Food and drink - Appendix 1

Food in the Bible

We do not have to read far into the Bible before we come across references to food. In Genesis chapter 1 verses 11 and 12 we have herbs and fruit trees spoken of, a tacit reference to what is edible. In verses 29 and 30 there are specific statements as to these products being for food both for mankind and other creatures. There are further references to trees being good for food in chapter 2 verse 9 and then in verses 16/17 God tells Man that he may freely eat of the trees of the garden with one exception, and it is clear from chapter 3 verse 6 that even that tree was edible. If it had not been, there would have been no temptation to eat it.

However, when we come to verses 17-19 Adam is told that he would eat of the herb of the field and in the sweat of his face would he eat bread. It is clear from these passages that it is according to God's ordering that mankind should eat the fruit of the earth. The fruit that Adam ate in the garden of Eden was there for the taking, but outside the garden he had to work hard for his bread. It is noticeable in this connection that in order to obtain bread one has to prepare the ground, sow the seed, wait for it to grow and watch over it. Then the corn has to be reaped, probably stored, threshed, ground, kneaded and then baked before it is ready to be eaten. This stands in stark contrast to the ease with which food was obtained in the garden.

When we come to chapter 9 verse 3 we find that God authorises the eating of everything that moves and not just vegetable food.

As to specific foods we find that cakes were made for the visitors that Abraham entertained as well as a meat dish (calf meat) and milk (Genesis 18:6-8). Lot made unleavened cakes (Genesis 19:3). Jacob made a dish of lentils (Genesis 25:34) and venison (deer meat) was prepared by Esau (Genesis 27). Nuts were also eaten (Genesis 43:11).

This would tell us that what was eaten after the flood included animals. There is noexample before that of animals being eaten. We have an animal being offered up by Abel, but that was apparently wholly for God (Genesis 4:4). It may be asked what Abel kept animals for. Sheep could well have been kept for their wool and goats for their milk. It is quite possible, in view of the lawless conditions that prevailed before the flood, that animals were then eaten by mankind, though we have no examples of it. It is however to be noticed that all the animals that were eaten according to the record in Genesis after the flood were in fact those approved of under the Mosaic law. We do not for instance get pigs eaten or offered up as sacrifices.

The Mosaic law regulated what creatures should be eaten. It did not state what plants were good for food or what minerals should be eaten, though we know that salt was acceptable (Job 6:6; Ezra 6:9). Generally, creatures that were carnivorous were not to be eaten and also creatures of the night such as owls and bats (Leviticus 11). The only insects that were allowed were certain species of locusts (verses 21 & 22). John the Baptist we are told lived on them (Mark 1:6). Animals that had significant common features with mankind were not fit to be eaten. Creatures such as pigs and asses. The skin of the former and the milk of the latter are close to that of mankind. The Hoopoe was not acceptable as food. Its nest has a notoriously offensive smell. It was though held in high regard in Egypt and possibly worshipped.