Food-Part Two of a Three-Part Discussion

Len Addington By Len Addington, 5th Jun 2018 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Diet & Nutrition

In part one of the article Food, we discussed the fact that everyone needs food to survive. A study of the Holy Scriptures or Old Testament reveals famine was known to many. God provided abundantly to His people so they could meet the needs of the less fortunate, the widows, foreigners and the orphans.

The Holy Scriptures

Food is discussed at great depth throughout the Holy Scriptures or Old Testament. Every book in the Old Testament references food, literally or figuratively! Isolated verses focus on the means to survive in difficult times.

A study of feast and famine in the Scriptures, of plenty and want, can give us a greater appreciation for our bounty, and a sensitivity to those in need. This will also give a picture of God's love for all those He created.

The Creation of Man

The first chapter of Genesis says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27. And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food,” Genesis 1:29.

The second chapter of Genesis records, “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” Genesis 2:8-9. “The Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Genesis 2:15-17.

The Fall of Man and the Consequences

Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in disobedience to God's command. God then told Adam, “…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you will eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19.

Thus began the difficulty that plagued every man in the ancient world who sought to eke out a living from the earth: toil that may yield 100 fold, 60 fold, 30 fold, or a crop failure. Pestilence was also a reality and could contribute to the loss of a bountiful harvest. Locusts were also prominent and plentiful and capable of consuming acres of crops in minutes. Ancient man had no defense against these insects. Locusts were used by God to decimate the agriculture in Egypt to pursued Pharoah to let Israel go,

The severity of this struggle to survive on what was grown or could be gathered from the fields may be reflected by God’s instruction to Noah as he and his family leave the ark, “Everything that breathes and moves shall be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” Genesis 9:3. Was the difficulty in growing food such that man now needed to eat meat in order to survive? If so, we see God's mercy in giving man what he needed to keep himself and his family alive.

The Patriarchs

Problems relating to the shortage of food affected people from the days of the Patriarchs through the post-exile return. “Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. (Gen 12:10) The Scripture later speaks of Abraham’s son Isaac: “Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines.” 26:1.

Isaac and Rebekah later have two sons, Esau and Jacob. The favoritism of the parents toward their preferred sons led to deceit and threats of murder. Jacob flees his father's house to go to an uncle, Laban, in a Paddan Aram, in order not to be killed by his brother. At the time he is sent away he does not know it will be 20 years before he returns home. We learn that Rebekah, Jacob's mother, dies during his absence. Did the shortage of healthy food shorten her life?

Pharaoh. King of Egypt, has two dreams that trouble him. They are dreams of pending famine. Seven years of plentiful harvest are coming. Later a seven-year famine will grip the region, impacting untold multitudes. Genesis 41:54 tells us, 'and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.”

Genesis further tells us the famine was severe in the land. . This obviously speaks not only of Egypt but Canaan as well. Other groups besides Jacob’s family traveled to Egypt for food, as seen in Exodus 12:38. "Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds." We are not told the nationality of the people who fled Egypt with the Israelites.

After the Israelites are settled in Canaan famine will again be a concern to God's people: In the days when the Judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. Ruth 1:1

The Exodus from Egypt

Joseph, son of Jacob, will become second in command of Egypt and lead the people through the seven years of famine as dreamed by Pharaoh. The blessing of Pharaoh to the Israelites is noted in Genesis 45:17, "...I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat of the fat of the land.

Things change with the passing of time. Exodus 1:8-10 tell us, "Now there arose a new King over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, "Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them , less they multiply. and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape the land. Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens."

God hears the cry of His children, the Israelites, as they are oppressed in Egypt. He calls Moses from the desert to return to Egypt to bring His people out. Through ten plagues God convinces Pharoah that his gods are not as powerful as God Himself, who has promised to return His people to Canaan. Following the death of the firstborn son of all the Egyptians, Moses leads the Israelites, more than a million, across the Red Sea and toward Canaan. The trip should have taken only 10 days, but disobedience and lack of faith in God will result in a 40 year delay.

Food in the Wilderness: Bread from Heaven

On the 15th day of the second month after the Israelites departed from Egypt, they came to the wilderness. They grumbled against Moses and Aaron because they had no food. Then the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I'm about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I made test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it shall be twice as much as they gather daily." Exodus 16:4-7.
In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. "Exodus 16: 13-15. God provided this manna to the Israelites until they arrived in Canaan.

A Promise to the Israelites as they enter the Promised Land

As Moses leads the Israelites through the wilderness we find him assuring him that the time they have spent in the desert is not in vain. God will bring them to their ancestral home, and continue to be with them, as He has been since they left Egypt. “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; Deut 8:7-9

This promise is fulfilled once the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into Canaan. "While the people of Israel were encamped at Gill gal, they kept the Passover on the 14th day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. Joshua 5:10 -12.

Meeting the Needs of Others or Onesself

God’s concern for the poor is presented to Moses as a law for the Israelites to obey. “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I, therefore, command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” Deut 15:11. God calls on Israel to remember the poor when they harvest their crops. “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the Sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” Lev 19:9-10, “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the Sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the Sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. Deut 24:19-21.

God also considered the traveler or the homeless ones. This one may not have a friend or neighbor offering a meal or food. God, therefore, permits those in need to avoid going hungry, with conditions. “If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.” Deut 23:24-25.

The lack of adequate food sometimes warranted practices that we today find disgusting. "... every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a Sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening: then he shall be clean." Leviticus 17:15. After the Israelites settle in Canaan this law is amended. "You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the Sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 14:21. The people were to live lives of holiness as an example to the inhabitants who would remain in the land.

In Leviticus God gives specific instructions to Moses to give to Aaron and his sons regarding abstaining from the holy things of the people of Israel. A special provision permits the priest's daughter to be sustained should the unexpected happen. God declares, “But if a priest’s daughter becomes widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father’s house as in her youth, she shall eat of her father’s food; but no layman shall eat of it. Lev 22:13. Truly the unexpected loss of a husband would be tragic; for the widow to then starve or resort to a sinful lifestyle to survive would not show the true nature of the loving God He is.

Food as a Metaphor

Since the need for food was prominent in the mind of ancient man, it began being used in conversation or language. In Psalm 14:4 David asks, "Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat of my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?" The Psalmist asks, "Oh Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure." Psalm 80:4-5. King Solomon, in Psalms 127:2 states, "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." In Proverbs, King Solomon speaks of those who are wicked. "for they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence." Proverbs 4:17. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God's actions toward His disobedient people, "And though the Lord gave you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher." Isaiah 30:20.

The Old Testament writers use the above illustrations to focus on their circumstances or the situations that they observe.

More thoughts about the Holy Scriptures and Food

Many more verses in the Holy Scriptures speak of God's desire to care for the widow, the foreigner or the orphan. The Old Testament prophets sent to Israel by God also speak of the mistreatment of others by the wealthy: denying paying wages to workers at the end of the day, as required by Levitical law. Merchants used dishonest weights to cheat farmers of the amount they should be paid for their harvests. The injustices were many as were the victims.

Today we are protected from such practices. But what about those whose circumstances have placed them between success and failure? Some who are doing all they can to survive, but their lack of skills, location, or even prejudices of others prevent them from being able to sustain themselves. We don't consider that on a day to day basis we may be only a step away from illness, accident, or someones treachery that would place us in a similar circumstances.

In his old age King Solomon wrote, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.”"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them...' Ecclesiastes 12:1.

In part 3 of Food, we will discuss what we can do to meet the needs of those who are less fortunate, less blessed then we are.


Famine, Food, History, Old Testament

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author avatar Len Addington
I worked as a Counselor for 40 years. I gave my clients dignity and worth and modeled a life of integrity. I will post articles on careers and counseling and anecdotes.S

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author avatar Lesa Cote
12th Feb 2020 (#)

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