Victuals (represented by several Heb. and Gr. words, which are variously rendered in the A.V.) the necessary act of taking food was, at a very early period of the world's history, connected immediately with religion. Thus the paschal lamb and the unleavened bread spoke in pleasing tones and by striking emblems, to each successive generation, of the great historical fact of which they were designed to be the perpetual memento. In like manner the Lord's supper (1Co 11:20), the breaking of bread from house to house (Ac 2:46), and the ἀγάπαι, or love-feasts-feasts of charity (Jude 1:12) were all, especially the first, both wisely designed and admirably fitted to bring into play, in connection with religion, the better feelings of humanity, to maintain in everlasting remembrance the events which they symbolized, to make eating and drinking an act of religion, and to make religion a pleasure. SEE AGAPE; SEE PASSOVER; SEE SUPPER.
1. The productions of a country, at an early period of the world, necessarily determined its food. Palestine abounded with grain and various kinds of vegetables, as well as with animals of different species. Such, accordingly, in general, was the sustenance, which its inhabitants took. SEE CEREALS.
The use of fire, and the state of the arts of life in a country, must also have important influence on its cookery; in other words, will go far to determine the state in which the natural productions of the earth will be eaten. If the grain is to become bread, a long, and by no means easy, process has to be gone through. Skill in preparing food is therefore held in high repute; so that, as in Homer, princes slay the cattle, and poetry details the process by which the carcass is made ready for being eaten (Iliad, 1, 457). SEE COOK.
On a remarkable occasion a calf, tender and good, was taken slain, dressed (roasted, most probably [Ge 27:7; Ex 12:8-9; Jg 6:19; 1Sa 2:13]; boiling was not known till long afterwards), and set before the guests, while the entertainer (Abraham) respectfully stood at their side, doubtless to render any desirable service. The sauce or accompaniments on this occasion were butter and milk. From Ge 19:3 it may be inferred that the bread was unleavened. SEE BUTTER; SEE MILK.
The cases, however, to which reference has been made were of a special nature; and from them, as well as from what is recorded touching Isaac and Esau and Jacob, it appears that flesh meat was reserved as food for guests or as a dainty for the sick; lentils, pulse, onions, grain, honey, and milk being the ordinary fare. SEE MEAT.
The agreeable, and perhaps in part the salubrious, qualities of salt were very early known and recognised. In Le 2:13, it is expressly enjoined, "Every oblation of thy meat-offering shalt thou season with salt; with all thine offerings shalt thou offer salt." SEE SALT.
Locusts were a permitted (Le 11:22) and a very common food. At the present day they are gathered by the Bedawin in the beginning of April, and, being roasted on plates of iron or dried in the sun, are kept in large bags, and, when needed, eaten, strewed with salt by handfuls. See Locust.
Of four-footed animals and birds, the favorite food were sheep, goats, oxen, and doves. There are few traces of the eating of fish, at least in Palestine (Le 11:9-22; Nu 11:5). In the first passage a distinction is made between certain fish which might be eaten and others which were forbidden. "These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat; and all that have not fins and scales, they shall be an abomination unto you." SEE CATTLE; SEE FISH.
The distinction of clean and unclean animals, and of animals which might and those which might not be eaten, is found to have existed to a great extent in ancient Egypt. See Spencer, Leg. Rit. 1, 5; Danz, in. Meuschen, IV. T. Talm. p. 795; Maimonides, De Cibis Vetitis, ed. Wildicke (Lips. 1734); Reinhardt, De Cibis Hebraeoi. (Viteb. 1697). The Mosaic laws which regulated the use of animal food may be found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. The grounds of many of these regulations may be ascertained with a greater or less degree of probability, provided the student is well acquainted with the mind and spirit of Hebrew antiquity. Considerations drawn from idolatrous usages, regard to health, the furtherance of agriculture, and established customs and tastes, had in each case an influence in the promulgation of these laws. SEE CLEAN.
2. In the earliest times water was the common drink. That wine of an intoxicating tendency was drunk at a very early period appears from what happened to Noah (Ge 9:20), who seems to have made as well as drunk wine. Bread and wine are spoken of in 14:18, as offered for refreshment to Abraham by Melchizedek, king of Salem. Water was sometimes put to the wine; at others a strong drink was made by mixing with the wine aromatic herbs (Ps 75:9; Isa 5:22), or a decoction derived from them; myrrh was used for this purpose. Date wine was in use, and probably the Egyptian or malt wine, ζῦθος, οινος δρίθινος (Herod. 2, 77). Jerome (Opp. 4:364, ed. Bened.) says that "drink called sicera by the Hebrews (שׁכר) is every kind which can inebriate, or that which is made from grain, or of the juice of apples, or when the honeycomb is made (decountur) into a sweet and barbarous beverage, or the fruit of the palm expressed into a liquor, and when water receives a color and a consistency from prepared herbs." The common people (Mr 12:37) drank an acrid sort of wine, which is rendered vinegar in our English version (Ru 2:14; Mt 27:48). The Orientals frequently used wine in excess, so as to occasion intoxication, whence are drawn many striking figures in Holy Writ (De 32:42; Psalm: 78:65; Isa 5:11; Isa 28:1; Isa 49:26; Jer 8:14; Jer 9:14; Jer 16:18). That indulgence in wine was practiced in very ancient days is manifest from there being in the court of Pharaoh, at the time of Joseph, state officers who had charge of the wine, and served the monarch with it when he drank (Ge 40:1,11; comp. 1Ki 10:5; 2Ch 9:4; Ne 1:11). SEE WINE.
For drinking-vessels there were used the cup and the now (Ex 25:33; Nu 7:13,84; Jer 35:5; Am 6:6). The cup was generally of brass covered with tin, in form resembling a lily, sometimes circular. It is still used by travelers, and may be seen in both shapes on the ruins of Persepolis (1Ki 7:26). The bowl (Ex 25:33) assumed a variety of shapes, and bears many names. Some of these "chargers" appear, from the presents made by the princes of Israel (Numbers 7), to have been of large size and great splendor; some were silver, some gold (1Ki 10:21). See Cup, etc.
3. In Eastern climes the chief meal, or what we term dinner, is, in consequence of the heat of the middle period of the day, deferred till towards evening, a slight repast being taken before noon (Adam, Rom. Antiq. p. 377, ed. Major; Potter, 2, 625; Chardin, 4; Jahn, 1, 2), But from Ge 43:16,25, it appears to have been the custom to dine at noon in the days of the patriarchs. The same seems to have been the case in Palestine at a, later period (1Ki 20:16; comp. Lu 11:37; Ac 10:10). Convivialities, however, were postponed till evening, and sometimes protracted to the following morning (Isa 5:11; Mr 6:21; Lu 14:24). SEE BANQUET. The meal was preceded by washing of hands (Mr 7:2; Lu 11:38), which the mode of eating rendered necessary, and by an invocation of the divine blessing (1Sa 9:13), termed in Samuel ברכה, and in Greek εὐλογία εὐχαριστία, blessing, giving of thanks (Lu 9:16; Joh 6:11). Similar customs. prevailed among the Greeks and Romans. Jahn (Bibl.
Antiq. p. 68) has given the short prayer, as preserved in the Talmud, which the Jews used, as follows: "Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, king of the world, who hast produced this food (or this drink) from the earth (or the vine)" (Mt 14:19; Mt 15:36; Mt 26:27). SEE MEAL.
4. The Hebrews, like the Greeks and Romans in their earlier history, ate sitting (Ge 27:19; Jg 19:6; 1Sa 20:25). A carpet was spread, on which the meal was partaken. At a later period, however, particularly when Palestine came under the influence of Roman manners, the Jews reclined on cushions or couches (Es 2:6; Am 6:4; Lu 7:37; ἀνεκλίθη, not "sat," as in the common translation, but "reclined"). SEE ACCUBATION. The custom of giving preference in point of seat or position to guests of high consideration; appears, from 1Sa 9:22, to have been of ancient date (Am 3:12). In the time of Christ (Lu 14:8) the Pharisees, always eager for distinction, coveted the place of honor at meals and feasts. Women were not admitted to eat with the men, but had their meals supplied in their own private apartment (Es 1:6-9). In Babylon and Persia, however, females mingled with males on festive occasions (Da 5:2). In general the manner of eating was similar to what it is in the East at the present day. Special care was taken of favored persons (Ge 43:34; 1Sa 1:4; 1Sa 9:22; Joh 13:26). Neither knives, forks, nor spoons were employed for eating. The food was conveyed from the dish to the mouth by the right hand. The parties sat with their legs bent under them round a dish placed in the centre, and either took the flesh meat with their fingers; from the dish, or dipped bits of their bread into the savory mess and conveyed them to their mouths. In Ru 2:14, Boaz says to Ruth, "Dip thy morsel in the vinegar," which explains the language of our Lord, in Joh 13:26, "He it is to whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it." This presenting of food to a person is still customary, and was designed originally as a mark of distinction, the choice morsels being selected by the head of the family for the purpose. Drink was handed to each one of the guests in cups or goblets, and, at a very ancient period, in a separate cup, to each person. Hence the word cup is used as equivalent to what we term a man's lot or destiny (Ps 11:6; Ps 75:8; Isa 51:22; Mt 26:39). SEE DIET; SEE EATING; SEE FOOD; SEE SUP.