THE FOODS OF THE BIBLE
It is sometimes assumed that the children of Israel ate only
manna during the forty years in the wilderness. A study of the
books which cover this period - Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and
Deuteronomy - however, shows that they had other food to eat in
addition to the manna.
"The children of Israel did eat manna forty years" (Exodus
16:35). But as the Barnes Commentary says:
"This does not necessarily imply that the Israelites were
fed exclusively on manna... They had numerous flocks and
herds... which gave them milk, cheese, and of course a
limited supply of flesh: nor is there any reason to suppose
that during a considerable part of that time they may not
have cultivated some spots of fertile ground in the
wilderness. We may assume, as in moat cases of miracle, that
the supernatural supply was commensurate with their actual
They began receiving the manna shortly after they came out
of Egypt (Exodus 16). Yet, in the first month of the second year
after coming out of Egypt, they kept the Passover, eating lamb
and unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Numbers 9). At the close
of the forty years, "the children of Israel ... kept the
Passover... and they did eat of the old corn of the land on the
morrow after the Passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn...
and the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the
old corn of the land" (Joshua 5:10-12). From these references we
see that while receiving the manna, certain other foods were
eaten in connection with the Passover.
We also know that as they passed through certain lands, such
as the land of Esau, they were instructed: "Ye shall buy meat of
them for money, that ye may eat, and ye shall also buy water of
them for money, that ye may drink" (Deut. 2:6,7). If manna was
the only food they were to eat, these instructions about buying
food would have been completely out of place!
Moses sent a message to the king of Heshbon. "Thou shalt
sell me meat for money, that I may eat ... as the children of
Esau ... and the Moabites did unto me... Until I shall pass over
Jordan into the land which the Lord our God giveth us" (Deut.
2:69). Again, why would he speak of buying food from them if
their diet was limited to manna?
A VALID COMPLAINT?
On one occasion, it is true, they complained of having only
manna. "There is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our
eyes" (Numbers 11:6). But how valid was this complaint? Was it
absolutely true that they had nothing other than manna? Or were
they simply hungry for certain meats, fish, cucumbers, melons,
leeks, onions, and garlic that had been a part of their Egyptian
diet? (cf. verse 5). They were given quails to eat at this time;
but the Lord was displeased with their complaining.
That they had other food available to them during the forty
years - either all or part of the time - is seen in the mention
of various foods that were used in their offerings. Flour, oil,
honey, salt and corn are mentioned in Leviticus 2:1-14. They had
"a very gent multitude of cattle" (Num.32:1; Deut.3:19). These
that were without blemish were used in their various sacrifices
(Lev.1). The priests ate meet from the sacrifices (Lev.6:16;
Moses instructed the people not to eat the fat or the blood
of an ox, sheep, or goat (Lev. 7:23-26), implying, of course,
that they did eat the meat. Furthermore, it was during this time
that the Israelites were told what meats to eat and which meats
should not be eaten. "These are the beasts which ye shall eat..."
(Lev.1:2). If their entire diet during those forty years was only
manna, explaining which meats were clean or unclean unto them
would have been without purpose. If the manna was the only thing
God wanted them to set, he would have told them to eat no meat at
all. But, instead, he explained which meats they were to eat!
It was also during this time that God gave regulations about
the Nazarite vow. "When either man or woman" - notice that a
woman could become a Nazarite - "shall separate themselves to vow
a vow of a Nazarite... he shall separate himself from wine...
neither shall he eat moist grapes, or dried... he shall set
nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to
the husk" (Num.6:2-4).
Why would such regulations about diet be given if the only
thing anyone was eating was manna? If none of the people were
eating these things, such food prohibitions for the Nazarites
would have been without meaning.
Mention is made of the people eating grapes and corn (Deut.
23:24,26). The spies brought back grapes, pomegranates, and figs
(Numbers 13:23). During the forty years God supplied the
Israelites with manna which served as their "bread", as it was
called, but there is no reason to believe this was the only food
they had during this time....
The word "milk" today causes most of us to think of milk
from cows. But most of the milk mentioned in the Bible came from
goats, sheep, or camels. In a few references in the King James
Version, the older spelling for milk (milch) still remains.
Jacob, for example, offered "thirty milch camels" as a present to
I met a preacher once who never would be without goats'
milk. He travelled here and there preaching, pulling a trailer
with his goats behind his car. Proverbs 27:27 was quoted in this
connection: "And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food,
for the food of thy household."
Interestingly enough, according to scientific tests, the
milk with the most nutrition is neither that of humans, goats,
cows, or camels, but the milk of seals.
"Every body needs milk", says an advertising slogan. But
every body does not need milk. The "Dictionary of Misinformation"
(p.155) points out that many people do not possess the enzyme by
which milk is digested. For such people, milk induces diarrhea.
VENISON - MISUNDERSTOOD
The word "venison" has been commonly misunderstood. This
word appears in the Bible a total of eight times, all of which
are in connection with Esau and Jacob (Genesis 27). In order to
obtain the blessing of their elderly and blind father, each son
brought him a portion of meat. Esau went to hunt for venison, we
are told, but Jacob killed two kids of the goats from the family
flock. It is not necessary to repeat the details of the story
here, except to point out that it is a common mistake to suppose
that Esau went out to hunt a deer while Jacob offered goat meat.
Probably each son presented the flesh of young goats, Jacob's
being that of a domestic kid, while that of Esau was a wild kid.
When the King James Version was translated, "venison" was applied
to the flesh of any wild animal killed by hunting and used for
food. The word is derived from the Latin venation, meaning
"hunting." It was applied to the flesh of wild boars, hares,
deer, pheasants, ducks, geese, quail and other game animals and
birds. Limiting this word to the flesh of the deer kind is a
comparatively recent development. It came about because the deer
became the most important game animal in England and this usage
has been passed on to us.
CORN - ITS BIBLICAL MEANING
The word "corn" in the Bible has commonly also been
misunderstood. We read that Jesus and his disciples picked corn
as they "went through the corn fields" (Mk.2:23). They were
actually wheat or grain fields. They never once saw what we call
What we call corn (maize or Indian corn) was probably native
to South America and was not known by Europeans until a few cen-
turies ago when they discovered it in the Americas. The word
"corn", in much of the world, has long been used to denote any of
the small seeded cereals such as barley, wheat, and rye. It is
used in a specific sense in various countries for whichever
cereal grain is most prominent. In England, corn is wheat; in the
Scandinavian countries it is barley; in most parts of Germany it
is rye; in the United States, maize - corn that grows on the cob.
These things can be easily verified in almost any encyclopedia.
"HUSKS" - NOT CORN HUSKS
In the story of the wayward son (commonly called the
"prodigal son", though this expression does not appear in the
Bible), some have thought he became so hungry in the "far
country" that he ate the husks which were given to feed the
swine. But the story does not say this. In his hunger, we are
told, "he would fain (gladly] have filled his belly with the
husks that the swine did eat", but he came to himself and
returned to his father's house."
Just what these "husks" were has also been commonly
misunderstood. We know it was not the outward covering of the
corn (maize) we are familiar with; it was not corn husks. The
accompanying words from the commentary by Barnes (p.103) will
"The 'husks' - a mistranslation - are fleshy pods, somewhat
like those of the locust-tree, from six to ten inches long
and one broad, laid inside with a gelatinous substance, not
wholly unpleasant to the taste when thoroughly ripe... it is
still the food which the swine do eat..."
FOOD COLLECTION AT CORINTH
Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning a food collection
for the saints who were suffering from famine in Jerusalem. That
such was a food collection has sometimes been overlooked as we
reads First Corinthians 16:1-4. "Now concerning the collection
for the saints... upon the first day of the week let every one of
you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be
no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall
approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your
liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they
shall go with me."
The saints in Jerusalem had a need - probably not so much
for money as for food (cf. Acts 11:28-30). Because it was a
contribution of food, we can understand why Paul told them to go
ahead and store it up so it would not have to be gathered when he
got there. Being a contribution of food, we can also understand
why several people would be needed to take it from Corinth to
In reference to this very collection, Paul wrote to the
Christians at Rome that he was going "unto Jerusalem to minister
unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia
(this is where the Corinthian church was located-2 Cor.1:1; Acts
18:1,12) to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which
are at Jerusalem... When therefore I have performed this, and
have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain"
In this passage, Paul specifically mentions fruit. Without
modern methods of preserving food, I believe the fruit that was
sent to Jerusalem was dried fruit. Raisins were no doubt sent
from Corinth, such being one of the main products of that area.
The word currant, according to the dictionary, comes from
"raisins de Corinthe, raisins of Corinth, currants, from Corinth
in Greece, whence, probably, the raisins were first imported...
1. A small seedless raisin." Thus we see that Corinth was
especially known for this product. The port of Corinth is still a
center for the export of various fruits, including currants."
BREAD AND GRAPE JUICE?
Several years ago I spoke with a man who told me that he ate
only bread and grape juice. Nothing but bread and grape juice!
Why? He said that this is what Jesus gave his disciples to eat
and so this is what we should eat - nothing else. There was
nothing I could say that would make him think any differently. He
was frail and in very poor physical land mental condition.
I have heard of people who would not eat potatoes because
this word is not in the Bible. But this omission proves nothing,
for potatoes were not even known in the land of the Bible during
the centuries it was being written.
Various ideas exist about the origin of the potato, but it
is generally agreed that the white potato originated in Peru.
From here Spanish explorers introduced it into Spain. It was not
accepted in Europe as a regular part of the diet until the 19th
To refuse to eat potatoes just because this word does not
appear in the Bible would be like refusing to eat ice cream or
hamburgers simply because these things are not mentioned. I know
of some who eat hamburgers, but prefer calling them beefburgers
rather than ham-burgers. Others, who feel they should not eat any
meat, use meat substitutes such as those made with soybeans.
The meatless diet was the belief of John Harvey Kellogg, who
along with Ellen G. White, stressed this in their sanitarium
built at Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1866. Patients flocked to the
sanitarium which also stressed sunlight, fresh air, proper rest,
and natural methods as health factors. But the meatless menu
proved monotonous to many of the patients who were not accustomed
to a vegetarian diet. It is said that some of the patients would
sneak across the street to a shanty restaurant called "The Red
Onion" for an occasional illegal steak!
But the vegetarian idea worked out well for Kellogg. He
began to experiment with meat substitutes. In the course of
things he invented corn flakes and other breakfast cereals. Today
these products are widely used. Who hasn't heard of Kellogg's
Corn Flakes of Battle Creek?
It worked out well for Charles Post, too. While a wheelchair
patient at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, he became interested in
Kellogg's experiments. As a result, he invented a coffee
substitute which he named Postum and a breakfast cereal which he
also named after himself: Post Toasties. He made a fortune with
Another tremendous success story centers on the use of
carbonated water in soft drinks. It is interesting to note that
the man who invented or discovered carbonated water - Joseph
Priestly (1733-1804) - was not only a noted scientist, but also a
preacher. In 1767 he was called to be the minister of Mill Hill
Chapel near Leeds, England. Little did he realize that some day
products with carbonated water would be used world-wide, drinks
The original syrup for Coca-Cola was developed by Major John
Pemberton on May 8, 1886. Carbonated water was later added and
the product which resulted provides a fantastic success story in
advertising and marketing. We might suppose that Coca-Cola is the
oldest soft drink in existence. However, Dr. Pepper began to be
sold on a commercial basis as early as 1885. Though for years it
was only a regional drink - originating in Waco, Texas, it is now
widely used and is the oldest name brand soft drink in the world.
The man who originated this drink named it after his
father-in-law who was indeed a doctor, Dr. Pepper.
What we know as 7 Up came later and dates back to October,
1929. It was originally called Bib-label Lithiated Lemon Lime
Soda! A few times over the years I have preached a message on "7
Up", not the Un-Cola, but what we might call the seven "ups" of
the Bible. A brief outline of this message with its seven points
and accompanying scriptures follows:
1. Wake up. (Ephesians 5:14).
2. Look up. (Luke 21:28).
3. Pay up. (Matt.6:21).
4. Make up. (Matt.5:24).
5. Fire up. (Rev.3:15,16).
6. Shut up. (James 1:19).
7. Cheer up. (Acts 27:25)....
TO BE CONTINUED