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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The Book of Judges gives a fair picture of the early formative period of the Hebrew people and their ways of living. It is a picture of semi-savagery - of the life and customs of free desert tribes. In 1 Samuel we note a distinct step forward, but the domestic and cultural life is still low and crude. When they are settled in Palestine and come in contact with the most cultured people of the day, the case is different. Most that raised these Semitic invaders above the dull, crude existence of
I. Methods of Preparing Food.
The most primitive way of using the cereals was to pluck the fresh ears (Leviticus 23:14; 2 Kings 4:42 ), remove the husk by rubbing (compare Deuteronomy 23:25 and Matthew 12:1 ), and eat the grain raw. A practice common to all periods, observed by
Another simple way of preparing the grain was to soak it in water, or boil it slightly, and then, after drying and crushing it, to serve it as the dish called "groats" is served among western peoples.
The kneading of the dough preparatory to baking was done doubtless, as it is now in the East, by pressing it between the hands or by passing it from hand to hand; except that in Egypt, as the monuments show, it was put in "baskets" and trodden with the feet, as grapes in the wine press. (This is done in Paris bakeries to this day.) See BREAD; FOOD .
Lentils, several kinds of beans, and a profusion of vegetables, wild and cultivated, were prepared and eaten in various ways. The lentils were sometimes roasted, as they are today, and eaten like "parched corn." They were sometimes stewed like beans, and flavored with onions and other ingredients, no doubt, as we find done in Syria today (compare Genesis 25:29 , Genesis 25:34 ), and sometimes ground and made into bread (Ezekiel 4:9; compare Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins , IX, 4). The wandering Israelites in the wilderness looked back wistfully on the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic of Egypt (Numbers 11:5 ), and later we find all of these used for food in Palestine How many other things were prepared and used for food by them may be gathered from the Mishna, our richest source of knowledge on the subject.
The flesh of animals - permission to eat which it would seem was first given to Noah after the deluge (Genesis 1:29 f; Genesis 9:3 f) - was likewise prepared and used in various ways: ( a ) Roasting was much in vogue, indeed was probably the oldest of all methods of preparing such food. At first raw meat was laid upon hot stones from which the embers had been removed, as in the case of the "cake baken on the hot stones" ( 1 Kings 19:6 the Revised Version margin; compare Hosea 7:8 , "a cake not turned"), and sometimes underneath with a covering of ashes. The fish that the disciples found prepared for them by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:9 ) was, in exception to this rule, cooked on the live coals themselves. A more advanced mode of roasting was by means of a spit of green wood or iron (for baking in ovens, see FOOD ). (b ) Boiling was also common (see Genesis 25:29; Exodus 12:9 , etc., the American Standard Revised Version; English Versions of the Bible more frequently "seething," "sod," "sodden"), as it is in the more primitive parts of Syria today. The pots in which the boiling was done were of earthenware or bronze (Leviticus 6:28 ). When the meat was boiled in more water than was required for the ordinary "stew" the result was the broth ( Judges 6:19 f), and the meat and the broth might then be served separately. The usual way, however, was to cut the meat into pieces, larger or smaller as the case might demand ( 1 Samuel 2:13; Ezekiel 24:3 ff; compare Micah's metaphor, Micah 3:3 ), and put these pieces into the cooking-pot with water sufficient only for a stew. Vegetables and rice were generally added, though crushed wheat sometimes took the place of the rice, as in the case of the "savory meat" which Rebekah prepared for her husband from the "two kids of the goats" (Genesis 27:9 ). The seeds of certain leguminous plants were also often prepared by boiling (Genesis 25:29; 2 Kings 4:38 ). (c ) The Hebrew housewives, we may be sure, were in such matters in no way behind their modern kinswomen of the desert, of whom Doughty tells: "The Arab housewives make savory messes of any grain, seething it and putting thereto only a little salt and
Olive oil was extensively and variously used by the ancient Hebrews, as by most eastern peoples then, as it is now. ( a ) Oriental cooking diverges here more than at any other point from that of the northern and western peoples, oil serving many of the purposes of butter and lard among ourselves. ( b ) Oil was used in cooking vegetables as we use bacon and other animal fats, and in cooking fish and eggs, as sJso in the finer sorts of baking. See BREAD; FOOD; OIL . ( 100 ) They even mixed oil with the flour, shaped it into cakes and then baked it ( Leviticus 2:4 ). The "little oil" of the poor widow of Zerephath was clearly not intended for the lamps, but to bake her pitiful "handful of meal" (1 Kings 17:12 ). (d ) Again the cake of unmixed flour might be baked till almost done, then smeared with oil, sprinkled with anise seed, and brought by further baking to a glossy brown. A species of thin flat cakes of this kind are "the wafers anointed with oil" of Exodus 29:2 , etc. (e ) Oil and honey constituted, as now in the East, a mixture used as we use butter and honey, and are found also mixed in the making of sweet cakes (Ezekiel 16:13 , Ezekiel 16:19 ). The taste of the manna is said in Exodus 16:31 to be like that of "wafers made with honey," and in Numbers 11:8 to be like "the taste of cakes baked with oil" (Revised Version margin).
II. Meals, Meal-Time, Etc.
(1) It was customary among the ancient Hebrews, as among their contemporaries in the East in classical lands, to have but two meals a day. The "morning morsel" or "early snack," as it is called in the Talmud, taken with some relish like olives, oil or melted butter, might be used by peasants, fishermen, or even artisans, to "break their fast" (see the one reference to it in the New Testament in John 21:12 , John 21:15 ), but this was not a true meal. It was rather ἄριστον πρωΐνόν ,
(2) The first meal (of "meal-time," literally, "the time of eating," Rth 2:14; Genesis 43:16 ), according to general usage, was taken at or about noon when the climate and immemorial custom demanded a rest from labor. Peter's intended meal at Joppa, interrupted by the messengers of Cornelius, was at "the sixth hour," i.e. 12 M. It corresponded somewhat to our modern "luncheon," but the hour varied according to rank and occupation (Shabbath 10a). The Bedawi take it about 9 or 10 o'clock (Burckhardt, Notes , I, 69). It is described somewhat fully by Lane in Modern Egyptians . To abstain from this meal was accounted "fasting" (Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 14:24 ). Drummond (Tropical Africa ) says his Negro bearers began the day's work without food.
(3) The second and main meal (New Testament, δεῖπνον ,
(4) Sabbath banqueting became quite customary among the Jews (see examples cited by Lightfoot, Hor . Heb et Talmud on Luke 14:1; compare Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, II, 52, 437; Farrar, Life of Christ , II, 119, note). Indeed it was carried to such an excess that it became proverbial for luxury. But the principle which lay at the root of the custom was the honor of the Sabbath (Lightfoot, op. cit., III, 149), which may explain Jesus countenance and use of the custom (compare Luke 7:36; Luke 11:37; Luke 14:7-14 ), and the fact that on the last Sabbath He spent on earth before His passion He was the chief guest at such a festive meal (John 12:2 ). It is certain that He made use of such occasions to teach lessons of charity and religion, in one case even when His host was inclined to indulge in discourteous criticism (Luke 7:39; Luke 11:38 , Luke 11:45 f; compare John 12:7 f). He seems to have withheld His formal disapproval of what might be wrong in tendency in such feasts because of the latent possibilities for good He saw in them, and so often used them wisely and well. It was on one of these occasions that a fellow-guest in his enthusiasm broke out in the exclamation, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God" ( Luke 14:15 ), referring evidently to the popular Jewish idea that the Messianic kingdom was to be ushered in with a banquet, and that feasting was to be a chief part of its glories (compare Isaiah 25:6; Luke 13:29 ). See BANQUET .
III. Customs at Meals.
In the earliest times the Hebrews took their meals sitting, or more probably squatting, on the ground like the Bedouin and
Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah ; O. Holtzmann, Eine Untersuchung zum Leben Jesu , English translation, 206; B. Weiss, The Life of Christ , II, 125, note 2; Plummer, International Critical Commentary , "Luke," 159 f; Farrar, Life of Christ ; Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes), Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels , the 1-volume Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible ; Encyclopedia Biblica ; Jewish Encyclopedia , etc.
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Meals; Meal-Time'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/m/meals-meal-time.html. 1915.