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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Cheese

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(in 1 Samuel 17:18, חֲרַיצֵי הֶחָלָב, charitsey´ he-chalab´, slices of the [curdled] milk; Sept. τρυφαλίδες τοῦ γάλακτος, Vulg. formellcm casei; in 2 Samuel 17:29, שְׁפוֹת shephoth´, according to the Rabbins, so called from being filtered from the whey; Sept. Σαφώθ , Vulg. pingues; in Job 10:10, גְּבִינָה, gebinah´, coagulated milk; Sept. τυρός ). It is difficult to decide how far these terms correspond with our notion of cheese, for they simply express various degrees of coagulation (see Gesenius, Thes. Hebrews p. 25, 526). It may be observed that cheese is not at the present day common among the Bedouin Arabs, butter being decidedly preferred; but there is a substance, closely corresponding to those mentioned in 1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 17, consisting of coagulated buttermilk, which is dried until it becomes quite hard, and is then ground: the Arabs eat it mixed with butter (Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins, 1:60). It is noticeable that the ancients seem generally to have used either butter or cheese, but not both: thus the Greeks had in reality but one expression for the two, for βούτυρον= βοῦς, τυρός, "cheese of kine." The Romans used cheese exclusively (see Beroald, ad Apulej. Metam. p. 26), while all nomad tribes preferred butter. The distinction between cheese proper and coagulated milk seems to be referred to in Pliny, 11:96. (See BUTTER).

The most important passage in which this preparation from milk is mentioned in Scripture is that where Job (Job 10:10), figuratively describing the formation of the foetus in the womb, says:

Is it not like milk thou wouldst pour me out, Even like cheese wouldst curdle me?

This text alludes to that progressive solidification which is common to all cheese, which is always soft when new, though it hardens when it becomes old. Undoubtedly the Orientals do eat curds, or curdled milk, but that, therefore, their cheese consists of curdled milk is not the correct inference. We also eat curds, but do not regard curds as cheese; neither do they. The other passages describe "cheese" in the plural, as parts of military provision, for which the most solid and compact substances are always preferred. Persons on a march eould not like to encumber themselves with curdled milk (2 Samuel 17:29). (See CURDLE).

There is much reason to conclude that the cheese used by the Jews differed in no respect from that still common in the, East, which is.-usually.- exhibited in small cakes about the size of a tea-saucer, white in color, and excessively salt. It has no rind, and soon becomes exceedingly hard and dry, being, indeed, not made for long keeping. It is best when new and comparatively soft, and in this state large quantities are consumed in lumps or crumbs not made up into cakes. All cheese in the East is of very indifferent quality, and the natives infinitely prefer English or Dutch cheese when they can obtain it. In making cheese the common rennet is either buttermilk or a decoction of the great-headed thistle or wild artichoke. The curds are afterwards put into small baskets made of rushes or palm leaves, which are then tied up close and the necessary pressure applied. (See Kitto, Pict. Bible, note on 1 Samuel 17:19.) (See MILK).

There are several decisions in the Mishna relative to the pressure by which cheese was made (Cholim, 8:2). This -proves that, as observed before, no preparation of milk was regarded as cheese while in a fluid state, or before being subjected to pressure. In another place (Aboda Sara, 2:5) it is decided that cheese made by foreigners could not be eaten, from the fear that it might possibly be derived from the milk of some animal which had been offered in sacrifice to idols. It is therefore certain that cheese was known to the Jews (comp. Philo, Opp. 2:337; Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 120), and there was even a valley at Jerusalem called the Tyropoeon (q.v.), i.e. cheese-makers' valley (φάραγξ τῶν τυροποιῶν ), doubtless from its being occupied by persons of this craft (Josephus, War, 5:5, 1). (See BAZAAR). An instrument for cutting firm cheese is even named in the Mishna (Shabb. 17:2). (See generally Ugolini, De re rustica vet. Hebr. [in his Thesaur. 29:], 2:15.) (See FOOD).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Cheese'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/c/cheese.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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