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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Food

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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).

Cereals

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).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Food'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/f/food.html. 2004.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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