sport imagery of running a race and receiving a winner’s wreath (See also Hebrews 12:1). This kind of imagery was well known in Judea that housed elaborate sports arenas. This kind of analogy much more closely matches the culture of the Roman city of Pergamum. No doubt the persecuted believers, both Jewish and former pagans, were aware of this practice and the elaborate banquets of honor for the overcomers/winners of the race. Most of the believers did not take part in these games by the virtue of the fact that the games included a dedication to the Roman gods. Christ tells them that in all reality they have not missed out on anything. The real race is the race of perseverance dedicated to Israel’s God. Whoever perseveres in this race and overcomes will receive a pass into the heavenly banquet of eternal honor.

Another intriguing possibility continues with the theme of priestly attire as was already used in the letter of Revelation. The high priest’s robe had 12 stones with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. One of the stones was actually white – Yahalom (it was a stone number 6), signifying the 6th son of Leah – Zebulun. What’s important about Zebulun? We read in Is. 9:1-7, quoted in Matt. 4:15 that:

“In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”

According to this interpretation, the sacred white stone is a symbol of Greco-Romans residing in Galilee who would receive light through the birth of Jesus. Could the secret here be the Messiah himself? Could the white stone point to Jesus through the yahalom stone once adorning the breast of the High Priest of Israel? Perhaps.

About the author

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. RD

    Hmmm interesting theory. Holy spirit give me a white stone. I have new name and i know hidden mana is bread of life, water of life, Jesus, Holy spirit. If i get white stone, i know ..it is not symbol but real white stone from real Holy Spirit.

  2. Kenneth gilley

    It is great stuff blessed be the God and Father of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.. Amen

  3. yetilived

    The Israelites were in the wilderness, the manna was used to test their hearts to see if they follow God’s instructions. If the manna represents Jesus, is the White Stone Jesus’ teachings?
    “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith”.

    1. Ronald Westmoreland

      Stongs Concordance search the word faith

  4. Drs. Charles van den Berg

    In my opinion the “Hidden Manna” refers to the manna in the Golden Jug. Exodus 16:33, Hebrews 9:4 . The Manna is “hidden” in the Golden Jug. The Golden Jug is “hidden” in the ark. The ark is “hidden” in the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies is “hidden” in the Tabernacle.
    The fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they die. The hidden manna in the Golden Jug that miraculously was not perishable, is a reference to the True Manna that is imperishable, Jezus Christ.

  5. Cornelius Bollier

    I don’t think, Jesus the Christ of God will never refer to the roman-greek way of doing things, and even so with their beliefs in so many gods. He came to the Lost People of Israel, to call them back to Yahweh His Father in Heaven again, and Gods Christ, Jesus, had to do this by His Word, as Gods Words, to recreate people and by which God created this world and mankind in the first place.
    So, Jesus is referring to His own words, as He called the Pharisees white tombs or stones of the tombs as ‘dead stones’ made white as self righteousness. White is here ‘justice’ and when He promised to give a white stone to righteous disciples, He meant to make then righteous as becoming white stones with a their new name given of God on them. Now, where comes the idea of a ‘stone’ from? In short, from the Law of God (torah). In the Breast Plate of the High Priest were symbolic stones: the 6th stone was – Quartz Crystal – Zebulun – Clear. When we call a diamond ‘white’, we mean ‘clear’ – without spot or blemish…! That’s exactly what Christ meant: ‘transparent’ – seeing Christ through man… a becoming like His Stature.
    Its quit a study, but when you know the characters and meaning of the 12 stones in the Breast Plate, you will discover the ‘white stone’ meaning in it! ‘GOD WITH US – Zebulon!
    But there is much more indicating the ‘white stone’ of Jesus Righteousness…. in those who have overcome this world and are ‘mighty ones’ reaching out toward he Kingdom of Heaven…!

  6. yetilived

    Atonement is a very different word than forgiveness to many modern readers. Hidden manna was given to a repentant person. Why would Jesus hide himself from a repentant person? How can Jesus offer forgiveness to someone that doesn’t know him? The hidden manna brings our death and Christ’s victory so that we can live (Romans7 & 8). There are two sides of victory (double edge sword). Faith and rest are two different words. The White Stone is connected to life.

  7. Chris

    The white stone I would say it has to do with forgiveness and from old forms of idolatry. It would also represent a time honored tradition that takes us back to the book of the upright and Enonch. When Enonch turned himself invisible he droped down a bunch of white stones with names written on them. If we remember that Christ sits at the right hand and that The book of Hebrews tells us he inhereted his throne from him through the priesthood of Melkesidec which is where Israel and Jersulam bare their names as well. Also in a hostorical context the stone tepresents a form of eternal thus he would be granted and saved from the second death as christ taught in the book of John and other gospels. I will ask the father and he will send another. He will judge the devil and he will judge those who do not believe in me. Etc. I will raise him on the last day… we see a theme here based around Christs new ability in heaven and how he can see the future once the seals are all brocken so that his fathers work or his work will be done and if we follow that he is talking about always we can see that Christ has a huge admiration for this specific individual. We see the book of Yasher playout in another prophet named Yoshua or Joshua who replaced Moses. This too shared a similoar understanding of being snatched from the fire and given forwgoveness.

  8. Maxhoba

    I enjoyed this article. God bless

  9. Diana

    Shalom Prof! This is quite interesting! that’s why when we study scripture we definately need Language, Context and Historical setting! I loved the interpretation of the white stone, that invitation to the banquet!

  10. Jerry Akinwe

    Thank you Dr. Eli for this exposition. Once again, I have learnt new things about the Hebraic culture…. to hear means to obey.