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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Parched Corn

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is the rendering in the A.V. of קָלַי [once קָלַיא, 1 Samuel 17:17], kali', an edible substance (Leviticus 23:14; Ruth 2:14; 1 Samuel 17:17; 1 Samuel 25:18; 2 Samuel 17:28, twice, the last "parched pulse"), and of ἄλφιτα in Judith 10:5. The correctness of this translation has not, however, been assented to by all commentators. Thus, as Celsius (Hierobot. 2:231) says, "Syrus interpres, Onkelos, et. Jonathan Ebrnea voce utuntur, Leviticus 23:14; 1 Samuel 17:17;' 25:18; 2 Samuel 17:18." Arias Montanus and others, he adds, render kali by the word tostum, considering it to be derived from קָלָה, kalah', which in Hebrew signifies "to toast" or parch." So in the Arabic kali signifies anything cooked in a frying-pan, and is applied to the common Indian dish which by Europeans is called currie or curry; kali and kalla signify one that fries, or a cook. From the same root is supposed to be derived the word kali or al- kali, now so familiarly known as alkali, which is obtained from the ashes of burned vegetables. But as, in the various passages of Scripture where it occurs, kali is without any adjunct, different opinions have been entertained respecting the substance which is to be understood as having been toasted or parched. By some it is supposed to have been grain in general; by others, only wheat. Some Hebrew writers maintain that flour or meal. and others that parched meal, is intended, as in the passage of Ruth 2:14, where the Sept. translates kali by ἄλφιτα, and the Vulg. by polenta. A difficulty, however, arises in the case of 2 Samuel 17:28, where the word occurs twice in the same verse. We are told that Shobi and others, on David's arrival at Mahanaim, in the farther limit of the tribe of Gad, "brought beds, and basins, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn (kali), and beans, and lentils, and parched pulse. (kali), and honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David and for the people that were with him to eat." This is a striking representation of what may be seen every day in the East: when a traveler arrives at a village, the common light beds of the country are brought him, as well as earthen pots, with food of different kinds. The meaning of the above passage is explained by the statement of Hebrew writers that there are two kinds of kali one made of parched corn, the other of parched pulse; which are described by R. Salomon, on Aboda Zarah, fol. 38:2.

There is no doubt that in the East a little meal, either parched or not, mixed with a little water, often constitutes the dinner of the natives, especially of those engaged in laborious occupations, as boatmen while dragging their vessels up rivers, and unable to make any long delay. Another principal preparation, much and constantly in use in Western Asia, is burgul, that is, corn first boiled, then bruised in the mill to take the husk off, and afterwards dried or parched in the sun. In this state it is preserved for use, and employed for the same purposes as rice. The meal of parched corn is also much used, particularly by travelers, who mix it with honey, butter, and spices, and so eat it; or else mix it with water only, and drink it as a draught, the refrigerating and satisfying qualities of which they justly extol (Kitto, Pictorial Bible, 2:537). Parched grain is also, no doubt, very common. Thus in the bazars of India not only may rice be obtained in a parched state, but also the seeds of the Nymphea, and of the Nelumbsium epeciosum, or bean of Pythagoras, and most abundantly the pulse called gram by the English, on which their cattle are chiefly fed. This is the Cicer arietinum of botanists, or chick-pea, which is common even in Egypt and the south of Europe, and may be obtained everywhere in India in a parched state, under the name of chebenne. Belon (Observat. 2:53) informs us that large quantities of it are parched and dried, and stored in magazines at Cairo and Damascus. It is much used during journeys, and particularly by the great pilgrim caravan to Mecca (comp. Hasselquist, p. 191). Considering all these points, it does not appear to us by any means certain that the kali is correctly translated "parched corn" in all the passages of Scripture. Thus, in Leviticus 23:14 : "Ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn (kali), nor green, ears, until..." So in Ruth 2:14 : "And he (Boaz) reached her parched corn (kali), and she did eat." 1 Samuel 17:17 : "Take now for thy brethren an ephah of parched corn." And again, 25:18, where five measures of parched corn are mentioned. Bochartt remarks (Hieroz. II, 1:7) that Jerome renders kali by frixum cicer, i.e. the parched cicer or chick-pea; and, to show that it was the practice among the ancients to parch the cicer, he quotes Plautus (Bacch. 4:5, 7), Horace (De Arte Poetica, 1. 249), and others; and shows from the writings of the rabbins that kali was also applied to some kind of pulse. The name kali seems, moreover, to have been widely spread through Asiatic countries. Thus in Shakspeare's Hindee Dictionary, kalce, from a Sanscrit root, is translated pulse leguminous seeds in general. It is applied in the Himalayas to the common field-pea. It is cultivated in the Himalayas, also in the plains of Northwest India, and is found wild in the Khadie of the Jumna near Delhi; the corra muttur of the natives, called kullae in the hills (Illust. of Himalayan Botany, ip. 200).

Hence we are disposed to consider the pea, or the chick-pea, as more correct than parched corn in some of the above passages of Scripture. See also Gesenius. Thesaur. p. 1215; Celsius, Hierobot. 2:231 sq., where other methods of interpretation are collected. Some have even supposed kali to be a kind of coffee-bean! The predominant opinion of interpreters. however, sustains the rendering of the A.V., since wheat or barley, roasted in the ears and then rubbed out, is still common among the. Bedouinn (see Legh, in Macmichael's Journey, p.235), and in Palestine (Robinson, Bibl. Res. 2:394). Thus Thomson remarks, "A quantity of the best ears, not too ripe, are plucked with the stalks attached. These are tied into small parcels, a blazing fire is kindled with dry grass and thorn-bushes, and the corn-heads are held in it until the chaff is mostly burned off. The grain is thus sufficiently roasted to be eaten, and it is a favorite article all over the country" (Land and Book, 2:510). Tristram likewise observes, "We once witnessed a party of reapers making their evening meal of parched corn. A few sheaves of wheat were brought down, and tossed on the fire of brushwood. As soon as the straw was consumed, the charred heads were dexterously swept from the embers on a cloak spread on the ground. The women then beat the ears and tossed them into the air until they were thoroughly winnowed, when the wheat was eaten at once while it was hot. The dish was by no means unpalatable" (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 492). (See EARS (OF CORN).)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Parched Corn'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/p/parched-corn.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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