Manners & Customs: Vegetables Vegetables in the Ancient Bible World
Olive Oil and Olives
Olives and olive oil. Some use is made of the pickled berry of the olive, but the bulk of the fruit is used to make oil. In the Orient, olive oil usually takes the place of butter, and is largely used in cooking meals. A survey of several Scriptures will indicate how important a food olive oil was considered to be. The widow who fed Elijah said to him: "I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse" (I Kings 17:12). She had been depending largely on bread and oil for her food, but the supply of both was about gone. The miracle of Elijah was the multiplication of that supply, "And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah" (I Kings 17:16). The Meal Offering of the Mosaic law called for unleavened fine flour mingled with oil baked in a pan (Leviticus 2:5). And the prophet Ezekiel in reciting to Jerusalem all its past blessings from JEHOVAH said of her, "Thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil" (Ezekiel 16:13). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The two most widely used vegetables in Bible times were beans and lentils. The prophecy of Ezekiel mentions both of these in one verse (Ezekiel 4:9). Beans are included in the articles of food which David's friends brought to him when he was in flight from Jerusalem, because of Absalom's rebellion (II Samuel 17:28). The most famous Biblical use of lentils was of course, the selling of Esau's birthright for a meal including lentils with bread (Genesis 25:33, 34).
Thomson tells of being invited to a meal of lentils which he found to be very savory with its "appetizing fragrance and substantial taste, that to a hungry man must have been very tempting. In eating this dish, he did as his hosts did, doubled "some of their bread spoon-fashion," and then dipped it into the saucepan. He suggests that Esau no doubt used the same kind of spoon of bread in eating the pottage of lentils.
The Israelites' Egyptian diet included the vegetables: leeks, onions, and garlic (Numbers 11:5). Most of these were probably used sometimes in Israel. The prophet Isaiah mentions a "garden of cucumbers" (Isaiah 1:8). Gourds were also used, as suggested by two Scripture passages (Jonah 4:6-10; II Kings 4:39). The "pulse" which Daniel and his companions wanted as their diet, when they were captives, was probably vegetables (Daniel 1:12). The word means primarily, "something sown," and therefore would include edible seeds that are cooked, such as lentils, beans, peas, etc. It was a simple vegetable diet that was wanted instead of the rich, unwholesome food of the king's table. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]