From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

FOOD . This article will deal only with food-stuffs, in other words, with the principal articles of food among the Hebrews in Bible times, the preparation and serving of these being reserved for the complementary article Meals.

1. The food of a typical Hebrew household in historical times was almost exclusively vegetarian. For all but the very rich the use of meat was confined to some special occasion, a family festival, the visit of an honoured guest, a sacrificial meal at the local sanctuary, and the like. According to the author of the Priests’ Code, indeed, the food of men and beasts alike was exclusively herbaceous in the period before the DelugeGenesis 1:29 f.), permission to eat the flesh of animals, under stipulation as to drawing off the blood, having been first accorded to Noah (  Genesis 9:3 ff.). In Isaiah’s vision of the future, when ‘the lion shall eat straw like the ox’ (  Genesis 11:7 ), a return is contemplated to the idyllic conditions of the first age of all.

The growth of luxury under the monarchy (cf.  Amos 6:4 f. and similar passages) is well illustrated by a comparison of   2 Samuel 17:28 f. with   1 Kings 4:22 f. In the former there is brought for the entertainment of David and his followers ‘wheat and barley and meal and parched corn and beans and lentils and parched pulse [see p. 266, § 3 ] and honey and butter and sheep and cheese of kine’; while, according to the latter passage, Solomon’s daily provision was ‘thirty measures of fine flour and three-score measures of meal; ten fat oxen and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, besides harts and gazelles and roebucks and fatted fowl.’

2. The first place in the list of Hebrew food-stuffs must be given to the various cereals included under the general name of ‘corn’ in Amer. RV [Note: Revised Version.] always ‘grain’ the two most important of which were wheat and barley. Millet (  Ezekiel 4:9 ) and spelt (see Fitches, Rie) are only casually mentioned. The most primitive method of using corn was to pluck the ‘fresh ears’ (  Leviticus 23:14 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ,   2 Kings 4:42 ) and remove the husk by rubbing in the hands (  Deuteronomy 23:25 ,   Matthew 12:1 etc.). When bruised in a mortar these ears yielded the ‘bruised corn of the fresh ear’ of   Leviticus 2:14-16 RV [Note: Revised Version.] . A favourite practice in all periods down to the present day has been to roast the ears on an iron plate or otherwise. The result is the parched corn so frequently mentioned in OT. Parched corn and bread with a light sour wine furnished the midday meal of Boaz’s reapers (  Ruth 2:14 ). The chief use, however, to which wheat and barley were put was to supply the household with bread (wh. see). Wheaten and barley ‘ meal ’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) were prepared in early times by means of the primitive rubbing-stones, which the excavations show to have long survived the introduction of the quern or hand-mill (for references to illustrations of both, see Mill). The ‘ fine flour ’ of our EV [Note: English Version.] was obtained from the coarser variety by bolting the latter with a fine sieve. Barley bread (  Judges 7:13 ,   John 6:9;   John 6:13 ) was the usual bread, indeed the principal food, of the poorer classes. (For details of bread-making, see Bread.) The obscure word rendered ‘dough’ in   Numbers 15:20 ,   Nehemiah 10:37 ,   Ezekiel 44:30 denoted either coarse meal (so RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ) or a sort of porridge made from wheat and barley meal, like the polenta of the Romans.

3. Next in importance to wheat and barley as food-stuffs may be ranked the seeds of various members of the pulse family ( LeguminosÅ“ ), although only two leguminous plants ( lentils and beans ) are mentioned by name in OT. The pulse of   Daniel 1:12;   Daniel 1:16 denotes edible herbs generally (so RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ); the ‘parched (pulse)’ of   2 Samuel 17:28 , on the other hand, is due to a mistaken rendering of the word for ‘parched corn,’ here repeated by a copyist’s slip. Of red lentils Jacob made his fateful pottage (  Genesis 25:29 ff.), probably a stew in which the lentils were flavoured with onions and other ingredients, as is done at the present day in Syria. Lentils and beans were occasionally ground to make bread (  Ezekiel 4:9 ).

Next to its fish, the Hebrews in the wilderness looked back wistfully on the ‘cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlick’ of Egypt ( Numbers 11:5 ), all of them subsequently cultivated by them in Palestine. It is to the agricultural treatises of the Mishna, however, that the student must turn for fuller information regarding the rich supplies available either for a’ dinner of herbs’ (  Proverbs 15:17 ) alone, or for supplementing a meat diet. At least four varieties of bean, for example, are named, also the chickpea (which the Vulgate substitutes for the ‘parched pulse’ above referred to), various species of chicory and endive the bitter herbs of the Passover ritual (  Exodus 12:8 ) mustard (  Matthew 13:31 ), radish, and many others.

4. Passing now to the ‘food-trees’ (  Leviticus 19:23 ), we may follow the example of Jotham in his parable (  Judges 9:8 ff.), and begin with the olive , although, as it happens, the ‘olive berry’ (  James 3:12 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ) is never expressly mentioned in Scripture as an article of diet. Apart, however, from their extensive use in furnishing oil (wh. see), itself an invaluable aid in the preparation of food, olives were not only eaten in the fresh state, but were at all times preserved for later use by being soaked in brine. Such pickled olives were, and still are, used as a relish with bread by rich and poor alike.

Next to the olive in rank, Jotham’s parable places the fig-tree, whose ‘sweetness’ and ‘good fruit’ it extols ( Judges 9:11 ). The great economic importance of the fig need not be emphasized. From   Isaiah 28:4 ,   Jeremiah 24:2 it appears that the ‘first ripe fig,’ i.e. the early fig which appears on last year’s wood, was regarded as a special delicacy. The bulk of the year’s fruit was dried for use out of the season, as was the case also among the Greeks and Romans, by whom dried figs were the most extensively used of all fruits. When pressed in a mould they formed ‘ cakes of figs ’ (  1 Samuel 25:18 ,   1 Chronicles 12:40 ). A fig-cake, it will be remembered, was prescribed by Isaiah as a poultice (EV [Note: English Version.] ‘plaister’) for Hezekiah’s boil (  Isaiah 38:21 =   2 Kings 20:7 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ).

With the fig Hebrew writers constantly associate the grape , the ‘fruit of the vine’ (  Matthew 26:29 and parallels). Like the former, grapes were not only enjoyed in their natural state, but were also, by exposure to the sun after being gathered, dried into raisins , the ‘dried grapes’ of   Numbers 6:3 . In this form they were better suited for the use of travellers and soldiers (  1 Samuel 25:18 ,   1 Chronicles 12:40 ). What precisely is meant by the word rendered ‘ raisin-cake ,’ ‘cake of raisins,’ by RV [Note: Revised Version.] (  2 Samuel 6:19 ,   Isaiah 16:7 ,   Hosea 3:1; AV [Note: Authorized Version.] wrongly ‘flagon of wine’) is still uncertain. By far the greater part of the produce of the vineyards was used for the manufacture of wine (wh. see). For another economic product of the grape, see Honey.

Dates are only once mentioned in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] , and that without any justification, as the marginal alternative of ‘honey,’   2 Chronicles 31:5; yet Joel includes ‘the palm tree’ in his list of fruit-trees (  2 Chronicles 1:12 ), and from the Mishna we learn that dates, like the fruits already discussed, were not only eaten as they came from the palm, but were dried in clusters and also pressed into cakes for convenience of transport.

For other less important fruits, such as the pomegranate, the much discussed tappûach the ‘apple’ of AV [Note: Authorized Version.] , according to others the quince (see Apple), the fruit of the sycomore or fig-mulberry, associated with Amos the prophet, and the husks (  Luke 15:16 ), or rather pods of the carob tree, reference must be made to the separate articles. To these there fall to be added here almonds and nuts of more than one variety.

5. As compared with the wide range of foods supplied by the cereals, vegetables, and fruits above mentioned, the supply of flesh-food was confined to such animals and birds as were technically described as ‘clean.’ For this important term, and the principles underlying the distinction between clean and unclean, see Clean and Unclean. The clean animals admitted to the table according to the ‘official’ lists in   Leviticus 11:23 ,   Deuteronomy 14:4-20 (conveniently arranged in parallel columns for purposes of comparison in Driver’s Deut. ad loc. ), may be ranged under the two categories, domestic animals , which alone were admitted as sacrifice to the ‘table of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ’ (  Malachi 1:7;   Malachi 1:12 ), and game . The former comprised the two classes of ‘the flock,’ i.e. sheep and goats, and ‘the herd.’

The flesh of the goat , and especially of the’ kid of the goats,’ was more relished by the Hebrews than by the present inhabitants of Palestine, by whom the goat is reared chiefly for its milk. A kid, as less valuable than a well-fleeced lamb, was the most frequent and readiest victim, especially among the poor, a fact which gives point to the complaint of the Elder Son in the parable (  Luke 15:29 ). The original significance of the thrice-repeated injunction against seething a kid in its mother’s milk (  Exodus 23:19 and parallels) is still uncertain.

Regarding the sheep as food, it may be noted that in the case of the fat-tailed breed the tail was forbidden as ordinary food by the Priests’ Code at least, and had to be offered with certain other portions of the fat (see § 10 p. 267) upon the altar (  Exodus 29:22 ,   Leviticus 3:9 , both RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). Of the neat cattle , the flesh of females as well as of males was eaten, the Hebrews not having that repugnance to cow’s flesh which distinguished the Egyptians of antiquity, as it does the Hindus of to-day. Calves, of course, supplied the daintiest food, and might be taken directly from the herd, as was done by Abraham (  Genesis 18:7 , cf.   1 Kings 4:23 ), or specially fattened for the table. The ‘fatted calf’ of   Luke 15:23 will be at once recalled, also the ‘ fatlings ,’ and the ‘stalled,’ i.e. stall-fed, ox (  Proverbs 15:17 ) of OT. ‘One ox and six choice sheep’ were Nehemiah’s daily portion (  Nehemiah 5:18 ); Solomon’s has been already given (§ 1 ). From the females of the herd and of the flock (  Deuteronomy 32:14 ), especially from the she-goat (  Proverbs 27:27 ), probably also from the milch-camel (  Genesis 32:15 ), came the supply of milk and its preparations, butter and cheese , for which see Milk.

Of the seven species of game mentioned in  Deuteronomy 14:5 , it is evident from   Deuteronomy 12:15 that the gazelle and the hart were the typical animals of the chase hunted for the sake of their flesh. They are also named along with the roebuck in Solomon’s list,   1 Kings 4:23 . One or more of these, doubtless supplied the venison from which Esau was wont to make the ‘savoury meat’ which his father loved (  Genesis 25:28;   Genesis 27:5 f.). Among the unclean animals which were taboo to the Hebrews the most interesting are the swine (  Leviticus 11:7 ,   Deuteronomy 14:8 : cf.   Matthew 8:30 ff. and parallels), the camel, the hare, and the ass (but see   2 Kings 6:25 ).

6. In the Deuteronomic list above cited, the permitted and forbidden quadrupeds are followed by this provision regarding fish  : ‘These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters, whatsoever hath fins and scales shall ye eat: and whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye shall not eat, it is unclean unto you’ (  Deuteronomy 14:9 f. RV [Note: Revised Version.]; cf.   Leviticus 11:9-12 ). No particular species of fish is named in OT, either as food or otherwise, although no fewer than thirty-six species are said to be found in the Jordan system alone. Yet we may be sure that the fish which the Hebrews enjoyed in Egypt ‘for nought’ (  Numbers 11:5 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) had their successors in Canaan. Indeed, it is usual to find in the words of   Deuteronomy 33:19 , ‘they shall suck the abundance of the seas,’ a contemporary reference to the fisheries possessed by the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar. In the days of Nehemiah a considerable trade in cured fish was carried on by Tyrian, i.e. PhÅ“nician, merchants with Jerusalem (  Nehemiah 13:16 ). where a market must have been held at or near the Fish-gate (  Nehemiah 3:3 etc.). In still later times, as is so abundantly testified by the Gospels and Josephus, the Sea of Galilee was the centre of a great fishing industry. In addition to the demand for fresh fish, a thriving trade was done in the salting and curing of fish for sale throughout the country. The fishes of our Lord’s two miracles of feeding were almost certainly of this kind, fish cleaned, split open, salted, and finally dried in the sun, having been at all times a favourite form of provision for a journey.

7. Regarding the ‘clean’ birds , all of which were allowed as food (  Deuteronomy 14:11 ), no definite criterion is prescribed, but a list of prohibited species is given (  Leviticus 11:13-19 ,   Deuteronomy 14:11-18 ), mostly birds of prey, including the bat. In the ritual of various sacrifices, however, pigeons and turtle doves , and these only, find a place, and are therefore to be reckoned as ‘clean’ for ordinary purposes as well. The early domestication of these birds is shown by the reference to the ‘windows’ of the dovecots in   Isaiah 60:8 , while the Mishna has much to say regarding various breeds of domestic pigeons, their ‘towers,’ feeding, etc. The ordinary domestic fowl of the present day seems to have been first introduced into Palestine from the East in the Persian period ( 2Es 1:30 ,   Matthew 23:37;   Matthew 26:34 and parallels). The fatted fowl for Solomon’s table (  1 Kings 4:23 ) are generally supposed to be geese , which with poultry and house-pigeons are frequently named in the Mishna. Roast goose was a favourite food of the Egyptians, and has, indeed, been called their national dish.

Among the edible game birds mention is made of the partridge and the quail (see these articles). Most or all of these were probably included in the ‘fowls’ (lit. birds) which appeared on Nehemiah’s table (  Nehemiah 5:18 ). The humble sparrow (  Matthew 10:29 ,   Luke 12:6 ) would have been beneath the dignity of a Persian governor. The eggs of all the clean birds were also important articles of food (  Deuteronomy 22:6 ,   Isaiah 10:14 ,   Luke 11:12;   Job 6:6 is doubtful, see RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). Ostrich eggs have recently been found in an early grave at Gezer ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] 1907, 191).

8. Under the head of animal food must also be reckoned the various edible insects enumerated,   Leviticus 11:22 f., apparently four species of the locust family (see Locust). Locusts were regarded as delicacies by the Assyrians, formed part of the food of John the Baptist (  Matthew 3:4 ,   Mark 1:6 ), and are still eaten by the Arabs. By the latter they are prepared in various ways, one of the commonest being to remove the head, legs, and wings, and to fry the body in samn or clarified butter. Locusts may also be preserved by salting. This is the place, further, to refer to the article Honey for information regarding that important article of diet.

9. Nothing has as yet been said on the subject of condiments. Salt , the chief of condiments, will be treated separately (see Salt). Of the others it has been said that, ‘before pepper was discovered or came into general use, seeds like cummin, the coriander, etc., naturally played a more important rôle.’ Of these the greyish-white seeds of the coriander are named in   Exodus 16:31 ,   Numbers 11:7; these are still used in the East as a spice in bread-making and to flavour sweetmeats. Similarly the seeds of the black cummin (  Isaiah 28:25 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ) are sprinkled on bread like caraway seeds among ourselves. For the other condiments, mint , anise, cummin , and rue , see the separate articles. To these may be added mustard , of which the leaves, not the seed, (  Matthew 13:31 ), were cut up and used as flavouring. Pepper is first mentioned in the Mishna. The caper-berry (  Ecclesiastes 12:5 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) was eaten before meals as an appetizer, rather than used as a condiment.

10. Reference has already been made to the restrictions laid upon the Hebrews in the matter of animal food by the all-important distinction between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean,’ as applied not only to quadrupeds, but to fish, birds, and winged creatures generally. All creatures technically ‘unclean’ were taboo, to use the modern term (see Abomination, Clean and Unclean). There were other food taboos, however, which require a brief mention here. The chief of these was the absolute prohibition of the blood even of ‘clean’ beasts and birds, which occupies a prominent place in all the stages of the Hebrew dietary legislation (  Deuteronomy 12:16;   Deuteronomy 12:23;   Deuteronomy 12:25;   Deuteronomy 15:23;   Leviticus 17:10 ff. [H [Note: Law of Holiness.] ],   Leviticus 3:17;   Leviticus 7:26 f. [P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ], etc.). Its antiquity is attested by the incident recorded   1 Samuel 14:32 ff. According to P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] , indeed, it is coeval with the Divine permission to eat animal food (  Genesis 9:4 ). All sacrificial animals had therefore to be drained of their blood before any part could be offered to God or man, and so with all animals slaughtered for domestic use only (  Deuteronomy 12:15 f.), and with all game of beast and bird taken in the chase (  Leviticus 17:13 ).

Closely associated with the above (cf.  Leviticus 3:17 ) is the taboo imposed upon certain specified portions of the intestinal fat of the three sacrificial species, the ox, the sheep, and the goat (  Leviticus 3:3 ff;   Leviticus 7:22 ff. etc.), to which, as we have seen, the fat tail of the sheep was added. There was forbidden, further, the flesh of every animal that had died a natural death (  Deuteronomy 14:21 ,   Leviticus 17:15 ), or had been done to death by a beast of prey (  Exodus 22:31 ,   Leviticus 17:15 ); in short, all flesh was rigidly taboo except that of an animal which had been ritually slaughtered as above prescribed. For another curious taboo, see   Genesis 32:32 . The Jews of the present day eat only such meat as has been certified by their own authorities as kosher, i.e. as having been killed in the manner prescribed by Rabbinic law.

The intimate association in early times between flesh-food and sacrifice explains the abhorrence of the Hebrew for all food prepared by the heathen, as illustrated by Daniel ( Daniel 1:8 ), Judas Maccabæus ( 2Ma 5:27 ), Josephus ( Vita 3), and their associates (cf. also   Acts 15:20;   Acts 15:29 ,   1 Corinthians 8:1-10;   1 Corinthians 10:19;   1 Corinthians 10:28 ).

11. A word finally as to the sources of the Hebrew food-supply. Under the simpler conditions of early times the exclusive source of supply was the householder’s own herd (  Genesis 18:7 ) or flock (  Genesis 27:9 ), his vineyard and oliveyard or his ‘garden of herbs’ (  1 Kings 21:2 ). As the Hebrews became dwellers in cities their food-stuffs naturally became more and more articles of commerce. The bakers, for example, who gave their name to a street in Jerusalem (  Jeremiah 37:21 ), not only fired the dough prepared in private houses, as at the present day, but, doubtless, baked and sold bread to the public, as did their successors in the first and second centuries (see Mishna, passim ). An active trade in ‘ victuals ’ is attested for Nehemiah’s day (  Nehemiah 13:15 f.), when we hear of the ‘fish-gate’ (  Nehemiah 3:3 ) and the ‘sheep gate’ (  Nehemiah 3:1 ), so named, doubtless, from their respective markets. The disciples were accustomed to buy provisions as they journeyed through the land (  John 4:8; cf.   John 13:29 ); and Corinth, we may be sure, was not the only city of the time that had a provision-market (  1 Corinthians 10:25 , EV [Note: English Version.] shambles ). In Jerusalem, again, cheese was to be bought in the Cheese-makers’ Valley (TyropÅ“on), and oil at the oil-merchants (  Matthew 25:9 ), and so on. In the early morning especially, the streets near the city gates on the north and west, which led to the country, were doubtless then, as now, transformed into market-places, lined with men and women offering for sale the produce of their farms and gardens. Even the outer court of the Temple itself had in our Lord’s day become a ‘house of merchandise’ (  John 2:16 ).

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [2]

All food has been given by God, and people are to show their gratitude by thanking God for it and enjoying it ( Genesis 1:29;  Ecclesiastes 9:7;  Matthew 6:11;  Acts 14:17;  1 Corinthians 10:30-31;  2 Corinthians 9:10;  1 Timothy 4:4). Although food is necessary for physical life, human life is more than merely physical. People need more than food for the body. Their life depends for its proper function upon spiritual forces that are found only in God ( Deuteronomy 8:3;  Psalms 63:1;  Matthew 4:3-4;  Matthew 6:25;  John 6:27;  John 6:35).

Just as people need to eat food if their physical life is to grow, so they need to feed on God’s Word if their spiritual life is to grow. As newborn children feed on milk, so new Christians feed their new life by learning the basics of Christian truth and practice. But children must move on to solid food if they are to grow towards adulthood. Likewise Christians must move on to a fuller understanding of God’s Word if they are to grow towards maturity ( 1 Corinthians 3:1-2;  Hebrews 5:12-14;  1 Peter 2:3).

Correct attitudes

This concern that Christians have for spiritual food does not mean they can be indifferent to matters concerning food for the body. If people speak of having Christian faith but refuse to help the hungry, they are denying the Christian faith ( Matthew 25:42;  Matthew 25:44-45;  Mark 6:33-44;  James 2:14-17;  1 John 3:17). God taught Old Testament Israel that people were to make sacrifices in their business and domestic lives so that the poor would not go hungry ( Leviticus 19:9-10;  Deuteronomy 14:28-29;  Deuteronomy 15:7-11;  Psalms 132:15;  Isaiah 14:30;  Isaiah 58:7). He teaches Christians similarly, emphasizing that they are to help all the hungry, even those who are their enemies ( Luke 14:13;  Luke 16:19-25;  Romans 12:20; cf.  Luke 6:25;  Luke 6:30).

Israelite law detailed which foods were or were not allowable. One of the forbidden foods was blood, because of blood’s symbolic significance as representing life ( Leviticus 17:14; see Blood ). Other forbidden food was the meat of certain animals that Israelite law considered unclean (Leviticus 11; see Uncleanness ). Christians are not under these laws, and so are not restricted as the Israelites were ( Mark 7:18-19;  Acts 10:13-15;  1 Timothy 4:3-4). At times, however, they should willingly forgo their freedom, so that they do not create unnecessary difficulties for those who still observe food laws like those given to Israel. Consideration for another person’s well-being is more important than the food one eats ( Romans 14:14;  Romans 14:17;  Romans 14:20;  1 Corinthians 10:31).

Apart from considering others, Christians must discipline their eating and drinking habits for their own sake. The Bible links gluttony and drunkenness as sins equally to be avoided ( Proverbs 23:2;  Proverbs 23:21;  Luke 6:25;  1 Corinthians 11:20-22).

In ancient times, as in the present day, meals were an important part of social life. People ate meals together to show friendship and hospitality ( Genesis 18:6-9;  Genesis 43:31-34;  Mark 2:15;  Luke 14:15-24), to confirm political and business agreements ( Genesis 26:28-31;  Genesis 31:51-54), and to demonstrate fellowship with one another and with God ( Leviticus 7:13-15;  Deuteronomy 14:22-27;  Luke 22:30;  1 Corinthians 10:17;  1 Corinthians 10:21). This created difficulties for Christians when food at such meals had previously been offered to idols ( 1 Corinthians 8:1-8;  1 Corinthians 10:14-21; see Idol, Idolatry )

Fruit and vegetables

From earliest times, people used certain plants and fruit trees as a ready source of good food ( Genesis 1:29;  Genesis 3:18). The Israelites, before they entered Canaan, received instruction in farming, so that they might gain the best results from their crops and orchards. They were warned also that when cutting down trees to construct siegeworks, they were to be careful not to destroy the fruit trees ( Leviticus 19:23-25;  Deuteronomy 20:19-20).

Among the vegetables found in the world of the Bible were beans, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic, mallows and mustard ( Genesis 25:34;  Numbers 11:4-5;  2 Samuel 17:28;  Job 30:4;  Matthew 13:31). Some of the better known fruits were figs, grapes, olives, pomegranates, apples, dates, sycamore, pistachio nuts and almonds ( Genesis 43:11;  Deuteronomy 8:8;  Deuteronomy 34:3; Song of  Song of Solomon 7:8;  Song of Solomon 8:5;  Amos 7:14;  Matthew 7:16; see Figs ; Grapes ; Olives ). People ate grapes fresh or dried (raisins) and crushed them to make various types of wine ( Numbers 6:3;  Deuteronomy 32:14;  Ruth 2:14;  1 Samuel 25:18;  Joel 1:5;  Joel 3:18). Pomegranate juice made another kind of popular drink (Song of  Song of Solomon 8:2).

Olives were crushed to produce olive oil, which, because of its extensive use in cooking, was a basic necessity for the Hebrews. They mixed it with flour in preparing breads and cakes, and used it as a cooking fat for a variety of foods ( Exodus 29:2;  Leviticus 2:4;  Leviticus 2:14-16;  1 Kings 17:12-14; see Oil ). The Hebrews also made a variety of sauces, usually by mixing the crushed flesh of certain fruits with other ingredients ( Mark 14:20; see also Spices ).


The Israelites’ chief cereals were barley and wheat ( Exodus 9:31-32;  Exodus 34:22;  Deuteronomy 8:8). Cereal crops were important, mainly because the people obtained from them the flour to make the breads and cakes that were their staple diet ( Genesis 18:6;  Genesis 21:14;  Genesis 26:12;  Genesis 37:7;  Genesis 42:2;  Exodus 29:23;  2 Kings 4:42;  Ezekiel 4:9;  John 6:9). Cereals were so valuable that people at times used them instead of money when trading ( Hosea 3:2). The price of grain, or the price of the bread made from it, was an indication of economic conditions in the land ( 2 Kings 7:1;  Revelation 6:6).

Flour was obtained by grinding the grain between two millstones ( Exodus 11:5;  Isaiah 47:2;  Matthew 24:41;  Revelation 18:22). People made various sorts of cakes and breads. Sometimes they put honey in the mixture to sweeten it, and sometimes they added leaven (yeast) to make the cake rise. This took time, and when people were in a hurry they may have omitted the leaven. Unleavened cakes were flat and heavy, leavened cakes round and light ( Genesis 19:3;  Exodus 12:33-34;  Exodus 12:39;  Leviticus 23:17;  1 Samuel 28:24;  Matthew 13:33; see Leaven ). Cooking was done on an iron plate or in a clay oven ( Leviticus 2:4-5;  Isaiah 44:15;  Hosea 7:4;  Hosea 7:6-7).

Food from animals

Animals that Israelites most commonly used for meat were those animals that were suitable for sacrifice, such as cattle, sheep and goats. But the Israelites were not great eaters of meat, and seem to have included it in their meals mainly on special occasions ( Genesis 18:7;  Judges 6:19;  1 Samuel 25:18;  1 Samuel 28:24;  Luke 15:23;  Luke 15:29). Meat was either roasted or boiled ( 1 Samuel 2:13-15;  Ezekiel 24:3-5).

In addition to animals from the flocks and herds, certain wild animals also could be eaten. A meal made from the flesh of these animals was of special value ( Genesis 27:3-4;  Deuteronomy 14:4-5). Fish also was allowed as food ( Deuteronomy 14:9-10;  Luke 24:42-43;  John 6:11;  John 21:9).

The Israelites used milk, butter and cheese regularly in their meals ( Genesis 18:7-8;  1 Samuel 17:18;  2 Samuel 17:29;  Proverbs 27:27;  Proverbs 30:33;  Isaiah 7:22). They also ate the honey of wild bees, which was readily found in rocks and trees ( Deuteronomy 32:13;  Judges 14:8;  1 Samuel 14:25). Poor people also ate locusts ( Matthew 3:4).

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [3]

Herbs and fruits were man's permitted food at first ( Genesis 1:29). The early race lived in a warm and genial climate, where animal food was not a necessity. Even now many eastern nations live healthily on a vegetable diet. Not until after the flood ( Genesis 9:3) sheep and cattle, previously kept for their milk and wool, and for slaying in sacrifice, from whence the distinction of "clean and unclean" ( Genesis 7:2) is noticed before the flood, were permitted to be eaten. (See Abel .) The godless and violent antediluvians probably had anticipated this permission. Now it is given accompanied by a prohibition against eating flesh with the blood, which is the life, left in it. The cutting of flesh, with the blood, from the living animal (as has been practiced in Africa), and the eating of blood either apart from or in the flesh, were prohibited, because " The Soul ( Nephesh ) of the flesh is in the blood, and I (Jehovah) have ordained it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood which makes atonement by means of the soul" ( Leviticus 17:11-12).

The two grounds for forbidding blood as food thus are, firstly , its being the vital fluid; secondly , its significant use in sacrifice. The slaughtering was to be (1) as expeditious as possible, (2) with the least possible infliction of suffering, and (3) causing the blood to flow out in the quickest and most complete manner. Harvey says:" the blood is the fountain of life, the first to live, the last to die, and the primary seat of the animal soul; it lives and is nourished of itself, and by no other part of the human body." John Hunter inferred it is the seat of life, for all parts of the frame are formed and nourished from it. Milne Edwards says: "if an animal be bled until it falls into syncope, muscular action ceases, respiration and the heart's action are suspended; but if the blood of an animal of the same kind be injected into the veins the inanimate body returns to life, breathes freely, and recovers completely" (Speaker's Commentary, Leviticus 17, note).

In the first Christian churches, where Jew and Gentile were united, in order to avoid offending Jewish prejudice in things indifferent the council at Jerusalem ( Acts 15:29) ordained abstinence "from things strangled (wherein the blood would remain), and from blood." Moreover, the pagan consumed blood in their sacrifices, in contrast to Jehovah's law, which would make His people the more shrink from any seeing conformity to their ways. Fat when unmixed with lean was also forbidden food, being consecrated to Him. (See Fat .) Christians were directed to abstain also from animal flesh of which a part had been offered to idols ( Acts 15:29;  Acts 21:25;  Acts 21:1 Corinthians 8). The portions of the victim not offered on the altar belonged partly to the priests, and partly to the offerers. They were eaten at feasts, not only in the temples but also in private houses, and were often sold in the markets, so that the temptation to Christians was continually recurring ( Numbers 25:2;  Psalms 106:28).

The food of the Israelites and Egyptians was more of a vegetable than animal kind. Flesh meat was brought forth on special occasions, as sacrificial and hospitable feasts ( Genesis 18:7;  Genesis 43:16;  Exodus 16:3;  Numbers 11:4-5;  1 Kings 1:9;  1 Kings 4:23;  Matthew 22:4). Their ordinary diet contained a larger proportion of Farinaceous and Leguminous foods, with honey, butter, and cheese, than of animal ( 2 Samuel 17:28-29). Still an entirely vegetable diet was deemed a poor one ( Proverbs 15:17;  Daniel 1:12). Some kinds of locusts were eaten by the poor, and formed part of John the Baptist's simple diet ( Matthew 3:4;  Leviticus 11:22). Condiments, as salt, mustard, anise, rue, cummin, almonds, were much used ( Isaiah 28:25, etc.;  Matthew 23:23). The killing of a calf or sheep for a guest is as simple and expeditions in Modern Syria as it was in Abraham's days.

Bread, dibs (thickened grape juice) (Possibly Meant In  Genesis 43:11 ;  Ezekiel 27:17 , Honey Dibash ) , coagulated sour milk, leban, butter, rice, and a little mutton, are the food in winter; cheese and fruits are added in summer. The meat is cut up in little bits, and the company eat it without knives and forks out of basohs. Parched grain, roasted in a pan over the fire, was an ordinary diet, of laborers ( Leviticus 2:14;  Leviticus 23:14;  Ruth 2:14). Sour wine ("vinegar") was used to dip the bread in; or else the gravy, broth, or melted fat of flesh meat; this illustrates the "dipping the sop in the common dish" ( John 13:26, etc.). Pressed dry grape cakes and fig cakes were an article of ordinary consumption. (See Flagon .) ( 1 Samuel 30:12). Fruit cake dissolved in water affords a refreshing drink. Lettuces of a wild kind, according to Septuagint, were the "bitter herbs" eaten with the Passover lamb ( Exodus 12:8).

Retem , or "bitter root of the broom", was eaten by the poor.  Job 30:4, "juniper," rather "broom";  Job 6:6, for "egg" Gesenius translated "an insipid potherb," possibly Purslane . "Butter (curdled milk, the acid of which is grateful in the hot East) and honey" are more fluid in the East than with us, and are poured out of jars.  Job 20:17, "brooks of honey and butter." These were the ordinary food of children;  Isaiah 7:15, so of the prophet's child who typified Immanuel; the distress caused by the Syrian and Israelite kings not preventing the supply of spontaneously produced foods, the only abundant articles of diet then. Oil was chiefly used on festive occasions ( 1 Chronicles 12:40).

The prohibition "thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk" ( Exodus 23:19) is thought by Abarbauel to forbid a pagan harvest superstition designed to propitiate the gods; to which a Karaite Jew, quoted by Cudworth (Speaker's Commentary), adds, it was usual when the crops were gathered in to sprinkle the fruit trees, fields, and gardens as a charm. In Exodus the previous context referring to Passover and Pentecost favors this reference to a usage at the feast of tabernacles or ingathering of fruits. In  Deuteronomy 14:21 the context suggests an additional reason for the prohibition, namely, that Israel as being "holy unto the Lord" should not eat any food inconsistent with that consecration, for instance what "dieth of itself," or a kid cooked in its mother's milk, as indicating contempt of the natural relation which God sanctified between parent and offspring. Compare the same principle  Leviticus 22:28;  Deuteronomy 22:6.

Arabs still cook lamb in sour milk to improve the flavor. Kid was a favorite food ( Genesis 27:9;  Genesis 27:14;  Judges 6:19;  Judges 13:15;  1 Samuel 16:20). Fish was the usual food in our Lord's time about the sea of Galilee ( Matthew 7:10;  John 6:9;  John 21:9, etc.).

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]

 Matthew 6:1 11 Ruth 2:1 14

While the men in the family were at work, the women and children would, among their daily activities, prepare for the evening meal. Water for cooking was collected by the older girls who drew it from the well or spring at the beginning of the day before it began to get hot, and the goats were milked too. Water collection was quite a serious business as well water could be polluted by animal usage, and house run-off from mud roofs was not normally safe to drink. Water collected, the girls then went to the market to purchase food for the meal. Fresh vegetables were bought from traders who sat with their produce around them on the ground of the market place, and if needed, olive oil and seasoning. Some families collected bread from the village baker who owned a communal oven, returning the bread which each family had left as dough the night before (See  Hosea 7:4-6 .) Other families got on with baking their own bread on their return home. The house had in the meantime been cleaned ( Luke 11:25 ), and the washing done. Grain had been crushed in the handmill, and the fire fanned so that it was hot enough for baking bread. After the midday rest, the evening meal was prepared on the fire; a vegetable or lentil stew was made in the large cooking pot, herbs and salt being used to add to the flavor. Only on special occasions such as a sacrifice or festival day was any meat added to the stew, and only on very rare occasions was the meat roasted or game or fish eaten. When the time came for the meal, the pot was placed on a rug on the floor ( Genesis 18:8 ), the whole family sitting round. A blessing or thanksgiving was made, and each member of the family used a piece of bread as a scoop to take up some of the contents of the pot because there was no cutlery. (Communal dipping into the pot made it essential that hands were washed before the meal). Later in history, a table and benches sometimes replaced the rug on the ground ( 1 Kings 13:20 ), but the communal pot was still at the center. At the close of the meal, fruit would be eaten; and everything washed down with wine.

Formal meals were always preceded by an invitation (which was politely refused as a matter of course). The host then insisted that people come until the invitations were accepted ( Luke 14:1 :  16-24 ). When the guests arrived, their feet were washed by the most humble slaves, and their sandals were removed ( John 13:1 :  3-11 ). This was to protect the carpeted floors from dirt as well as to make it more comfortable to sit on one's heels. Their heads were anointed with olive oil scented with spices. The oil was rubbed into the hair ( Luke 7:36-50 ). Drinking water was then provided. In large houses the special guest moved to the “top table” in a room with a raised floor. He would sit on the right-hand side of the host. The second guest would sit on the host's left-hand side.

One did not so much “sit” at table as recline at table. Couches were drawn up to the tables, head towards the table and cushions provided so that guests could rest on their left arm and use the right to serve themselves from the table. Using this arrangement, it was possible for the servants to continue to wash the feet ( Luke 7:1 :  46 ), but to make conversation persons had to turn almost on their backs and literally be “on the bosom” of the person to the left ( John 13:1 :  23-25 ). In the time of Jesus, the triclinium or couch arranged around three sides of a table, was the height of fashion. The open side was used by servants so that they had access to the tables to bring in or to take away dishes of food.

The meal started with a drink of wine diluted with honey. The main dinner which followed was of three courses, beautifully arranged on trays. There were no forks, so guests ate with their fingers except when soup, eggs, or shellfish were served. Then spoons were used. Finally there was a dessert of pastry and fruit. During the meal the host provided entertainment of music, dancing (individual, expressive dances), and readings from poetry and other literature. Such an occasion was an important local event, and people of humbler means were able to look in from the darkness outside ( Luke 7:1 :  37 ). When the meal was completed, there was a long period devoted to talking. Stories were related, and gossip was shared. Such festivities were always the envy of poorer people who tried to copy them in their own way. Martha was probably trying to do something of this sort at Bethany when Jesus reminded her “but one thing is needful” ( Luke 10:1 :  42 ).

Whether such meals were formal or informal, abundant or scant, there were always food laws which had to be observed. Only animals which chewed the cud and had divided hoofs, fish which had fins and scales, and birds which did not eat carrion could be eaten ( Leviticus 11:1-22 ), and the practice grew that soups should not be made with a mixture of vegetables ( Deuteronomy 9:1 :  9 ) and meat and milk dishes were not to be taken together (See Ex . 23  : 19).

Ralph Gower

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

1: Τροφή (Strong'S #5160 — Noun Feminine — trophe — trof-ay' )

denotes "nourishment, food" (akin to trepho, "to rear, nourish, feed"); it is used literally, in the Gospels, Acts and  James 2:15; metaphorically, in  Hebrews 5:12,14 , RV, "(solid) food," AV, "(strong) meat," i.e., deeper subjects of the faith than that of elementary instruction. The word is always rendered "food" in the RV, where the AV has "meat;" e.g.,  Matthew 3:4;  6:25;  10:10;  24:45;  Luke 12:23;  John 4:8;  Acts 2:46 , "did take their food," RV (AV, "did eat their meat");  Acts 9:19 , "took food;"  Acts 27:33,34,36 . The AV also has "food" in  Acts 14:17;  James 2:15 .

2: Διατροφή (Strong'S #1305 — Noun Feminine — diatrophe — dee-at-rof-ay' )

"sustenance, food," a strengthened form of No. 1 (dia, "through," suggesting a sufficient supply), is used in  1—Timothy 6:8 .

3: Βρῶσις (Strong'S #1035 — Noun Feminine — brosis — bro'-sis )

"eating, the act of eating" (akin to bibrosko, "to eat") is translated "food" in  2—Corinthians 9:10 . See Eating , Meat , Rust.

4: Σιτομέτριον (Strong'S #4620 — Noun Neuter — sitometrion — sit-om'-et-ron )

a measured "portion of food" (sitos, "corn," metreo, "to measure"), is used in  Luke 12:42 , RV.

5: Βρῶμα (Strong'S #1033 — Noun Neuter — broma — bro'-mah )

akin to No. 3, frequently translated "meat," and always so in the AV except in  Matthew 14:15 , "victuals," is rendered "food" in the RV in  Matthew 14:15;  Luke 3:11;  9:13 . Note: For asitia, "without food," see Abstinence.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [6]

FOOD. —While this word does not occur in Authorized Version in the Gospels, the Greek words βρῶμα ( Matthew 14:15,  Mark 7:19,  Luke 3:11;  Luke 9:13, and  John 4:34) and βρῶσις ( John 4:32;  John 6:27;  John 6:55), rendered ‘meat,’ would be in each case better rendered ‘food.’ The first word, βρῶμα, means anything eaten; while the second, βρῶσις, is used elsewhere in NT for ‘the act of eating’; but in the Gospels three times (in John) for that which is eaten; twice as a general term for food ( John 4:32;  John 6:27), and once as contrasted with drink ( John 6:55). In these passages in John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the term figuratively, of spiritual nourishment, which He Himself could give, describing His own body as ‘food indeed.’

The ordinary food in Christ’s day consisted chiefly of flesh, cereals, fruits, and herbs. Of flesh, that of sheep, oxen, kids, birds ( Matthew 12:12;  Matthew 25:32,  Luke 13:15,  Matthew 10:29), as well as fish ( Matthew 7:10,  Luke 24:42,  John 6:9;  John 21:13) was in common use. Of cereals, wheat and barley were favourite food-stuffs ( Matthew 3:12,  Mark 2:23-25,  Luke 3:17,  John 6:9;  John 21:13); of herbs there is mention of mint, anise, and cummin ( Matthew 23:23,  Luke 11:42); of fruits, we hear of figs ( Luke 13:7,  Matthew 21:18-19) and grapes ( Matthew 7:16,  Mark 12:2). The cereals were prepared by grinding in crude mills, and the flour was made into loaves or cakes baked in ovens. Food was seasoned with salt ( Mark 9:50); mustard leaves and cummin were used as condiments. See art. Meals.

John the Baptist, like some others of his day, lived nearer to nature, as a rebuke of prevalent luxury, and chose the native food of the wilderness, ‘locusts and wild-honey’ ( Matthew 3:4,  Mark 1:6). Jesus came ‘eating and drinking’ the ordinary food of His time, rebuking the artificial abstemiousness of the Pharisees ( Matthew 11:18 f.,  Luke 7:33 f.), as well as the too great anxiety of many as to what they should eat or drink ( Matthew 6:25 f.,  Luke 12:22-26).

E. B. Pollard.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Food. The diet of eastern nations has been, in all ages, light and simple.

Vegetable food was more used than animal. The Hebrews used a great variety of articles,  John 21:5, to give a relish to bread.

Milk and its preparations hold a conspicuous place in eastern diet, as affording substantial nourishment; generally in the form of the modern Leben , that is, Sour Milk . Authorized Version "butter;"  Genesis 18:8;  Judges 5:25;  2 Samuel 17:29.

Fruit was another source of subsistence: figs stood first in point of importance; they were generally dried and pressed into cakes. Grapes were generally eaten in a dried state as raisins.

Of vegetables, we have most frequent notice of lentils, beans, leeks, onions and garlic, which were and still are of a superior quality in Egypt.  Numbers 11:5.

Honey is extensively used, as is also olive oil.

The Orientals have been at all times sparing in the use of animal food; not only does the extensive heat of the climate render it both unwholesome to eat much meat and expensive from the necessity of immediately consuming a whole animal, but beyond this the ritual regulations of the Mosaic law in ancient, as of the Koran in modern, times have tended to the same result.

The prohibition expressed against consuming the blood of any animal,  Genesis 9:4, was more fully developed in the Levitical law, and enforced by the penalty of death.  Leviticus 3:17;  Leviticus 7:26; 1 Leviticus 9:26;  Deuteronomy 12:16. Certain portions of the fat of sacrifices were also forbidden,  Leviticus 3:9-10, as being set apart for the altar,  Leviticus 3:16;  Leviticus 7:25.

In addition to the above, Christians were forbidden to eat the flesh of animals portions of which had been offered to idols. All beasts and birds classed as unclean,  Leviticus 11:1 ff.;  Deuteronomy 14:4; ff., were also prohibited. Under these restrictions, the Hebrews were permitted the free use of animal food: generally speaking they only availed themselves of it in the exercise of hospitality or at festivals of a religious, public or private character.

It was only in royal households that there was a daily consumption of meat. The animals killed for meat were - calves, lambs, oxen not above three years of age, harts, roebucks and fallow deer; birds of various kinds; fish, with the exception of such as were without scales and fins.

Locusts, of which certain species only were esteemed clean, were occasionally eaten,  Matthew 3:4, but were regarded as poor fare.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Food. The diet of the ancients may be learned from that of oriental people now. Vegetable food is more used than animal. Bread was the principal food; preparations of corn were, however, common. The Hebrews used a great variety of articles,  John 21:5, to give a relish to bread. Milk holds a conspicuous place in eastern diet; generally in the form of the modern Leben, I.E., sour milk, and "butter;"  Genesis 18:8;  Judges 5:25;  2 Samuel 17:29. Fruit was another source of diet; figs were generally dried and pressed into cakes. Grapes were eaten in a dried state as raisins. Of vegetables we have most frequent notice of lentils, beans, leeks, onions and garlic, which were and still are of a superior quality in Egypt.  Numbers 11:5. Honey is extensively used, as is also olive oil. The orientals are sparing in the use of animal food: not only does the excessive heat of the climate render it both unwholesome to eat much meat and expensive from the necessity of immediately consuming a whole animal, but the regulations of the Mosaic law in ancient, as of the Koran in modern, times have tended to diminish its use. The prohibition against consuming the blood of any animal.  Genesis 9:4, was more fully developed in the Levitical law, and enforced by the penalty of death.  Leviticus 3:17;  Leviticus 7:26;  Leviticus 19:26;  Deuteronomy 12:16. Certain portions of the fat of sacrifices were also forbidden,  Leviticus 3:9-10, as being set apart for the altar.  Leviticus 3:16;  Leviticus 7:25. Christians were forbidden to eat the flesh of animals portions of which had been offered to idols. All beasts and birds classed as unclean,  Leviticus 11:1 ff.;  Deuteronomy 14:4 ff., were also prohibited. Under these restrictions the Hebrews were permitted the use of animal food: they availed themselves of it in the exercise of hospitality or at festivals of a religious, public or private character. The animals killed for meat were: calves, lambs, oxen, harts, roebucks and fallow deer, and other clean animals; birds of various kinds; fish, with the exception of such as were without scales and fins. Locusts, of which certain species only were esteemed clean, were occasionally eaten,  Matthew 3:4, but were regarded as poor fare.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

 Genesis 1:29 Genesis 9:2-5 Genesis 18:6-8 25:34 27:3,4 43:11 Exodus 16:3 Numbers 11:5 Exodus 16:11-13 Numbers 11:31

In the law of Moses there are special regulations as to the animals to be used for food ( Leviticus 11;  Deuteronomy 14:3-21 ). The Jews were also forbidden to use as food anything that had been consecrated to idols ( Exodus 34:15 ), or animals that had died of disease or had been torn by wild beasts ( Exodus 22:31;  Leviticus 22:8 ). (See also for other restrictions  Exodus 23:19;  29:13-22;  Leviticus 3:4-9;  9:18,19;  22:8;  Deuteronomy 14:21 .) But beyond these restrictions they had a large grant from God ( Deuteronomy 14:26;  32:13,14 ).

Food was prepared for use in various ways. The cereals were sometimes eaten without any preparation ( Leviticus 23:14;  Deuteronomy 23:25;  2 Kings 4:42 ). Vegetables were cooked by boiling ( Genesis 25:30,34;  2 Kings 4:38,39 ), and thus also other articles of food were prepared for use ( Genesis 27:4;  Proverbs 23:3;  Ezekiel 24:10;  Luke 24:42;  John 21:9 ). Food was also prepared by roasting ( Exodus 12:8;  Leviticus 2:14 ). (See Cook .)

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [10]

In ancient the food of a people was more entirely the product of their own country than in our day. Palestine was favored with an abundance of animal food, grain, and vegetables. But throughout the East, vegetable food is more used than animal. Bread was the principal food. Grain of various kinds, beans, lentils, onions, grapes, together with olive oil, honey, and the milk of goats and cows were the ordinary fare. The wandering Arabs live much upon a coarse black bread. A very common dish in Syria is rice, with shreds of meat, vegetables, olive oil, etc., intermixed. A similar dish, made with beans, lentils, and various kinds of pulse, was in frequent use at an earlier age,  Genesis 25:29-34   2 Kings 4:38-1 .

Fish was a common article of food, when accessible, and was very much used in Egypt. This country was also famous for cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlics,  Numbers 11:5 . Such is the food of the Egyptians still. See Eating .

Animal food was always used on festive occasions; and the hospitable patriarchs lost little time in preparing for their guests a smoking dish from their flocks of sheep and goats, their herds of cattle, or their dove cotes,  Genesis 18:7   Luke 15:23 . The rich had animal food more frequently, and their cattle were stalled and fattened for the table,  1 Samuel 16:20   Isaiah 1:11   11:6   Malachi 4:2 . Among the poor, locusts were a common means of sustenance, being dried in the sun, or roasted over the fire on iron plates.

Water was the earliest and common drink. Wine of an intoxicating quality was early known,  Genesis 9:20   14:18   40:1 . Date wine and similar beverages were common; and the common people used a kind of sour wine, called vinegar in  Ruth 2:14   Matthew 27:48 .

King James Dictionary [11]

FOOD, n. See Feed.

1. In a general sense, whatever is eaten by animals for nourishment, and whatever supplies nutriment to plants. 2. Meat aliment flesh or vegetables eaten for sustaining human life victuals provisions whatever is or may be eaten for nourishment.

Feed me with food convenient for me.  Proverbs 30 .

3. Whatever supplies nourishment and growth to plants, as water, carbonic acid gas, &c. Manuring substances furnish plants with food. 4. Something that sustains, nourishes and augments. Flattery is the food of vanity.

FOOD, To feed. Not in use.

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(1): ( n.) Anything that instructs the intellect, excites the feelings, or molds habits of character; that which nourishes.

(2): ( v. t.) To supply with food.

(3): ( n.) What is fed upon; that which goes to support life by being received within, and assimilated by, the organism of an animal or a plant; nutriment; aliment; especially, what is eaten by animals for nourishment.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

The productions of a country, at an early period of the world, necessarily determined its food. Palestine abounded with grain and various kinds of vegetables, as well as with animals of different species. Such, accordingly, in general, was the sustenance which its inhabitants took.

The use of fire, and the state of the arts of life in a country, must also have important influence on its cookery; in other words, will go far to determine the state in which the natural productions of the earth will be eaten. If the grain is to become bread, a long and by no means easy process has to be gone through. Skill in preparing food is therefore held in high repute.

Bread formed 'the staff of life' to the ancient Hebrews even more than to ourselves; but the modes of preparing it have been noticed under other heads [[[Bread; Mill]]]

On a remarkable occasion a calf, tender and good, is taken, slain, dressed (roasted, most probably,;;;; boiling was not known till long afterwards), and set before the guests, while the entertainer (Abraham) respectfully stood at their side, doubtless to render any desirable service. The sauce or accompaniments on this occasion were butter and milk. From , it may be inferred that the bread was unleavened.

The cases, however, to which reference has been made were of a special nature; and from them, as well as from what is recorded touching Isaac and Esau and Jacob, it appears that flesh meat was reserved as food for guests, or as a dainty for the sick; lentils, pulse, onions, grain, honey, and milk being the ordinary fare.

The agreeable, and perhaps in part the salubrious qualities of salt, were very early known and recognized: in , it is expressly enjoined, 'Every oblation of thy meat-offering shalt thou season with salt; with all thine offerings shalt thou offer salt.'

Locusts were a permitted and a very common food. At the present day they are gathered by the Bedouins at the beginning of April, and being roasted on plates of iron, or dried in the sun, are kept in large bags, and, when needed, eaten strewed with salt by handfuls.

Of four-footed animals and birds, the favorite food were sheep, goats, oxen, and doves. There are few traces of the eating of fish, at least in Palestine . In the last passage a distinction is made between certain fish which might be eaten, and others which were forbidden. 'These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat; and all that have not fins and scales, they shall be an abomination unto you.'

The distinction of clean and unclean animals, and of animals which might and those which might not be eaten, is found to have existed to a great extent in ancient Egypt. Among fish the oxyrinchus, the phagrus, and the lepidotus, were sacred, and might not even be touched. The inhabitants of Oxyrinchus objected to eat any fish caught by a hook, lest it should have been defiled by the blood of one they held so sacred. The phagrus was the eel; and the reason of its sanctity, like that of the oxyrinchus, was probably owing to its unwholesome qualities; the most effectual method of forbidding its use being to assign it a place among the sacred animals of the country.

Neither the hippopotamus nor the crocodile appears to have been eaten by the ancient Egyptians. Some of the Egyptians considered the crocodile sacred, while others made war upon it (Herod, ii. 69). In some places it was treated with the most marked respect, fed, attended, adorned, and after death embalmed. But the people of Apollinopolis, Tentyris, Heracleopolis, and other places, held the animal in abhorrence.

Cats as well as dogs were held in high esteem by the ancient Egyptians. The former especially were objects of superstitious regard. When a cat died in a house a natural death, a general mourning throughout the family ensued; and to kill one of these revered animals was a capital offence.

Though it appears that swine frequently formed part of the stock of an Egyptian farm-yard, yet was the animal unclean and an abomination in the estimation of the Egyptians.

The Mosaic laws which regulated the use of animal food may be found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. The grounds of many of these regulations may be ascertained with a greater or less degree of probability, provided the student is well acquainted with the mind and spirit of Hebrew antiquity. Considerations drawn from idolatrous usages, regard to health, the furtherance of agriculture, and established customs and tastes, had in each case an influence in the promulgation of these laws.

In the earliest times water was the common drink. That wine of an intoxicating tendency was drunk at a very early period appears from what happened to Noah , who seems to have made as well as drunk wine. Bread and wine are spoken of in , as offered for refreshment to Abraham by Melchizedek, king of Salem. Water was sometimes put to the wine; at others a strong drink was made by mixing with the wine aromatic herbs , or a decoction derived from them: myrrh was used for this purpose. Date-wine was in use, and probably the Egyptian or malt-wine. 'The common people' drank an acrid sort of wine, which is rendered vinegar in our English Version . The Orientals frequently used wine in excess, so as to occasion intoxication, whence are drawn many striking figures in Holy Writ (;;;;;;; ). That indulgence in wine was practiced in very ancient days is manifest from there being in the court of Pharaoh, at the time of Joseph, state-officers, who had charge of the wine and served the monarch with it when he drank (;; comp.;; ).

For drinking-vessels there were used the cup, and the bowl (;;;; ). The cup was generally of brass covered with tin, in form resembling a lily, sometimes circular. It is still used by travelers, and may be seen in both shapes in the ruins of Persepolis . The bowl assumed a variety of shapes, and bears many names. Some of these 'chargers' appear, from the presents made by the princes of Israel (Numbers 7), to have been of large size and great splendor; some were silver, some gold .

Fig. 183—Egyptian Table with dishes

In eastern climes the chief meal, or what we term dinner, is, in consequence of the heat of the middle period of the day, deferred till towards evening, a slight repast being taken before noon. But from; , it appears to have been the custom to dine at noon in the days of the patriarchs. The same seems to have been the case in Palestine at a later period (; comp.; ). Convivialities, however, were postponed till evening, and sometimes protracted to the following morning (;; ). The meal was preceded by washing of hands , which the mode of eating rendered necessary; and by an invocation of the divine blessing (;; ).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

food  :

I. Vegetable Foods

1. Primitive Habits

2. Cereals

3. Leguminous Plants

4. Food of Trees

II. Animal Food


In a previous article (see Bread ) it has been shown that in the Bible "bread" usually stands for food in general and how this came to be so. In a complementary article on Meals the methods of preparing and serving food will be dealt with. This article is devoted specifically to the foodstuffs of the Orient, more especially to articles of food in use among the Hebrews in Bible times. These are divisible into two main classes.

I. Vegetable Foods

1. Primitive Habits

Orientals in general are vegetarians, rather than flesh eaters. There is some reason to believe that primitive man was a vegetarian (see  Genesis 2:16;  Genesis 3:2 ,  Genesis 3:6 ). It would seem, indeed, from a comparison of  Genesis 1:29 f with   Genesis 9:3 f that Divine permission to eat the flesh of animals was first given to Noah after the Deluge, and then only on condition of drawing off the blood in a prescribed way (compare the kosher ( kāshēr ) meat of the Jews of today).

2. Cereals

The chief place among the foodstuffs of Orientals must be accorded to the cereals, included in the American Standard Revised Version under the generic term "grain," in the King James Version and the English Revised Version "corn." The two most important of these in the nearer East are wheat ( hīṭṭāh ) and barley ( se‛ōrı̄m ). The most primitive way of using the wheat as food was to pluck the fresh ears ( Leviticus 23:14;  2 Kings 4:42 ), remove the husks by rubbing in the hands ( Deuteronomy 23:25;  Matthew 12:1 ), and eat the grains raw. A common practice in all lands and periods, observed by the fellaheen of Syria today, has been to parch or roast the ears and eat the grain not ground. This is the parched corn (the American Standard Revised Version "'grain") so often mentioned in the Old Testament, which with bread and vinegar (sour wine) constituted the meal of the reapers to which Boaz invited Ruth (Rth 2:14).

Later it became customary to grind the wheat into flour ( kemaḥ ), and, by bolting it with a fine sieve, to obtain the "fine flour" ( ṣōleth ) of our English Versions of the Bible, which, of course, was then made into "bread" (which see), either without leaven ( maccāh ) or with ( leḥem ḥāmēc  Leviticus 7:13 ).

Meal , both of wheat and of barley, was prepared in very early times by means of the primitive rubbing-stones, which excavations at Lachish, Gezer and elsewhere show survived the introduction of the hand-mill (see Mill; Compare PEFS , 1902, 326). Barley ( se‛ōrı̄m ) has always furnished the principal food of the poorer classes, and, like wheat, has been made into bread ( Judges 7:13;  John 6:9 ,  John 6:13 ). Less frequently millet (  Ezekiel 4:9 ) and spelt ( ה , kuṣṣemeth  ; see Fitches ) were so used. (For details of baking, bread-making, etc., see Bread , III, 1, 2, 3.)

3. Leguminous Plants

Vegetable foods of the pulse family ( leguminosae ) are represented in the Old Testament chiefly by lentils and beans. The pulse of  Daniel 1:12 ( zerō‛ı̄m ) denotes edible "herbs" in general (Revised Version margin, compare  Isaiah 61:11 , "things that are sown"). The lentils ( ‛ădhāshı̄m ) were and are considered very toothsome and nutritious. It was of "red lentils" that Jacob brewed his fateful pottage ( Genesis 25:29 ,  Genesis 25:34 ), a stew, probably, in which the lentils were flavored with onions and other ingredients, as we find it done in Syria today. Lentils, beans, cereals, etc., were sometimes ground and mixed and made into bread ( Ezekiel 4:9 ). I found them at Gaza roasted also, and eaten with oil and salt, like parched corn.

The children of Israel, when in the wilderness, are said to have looked back wistfully on the "cucumbers ... melons ... leeks ... onions, and the garlic" of Egypt ( Numbers 11:5 ). All these things we find later were grown in Palestine. In addition, at least four varieties of the bean, the chickpea, various species of chickory and endive, the bitter herbs of the Passover ritual (  Exodus 12:8 ), mustard ( Matthew 13:31 ) and many other things available for food, are mentioned in the Mishna, our richest source of information on this subject. Cucumbers ( kīshshu'ı̄m ) were then, as now, much used. The oriental variety is much less fibrous and more succulent. and digestible than ours, and supplies the thirsty traveler often with a fine substitute for water where water is scarce or bad. The poor in such cities as Cairo, Beirût and Damascus live largely on bread and cucumbers or melons. The cucumbers are eaten raw, with or without salt, between meals, but also often stuffed and cooked and eaten at meal time. Onions ( becālı̄m ), garlic ( shummı̄m ) and leeks ( ḥācı̄r ) are still much used in Palestine as in Egypt. They are usually eaten raw with bread, though also used for flavoring in cooking, and, like cucumbers, pickled and eaten as a relish with meat ( ZDPV , IX, 14). Men in utter extremity sometimes "plucked saltwort" ( mallūah ) and ate the leaves, either raw or boiled, and made "the roots of the broom" their food ( Job 30:4 ).

4. Food of Trees

In  Leviticus 19:23 f it is implied that, when Israel came into the land to possess it, they should "plant all manner of trees for food." They doubtless found such trees in the goodly land in abundance, but in the natural course of things needed to plant more. Many olive trees remain fruitful to extreme old age, as for example those shown the tourist in the garden of Gethsemane, but many more require replanting. Then the olive after planting requires ten or fifteen years to fruit, and trees of a quicker growth, like the fig, are planted beside them and depended on for fruit in the meantime. It is significant that Jotham in his parable makes the olive the first choice of the trees to be their king (  Judges 9:9 ), and the olive tree to respond, "Should I leave my fatness, which God and man honor in me, and go to wave to and fro over the trees?" (American Revised Version margin). The berries of the olive ( zayith ) were doubtless eaten, then as now, though nowhere in Scripture is it expressly so stated. The chief use of the berries, now as ever, is in furnishing "oil" (which see), but they are eaten in the fresh state, as also after being soaked in brine, by rich and poor alike, and are shipped in great quantities. Olive trees are still more or less abundant in Palestine, especially around Bethlehem and Hebron, on the borders of the rich plains of Esdraelon, Phoenicia, Sharon and Philistia, in the vale of Shechem, the plain of Moreh, and in the trans-Jordanic regions of Gilead and Bashan. They are esteemed as among the best possessions of the towns, and the culture of them is being revived around Jerusalem, in the Jordan valley and elsewhere throughout the land. They are beautiful to behold in all stages of their growth, but especially in spring. Then they bear an amazing wealth of blossoms, which in the breeze fall in showers like snowflakes, a fact that gives point to Job's words, "He shall cast off his flower as the olive-tree" ( Job 15:33 ). The mode of gathering the fruit is still about what it was in ancient times (compare  Exodus 27:20 ).

Next in rank to the olive, according to Jotham's order, though first as an article of food, is the fig (in the Old Testament te'ēnāh , in the New Testament sukḗ ), whose "sweetness" is praised in the parable ( Judges 9:11 ). It is the principal shade and fruit tree of Palestine, growing in all parts, in many spontaneously, and is the emblem of peace and prosperity ( Deuteronomy 8:8;  Judges 9:10;  1 Kings 4:25;  Micah 4:4;  Zechariah 3:10; 1 Macc 14:12). The best fig and olive orchards are carefully plowed, first in the spring when the buds are swelling, sometimes again when the second crop is sprouting, and again after the first rains in the autumn. The "first-ripe fig" ( bikkūrāh ,  Isaiah 28:4;  Jeremiah 24:2 ), i.e. the early fig which grows on last year's wood, was and is esteemed as a great delicacy, and is often eaten while it is young and green. The late fig ( te'ēnı̄m ) is the kind dried in the sun and put up in quantities for use out of season. Among the Greeks and the Romans, as well as among the Hebrews, dried figs were most extensively used. When pressed in a mold they formed the "cakes of figs" ( debhēlāh ) mentioned in the Old Testament ( 1 Samuel 25:18;  1 Chronicles 12:40 ), doubtless about such as are found today in Syria and Smyrna, put up for home use and for shipment. It was such a fig-cake that was presented as a poultice (the King James Version "plaster") for Hezekiah's boil ( Isaiah 38:21; compare  2 Kings 20:7 ). As the fruit-buds of the fig appear before the leaves, a tree full of leaves and without fruit would be counted "barren" ( Mark 11:12 f; compare   Isaiah 28:4;  Jeremiah 24:2;  Hosea 9:10;  Nahum 3:12;  Matthew 21:19;  Luke 13:7 ).

Grapes ( ‛ănābhı̄m ), often called "the fruit of the vine" ( Matthew 26:29 ), have always been a much-prized article of food in the Orient. They are closely associated in the Bible with the fig (compare "every man under his vine and under his fig-tree,"  1 Kings 4:25 ). Like the olive, the fig, and the date-palm, grapes are indigenous to Syria, the soil and climate being most favorable to their growth and perfection. Southern Palestine especially yields a rich abundance of choice grapes, somewhat as in patriarchal times ( Genesis 49:11 ,  Genesis 49:12 ). J. T. Haddad, a native Syrian, for many years in the employment of the Turkish government, tells of a variety in the famous valley of Eshcol near Hebron, a bunch from which has been known to weigh twenty-eight pounds (compare  Numbers 13:23 ). Of the grapevine there is nothing wasted; the young leaves are used as a green vegetable, and the old are fed to sheep and goats. The branches cut off in pruning, as well as the dead trunk, are used to make charcoal, or for firewood. The failure of such a fruit was naturally regarded as a judgment from Yahweh ( Psalm 105:33;  Jeremiah 5:17;  Hosea 2:12;  Joel 1:7 ). Grapes, like figs, were both enjoyed in their natural state, and by exposure to the sun dried into raisins ( cimmūḳı̄m ), the "dried grapes" of  Numbers 6:3 . In this form they were especially well suited to the use of travelers and soldiers ( 1 Samuel 25:18;  1 Chronicles 12:40 ). The meaning of the word rendered "raisin-cake," the American Standard Revised Version "a cake of raisins" ( 2 Samuel 6:19 and elsewhere), is uncertain. In Bible times the bulk of the grape product of the land went to the making of Wine (which see). Some doubt if the Hebrews knew grape-syrup, but the fact that the Aramaic dibs , corresponding to Hebrew debhash , is used to denote both the natural and artificial honey (grape-syrup), seems to indicate that they knew the latter (compare  Genesis 43:11;  Ezekiel 27:17; and see Honey ).

Less prominent was the fruit of the mulberry figtree (or sycomore) ( shiḳmāh ), of the date-palm ( tāmār ), the dates of which, according to the Mishna, were both eaten as they came from the tree, and dried in clusters and pressed into cakes for transport; the pomegranate ( tappūaḥ ), the "apple" of the King James Version (see Apple ), or quinch , according to others; the husks ( Luke 15:16 ), i.e. the pods of the carob tree kerátion ), are treated elsewhere. Certain nuts were favorite articles of food - pistachio nuts ( boṭnı̄m ), almonds ( sheḳēdhı̄m ) and walnuts ( 'ĕghōz ); and certain spices and vegetables were much used for seasoning: cummin ( kammōn ), anise, dill (the King James Version) ( ḳecaḥ ), mint (ἡδύοσμον ) and Mustard (σίναπι ), which see. Salt ( melaḥ ), of course, played an important part, then as now, in the cooking and in the life of the Orientals. To "eat the salt" of a person was synonymous with eating his bread ( Ezra 4:14 ), and a "covenant of salt" was held inviolable ( Numbers 18:19;  2 Chronicles 13:5 ).

II. Animal Food

Anciently, even more than now in the East, flesh food was much less used than among western peoples. In the first place, in Israel and among other Semitic peoples, it was confined by law to the use of such animals and birds as were regarded as "clean" (see Clean; Uncleanness ), or speaking according to the categories of  Leviticus 11:2 ,  Leviticus 11:3; Dt 14:4-20, domestic animals and game (see Driver on Dt 14:4-20). Then the poverty of the peasantry from time immemorial has tended to limit the use of meat to special occasions, such as family festivals ( ḥaggı̄m ), the entertainment of an honored guest ( Genesis 18:7;  2 Samuel 12:4 ), and the sacrificial meal at the local sanctuary.

The goat ( ‛ēz , etc.), especially the "kid of the goats" ( Leviticus 4:23 ,  Leviticus 4:18 the King James Version), was more prized for food by the ancient Hebrews than by modern Orientals, by whom goats are kept chiefly for their milk - most of which they supply (compare   Proverbs 27:27 ). For this reason they are still among the most valued possessions of rich and poor (compare  Genesis 30:33;  Genesis 32:14 with   1 Samuel 25:2 ). A kid, as less valuable than a lamb, was naturally the readier victim when meat was required (compare  Luke 15:29 ).

The sheep of Palestine, as of Egypt, are mainly of the fat-tailed species ( Ovis aries ), the tail of which was forbidden as ordinary food and had to be offered with certain other portions of the fat ( Exodus 29:22;  Leviticus 3:9 ). To kill a lamb in honor of a gue st is one of the highest acts of Bedouin hospitality. As a rule only the lambs are killed for meat, and they only in honor of some guest or festive occasion (compare  1 Samuel 25:18;  1 Kings 1:19 ). Likewise the "calves of the herd" supplied the daintiest food of the kind, though the flesh of the neat cattle, male and female, was eaten. The "fatted calf" of  Luke 15:23 will be recalled, as also the "fatlings" and the "stalled" (stall-fed) ox of the Old Testament (  Proverbs 15:17 ). Asharp contrast suggestive of the growth of luxury in Israel is seen by a comparison of  2 Samuel 17:28 f with   1 Kings 4:22 f. The food furnished David and his hardy followers at Mahanaim was "wheat, and barley, and meal, and parched grain, and beans, and lentils, and parched pulse, and honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of the herd," while the daily provision for Solomon's table was "thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep, besides harts, and gazelles, and roebucks, and fatted fowl." Nehemiah's daily portion is given as "one ox and six choice sheep" (  Nehemiah 5:18 ).

Milk of large and small animals was a staple article of food (  Deuteronomy 32:14;  Proverbs 27:27 ). It was usually kept in skins, as among the Syrian peasants it is today ( Judges 4:19 ). We find a generic term often used ( ḥem'āh ) which covers also cream, clabber and cheese ( Proverbs 30:33 ). The proper designation of cheese is gebhı̄nāh ( Job 10:10 ), but ḥālābh also is used both for ordinary milk and for a cheese made directly from sweet milk (compare  1 Samuel 17:18 , ḥărı̄cē heḥālābh , and our "cottage cheese"). See Milk .

Honey ( debhāsh , nōpheth ha - cūphı̄m ), so often mentioned with milk, is ordinary bees' honey (see Honey ). The expression "honey" in the combination debhash weḥālābh , for which Palestine was praised, most likely means debhash temārı̄m , i.e. "date-juice." It was much prized and relished ( Psalm 19:10;  Proverbs 16:24 ), and seems to have been a favorite food for children ( Isaiah 7:15 ).

Of game seven species are mentioned (  Deuteronomy 14:5 ). The gazelle and the hart were the typical animals of the chase, much prized for their flesh (  Deuteronomy 12:15 ), and doubtless supplied the venison of Esau's "savory meat" ( Genesis 25:28;  Genesis 27:4 ).

Of fish as food little is said in the Old Testament (see   Numbers 11:5;  Jeremiah 16:16;  Ezekiel 47:10;  Ecclesiastes 9:12 ). No particular species is named, although thirty-six species are said to be found in the waters of the Jordan valley alone. But we may be sure that the fish which the Hebrews enjoyed in Egypt "for nought" ( Numbers 11:5 ) had their successors in Canaan (Kennedy). Trade in cured fish was carried on by Tyrian merchants with Jerusalem in Nehemiah's day ( Nehemiah 13:16 ), and there must have been a fish market at or near the fish gate ( Nehemiah 3:3 ). The Sea of Galilee in later times was the center of a great fish industry, as is made clear by the Gospels and by Josephus In the market of Tiberias today fresh fish are sold in great quantities, and a thriving trade in salt fish is carried on. The "small fishes" of our Lord's two great miracles of feeding were doubtless of this kind, as at all times they have been a favorite form of provision for a journey in hot countries.

As to the exact price of food in ancient times little is known. From  2 Kings 7:1 ,  2 Kings 7:16 we learn that one ṣe'āh of fine flour, and two of barley, sold for a shekel (compare  Matthew 10:29 ). For birds allowed as food see  Deuteronomy 14:11 and articles on Clean; Uncleanness .

Pigeons and turtle doves find a place in the ritual of various sacrifices, and so are to be reckoned as "clean" for ordinary uses as well. The species of domestic fowl found there today seem to have been introduced during the Persian period (compare 2 Esdras 1:30;   Matthew 23:37;  Matthew 26:34 , etc.). It is thought that the fatted fowl of Solomon's table (  1 Kings 4:23 ) were geese (see Mish). Fatted goose is a favorite food with Jews today, as it was with the ancient Egyptians.

Of game birds used for food (see  Nehemiah 5:18 ) the partridge and the quail are prominent, and the humble sparrow comes in for his share of mention (  Matthew 10:29;  Luke 12:6 ). Then, as now, the eggs of domestic fowls and of all "clean" birds were favorite articles of food (  Deuteronomy 22:6;  Isaiah 10:14;  Luke 11:12 ).

Edible insects ( Leviticus 11:22 f) are usually classed with animal foods. In general they are of the locust family (see Locust ). They formed part of the food of John the Baptist ( Matthew 3:4 , etc.), were regarded by the Assyrians as delicacies, and are a favorite food of the Arabs today. They are prepared and served in various ways, the one most common being to remove the head, legs and wings, to drop it in meal, and then fry it in oil or butter. It then tastes a little like fried frogs' legs. In the diet of the Baptist, locusts were associated with wild honey (see Honey ).

As to condiments (see separate articles on Salt; Coriander , etc.) it needs only to be said here that the caperberry (  Ecclesiastes 12:5 margin) was eaten before meals as an appetizer and, strictly speaking, was not a condiment. Mustard was valued for the leaves, not for the seed (  Matthew 13:31 ). Pepper , though not mentioned in Scripture, is mentioned margin the Mishna as among the condiments. Before it came into use, spicy seeds like cummin, the coriander, etc., played a more important role than since.

The abhorrence of the Hebrews for all food prepared or handled by the heathen (see Abomination ) is to be attributed primarily to the intimate association in early times between flesh food and sacrifices to the gods. This finds conspicuous illustration in the case of Daniel ( Daniel 1:8 ), Judas Maccabeus (2 Macc 5:27), Josephus ( Vita , III), and their compatriots (see also  Acts 15:20 ,  Acts 15:29;  1 Corinthians 8:1-10;  1 Corinthians 10:19 ,  1 Corinthians 10:28 ). As to sources of food supply and traffic in food stuffs , for primitive usages see  Genesis 18:7;  Genesis 27:9;  1 Kings 21:2 . As to articles and customs of commerce adopted when men became dwellers in cities, see  Jeremiah 37:21 , where bakers were numerous enough in Jerusalem to give their name to a street or bazaar, where doubtless, as today, they baked and sold bread to the public (compare Mishna, passim ). Extensive trade in "victuals" in Nehemiah's day is attested by  Nehemiah 13:15 f, and by specific mention of the "fish gate" (  Nehemiah 3:3 ) and the "sheep gate" ( Nehemiah 3:1 ), so named evidently because of their nearby markets. In John's Gospel ( John 4:8;  John 13:29 ) we have incidental evidence that the disciples were accustomed to buy food as they journeyed through the land. In Jerusalem, cheese was clearly to be bought in the cheesemakers' valley (Tyropoeon), oil of the oil merchants ( Matthew 25:9 ), and so on; and Corinth, we may be sure, was not the only city of Paul's day that had a provision market ("shambles,"  1 Corinthians 10:25 the Revised Version (British and American)).


Mishna B.M . i. 1, 2 and passim  ; Josephus, Vita and BJ  ; Robinson's Researches , II, 416, etc.; and Biblical Dictionaries, articles on "Food," etc.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

(represented by several Heb. and Gr. words [especially some derivative of the verb אָבֵל , Akal', to Eat], which are variously rendered in the A.V.). (See Victuals).

I. Materials. The original grant of the Creator made over to man the use of the vegetable world for food ( Genesis 1:29), with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ( Genesis 2:17), and, as some hold, also, the tree of life ( Genesis 3:22). So long as man continued in Paradise, he doubtless restricted his choice of food within the limits thus defined; but whether, as is commonly stated, we are to regard this as characteristic of the entire period between the creation of Adam and the grant of animal food to Noah after the flood ( Genesis 9:3), admits of doubt. It is doing no violence to the passage last cited to view it rather in the light of an ordinance intended to regulate a practice already in use, than as containing the first permission. of that practice; and when we consider that man is, by his original constitution, omnivorous, that there are special adaptations in his frame, as made by God, far the use of animal food, that from the beginning. he was acquainted with the use of fire, that from the beginning there was a distinction known to him between clean and unclean animals ( Genesis 7:2;  Genesis 7:8), corresponding. apparently to a distinction between animals good for food and animals not so, and that the pastoral was as early as the agricultural occupation among men, it seems more probable than otherwise that the use of animal food was not unknown to the antediluvians. Perhaps some fierce or cruel custom connected with the use of raw flesh, such as Bruce found in his day among the Abyssinians, and. such as Moses glances at ( Exodus 12:9), may have prevailed among the more barbarous and ferocious of the antediluvians; and it may have been in order to check this that the communication recorded in  Genesis 9:2-5, was made to Noah. It is not, however, to be overlooked that, in the traditions of antiquity, the early age of the world was represented as one in which men did snot use animal food (Diod. Sic. 1:43; 2:38; Ovid, Metam. 1:100 sq.; 15:96 sq.; Fast. 4, 395 sq.).

In the Patriarchal age the food of the ancestors of the Hebrews comprised the flesh of animals both tame and wild, as well as the cereals. We read of their using not only cakes of fine meal, but also milk and butter, and the flesh of the calf, the kid, and game taken by hunting ( Genesis 18:6-8;  Genesis 27:3-4). They used also leguminous food, and a preparation of lentiles seems to have been a customary and favorite dish with them ( Genesis 25:34). They made use also of honey (either honey of bees or sirup of grapes), spices, nuts, and almonds ( Genesis 43:11).

During their residence in Egypt the Israelites shared in the abundance of that land; there they "sat by the flesh-pots, and did eat bread to the full" ( Exodus 16:3); and amid the privations of the wilderness they remembered with regret and murmuring "the fish which they did eat in Egypt freely (the abundance of fish in Egypt is attested by Diod. Sic. 1:34, 36; and Allian, De Nat. Asim. 10:43), the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic" ( Numbers 11:5). These vegetable products have always formed an important part of the food of the people of Egypt; and the abundant use also of animal food by them is sufficiently attested by the monuments (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2:367- 374).

In their passage through the wilderness, the want of the ordinary materials of food was miraculously supplied to the Israelites by the manna. As it was of importance that their flocks and herds should not be wholly consumed or even greatly reduced before their entering on the promised land, they seem to have been placed under restrictions in the use of animal food, though this was not forbidden ( Leviticus 17:3 sq.) and when their longing for this food broke out into rebellious murmurs, a supply was sent to them by means of large flocks of a species of partridge very much ins use in the East ( Exodus 16:11-13;  Numbers 11:31; comp. Diod. Sic. 1:60).

When they reached the promised land, "the land flowing with milk and honey," abundance of all kinds of food awaited the favored people. The rich pasturelands of Palestine enabled. them to rear and maintain large flocks and herds; game of various kinds was abundant in the more mountainous and uninhabited districts; fish was largely supplied by the rivers and inland seas, and seems to have been used to a considerable extent ( 2 Chronicles 33:14;  Nehemiah 3:3;  Matthew 7:10;  Matthew 14:17;  Matthew 15:34;  Luke 24:42;  John 21:6-14), so that the destruction of it was represented asa special judgment from God ( Isaiah 50:2;  Hosea 4:3;  Zephaniah 1:3). (See Fish).

In the Mosaic code express regulations are laid down as to the kinds of animals that may be used in food (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). Those expressly permitted are, of beasts, the ox, the sheep, the goat, the hart, the roebuck, the fallow-deer, the wild goat, the pygarg, the wild ox, the chamois, and, in general, every beast that parteth the hoof and cleaveth the cleft into two claws [that is, where the hoof is completely parted, and each part is separately eased in bone], and cheweth the cud; of fish, all that have scales and fins; of fowls, all clean birds, that is, all except the carnivorous and piscivorous birds; of insects, the locust, the bald locust, the beetle, and the grasshopper. Whether the Hebrews attended to the rearing of gallinaceous fowls remains a matter of doubt. (See Cock).

Besides animals declared to be unclean, the Israelites were forbidden to use as food anything which had been consecrated to idols ( Exodus 34:15);, animals which had died of disease or been torn by wild beasts ( Exodus 22:31;  Leviticus 22:8; comp.  Ezekiel 4:14), and certain parts of animals, viz. the blood,( Leviticus 27:10;  Leviticus 19:26;  Deuteronomy 12:16-23), the fat covering the intestines, the kidneys, and the fat covering them, the fat of any, part of the ox, or sheep, or goat, especially the fat, tail of certain sheep ( Exodus 29:13-22;  Leviticus 3:4-10;  Leviticus 9:19). They were also forbidden to Use any food or liquids occupying a vessel into which the dead body of any unclean beast had fallen, as well as all food and liquids which had stood uncovered in the apartment of a dead or dying person ( Numbers 19:15). The eating of a kid boiled in the milk or fat of its mother was also prohibited ( Exodus 23:19;  Exodus 32:26;  Deuteronomy 14:21). These restrictions rested chiefly, doubtless, on religious and theocratic grounds, (See Fat), but for some of them reasons of a sanitary kind may also have existed. It belonged to the essence of the theocratic system that the people should be constantly surrounded by what reminded them of the separation to Jehovah, and the need of keeping themselves free from all that would level or lower the distinction between them and the nations around them. For this reason specific restrictions were laid upon their diet, which were not attended to by other nations, nor were always insisted on in the case of strangers dwelling within their bounds ( Deuteronomy 14:21). This does not, however, preclude our admitting that reasons of a social or political kind may also have conspired to render these restrictions desirable. In warm. climates the importance of avoiding contagion rendered the utmost action necessary in handling whatever may have been exposed to the influence of a corpse; and it is well known that the use of adipose matter in food requires, in such climates, to be restricted within narrow limits. The peculiar prohibition of a kid boiled in its mother's milk was ordained probably for the purpose of avoiding conformity to some idolatrous usage, or for the purpose generally of encouraging humane feelings on the part of the Israelites towards their domesticated animals (Spencer, De Legg. Hebr. Rituall. book 2, chapter 8; Michaelis, Mos. Recht, 4:200). (See Clean).

Subject to these restrictions, the Israelites were free to use for food all the produce of their fertile and favored land. "Thou shalt bestow thy money," said God to them, "for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, and thou shalt eat thereof before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou and thy household" ( Deuteronomy 14:26). In the enumeration of blessings conferred by God on Israel, we find "honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock, butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat," specified as among his free gifts to his people ( Deuteronomy 32:13-14). Though allowed this wide range, however, of animal food, the Hebrews do not seem in ordinary life to have availed themselves of it. The usual food of the people appears to have consisted of milk and its preparations, honey, bread, and vegetables of various sorts; and only at the royal table was animal food in daily use ( 1 Kings 4:23;  Nehemiah 5:18). The animals commonly used for food were Calves ( Genesis 18:7;  1 Samuel 28:24;  Amos 6:4): these were fattened for the purpose, and hence were Called Fatlings, Or Fatted Calves ( Μόσχος Σιτευτός ,  Luke 15:23; Σιτιστά ,  Matthew 22:4); Lambs,  2 Samuel 12:4;  Amos 6:4); Sheep ( 1 Samuel 14:34;  1 Samuel 25:18;  1 Kings 4:23); Oxen stall-fed, or from the pastures ( 1 Kings 1:9;  1 Kings 4:23;.  2 Chronicles 18:2;  Matthew 22:4); fat cattle מְרַיא , a particular kind of the bovine genus peculiar to Bashan, supposed by some to be a species of buffalo or ure-ox, but not to be confounded with the fatling or fatted calf above mentioned,  2 Samuel 6:13;  1 Kings 1:9;  Amos 5:22;  Ezekiel 39:18); Kids ( 1 Samuel 16:20); and various kinds of game, such as the ayil, the tsebi, and the yachmur ( 1 Kings 5:3 [15:23, A.V.]). The articles brought by Abigail to David were bread, sheep, parched [roasted] corn, raisins, and figs ( 1 Samuel 25:18); when Ziba met David on his flight from Absalom he brought to him bread, raisins, and summer fruits ( 2 Samuel 16:1); and the present of Barzillai to the king consisted of wheat, barley, flour, roasted corn, beans, lentils, honey, butter, sheep, and cheese ( 2 Samuel 17:28). We may presume from this that these formed the principal articles of food among the Jews at this time. Besides raisins or grapes dried in the sun, they used grapes pressed into cakes ( אֲשַׁישָׁה ); they had also fig-cakes ( דְּבֵלַים ). On special occasions they probably indulged in more costly viands; in times of famine they resorted even to very vile food; in seasons of affliction they abstained from all delicacies, and even sometimes from all food; and to prisoners the food allowed seems to have been only bread and water ( 1 Kings 22:27;  Jeremiah 37:21).

Besides the vegetables above mentioned, the Jews were acquainted with the melon, the cucumber, the mallow, the leek, the onion, garlic, and bitter herbs. In  Job 6:6, mention is made of רַיר חִלָּמוּת , which Gesenius would translate Purslain-Slime, or Purslain -broth=something extremely insipid (Thesaur. page 480). The reasons he gives for this are not without force, but cannot be held conclusive. The A.V. "white of an egg," follows the Rabbinical interpretation, which Rosenmuller, Ewald. etc., also approve; Lee (ad verb.) and Furst prefer understanding it of the whey of curdied milk; Renan translates it Le Jus De La Mauve.

The drinks of the Hebrews were, besides water, which was their ordinary beverage, milk, wine, and שֵׁכָר , which in the A.V. is rendered Strong Drink. To give the water a stronger relish, they probably sometimes dissolved a portion of fig-cake in it, according to the fashion of the Arabs at the present day (Niebuhr, Arab. page 57). The wines used were of various sorts, and sometimes their effect was strengthened by mingling different kinds together, or by the mixture with them of drugs ( Psalms 75:9; Proverbs 9:23, 30;  Isaiah 5:22). A species of delicacy seems to have been furnished by "spiced wines," that is, wines flavored by aromatic herbs, or perhaps simply by the juice of the pomegranate ( Song of Solomon 8:2). No mention is made in Scripture of the mixing of water with wine for the purpose of drinking it; the reference in  Isaiah 1:22 being to the adulteration of wine by fraudulent dealers; but the habit was so common in ancient times (comp. Odyss. 1:110; 9:208 sq.; Hippocrates, De Morb. 3:30; Lucian, Asin. 7; Plin. H. Nat. 23:22) that we can hardly doubt that it was known also among the Hebrews. (See Wine). Vinegar, חֹמֶוֹ , was also used by them as a means of quenching thirst ( Ruth 2:14;  Numbers 6:3); mixed with oil, this is still a favorite in the East, and mixed with water, it was drunk by the Roman soldiers and poor under the name of Posca (Pliny, H. Nat. 19:29; 22:58; Plautus, Mil. Glor . 3:2, 23). (See Drink).

The Hebrews made use of condiments to heighten the flavor of their dishes, as well as of spices to increase the effect of their wines. Besides the general condiment salt, they used cumin, dill, mint, coriander, rue, mustard, and the seeds of an herb to which they gave the name of קֶצִח , "fitches." Sometimes their made dishes were so richly flavored that the nature of the meat used could not be discovered ( Genesis 27:9;  Genesis 27:25). Besides myrrh, with which they flavored their wines, the Hebrews used various odoriferous products; but whether they used any of these with food is uncertain. (See Aromatics).

II. Methods Of Preparation. The early acquaintance of the race with the use of fire renders it probable that from the beginning men used some process of cooking in the preparation of their food, except in the case of such products as are more agreeable to the palate in a crude than in a concocted state. The cereals were sometimes eaten raw ( Leviticus 23:14;  Deuteronomy 23:25;  2 Kings 4:42;  Matthew 12:1); but from an early period it was customary to roast the grains, and so prepare them for food ( Leviticus 2:14; comp. Robinson, Bib. Res. 2: 394). This received the name of קָלַי (more fully אָבַיב קָלוּי בָאֵשׁ ) and קָלִיא A.V. "parched corn;" and was eaten either dry or formed into a sort of porridge, perhaps something after the manner Of The Pilaw in the East at the present day. This was not peculiar to the Hebrews; even as late as the time of Virgil roasting was a recognised method of preparing corn for use (Georg. 1:267), though this may have been only preparatory to bruising it (comp. Servius on AEn. 1:179; Pliny, H.N. 18:18, 23). For the preparation and kinds of bread in use among the Hebrews, (See Bread And Mill).

Vegetables were cooked by boiling, and seem to have been made into a pottage ( נָזַיד , the Niph. part. of זוּד , To Boil,  Genesis 25:30;  Genesis 25:34;  2 Kings 4:38-39), probably strengthened by the addition of some oily substance, such as butter or fat, or by having bones and gristles boiled down with them, as is still customary in the East (Shaw, Travels, page 125, cited by Jahn, Archaol. I, 2:190).

When animal food was to be used, the animal was killed in such a way as to allow all the blood to leave the carcase, in order scrupulously to observe the prohibition,  Exodus 22:31. Among the modern Jews, this is accomplished by cutting the throat of the animal quite through, and then suspending the carcase so as to allow all the blood to run out. the entrails with the fat are removed, the nerves and veins extracted, and strict search is made lest any drop of blood should. be allowed to remain in any. part (Buxtorf, Syn. Jud. chapter 27). The flesh, thus prepared for cooking, was commonly boiled in water ( בַּשֵּׁלִ , Piel of בָּשִׁל ) probably also sometimes in milk, as is still the case among the Arabs. Before being put into the pot, thee flesh, freed from the skin, appears to have been cut into small pieces, or, perhaps this was done during the process of cooking ( Micah 3:3; comp. Hitzig, ad loc.). The broth and the flesh were served up separately ( Judges 6:1), and both were eaten with bread. Salt was used to season the food; spices were also occasionally introduced, and highly flavored dishes were sometimes prepared ( Ezekiel 24:10;  Genesis 27:4;  Proverbs 23:3). For boiling, the pot or caldron was used; and the fuel was commonly wood, especially thorns ( Ecclesiastes 7:6;  Psalms 58:9;  Isaiah 44:16;  Ezekiel 24:10), sometimes the dried excrement of animals ( Ezekiel 4:15), a species of fuel still much used in the East (Irby sand Mangles's Travels, page 172; Rae Wilson's Travels, 2:156; Huc's Travels, passim). Food was also prepared by Roasting ( צָלָה ). This was regarded as the more luxurious mode of preparation, and was resorted to chiefly on festive occasions. The paschal lamb was to be roasted whole ( Exodus 12:4;  Exodus 12:6), but it does not appear that this was the. usual method of roasting flesh; it is more probable that the ancient Hebrews, like the modern Arabs, roasted their meat in small portions by means of short spits of wood or metal placed near the fire, and turned as the process of cooking required (comp. Odyss. 3:461-2, etc.; 1:465, etc.). Birds were roasted whole on such a spit. The Persians roast lambs and calves entire by placing them in an oven (Tavernier, 1:269; Chardin, 3:88), and this may also have. prevailed among thee Hebrews. Among the poor, locusts were eaten roasted, as is still common among the Arabs, whose method of cooking them is as follows: the feet and wings having been plucked off, and the entrails taken out, the body is salted, and then roasted by means of a wooden spit, on which a row of bodies similarly prepared are strung. Fish were usually broiled ( Luke 24:42;  John 21:9), but it would seem that they were sometimes cured, or at least brought into a state in which they could be used without farther cooking ( Matthew 14:17;  Matthew 14:19;  Matthew 15:34;  Matthew 15:36). In either case they were eaten with bread.

In primitive times the mistress of the house presided over the cooking of the food, as the master of the house charged himself with the slaughtering of the animals required ( Genesis 18:6;  Genesis 18:8;  Judges 6:19; comp. Il. 24:622, and Odyss. 2:300). Among the Egyptians, servants who were professional cooks took charge of preparing the food (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2:382 sq.); and in later times among the Hebrews similar functionaries were employed, both male and female ( טִבָּח ,  1 Samuel 9:23-24; טִבָּחָה ,  1 Samuel 8:13). The culinary utensils were פָרוּר a deep pan ( Numbers 11:8;  Judges 6:19; 1 Samuel 11, 14); קִלִּחִת ; סַיר ; דּוּד ; [CALDRON (See Caldron) ]; כַּיּוֹר a basin or pan ( Exodus 30:18;  1 Samuel 2:14; by); סֵפֶל ; צֵלָחָה ; סִ ; מִהֲבִת , an iron pan; מִרְחֶשֶׁת a frying-pan ( Leviticus 2:5-7;  Leviticus 7:9); חֲבַתַּים , pans ( 1 Chronicles 9:31); מִזְלֵג , A Fork Or Flesh-Hook with which flesh was drawn from the pot ( 1 Samuel 2:13-14), and perhaps the flesh separated from the bones in the pot ( Micah 3:3); כַּירִיַם a word of doubtful significancy, rendered by the Sep Χυτρόποδες ( Leviticus 11:34), by the Syr. place of pots, by Gesenius range jar pots, by Furst hearth for cooking, consisting of two rows of stones meeting at an angle, by Rosenmuller a place in the hearth under which was fire, and on the surface of which were, orifices, over which pots were placed, and by Knobel an earthenware stew-pan (Ravius, De re cabana vet. Heb. Traj. ad Rhen. 1768; Pareau, Antiq. Hebr. p. 388 sq.; Jahn, Archalolgie, 1, 2:167 sq.; Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, 2, chapter 57). (See Cook).