Bread the principal food. In the Orient it has been estimated that three-fourths of the people live entirely upon either bread or upon that which is made from wheat or barley flour. It is unquestionably the principal food of the East.
In the Bible such an expression as "eating bread" is often used when Occidentals would say: "eating a meal." When the Bible says, "The Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews" (Genesis 43:31, 32), it means that they could not eat a meal with them (See also Genesis 37:25; Exodus 2:20; I Samuel 28:22-25).
Sacredness of bread. The Palestinians are brought up to think of bread as having a mystic sacred meaning. In some places they have such a reverence for bread that they will not arise to salute a guest, if they are in the midst of breaking bread together, but will wait till they are finished. Such is their attitude toward bread.
It may be said that this attitude of the people toward bread is essentially religious. Everything about bread from the sowing of the seed to the baking of the loaves is done in the name of GOD. These Orientals sense the importance of the petition in the disciple's prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). It was to men who really appreciate the value of bread, that JESUS first said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35).
Since there is this attitude of sacredness in relation to "the staff of life," there grows out of it the universal Eastern custom of breaking bread and not cutting it. One who has lived in Israel says about the natives of the country: "They never put a knife to bread, holding it to be absolutely wicked to cut it, but always break it into pieces with their fingers." [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
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