Eating on the Road to the Promissed Land

Some of the most ancient history we have comes from the Old Testament in the Bible. This makes the Bible an historical resource as well as an historic religious document. Passages that the spiritual reader might find dry, the historian might find loaded with importance, especially if it should pertain to the subject upon which he is currently investigating. A case in point is this short passage in the Book of Numbers (Chapter 11, Verses 5-9):

Remember how in Egypt we had fish for the asking, cucumbers and watermelons, leeks and onions and garlic. Now our appetite is gone; wherever we look there is nothing except this manna. (The manna looked like coriander seed, the colour of bdellium.) The people went about collecting it to grind in handmills or pound in mortars; they cooked it in a pot and made it into cakes, which tasted like butter-cakes.1

Now this passage could be important for many people. Researchers writing about cucumbers, or watermelons, or leeks will want to know that these items were common enough in Egypt that slaves could eat them, but were also prized. The corriander seed referenced above is actually the seed of what we call cilantro. The idea of making bread or flour from the seed of this herb is an intriguing one. It is not commonly done in this day and age. The discription of the cakes is rather appealing. Yet, sociologists and anthropologists would find it interesting that slaves traveling in freedom away from their one-time masters, with these seeds as the mainstay of their diet, could actually long for the bondage they had run from in exchange for variety in their diet. They were evidently getting a bit tired of manna.

Finally, a note on bdellium (yes, it is spelled with a "bd" - according to Webster's - in English, the "b" is not pronounced). Bdellium is a gum-resin that can be eaten and used for medicinal purposes as well as in incense and is a "dark brownish-red color".2

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  1. From the Revised English Bible - Oxford University Press, 1989, p121.
  2. Henriettes Herbal on Bdellium

Interesting Fact:

Moses, who led the Israelites to the "Promissed Land", never went into it.

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