Herbs and fruits were man's permitted food at first (Genesis 1:29). The early race lived in a warm and genial climate, where animal food was not a necessity. Even now many eastern nations live healthily on a vegetable diet. Not until after the flood (Genesis 9:3) sheep and cattle, previously kept for their milk and wool, and for slaying in sacrifice, from whence the distinction of "clean and unclean" (Genesis 7:2) is noticed before the flood, were permitted to be eaten. (See ABEL.) The godless and violent antediluvians probably had anticipated this permission. Now it is given accompanied by a prohibition against eating flesh with the blood, which is the life, left in it. The cutting of flesh, with the blood, from the living animal (as has been practiced in Africa), and the eating of blood either apart from or in the flesh, were prohibited, because "the soul (nephesh) of the flesh is in the blood, and I (Jehovah) have ordained it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood which makes atonement by means of the soul" (Leviticus 17:11-12).
The two grounds for forbidding blood as food thus are, firstly, its being the vital fluid; secondly, its significant use in sacrifice. The slaughtering was to be (1) as expeditious as possible, (2) with the least possible infliction of suffering, and (3) causing the blood to flow out in the quickest and most complete manner. Harvey says:" the blood is the fountain of life, the first to live, the last to die, and the primary seat of the animal soul; it lives and is nourished of itself, and by no other part of the human body." John Hunter inferred it is the seat of life, for all parts of the frame are formed and nourished from it. Milne Edwards says: "if an animal be bled until it falls into syncope, muscular action ceases, respiration and the heart's action are suspended; but if the blood of an animal of the same kind be injected into the veins the inanimate body returns to life, breathes freely, and recovers completely" (Speaker's Commentary, Leviticus 17, note).
In the first Christian churches, where Jew and Gentile were united, in order to avoid offending Jewish prejudice in things indifferent the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:29) ordained abstinence "from things strangled (wherein the blood would remain), and from blood." Moreover, the pagan consumed blood in their sacrifices, in contrast to Jehovah's law, which would make His people the more shrink from any seeing conformity to their ways. Fat when unmixed with lean was also forbidden food, being consecrated to Him. (See FAT.) Christians were directed to abstain also from animal flesh of which a part had been offered to idols (Acts 15:29; Acts 21:25; Acts 21:1 Corinthians 8). The portions of the victim not offered on the altar belonged partly to the priests, and partly to the offerers. They were eaten at feasts, not only in the temples but also in private houses, and were often sold in the markets, so that the temptation to Christians was continually recurring (Numbers 25:2; Psalm 106:28).
The food of the Israelites and Egyptians was more of a vegetable than animal kind. Flesh meat was brought forth on special occasions, as sacrificial and hospitable feasts (Genesis 18:7; Genesis 43:16; Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:4-5; 1 Kings 1:9; 1 Kings 4:23; Matthew 22:4). Their ordinary diet contained a larger proportion of farinaceous and leguminous foods, with honey, butter, and cheese, than of animal (2 Samuel 17:28-29). Still an entirely vegetable diet was deemed a poor one (Proverbs 15:17; Daniel 1:12). Some kinds of locusts were eaten by the poor, and formed part of John the Baptist's simple diet (Matthew 3:4; Leviticus 11:22). Condiments, as salt, mustard, anise, rue, cummin, almonds, were much used (Isaiah 28:25, etc.; Matthew 23:23). The killing of a calf or sheep for a guest is as simple and expeditions in Modern Syria as it was in Abraham's days.
Bread, dibs (thickened grape juice) (possibly meant in Genesis 43:11; Ezekiel 27:17, honey dibash), coagulated sour milk, leban, butter, rice, and a little mutton, are the food in winter; cheese and fruits are added in summer. The meat is cut up in little bits, and the company eat it without knives and forks out of basohs. Parched grain, roasted in a pan over the fire, was an ordinary diet, of laborers (Leviticus 2:14; Leviticus 23:14; Rth 2:14). Sour wine ("vinegar") was used to dip the bread in; or else the gravy, broth, or melted fat of flesh meat; this illustrates the "dipping the sop in the common dish" (John 13:26, etc.). Pressed dry grape cakes and fig cakes were an article of ordinary consumption. (See FLAGON.) (1 Samuel 30:12). Fruit cake dissolved in water affords a refreshing drink. Lettuces of a wild kind, according to Septuagint, were the "bitter herbs" eaten with the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:8).
Retem, or "bitter root of the broom", was eaten by the poor. Job 30:4, "juniper," rather "broom"; Job 6:6, for "egg" Gesenius translated "an insipid potherb," possibly purslane. "Butter (curdled milk, the acid of which is grateful in the hot East) and honey" are more fluid in the East than with us, and are poured out of jars. Job 20:17, "brooks of honey and butter." These were the ordinary food of children; Isaiah 7:15, so of the prophet's child who typified Immanuel; the distress caused by the Syrian and Israelite kings not preventing the supply of spontaneously produced foods, the only abundant articles of diet then. Oil was chiefly used on festive occasions (1 Chronicles 12:40).
The prohibition "thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk" (Exodus 23:19) is thought by Abarbauel to forbid a pagan harvest superstition designed to propitiate the gods; to which a Karaite Jew, quoted by Cudworth (Speaker's Commentary), adds, it was usual when the crops were gathered in to sprinkle the fruit trees, fields, and gardens as a charm. In Exodus the previous context referring to Passover and Pentecost favors this reference to a usage at the feast of tabernacles or ingathering of fruits. In Deuteronomy 14:21 the context suggests an additional reason for the prohibition, namely, that Israel as being "holy unto the Lord" should not eat any food inconsistent with that consecration, for instance what "dieth of itself," or a kid cooked in its mother's milk, as indicating contempt of the natural relation which God sanctified between parent and offspring. Compare the same principle Leviticus 22:28; Deuteronomy 22:6.
Arabs still cook lamb in sour milk to improve the flavor. Kid was a favorite food (Genesis 27:9; Genesis 27:14; Judges 6:19; Judges 13:15; 1 Samuel 16:20). Fish was the usual food in our Lord's time about the sea of Galilee (Matthew 7:10; John 6:9; John 21:9, etc.).
Fausset's Bible Dictionary Home
Bible History Online Home
Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)
Online Bible (KJV)
Naves Topical Bible
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Easton's Bible Dictionary
Schaff's Bible Dictionary
Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Matthew Henry Bible Commentary
Hitchcock's Bible Dictionary
Meaning and definition of fasting, what is fasting in the bible, fasting definition, why should I fast, the power of prayer and fasting, Location of Galilee, where was galilee in the bible?, fasting definition, Galilee region, cities of Galilee, Sea of Galilee, Definition of biblical fire, what is fire in the bible?, fire and brimstone, fire meaning, baking bread with fire, Definition of the biblical firmament in Genesis, what is the firmament in the bible?, was the firmament the third heaven, firmament meaning, did the firmament bring the flood of Noah?.