(only in the plural עֲדָשַׁים, adashim', prob. from an obsolete root signifying to fodder; Sept. φακός, Vulg. lens) is probably a correct rendering of the plant thus designated (Ge 25:34; 2Sa 17:28; 2Sa 23:11; Eze 4:9). In Syria lentiles are still called in Arabic addas (Russel, N. H. of Aleppo, 1:74). They appear to have been chiefly used for making a kind of pottage. The red pottage, for which Esau bartered his birthright, was of lentiles (Ge 25:29-34). The term red was, as with us, extended to yellowish-brown, which must have been the true color of the pottage if derived from lentiles, being that of the seeds rather than that of the pods, which were sometimes cooked entire (Mishna, Shabb. 7:4). The Greeks and Romans also called lentiles red (see authorities in Celsius, Hieroboltalic. 1:105). Lentiles were among the provisions brought to David when he fled from Absalom (2Sa 17:28), and a field of lentiles was the scene of an exploit of one of David's heroes (2Sa 23:11). From Eze 4:9, it would appear that lentiles were sometimes used as bread (comp. Athen. 4:158). This was doubtless in times of scarcity, or by the poor (compare Aristoph. Plut. 1005). Sonnini (Travels, p. 603) assures us that in southernmost Egypt, where corn is comparatively scarce, lentiles mixed with a little barley form almost the only bread in use among the poorer classes. It is called bettan, is of a golden yellow color, and is not bad, although rather heavy. In that country, indeed, probably even more than in Palestine, lentiles anciently, as now, formed a chief article of food among the laboring classes. This is repeatedly noticed by ancient authors; and so much attention was paid to the culture of this useful pulse that certain varieties became remarkable for their excellence (comp. Dioscor. 2:129). The lentiles of Pelusium, in the part of Egypt nearest to Palestine, were esteemed both in Egypt and foreign countries (Virgil, Georg. 1:228), and this is probably the valued Egyptian variety which is mentioned in the uishna (Kilnaim, 18:8) as neither large nor small. Large quantities of lentiles were exported from Alexandria (Augustine, Comm. in Psalm 46). Pliny, in mentioning two Egyptian varieties, incidentally lets us know that one of them was red (compare Diog. Laertius, 7:3), by remarking that they like a red soil, and by speculating whether the pulse may not have thence derived the reddish color which it imparted to the pottage made with it (Histor. Nattur. 18:12). This illustrates Jacob's red pottage. Dr. Shaw (1:257) also states that these lentiles easily dissolve in boiling, and form a red or chocolate- colored pottage mulch esteemed in North Africa and Western Asia (see Thomson, Land and Book, 1:409). Dr. Kitto also says that he has often partaken of red pottage, prepared by seething the lentiles in water and then adding a little suet to give them a flavor, and that he found it better food than a stranger would imagine; "the mess," he adds, "had the redness which gained for it the name of adorn" (Pict. Bible, Ge 25:30,34). Putting these facts together, it is likely that the reddish lentile, which is now so common in Egypt (Descript. de l'Egypte, 19:65), is the sort to which all these statements refer. The tomb-paintings actually exhibit the operation of preparing pottage of lentiles, or, as Wilkinson ( Anc. Egyptians, 2:387) describes it, "a man engaged in cooking lentiles for a soup or porridge; his companion brings a bundle of fagots for the fire, and the lentiles themselves are seen standing near him in wicker baskets." The lentiles of Palestine have been little noticed by travelers (e.g. Burckhardt, Arab. p. 51). Nau (Voyage Nouveau, p. 13) mentions lentiles along with corn and peas, as a principal article of traffic at Tortura; D'Arvieux (Mem. 2:237) speaks of a mosque, originally a Christian church, over the patriarchal tomb at Hebron, connected with which was a large kitchen where lentile pottage was prepared every day, and distributed freely to strangers and poor people, in memory of the transaction between Esau and Jacob, which they (erroneously) believe to have taken place at this spot. When Dr. Robinson was at Akabah, he says: "The commissary in the castle had also a few stores for sale at enormous prices, but we bought little except a supply of lentiles, or small beans, which are common in Egypt and Syria under the name of addas (the name in Hebrew and Arabic being alike) the same from which the pottage was made for which Esau sold his birthright. We found them very palatable, and could well conceive that, to a weary hunter faint with hunger, they might be quite a dainty" (Bib. Res. 1:146). Again, when at Hebron, on the 24th of May, he observes: "The wheat harvest here in the mountains had not yet arrived, but they were threshing barley, addas or lentiles, and also vetches, called by the Arabs kersuma, which are raised chiefly for camels" (Bib. Res. 2:242).
The lentile (Ervum lens of Linnaeus, class 17:3) is an annual plant, and the smallest of all the leguminosme which are cultivated. It rises with a weak stalk about eighteen inches high, having pinnate leaves at each joint composed of several pairs of narrow leaflets, and terminating in a tendril, which supports it by fastening about some other plant. The small flowers which come out of the sides of the branches on short peduncles, three or four together, are purple, and are succeeded by the short and flat legumes, which contain two or three flat round seeds, slightly curved in the middle (as indicated in the Latin lens, which optical science has appropriated as a name for circular glasses with spherical surfaces), and of a color varying from tawny red to almost black. The flower appears in May, and the seeds ripen in July. When ripe, the plants are rooted up if they have been sown along with other plants, as is sometimes done, but they are cut down when grown by themselves. They are threshed, winnowed, and cleaned like grain. There are three or four kinds of lentiles, all of which are still much esteemed in those countries where they are grown, viz., the south of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The red lentile is a small kind, the seeds of which, after being decorticated, are commonly sold in the bazaars of India.
To the present day a favorite dish among the Portuguese and Spaniards is lentiles, mixed with their unfailing oil and garlic, and flavored with spices and aromatic herbs. In the absence of animal food, it is a great resource in Catholic countries during the season of Lent, and some say that from hence the season derives its name. It is occasionally cultivated in England, but only as fodder for cattle; it is also imported from Alexandria. From the quantity of gluten the ripe seeds contain, they must be highly nutritious, though they have the character of being heating if taken in large quantities. Under the high-sounding name "RIevalenta Arabica," we pay a high price for lentile flour, and in various culinary preparations are unawares repeating Jacob's pottage (Playfair, Analysis; Hogg, Veg. Kingdom, p. 275). In Egypt the haulm is used for packing.