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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Fig. 241—Cooking Lentiles

Lentiles appear to have been chiefly used for making a kind of pottage. The red pottage for which Esau bartered his birthright was of lentiles (). The term red was, as with us, extended to yellowish brown, which must have been the true color of the pottage, if derived from lentiles. The Greeks and Romans also called lentiles red. Lentiles were among the provisions brought to David when he fled from Absalom (), and a field of lentiles was the scene of an exploit of one of David's heroes (). From , it would appear that lentiles were sometimes used as bread. This was, doubtless, in times of scarcity, or by the poor. Sonnini assures us that in southernmost Egypt, where corn is comparatively scarce, lentiles mixed with a little barley form almost the only bread in use among the poorer classes. It is called bettan, is of a golden yellow color, and is not bad, although rather heavy. In that country, indeed, probably even more than in Palestine, lentiles anciently, as now, formed a chief article of food among the laboring classes. Large quantities of lentiles were exported from Alexandria. Pliny, in mentioning two Egyptian varieties, incidentally lets us know that one of them was red, by remarking that they like a red soil, and by speculating whether the pulse may not have thence derived the reddish color which it imparted to the pottage made with it. This illustrates Jacob's red pottage. Dr. Shaw, also states that these lentiles easily dissolve in boiling, and form a red or chocolate colored pottage, much esteemed in North Africa and Western Asia. Putting these facts together, it is likely that the reddish lentil, which is now so common in Egypt, is the sort to which all these statements refer.

The tomb-paintings actually exhibit the operation of preparing pottage of lentiles, or, as Wilkinson describes it, 'a man engaged in cooking lentiles for a soup or porridge; his companion brings a bundle of faggots for the fire, and the lentiles themselves are seen standing near him in wicker baskets.' The lentiles of Palestine have been little noticed by travelers.


Fig. 242—Lentiles—Cicer lens

The lentil is an annual plant, and the smallest of all the leguminosae which are cultivated. It rises with a weak stalk about eighteen inches high, having pinnate leaves at each joint composed of several pairs of narrow leaflets, and terminating in a tendril, which supports it by fastening about some other plant. The small flowers, which come out of the sides of the branches on short peduncles, three or four together, are purple, and are succeeded by the short and flat legumes, which contain two or three flat round seeds slightly curved in the middle. The flower appears in May, and the seeds ripen in July. When ripe, the plants are rooted up, if they have been sown along with other plants, as is sometimes done; but they are cut down when grown by themselves. They are threshed, winnowed, and cleaned like corn.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Lentiles'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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