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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(properly אָכִל, akal', ἐσθίω). The ancient Hebrews did not eat indifferently with all persons; they would have esteemed themselves polluted and dishonored by eating with those of another religion or of an odious profession. In Joseph's time they neither ate with the Egyptians nor the Egyptians with them (Genesis 43:32), nor in our Savior's time with the Samaritans (John 4:9). The Jews were scandalized at his eating with publicans and sinners (Matthew 9:11). As there were several sorts, of meats the use of which was prohibited, they could not conveniently eat with those who partook of them, fearing to contract pollution by touching such food, or if by accident any particles of it should fall on them. (See FOOD).

At their meals some suppose they had each his separate table; and that Joseph, entertaining his brethren in Egypt, seated them separately, each at his particular table, while he himself sat down separately from the Egyptians, who ate with him; but he sent to his brethren portions out of the provisions which were before him (Genesis 43:31 sq.). Elkanah, Samuel's father, who had two wives, distributed their portions to them separately (1 Samuel 1:4-5). In Homer, each guest is supposed to have had his little table apart and the master of the feast distributed meat to each (Odyss. 14:446 sq.). We are assured that this is still practiced in China, and that many in India never eat out of the same dish, nor on the same table with another person, believing they cannot do so without sin, and this not only in their own country, but when traveling and in foreign lands. This is also the case with the Brahmins and various castes in India, who will not even use a vessel after a European, though he may only have drank from it water recently drawn out of a well. The same strictness is observed by the more scrupulous among the Mohammedans, and instances have been known of every plate, and dish, and cup that had been used by Christian guests being broken immediately after their departure. The ancient manners which we see in Homer we see likewise in Scripture, with regard to eating, drinking, and entertainments. There was great plenty, but little delicacy; great respect and honor paid to the guests by serving them plentifully. Joseph sent his brother Benjamin a portion five times larger than those of his ether brethren. Samuel set a whole quarter of a calf before Saul (1 Samuel 9:24). The women did not appear at table in entertainments with the men; this would have been an indecency, as it is at this day throughout the East. (See BANQUET).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Eating'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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