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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Meal-Time

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(עֵת אֹכֶל, eth o'kel, the season of eating, Ruth 2:14). That the Hebrews took their principal meal (coena, supper) in the latter part of the afternoon or towards evening, follows as well from the circumstance that banquets and convivial entertainments generally (perhaps always) occurred near the close of the day (sometimes being continued far into the night, Josephus, Life, 44), as from the custom still prevalent in the East (Wellsted, Trav. 1:113; the Persians sup about six or seven o'clock), a usage to which the Essenes were an exception (Josephus, War, 2:8, 5). (See FEAST).

The agricultural and laboring portion of the community, however, probably took their principal meal at noon (1 Kings 20:16). (See DINE).

In the forenoon a slight repast was partaken (breakfast, ἄριστον, comp. Luke 14:12; John 21:22). Among the later Jews, it was usual for the deeply religious not to taste anything before the hour of morning prayer (comp. Acts 2:15; see Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. ad loc.; the passage in Berach. fol. 27:2, quoted by Kuinol, refers to the blessing before eating, see Gemar. Bab. 6:1,1); on the Sabbath, the synagogue worship led to the rule of not eating before the sixth hour, or noon. Before each meal, persons were accustomed, especially in later times, carefully to wash (Matthew 15:2; Luke 11:38; Mark 6:2; sec the younger Buxtorf s Dissert. philol. theol. p. 397 sq.), like the ancient Greeks (Hiad, 10:577; Odyss. 1:136 sq.; 4:216 sq.; Aristoph. Vesp. 1216) and the modern Orientals (Niebuhr, Beschr. p. 54; Shaw, Trav. p. 202), and also to "say grace". (בֵּרָכָה, the blessing, εὐλογία, εὐχαριστία; Matthew 14:19; Matthew 15:36; Matthew 26:26; Luke 9:16 John 6:11; comp. 1 Timothy 4:3; see the Gemara, Berach. p. 278; and the rabbinical tract, Berachoth, p. 6-18; also KuinoL De precum ante et post cibum ap. Jud. et Christian. antiquitate, Lips. 1764). While eating the Hebrews originally sat (Genesis 27:19; Hengstenberg, Mos. p. 36, incorrectly infers their recumbency at table from Genesis 18:4; comp. Judges 19:6; 1 Samuel 20:5; 1 Samuel 20:24; 1 Kings 13:20), like the Greeks in the heroic period (Hiad, 10:578; Odyss. 1:144; 15:134; Athen. 8:363; 11:459), and the Romans anciently (Serv. ad AEn. 7:176; Varro, Ling. Lat. 1, p. 236: Bip.; see Becker, Charikl. 1:425), and in this posture are the early Egyptians represented on the monuments (Wilkinson, 2:201). In later times the practice of reclining (ἀνακεῖσθαι, κατακεῖσθαι, κατακλίνεσθαι, see the Mishna, Berach. 6:6) on cushions or divans (מַטוֹת; κλῖναι, Xen. Cyrop. 8:8, 16; κατακλίματα, Josephus. Ant. 15:9, 3; comp. A. Baccins, De conviv. antiq. ii, sq., in Gronov. Thesaur. ix), at first only in special entertainments (Amos 6:4 comp. 2:8; Matthew 9:10; Matthew 26:7; Mark 6:22; Mark 14:3; Luke 5:29; Luke 7:37; Luke 14:10; John 12:2; John 13:23, etc.), but eventually in common life (Luke 17:7), without any particular invitation to that effect (Terent. Heautont. 1:1, 72;' Plant. Trucul. 2:14, 16; Martial; 3:50, 3; comp. Plat. Conviv. p. 213), and universally (see H.Mercurialis, Diss. de accubitu triclinio, in his Ars gymnast. p. 75 sq.). (See ACCUBATION).

Every such divan or dinner-bed accommodated (according to Roman fashion) three persons (triclinium [Plin. 37:6], a prevalent form of luxury [Plin. 33:52;-Josephus, Ant. 15:9, 3; Philo, 2:478], introduced from the Babylonians, who used a carpet or tapestry over it [Plin. 8:74], whence: the terms descriptive of spreading it [sternere, Cic. Mur. 36; Macrob. Sat. 2:9; στρωννύειν, Xen. Cyrop. 8:3, 6; which explains the ἀνάγαιον ἐστρωμένον of Mark 14:15; see generally Ciacon. De triclinio, Amst. 1699]), sometimes as many as five, who leaned upon the left arm, the feet being stretched out behind. Each one on the right touched with the back of his head the breast of his left neighbor, whence the phrase " to lie in one's bosom" (ἀνακεῖσθαι ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ, John 13:23; John 21:20), as being the place of the spouse (among the Jews, however, wives ate sitting, which the Romans generally held to be the most becoming attitude, Isidor. Orig. 20:11; comp. Sueton. Claud. 32; Val. Max. 2:1, 2; the "sitting at the feet" in Luke 10:39, was not an act of participation in the meal), a friend, or a favorite (Plin. Ephesians 4:22; see Kype, Observ. 1:402; comp. Talm. Babyl. Berach. 7:2, 5); the place of honor being in the middle of the three (Talm. Hieros. Taanith, Ixviii, i; comp. Potter, Archceol. 2:661). The tables (comp. 1 Samuel 20:29; 2 Samuel 9:7-11; 1 Kings 10:5; Ezekiel 39:20; Luke 22:21; Acts 16:34, etc.) were probably, as still in the East (Mariti, Trav. p. 283; Shaw, Trav. p. 202; Mayr, Schicksale, 1:51; Robinson, Researches, 2:726), low (among modern Orientals consisting of a round skin [sufra] or reed-mat, Rtippel, Abyssin. 2:85, spread on the floor in the middle of the room, Arvieux, Voyage, iii 237; Pococke, East, 1:292; Harmar, Observ. 2:453, or on a stool, and furnished with rings on the edge, so that after the meal it may be folded together, and hung up like a bag, the food being laid on mats, or upon cloths covering it, comp. Niebuhr, Trav. 1:372; Paulus, Samml. 3:101), as appears likewise from the pattern of the table of show-bread. (See TABLE).

Meat and vegetables, the first cut into small pieces (the loins and shoulders affording what were regarded as choice morsels, Ezekiel 24:4), were set on the table in large platters, out of which each guest took his share with his fingers upon the flat pieces of bread, and ate without either knife or fork (comp. Zorn, in the Miscell. Duisburg. 2:437'sq.; Mariti, Trav. p.284); or was sometimes helped by the host (1 Samuel 1:4; comp. John 13:26; Xen. Cyrop. 1:3, 7). The pieces of bread were dipped into the sauce (Matthew 26:23; Aristoph. Eg. 1176), and the vegetables were conveyed from the dish by means of the hand or fingers to the mouth (comp. Proverbs 19:24; Proverbs 26:15; Ruth 2:14 is not in point), a custom which still prevails in the East even at the royal table (Tavernier, Trav. 1:282; Arvieux, Voyage, iii, 238.; Pococke, 2:63; Niebuhir Besch. p. 53; Shaw, Trav. p. 203; Burckhardt, Wahaby, p.51; Rosenmiller, Morgenl. 4:138; Robinson, 2:726; 3:201). Whether they drank wine during the meal (like the Romans) or after it (like the Egyptians, Herod. 2:278, and Persians, Herod. v. 18, and as is still the practice of most Arabians and Persians, Chardin, 4:44, 52; Arvieux, 3:277; Burckhardt, Sprachen, p. 137; comp. Josephus, Ant. 15:1, 2), is not positively stated, although the Talmud (Babylon. Berach. p. 251) seems to imply that the Jews did both, the draught following the meal, however, being the principal one (Berach. 8:4,7; comp. Robinson, 2:726). (See EATING). (See generally M. Geier, in the Biblioth. Lubec. v. 1 sq.) (See ENTERTAINMENT).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Meal-Time'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/meal-time.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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