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Foods of the Holy Land: A Return to

Mediterranean Clean Eating

By Evelyn Reilly
Table of Contents
Introduction…pg. 5

Part 1: Food and Agriculture in the Ancient Holy Land

Chapter 1: The Ancient Holy Land…pg. 7
History of the Holy Land…pg. 8
Important Sites in the Ancient Holy Land…pg. 10

Chapter 2: History of Food and Agriculture in Ancient Israel…pg. 13

Agriculture in the Bible…pg. 13
The Ancient Israelite Diet…pg. 14
Mosaic Dietary Law…pg. 16

Chapter 3: A Culinary History of the Bible…pg. 18

A Culinary History of with Key Meals…pg. 18
Dining with God: The Meals of Jesus…pg. 23
The Spiritual Significance of Food in the Bible…pg. 26

Part 2: Sacrifices, Feasts and Festivals

Chapter 4: The Temple and Sacrifices…pg. 32
The Temple…pg. 32
The Sacrifices…pg. 33

Chapter 5: The Seven Biblical Feasts…pg. 38

The Messiah…pg. 39
The Seven Biblical Feasts…pg. 41

Chapter 6: Other Biblical Festivals…pg. 55

Part 3: A Return to Biblical Clean Eating

Chapter 7: Health Benefits of Biblical Foods and Dietary Laws…pg. 60

Chapter 8: The Modern Biblical Kitchen…pg. 66

The Holy Land Pantry Essentials…pg. 66
Grain and Bread: The Base of the Biblical Diet…pg. 71
The Significance of Herbs and Spices in Ancient Cooking…pg. 72
Conclusion…pg. 75

Biblical Recipes…pg. 77

Appendix…pg. 105
Timeline…pg. 105
Resources…pg. 107
Glossary…pg. 108
Measurements…pg. 109
1. Sourdough Barley Bread
2. Fig Sourdough Bread
3. Sabbath Bread (Wheat Sourdough)
4. Apricot Raisin
5. Spiced Bread
6. Grilled Flatbread
7. Barley Flatbread with Olive Oil and Herbs
8. Sprouted Ezekiel Bread
9. Sarah’s Bread (Semolina Griddle Flatbread)
10. Matzoh Unleavened Bread

Appetizers and Sauces

11. Homemade Yogurt
12. Fresh Cheese with Olive Oil and Herbs
13. Herbal Sauce
14. Mint Sauce
15. Simple Vinaigrette for Fresh Vegetables and Salads
16. Pomegranate Vinaigrette
17. Tahini Sauce
18. Hummus
19. Lactic Acid Pickles
20. Baked Cheese with Fig Jam and Walnuts

Spice Mixes
21. Warm Spice Mix
22. Savory Spice Mix

Soups, Salads, and Porridges

23. Winter Fruit Salad
24. Cracked Grain Porridge
25. Spiced Bulgur Wheat with Nuts and Fruit
26. Pomegranate Wheatberry Salad
27. Cucumbers with Spices
28. Balsamic Fig and Mozzarella Salad
29. Bitter Greens Salad with Pomegranate and Pistachios
30. Roasted Artichokes with Lemon and Olives
31. Balsamic Barley Berry Salad
32. Eggplant Dip with Garlic

Garden of Eden: Vegan Main Dishes

33. Red Lentil Stew
34. Green Lentil Stew
35. Pearled Barley Risotto
36. Potato Latkes
37. Barley Vegetable Stew
38. Green Lentil Salad
39. Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Leeks
40. Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches with Tahini Sauce
41. Flatbread ‘Pizza’ with Roasted Vegetables
42. White Bean and Greens Stew

Meat Dishes
43. King’s Beef Stew
44. Broiled Veal
45. Gideon’s Goat Stew
46. Roast Leg of Lamb
47. Ezekiel’s Lamb Stew

Fish Dishes
48. Peter’s Fish Grill
49. Pan-fried Freshwater Trout
50. Broiled Fish with Honey Vinaigrette
51. Baked Salmon with Capers and Lemon
52. Moroccan Baked Sardines

Desserts and Sweets

53. Abigail’s Fig Cakes
54. Honey with Almonds and Spices
55. Yogurt with Nuts and Date Honey
56. Olive Oil Cookies
57. Poached Pears with Wine, Honey, and Spices

58. Spiced Wine
59. Fresh Grape Juice
60. Almond Date Smoothie

Welcome, and thank you joining us on this journey through the Holy Land!
The Bible provides not just spiritual food, but guidance on physical food as well. These
two things are closely connected, through God’s provision of green leaves and moving creatures
for us to eat and His command for us to receive them gratefully, through the sacrifices and
dietary laws proscribed for the Israelites, through the Biblical Feasts that centered around harvest
times, through the numerous stories and parables that mention food and agriculture, and through
the profound wisdom inherent in the whole, natural, plant-based diet given to us in the Bible.
All of these connections are revealed to us through a careful reading of the Scripture.
From Genesis to Revelation, there are verses that tell us what to eat and how to eat it. Sometimes
these commandments are stated directly, like Mosaic dietary law telling us to avoid pork and
shellfish, or Proverbs telling us to eat calmly and with thanksgiving. In the modern world, with
its industrialized food system offering us tens of thousands of new products every year, it takes a
little more work on our part to return to the diet God intended for us. We must examine the
passages in the Bible that describe what the Israelites and Jesus ate. We must pay attention to
every food mentioned in the Bible, as well as what isn’t mentioned. We should think about how
food was grown and prepared in these times, and how it is grown and prepared today.
This book will help you do just that, by exploring what and how people ate during
Biblical times, what they didn’t eat, and what those foods symbolize in Christianity. It will give
you a deeper understanding of the history of ancient Israel and how they produced food, and the
meaning of the Seven Biblical Feasts and how they relate to Jesus’s fulfillment of the prophecy
of the Messiah. This book will also explain why the Biblical diet is the healthiest, best diet you
can eat today. It links the nutritional wisdom of the Bible with modern scientific discoveries by
presenting the health benefits of Biblical foods and dietary laws. Sixty Biblically-inspired recipes
are included to get you started on the path to greater physical and spiritual health.
Part 1:

Food and Agriculture in the Ancient Holy Land

Chapter 1: The Ancient Holy Land
You’re standing on a hill overlooking the glorious city of Jerusalem sometime in the mid-
2 century B.C. The Maccabees carried out a successful revolt not many years ago, and
Jerusalem has been returned to Jewish control. You see the arid, sandy land stretching out around
the city, dotted with olive trees and small farms. It’s just before the Feast of First Fruits, and you
can see pilgrims moving towards the city, as small as ants on the roads below, on foot and on
donkeys. They are coming to bring an offering of the first sheaf of barley that they’re harvested
this year, and they’re all headed to the Second Temple, rebuilt about 300 years before. Made of
smoothly hewn stone, it gleams in the center of the city, both the physical and spiritual center of
Jewish life here.
You’re headed that way too, with your own sheaf of barley tucked into your traveling
sack. You’ve been walking for two days, from the very early morning to the evening, so you
could arrive here in Jerusalem and bring your offering to the Temple tomorrow. You can see the
smoke rising, curling into the dry air. You can see the stream near the corner of the Temple
where the blood from the offerings is poured off. Even from way up here it appears as a bright
red streak on the earth, a stain of the blood of the hundreds of bulls, goats, and rams that have
been offered to God there today.
It’s early spring, but the sun is intense. Sitting down to rest for a moment before
continuing down into the city, you rest the soles of your leather sandals in the dust. You loosen
the wool cloak that’s wrapped around your shoulders and pull some dried figs and a bit of barley
bread, made from the grain of last year’s crop, out of your sack. You think of your wife at home,
and wish you had a bowl of her red lentil stew, spiced with onions and garlic. What are your
children are doing at home, you wonder? If they’ve been helpful in the fields and tending the
goats, maybe your wife will have given them a cup of fresh milk mixed with date honey as a
It’s time to get moving, so you tighten your cloak and stand. You pat the pocket in your
traveling sack where a few coins are stashed, and feel reassured when you hear their soft clink.
You and your wife save carefully to be able to afford the sacrifices that are asked of you by the
Lord. You think you have enough to buy a goat, but you’ll have to see how much you have once
the money changers have taken your coins and given you the local currency.
You and your people are waiting for the Messiah, who has been foretold for centuries by
the prophets. There have been some who claimed to be him, but were shown to be no more than
magicians and tricksters. You won’t live to see Him here on earth, but your great-granddaughter
will glimpse Him with her own eyes, almost two centuries later during His three-year ministry.
You are unaware of this fact, so for the moment your duty is to the God of Israel, the God who
dwells in the Holy of Holies in the Temple Sanctuary, the God who has asked for your sacrifice
on this day that He might bring you closer to Him. It sends a shiver down your spine as you
reflect on the fact that the All-Powerful Lord and Creator of the world has asked you, a farmer,
you come closer to Him, to bring Him something as simple as a sheaf of barley and a yearling
goat, things that He Himself made and provided for you.
You stand, breathing in the crisp air, perfumed by the sharp fresh scent of the bitter herbs
that grow in the hills around the city. Swinging your traveling sack onto your shoulder, you turn
and head down the narrow path towards the city and the Temple.
History of the Holy Land
For as long as you can remember, the two kingdoms of your people, the Kingdom of
Israel and the Kingdom of Judah, had been in a constant, repetitive cycle of finding
independence and being subjected to tyrannical rule. The Holy Land itself had been known by
different names throughout history due to its constantly changing leadership. For example, the
land was once referred to as Canaan, as that was the name of Noah’s grandson. Eventually, this
land became a promised territory to your people, according to the divine will of God, who had
told to your ancient ancestor Abraham, “behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the
children of Israel for a possession.”
The children of Israel, of course, were derived from your ancestor Jacob, a descendant
from Abraham. After Jacob was given the name Israel by an angel, this name was also applied to
the promised land. In the past, your ancestors lived in Canaan, the land that had been promised to
Abraham’s descendants by God. When a famine struck, Jacob (also called Israel), his sons, and
their families left Canaan and came to live in Egypt, where they were welcomed by Joseph, one
of Jacob’s twelve children who had been betrayed but rose to power in the Egyptian political
landscape. The families of these twelve sons became the Twelve Tribes of Israel, each named for
the brother from whom it was descended.
After some years of dwelling in Egypt, the Pharaohs of Egypt began to force the twelve
tribes of Israel into slavery, and they were unable to return to their homeland. This unfortunate
history has been ingrained in the mind of your fellow Hebrew brethren, and the prophets
repeatedly appealed to this event as a reason to treat their own slaves with love and kindness. In
the meantime, Canaan became inhabited by a people known as the Canaanites, who worshipped
the goddess Astarte and the god Baal, developing traditions within Judaism which eventually
required reform under King Josiah. When the Israelites were delivered from 400 years of
Egyptian slavery, they spent 40 years wandering in the desert. It was during this time that Moses
received the Ten Commandments and the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. These five books,
the same as the first five books of the Christian BIBLE, are known collectively as the Torah. The
other chapters in the Hebrew Bible, known in Judaism as the Tanakh, would come later through
other prophets including Joshua, Isaiah, and Ezekiel.
After the death of Moses, the general Joshua led your ancestors on a quest of conquering
the land of Canaan and establishing it as the Kingdom of Israel. They settled in the Promised
Land and became farmers and craftsmen, creating a name of quality and agriculture among the
Hebrew people which still exists today. Despite this great success, they were not free from
problems – the Philistines, a seafaring people that lived on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea,
were a constant threat. This pushed Israel toward greater unification. Saul became the first king,
and paved the way for the stronger unification that would come under the rule of King David.
David was a strong ruler, bringing the twelve tribes together under a common goal, defeating the
Philistines, and forming alliances with neighboring kingdoms, as well as composing many of the
verses included in the renowned book of Psalms. As a leader, your people revere him as a
significant figure in Jewish history, perhaps the greatest king the world has ever known. In
addition to his godly disposition, David eventually chose Jerusalem as the capital, and had the
holy ark of the covenant moved there. Although he began planning the construction of the First
Temple, David died before it could begin. His son Solomon continued the work and completed
its construction and consecration.
Solomon also continued David’s example of strong, central leadership, supporting
economic growth for Israel by building new towns and promoting trade. Among your
community, he is revered as the wisest man to ever walk the earth. During your life, you often
walked the streets of Jerusalem and witnessed first-hand the extent of his archaic economic and
architectural feats. He, too, was an important contributor to the Bible, penning the Book of
Proverbs and Song of Songs. This period under Saul, David, and Solomon is largely considered
by your and your nation as the ‘Golden Age’ of unity and success for the United Kingdom of
After the death of King Solomon, the kingdom of your once united people split in half
during the turn of the tenth century B.C. Ten of the tribes of Israel formed the northern half,
which referred to themselves as the Kingdom of Israel, and coined a new capital called Samaria.
The two tribes of Benjamin and Judah became the Kingdom of Judah in the southern half of the
former united country, with Jerusalem as its capital. These two kingdoms had an uneasy alliance
which was plagued with several periods of war. Weakened by the split, the northern Kingdom of
Israel was captured on two occasions by the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires. During their time
in captivity, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II attacked Jerusalem, destroyed the First
Temple, and exiled countless Jewish priests, scholars, and scribes. Far from weakening your
people, this exile strengthened their identity as a powerful nation, and they did not let themselves
forget their homeland (Ps. 137:5-6).
After about fifty years from this peril, the Holy Land of your people changed hands once
again. This time, it fell to the Persians, who allowed the Jewish community to rebuild their
Temple, and despite the fighting and instability in the Holy Land during this period, many
prophets continued to proclaim the word of God and are recorded in the Old Testament. The last
book of the Old Testament, Malachi, was finished after the construction of this Temple as history
entered the sixth century B.C.
The Second Temple period lasted from 520BC to 70AD and witnessed multiple
conquests, just as the rest of your ancestors had. Eventually, the Kingdom of Judea and its capital
Jerusalem were formally under Roman control, but this conquest was not as violent or oppressive
as former occupations, as the Jews could continue their Temple sacrifices. Despite the official
foreign control of the city, Jerusalem remained the center of Jewish life and, and your experience
was mostly positive; however, the office of the High Priest was mostly a puppet-like position for
the Roman emperor to keep tabs on your people. During this time under Roman authority, your
people adhere to strict monotheism and practice unique dietary laws, circumcision, animal
sacrifices, and observe codes found in the Torah. This, the beautiful and glorious promised land
occupied both by you and your brethren, was the world into which Jesus would eventually be
born into.

Important Sites in the Ancient Holy Land

Jerusalem – Jerusalem is the holiest city which Israel can boast of. In it, both the First
and Second Temples were constructed and your people teach that such buildings are God’s
dwelling places on earth. Many important biblical events took place in this city, including much
of the ministry of Jesus Christ, and it was here that He gave some of His most well-known
speeches, threw the money changers out of the Temple, instituted the Last Supper, was crucified,
and resurrected.

Nazareth – Nazareth was a very small town in the region of Galilee, which was a part of
Judea at the time of Jesus’s birth. Mary and Joseph were from this town, and Jesus grew up there
(Lk. 1:26-27; Mk. 1:9).
Bethlehem – The Book of Ruth takes place in Bethlehem, and many important Old
Testament prophesied predicted that it would eventually become the birthplace of the Jewish
Messiah (Mic. 5:2; Lk. 2:4-7).

The River Jordan – Jordan is used as a geographical reference throughout the Old
Testament with many important events taking place in proximity to its prominent river, such as
the prophet Elijah’s ascent into heaven and John the Baptist’s preaching ministry (Matt. 3:13-

Jericho – As the Israelites spend their 40 years wandering in the wilderness, Jericho
would have been universally understood as a conquered Gentile territory under the leadership of
Joshua (Josh. 5:10-11; 6:5). Throughout the Bible, much fighting takes place over the city and on
the plains around it, but it is also visited by prophets like Elijah, as well as Jesus Himself (Mk.

Galilee – It was in Galilee, the same region where Nazareth is located, that Jesus found
His first two disciples and performed miracles (Matt. 4:18-20, 23). One of Jesus’s most
important sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, was given here, introducing many of Christ’s
teachings of grace and meekness (Matt. 5-7).

Sinai – The Sinai Desert lies between the ancient lands of Egypt and Israel, and when the
Israelites left Egypt, they wandered for 40 years in its brutal desert, dwelling in booths in the
wilderness and eating the manna and quails that God provided for them (Ex. 19:1-2). It was also
in this desert, up on a mountain, that Moses and the Israelites received the first five books of the
Bible (Ex. 19:17-19).

Temple of Solomon – The Tanakh explains in detail the architecture of Solomon’s great
and holy temple. Its inner sanctuary was overlaid with glimmering gold, with intricate
engravings and artisanship evident in every inch of the beautiful place of worship. Two cherubim
made of olive-wood loomed fifteen feet into the air with the width of their wingspans stretching
as wide as they were tall (I Kgs. 6:16; 20-28). The beautiful veil of blue, purple, and crimson
linen was a glorious splash of color against the shimmering beauty of the temple, and the flurry
of rainbow-like wonder caused when the High Priest entered or left the Temple would be
engrained in your memory forever. Although it had taken the wise King Solomon nearly twenty
years to construct this iconic Hebrew house of worship, it was unparalleled in beauty, and every
nation who witnessed it from afar knew at once that it was the house of God (I Kgs. 9:10.

These significant geographical locations influenced your upbringing, and their survival
and ability to retain their Hebrew identities was a testimony to the steadfastness of God’s love
towards your civilization. Although spiritual shifts had occurred and religious reforms had been
necessary in the past, God’s faithfulness to you and your people would never fail, and it was with
this hope and peace of mind that you continued your way to Solomon’s Temple to offer praises
unto the God of your people.
Chapter 2: History of Food and Agriculture in Ancient Israel
Agriculture in the Bible

“You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a
figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God. You shall keep my
Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. “If you walk in my statutes and observe
my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land
shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last
to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you
shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely.” (Leviticus 26:1-5).

In the Old Testament readings relayed to you during the various services in the
Tabernacle, you are naturally aware of three principal types of agriculture contained within the
Scriptures. 1) raising crops, 2) herding animals, and 3) cultivating vineyards. In the Second Book
of Chronicles, you recall a mention of this agricultural trinity, where King Uzziah “had large
herds… had farmers and vinedressers and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil,” (II CHron.
From the times of Adam to the Advent of Jesus, many of your brethren and fellow
Hebrew would have been occupied primarily by the production and preparation of food. Such
preparation was strenuous due to the lack of technology available and included growing crops,
herding animals, fishing, caring for vineyards and orchards, and preserving food for later
consumption by drying and salting. Farming is the crux which binds your people together, and
when Jesus speaks of food and agriculture, your people will be directly engaged with his
teachings and understand the parabolic meanings behind his teachings.
Farming was hard work, and the calluses and bruises on your palms and fingers bore such
a testimony, but the entire biblical calendar revolved around agricultural events such as preparing
fields, sowing, and harvesting crops. Several of the Seven Biblical Feasts also relate to
agriculture, for example, the Feast of First Fruits is celebrated at the beginning of the barley
harvest, and God commanded the Israelites to bring sheaves of barley to the Tabernacle as an
offering. The Feast of Weeks would occur seven weeks later when the wheat harvest began, and
the Feast of Tabernacles was to be celebrated at the end of the Fall harvest.
Thankfully, the land of your people was fertile. God speaks of rain, which was the
primary source for the nourishment of your crops. God had given such rain to your people for
this very reason, with the warning that Israel ought to “take heed lest the anger of Yahweh be
kindled against you, and He shut up the heavens, so that there be no rain.” (Deut. 11:13-17).
Although grain produced by the copious amount of rain in Israel provided the bulk of the
calories in both your diet and the diet of your entire people, other crops and forms of food
production were important too. Some of your neighbors even tended to a variety of animals to
provide the nutrients found within meat, milk, wool, and leather.
Figs were also an important part of the diet and a main source of sweetness, when made
into fig syrup. Dried figs were convenient for storage and were used as gifts, and according to
the religion of your people, Abigail once gave King David (her husband) two hundred dried fig
cakes (I Sam. 25:18).
The authoritative Law of Moses Mosaic Law describes many statutes related to
agriculture. For example, Israelites could eat grapes while collecting them, but weren’t allowed
to put grapes from someone else’s field into their own basket (Deut. 23:24). The corners of all
crop fields, along with any produce which fell upon the ground, was commanded by God to be
distributed among the poor (Lev. 19:9; 23:22;). Therefore, as you know, the agricultural aspect
of your holy people was not only focused on production, but on loving one’s neighbor as

The Ancient Israelite Diet

Bread, olive oil, and wine were dietary staples during your lifetime and would have been
mainly found from the essential crops of wheat, olives, and grapes. This was supplemented with
legumes, orchard fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, and fish. Your diet would have been mostly
vegetarian, with meat at special occasions and game animals or eggs depending on availability.
Both freshwater and saltwater fish were a part of your cuisine, from rivers, the Mediterranean,
and the Red Sea. Due to the unpredictability of the weather, lots of food preserved for later use,
thus, grapes were made into wine, grain and fruits were dried, olives were pressed into oil.
Grain formed the base of the diet and was eaten in a variety of ways. It was a typical
custom among your people to pick unripe grain from a field before the finished product was
officially available. It could also be roasted and eaten immediately, or parboiled and dried,
eventually being made into porridge. Most of it, however, was ground into flour for bread, either
by hand or with a millstone. It was tedious work for a bite to eat, but you understood that it
needed to be done, because most your calorie intake came from such bread (as much as 50-70%).
The most common type of bread available to you was barley bread, as barley is hardier
than wheat and generally grew better in the land of Israel. This was usually round and flat, like
pita, and was made with natural yeasts similar to modern sourdough bread. Although barley was
the most common type of bread, it could be made with other grains and legumes too, such as
beans and lentils (Ezk. 4:9). Most of your protein would come from such legumes, and lentils
were arguably the most important of them all, as they could be made into many different dishes
such as pottage, soup, cakes, and of course, breads. The famous King David, his once again
ringing in your mind, is said to have personally made and distributed such a type of a lentil cake
when the holy Ark was taken into Jerusalem (II Sam. 6:19).
In addition to breads and lentils, the milk produced by goat and sheep also provided a
portion of protein and fat in your diet, with producers turning it into sour milk, thin yogurt, and
whey. Cheese was a rare luxury among your people, but it was given as an expensive gift during
special occasions (I Sam. 17:18).
Grapes and other fruits were eaten fresh, fermented into alcohol, dried, or boiled down
until the juice became a thick, sweet syrup. In the traditions of your people, this is referred to as
dvash – honey.
Wine was a hugely important part of your civilization’s diet, mostly out of the necessity
to preserve grapes and fruit juice for long periods of time. Such wine was mostly made from
grapes, but it was also occasionally produced from pomegranates and dates. It was also added to
basic drinking water to improve its taste, which would have also conveniently purified it of any
existing bacteria.
A typical meal echoed the meal once offered to King David by his wife: bread, wine,
roasted grain, raisins, and fig cakes (1 Samuel 25:18). During the horizon of Roman conquest,
new foods like rice, sugar, and a broader variety of spices were introduced to your people (at
least those who could afford them!), but all meals were ultimately shaped by the codes and
conducts provided by God.
Mosaic Dietary Law
You were taught during the services of the Synagogue that the law given to the prophet
Moses (the Pentateuch) contain over 600 commandments governing the economic, social,
political, and agricultural life of your people. Some parts of this Mosaic Law explain in detail
what types of animals can be eaten and how they must be prepared to be pure and undefiled
before the Children of Israel. The modern kosher laws are based on such divine rubrics which
outlined the differences between clean and unclean animals (Lev. 20:25), and your people
obeyed this rubric to the best of their ability.
One of the most well-known prohibitions is of animals that do not possess cloven hooves
or do not chew their cud (Lev. 11:3; Deut. 14:6). This naturally included pigs, hares, camels, and
rock badgers, while allowing for consumption animals such as sheep, cows, goats, and deer.
Although you sometimes wondered what a rock badger might taste like, the way which your
people prepared certain cuts such as venison and steak made you quite content with the
prohibition on unclean animals. In addition to animals which dwell on the ground, the Mosaic
Law also prohibits you from eating birds of prey, svangers, or water birds, while allowing the
consumption of chicken and geese (Lev. 11:13-19; Deut. 14:11-18). Fish that have fins and
scales were allowed, but shellfish were prohibited (Lev. 11:9; Deut. 14.9). Rodents, reptiles,
amphibians, and every type of insect are forbidden for consumption, but luckily, you have no
desire to taste anything of that sort (Lev. 11:29-30; 42-43). All plants are permitted to eat, but as
you know, their consumption was naturally limited by their poisonousness.
An analysis of these allowances and prohibitions often focuses on the fact that the
prohibited animals are either unclean, or in some way defy the “goodness” of all living creatures
found in creation account of Genesis (1:26). For example, water birds live in an odd in-between
environment of air and water, and are not allowed. In contrast to fish, which possess fins and
scales and swim in water in the normal manner, clams and oysters do not, and shrimp have not
fins, but many small feet. No animal is permitted that itself eats meat or scavenges for food, such
rodents, vultures, or wild dogs. Pigs will eat meat if they find it, and this may be why they are
among the prohibited animals. These prohibitions also have many health benefits, which will be
explained later on.

Chapter 2 Thought Questions

• Food and agriculture are mentioned again and again, in stories, rituals, and parables. Why
were these things such important themes throughout the Bible?
• How did the ancient Israelite diet differ from the modern diet?
• How did ancient agriculture technology shape what kind of food they ate?
• How did the type of agriculture practiced in ancient Israel (all by hand or with draft
animals) shape life beyond just what they ate?
Chapter 3: A Culinary History of the Bible
Paradise was vegetarian. After God created Adam and Eve in the garden, He told them,
“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and
every tree with seed in its fruit, you shall have them for your food, “(Gen. 1:29). After the fall
from Paradise, Cain and Abel are described in Genesis 4:1-2 as the first agriculturalists, and a
clear pattern emerges, consisting of two key types of food production, planting crops and raising
pasture animals.
During the Tanakhic readings in the Synagogue, you recall the first account of famine in
the world during the lifetime of Abraham (Gen. 12:10). After Abram left Egypt however, he is
“rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold,” (Gen. 13:3). Later in Genesis, three men would come to
visit Sarah and Abraham, and they serve the guests a brilliant feast. Not long after this
phenomenal account, Abraham’s nephew Lot also serves a meal to angels. As this account comes
to the forefront of your mind, you recall the numerous culinary instances in the Hebrew

Key Meals: Lot Feeds the Angels in Sodom

Lot, like his uncle Abraham, offers the two angels who come to Sodom shelter and
food. The angels decline his offer at first, saying that they will spend the night in the town’s
square. Lot insists so strongly that the angels finally agree, and Lot makes them a feast,
probably of some type of meat, accompanied by unleavened bread.
Genesis 19:1-3 tells the story. “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as
Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed
down with his face to the ground. And he said, "Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into
your servant's house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go
on your way." They said however, "No, but we shall spend the night in the square." Yet he
urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a
feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.” See the recipes section for tasty
meat dishes to serve guests, such as Beef Stew or Roast Leg of Lamb, and several different
ways to make unleavened bread including Semolina Griddle Bread or Barley Flatbread.
You recall the story of Isaac and his sons, which is full of agricultural and culinary
references. Just after Esau sells to his brother Jacob his birthright, Jacob gives him bread and red
pottage to eat. This red pottage was a kind of lentil stew (25:34). See the recipes section for a
similar red lentil stew recipe. When Isaac is very old and know that he may die soon, he asks
Esau to go hunt venison for him. Rebekah, however, wants his blessing to fall upon her favorite
son Jacob instead, and instructs him to bring her two young goats, which she cooks and gives to
Jacob to present to his father, tricking a blind Isaac into thinking that Jacob is actually Esau. He
eats and drinks wine, and mistakenly blesses Jacob, asking God to grant him power and
blessings, “the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.”

Key Meals: Rebekah Cooks Goat for Isaac

When Rebekah realizes that Isaac is going to bless Esau instead of her favorite son
Jacob, she prepares a savory goat stew and has Jacob give it to his father. Mistakenly thinking
that Jacob is Esau, Isaac blesses him instead.
“Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. Go
now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them
savory meat for thy father, such as he loveth. And thou shalt bring [it] to thy father, that he
may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death…And he went, and fetched, and brought
[them] to his mother: and his mother made savory meat, such as his father loved. And
Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which [were] with her in the house, and
put them upon Jacob her younger son: And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his
hands, and upon the smooth of his neck: And she gave the savory meat and the bread, which
she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob” (Genesis 27:8-17). See the recipes section
for how to make a savory goat stew.

(Genesis 27:6 - 27:29)

Jacob’s son Joseph also has close ties with agriculture. When Pharaoh has strange dreams
of seven fat ears of grain followed by seven thin ears, and seven fat cows eaten by seven thin
ones, he calls Joseph out of prison to interpret them, and Joseph explains that there will be seven
productive years followed by seven years of famine, and tells Pharaoh to collect one-fifth of all
the grain harvested during the plentiful years, so that Egypt will survive through the famine
(Gen. 41). In Genesis 42, Joseph’s brothers come from their homeland to buy grain from Egypt.
When they return to Egypt to buy more, they bring gifts with them, including “a little balm, and
a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds,” (Gen. 43:11).

About 400 years later, after the Israelites have been enslaved in Egypt, God appears to
Moses in a burning bush while he was watching the sheep of his father-in-law (Ex.2, 3). God
tells Moses that He will deliver the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey (Genesis

Key Meals: Joseph Serves his Brothers in Egypt

When Joseph’s brothers were starving due to the famine and came to Egypt to buy
grain, he not only gave them grain for free, but provided them with a feast while they were in
the city. Interestingly, they all eat separately, giving us some clues about the early relations
between Egyptians and the Hebrews.
“And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they
should eat bread there…And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said,
Set on bread…And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the
Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread
with the Hebrews; for that [is] an abomination unto the Egyptians (Gen. 43:25-32)
Once he reveals his identity to his brothers, Joseph tells them to come live in Egypt
where there is food, and sends home food for his father Jacob. “And to his father he sent after
this [manner;] ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn
and bread and meat for his father by the way,” (45:23).

3:8), using these two foods to symbolize the richness that they will find there. Eventually, when
Moses is in Egypt, many of the plagues that God sends to free the Israelites directly target the
agriculture of the Egyptians. In one of the plagues sent to make Pharaoh free the Egyptians, God
kills their cattle; in another, the hail damages the barley and flax crops (Ex. 9:31). The locusts eat
anything that was left, including the crops and the fruit on trees (10:15).
When the Israelites leave hurriedly after the Passover, they bring with them “dough
before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their
shoulders.” They brought cattle and flocks, and they baked the unleavened dough they had
brought with them once they had left Egypt (12:34-38).
Despite their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites were upset by the lack of
variety of food in the desert, as they had eaten the luxuries of cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions,
and garlic in land of their captors. They even wish they had died there, where bread and meat
were plentiful rather than starving to death in the wilderness. This angers God, who says to
Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a
certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no” (16:4).
Later, the Israelites are not satisfied with the manna and wish for meat, so God, again angered by
their lack of gratitude, gives them a mountain of quails, “And while the flesh [was] yet between
their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the
LORD smote the people with a very great plague” (Num.11:33).
After forty years, the Israelites would arrive at the border of Canaan, and would ascend
the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments and other laws from God. This included Mosaic
dietary law, which was the basis for what the Israelites ate until the coming of Christ, and is still
the basis of kosher law for modern Jews (Lev. 20:24-25). Everything eaten and sacrificed in the
Old Testament after this point conforms to these laws and shares many similarities to pre-Mosaic
foods and traditions.
As the Israelites get settled in the promised land, agriculture becomes a more and more
frequently mentioned topic, both in stories and in metaphors. One story that occurs in barley
fields and threshing floors is the famous tale of Ruth and Boaz, a significant typology for the
love which the future Messiah will harbor towards His people.

Boaz and Ruth Eat in the Fields

Ruth was a widow from Moab who had come to Bethlehem at the beginning of the
barley harvest. Boaz, a farmer, had heard of Ruth’s good deeds and character, and invited her
to eat with him in the field while she was gleaning barley. He offered her bread, vinegar, and
parched grain, a typical meal for farmers at the time. “At mealtime come thou hither, and eat
of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached
her parched grain and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left” (Ruth 2:14). Ruth’s mother-in-
law, Naomi, then tells Ruth to sleep at Boaz’s feet one night after he was finished winnowing
barley on the threshing floor. Ruth and Boaz were married soon after. See the recipes section
for barley recipes including Barley Flatbread, Barley Sourdough Bread, and Barley Berry

Not long after this, the legendary David becomes king and continues the work of
protecting the land of Israel with his large army. In these passages of the Bible, we get a glimpse
into the diet of an ancient Israelite soldier, which was comprised mostly of roasted grain and the
occasional cut of fine cheese on special occasions (I Sam. 17:17-18). David feeds people outside
his army as well, showing kindness when they encounter an Egyptian in a field. And offering
him water, figs, and raisins (I Sam. 30:11-12). David is right to be generous to strangers, as often
he is also written to be dependent upon the kindness of strangers.
Key Meals: Abigail and Others Feed David’s Army
In 1 Samuel, David and his people ask Nabal for food, but he refuses and actually
sends armed men to fight them off. Nabal’s wife Abigail took “two hundred loaves, and two
bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched [corn,] and an
hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid [them] on asses,” and
brings them to David without telling her husband (25:18). See the recipes section for how to
cake Abigail’s Fig Cakes.
Later, in 2 Samuel 16:1, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth brings David “two hundred
[loaves] of bread, and an hundred bunches of raisins, and an hundred of summer fruits, and a
bottle of wine.” Again in Mahanaim, the people “Brought beds, and basins, and earthen
vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched [corn,] and beans, and lentils, and
parched [pulse, ] And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the
people that [were] with him, to eat: for they said, The people [is] hungry, and weary, and
thirsty, in the wilderness” (17:28-29). See the recipes sections for bean and lentil recipes.
While food is essential in war, it is also an important part of love. In some places in the
Bible, food is symbolic of love and desire. No verses are more famous for their poetic
declarations of love than the Song of Songs. Honey, milk, spices, pomegranates and other fruits,
wine, grapes, and mandrakes are all mentioned as metaphors for the sweetness and pureness of
the author’s beloved.

Key Meals: Food and Love in Song of Songs

“Thy lips, O [my] spouse, drop [as] the honeycomb: honey and milk [are] under thy
tongue; … Thy plants [are] an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with
spikenard, Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh
and aloes, with all the chief spices” (4:11-14)… I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I
have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends;
drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved (5:1)… Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see
if the vine flourish, [whether] the tender grape appear, [and] the pomegranates bud forth: there
will I give thee my loves. The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates [are] all manner of
pleasant [fruits,] new and old, [which] I have laid up for thee, O my beloved” (7:12-13).
This passage is the perfect inspiration for a Valentine’s Day dinner with your husband or wife.
- Yogurt with Honey, Almonds, and Spices -
- Winter Fruit Salad -
- Pomegranate Wheat berry Salad -
- Pears Poached with Wine, Honey, and Spices –
- Homemade Grape Juice -

Food was an important aspect of every wedding which you had ever attended, and the
feasts which were thrown on such occasions could last for days. The party began when there was
a procession to bring the bride from her parents’ house to the groom’s house. There would have
been drinking and dancing, and the groom’s family would have provided a feast for everyone
who attended, likely including meat, wine, and bread, and many Bible verses describe such feasts
occurring after weddings.
In the future, Jesus would use the metaphor of a weeding to explain how those who turn
away from the invitation to the church are like guests who ignored a king’s invitation to a
glorious wedding feast (Matt. 22). This suggests that the tradition of large, generous wedding
feasts was well known and would have been understood by everyone. The food would have been
abundant and luxurious. Echoing Jesus’s words, and several hundred years before you were born,
King Ahasuerus once threw a huge feast when he makes Esther his queen (Esth. 2:17-18). In this
case, he even sends out gifts as a sign of his joy and wealth.
See the recipes section for recipes ideas for a wedding. It could start with several
appetizers, such as Hummus and Eggplant Dip with Grilled Flatbread, then move on to a main
course of Roast Lamb accompanied by Apricot Raisin Bread, Mint Sauce, and Spiced Wine.
Finally, the celebration can be finished with Olive Oil Cookies and Winter Fruit Salad.

As you finish rummaging through your mind, pondering on the culinary traditions of your
people and religion, it becomes clear to you that throughout the Old Testament, biblical feasts,
festivals, and other significant events are celebrated with food offerings and sometimes even
grand feasts thrown by kings. The Israelites grow grain, grapes, and olives, and raise sheep,
cattle, and goats. They give gifts of nuts and spices, or baskets filled with wheat, barley, parched
grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds, and cheese, like Abigail gave David. They trade food
for timber and other goods, and offer guests choice cuts of young calves. In the New Testament,
food becomes increasingly symbolic, and agriculture remains as central to life as ever.

Dining with God: The Meals of Jesus

The Wedding at Cana

When Jesus performs the miracle of turning water into wine, He and His disciples were at
a large wedding feast, which had incidentally run out of wine. John 2:1-11 tells the story of
Jesus’s first miracle, where Jesus converts the water contained in the seven jars intended for
purification into the finest wine that the groom had ever tasted.

Jesus Eats with Tax Collectors, Sinners, and the Poor

Some of the most important meals in the Bible say very little about the food eaten and
instead focus on the guests and the reason for their gathering together. One of the most famous
examples is Jesus dining with both tax collectors and sinners, the reason being that "[i]t is not
those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the
righteous, but sinners" (Mk. 2:15-17; cf. Lk. 5:29-32). Furthermore, Jesus taught that when one
holds a meal, to not “invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors,
otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment,” but to “invite the
poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means
to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous,” (Lk.14:12-14).

Jesus Feeds the 5,000

Another of Jesus’s miracles would eventually be the feeding of a huge group of hungry
followers with just a few loaves of bread and a few small fish. In Matthew 14:17-20, He
encounters 5,000 people in the desert, and when the apostles beseeched Jesus to send them away
that they might find some food, Christ commanded that the food which they possessed (a mere
five loaves of bread and two fish) be distributed among the group. When this happened, “they
did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.”
See the recipes section for many different fish and bread recipes.

The Prodigal Son Returns

Yet another feast occurs in one of Jesus’s most well-known parables, that of the Prodigal
Son. Jesus is using it to explain the concept that “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that
repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (Lk. 15:7). In the
story, there is a father with two sons. One son worked on the farm with the father, while the other
son took his share of his father’s money and went off to a foreign land, where he wasted it all
with ‘riotous living’ and eventually became subjected to hunger and poverty.
As he reckoned with himself the state of his foolish nature, he rose to go beg his father to
allow him to come home, in fact, he only wished to be made one of his servants! But “when [this
son] was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his
neck, and kissed him.” The father was so elated that his son had been found after his departure
that he threw an enormous feast in his honor.
A return is something to be celebrated! Look through the recipes for festive dishes like
Broiled Veal or Beef Stew, accompanied by a Bitter Greens Salad or Roasted Artichokes.

Jesus Dines with Martha and Lazarus

John 11 tells the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, from
the dead after he had died of an illness. After this miracle, Jesus dined with and Martha, and
Lazarus was reclined with them (12:1-2).
We don’t know what they ate, but it was likely a simple meal that included unleavened
bread, especially since it was shortly before Passover. See the recipes section for unleavened
breads like Semolina Griddle Bread served with Butter and Honey, or Barley Flatbread served
with Cheese with Olive Oil and Herbs.

The Last Supper

On the evening before His arrest and death, Jesus ate the Last Supper with His disciples.
According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this meal was a Passover Seder, and they
describe Jesus breaking bread and drinking wine. This bread and wine became the basis for
communion, representing the body and blood of Christ. The unleavened bread also symbolizes
the sinless nature of Christ: in the Bible, yeast is often used to represent sin, with the rising of
leavened bread akin to the way pride inflates man.
Since this meal was a Passover Seder, it is possible that they also ate roasted lamb and
bitter herbs, in accordance with Old Testament commands. The lamb was part of the original
Passover sacrifice, and symbolizes Jesus’s sacrifice to come. The bitter herbs recalled the
bitterness of slavery, and foreshadowed the bitterness of Jesus’s impending death. For this meal,
you could follow the menu for the Passover meal in Part 2.
Mark 14:22-25 describes the moment during the Last Supper that became the basis for
the communion ritual in the modern church, reciting the words of consecration an offering the
bread and wine to His followers for consumption. The following day, Jesus was arrested, tried,
and crucified.
Although this was a Passover meal, lamb is not mentioned, so we suggest a menu with
fish, since several of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen and He mentioned fish in parables.

- Salad of Bitter Greens with Pomegranate Vinaigrette -

- Moroccan Baked Sardines -
- Matzoh, Grilled Flatbread, or Barley Flatbread -
- Wine -

Spiritual Significance of Foods in the Bible

Throughout all of these meals and stories in the Old and New Testament, food is
symbolic and important. The Bible is rich with symbols and metaphors, and food is one of the
objects used most often to convey deeper meanings. Jesus often compares spiritual hunger for
God to physical hunger for food, saying in Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Everyone understands the feeling of being very
hungry, and Jesus uses it as an example to illustrate that we should feel this same intense desire
for finding truth and righteousness through God.
Food is used similarly in the gospel, perhaps most notably when Jesus says, “Do not
labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of
Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal,” (Jn. 6:27). Once again,
everyone listening, including many farmers and shepherds, would have understood what it meant
to labor for food, and thus life on earth. But Jesus tells us not to focus on this life, one that ends,
but on the eternal life that is achieved through him. He then confirms that “I am the bread of life:
he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (Jn.
Just as food gives us strength for physical journeys, God will give us strength for spiritual
journeys. A continuous theme in the Bible is that the Word of God is even more valuable than
food, the physical substance that sustains our life, and it is free to all who desire it. Deuteronomy
8:3, telling the story of the Israelites in the wilderness, reminds them that “He humbled you and
let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that
he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word
that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” The importance of this statement is affirmed by the
ministry of Christ, who quoted this very passage when tempted by the Devil during His forty day
fast (Matt 4:3-4).

“I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of
his mouth more than my portion of food.” (Job 23:12)

“Everyone that thirsteth, go ye to the waters, and he that hath no silver, go ye, buy, and
eat; yea, go, buy wine and milk without silver and without price.” (Isa. 55:1)

“For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (Lk. 12:23)

In these verses, hunger for food is intended as a metaphor for all earthly desires, and such
commands to focus on eternal, rather than temporary food do not mean that we shouldn’t care
about what we eat – on the contrary! They mean that we should lose ourselves in gluttony, nor
let food and other things of the world distract us from hunger for God. Nor should we let
excessive consumption of unhealthy, man-made foods harm our bodies, which God created. We
should do our best to eat simply and healthy, in the way that God intended, such that our bodies
are fully able to do good works of righteousness in His name.
Indeed, abundant, good food is one of the greatest blessings of God, as His provision for
us on earth symbolizes His abundant grace. God tells us that if we love Him and trust in Him,
then He will bless our food and allow it to flourish (Deut. 11:13-15). It is a reason to rejoice, for
the Bible tells us that “food is made for laughter,” and that “wine makes life joyful” (Ecc. 10:19).

Symbolism of Food

Bread – There are also many specific foods which have spiritual meanings. Bread is arguably the
most important food in the Bible, mentioned hundreds of times throughout the Old and New
Testament. Bread represents food in general as the basis for physical life and symbolizes Jesus
Christ and the Word of God as the basis for spiritual life (Jn. 6:47-51).
Yeast – Intertwined with the symbolism of bread is yeast. Yeast, or leaven, is symbolic of sin, in
that a little bit can change the character of the whole, and that it causes bread to puff up with air
and men to puff up with pride. This directly connects to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which
was meant to remind the Israelites to free themselves of sin by avoiding anything made with
yeast for seven days. Bread without leaven is akin to a person without sin, who will then be
sincere and truthful (I Cor. 5:6-8; Matt. 16:6; 12).

Meat – Meat is another one of the most symbolically important foods in the Bible. It is connected
to the concept of sacrifice, including Christ’s sacrifice for us. In order for us to eat meat, an
animal must die. In the Old Testament, any slaughter was accompanied by rituals to honor the
life of the animal and to thank God for His provision. Leviticus 17 goes so far as to say that any
man who kills an animal without bringing it to the tabernacle for a proper sacrifice will have
blood upon him and be cut off from among his people. Even though Jesus absolved us of the
obligation to perform the rituals, we can still respect the animal and thank God for His
willingness to let it be sacrificed. Meat can also symbolize hospitality and honor to guests,
especially calf or fine cuts of a fat oxen.

Fruit – Fruit trees are a metaphor for righteousness and the good that comes from it. And perhaps
the clearest symbolism drawn by Jesus is found in His teaching that “ a good tree bringeth not
forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by
his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes,”
(Lk. 6:43-44). Jesus clarifies this metaphor in the following verse, saying, “A good man out of
the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil
treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth
speaks” (v.45). This example is applied elsewhere in the gospel account, where Jesus equates
false teachers to ravenous wolves and thistles rather than figs (Matt. 7:15-20). Similarly, the Old
Testament says, Hosea 10:12 “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up
your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness
upon you.”

Agriculture – Agriculture in general represents God’s works on earth, as we are the fields where
His will is cultivated. 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He
who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.
For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.”

Milk – Milk is a pure, wholesome food, and a symbol of God’s abundant blessing. Exodus
mentions three times that the Israelites will be delivered into “a land of milk and honey” (Ex.
3:8; 13:5; 33:3), and it is mentioned again nearly a dozen times throughout the Old Testament.
The Apostle Peter teaches that Christians begin as infants longing for spiritual “milk,” and that
such milk is required in order that we might “grow up into salvation,” (I Pet. 2:2).

Spices – The Bible uses spices to illustrate how the scribes and Pharisees gave the appearance of
righteousness, but inside were full of hypocrisy, greed, and arrogance (Matt 23:23). This
example alludes to the common knowledge that spices are not the base of a meal – the real
substance, such as bread and meat, it what is important. In a dietary sense, we can take this to
mean that, while spices are just fine, we should first ensure that we have a healthy base. We
might draw an allusion to the use of artificial preservatives, colorings, and flavors used in
modern processed food. They give a pleasant appearance, aroma, and taste to the food, but do
nothing to change the true nature of the food, which is often lacking in vitamins, minerals, fiber,
healthy fats, and protective plant compounds.

Oils – Oil and fats symbolize God’s blessing in the form of the richness and bounty of the earth.
When Isaac blesses Jacob, he says, “Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the
fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine,” (Gen. 27:28). Olive oil is part of the biblical
food triad of bread, wine, and olive oil, and it was used in cooking, cosmetics, and sacrifices,
being poured unto offering stones, burned in lamps, baked into cakes of unleavened bread, or
poured unto a meat offering (Gen. 27:28; 35:14; Ex. 27:20; 29:2; Lev. 2:1). Certain parts of the
fat of sacrificed animals are to be burned on the altar as a sacrifice and not eaten, especially the
fat surrounding organs (Ex. 29:13; Lev. 3).

Wine – Wine is the third part of the Biblical food triad. It is described as accompanying many
biblical meals, from Noah to Jesus (Gen. 9:20; Matt. 17:26-30), It is also mentioned as an aid to
joy and merrymaking among men, however, the Bible also cautions against excessive
consumption of wine, warning the Hebrew to not be among “winebibbers; among riotous eaters
of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe [a
man] with rags,” (Num. 23:20).

Chapter 3 Thought Questions

• Think about some of your favorite foods or meals. What do they symbolize to you?
• Why do you think food is one of the most, if not the single most symbolically used item
in the Bible?
• Why do you think God chose bread and wine to represent the body and blood of Jesus?
• Imagine your life as a tree. What kind of fruit are you bearing?
• Consider your spiritual hunger for God. How can you increase this desire? Are there
things in your life that fill you up like junk food without providing real substance? We all
have situations in our lives where people we love leave and come back, either physically,
like a child going off to college and coming home for the holidays, emotionally, such as a
friend or sibling recovering from a drug addiction, or spiritually, like a spouse going
through a period of shaky faith. What are some of these situations in your life, and how
can you help the returnee celebrate?
• Why does Jesus dine with sinners and tax collectors? Think about how you can be kind
and generous to the people in your life who are most in need of a spiritual ‘physician.’
• What are acts of kindness you could do that you know won’t be returned? Does this make
you less likely to do them?