Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eaters of Barley Bread

And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host. Judges 7:13-14

The common bread–such as was used by the very poor and unfortunate, or in times of famine–was made of barley. The Lord fed the hungry multitude with five barley loaves which belonged to a small boy. The sons of the prophets in the days of Elisha ate barley bread. Nothing was more common than for the people to complain that their oppressors had left them nothing but barley bread to eat. The Bedouins often called their enemies “eaters of barley bread.”

The diet of the East has always been light and simple. The chief points of contrast between their diet and ours are the very small amount of animal food consumed and the variety of articles used with bread; but the chief point of agreement is the huge consumption of bread.

The preparations of bread were various and simple. Sometimes the fresh grains, after being carefully picked, were roasted in a pan over a fire, and eaten as “parched corn” in which form it was and is an ordinary article of diet.

I have watched women in Syria make bread a great many times. First they made a fire of dried dung and withered vine branches, which were laid upon the hearth; and the bread, being spread out with the hands like a pancake, was baked over this. Each cake was exceedingly thin, and could be rolled up and placed in the mouth at once.

Sometimes they made unleavened wafers, anointed with oil, which were baked in a plate or pan; and likely the cakes which Sarah made upon the hearth for the three angels, were of this kind (Gen. 18:6). Sometimes the grain was bruised and dried in the sun; then eaten, either mixed with oil, or made into soft cakes (the “dough” of the Old Testament).

The common people have little other food than durra bread, which consists of a sort of coarse millet, kneaded with camel’s milk, oil, butter, or grease.

The best bread–such as was used in the sacred offering–was always made of wheat, and then ground and sifted formed the “fine flour” used in the offering. The ground but unsifted wheat would answer to the “flour” and “meal” of Judges 6:19.

In villages the bread is either baked on cakes of dried dung, or by means of clay ovens, built on the floor of the house. Each household possessed such an article except the very poor, when one oven sufficed for several families. It was heated with dried twigs and grass and thorns. The bread to be baked was placed both inside and out.

(Bowen, Barbara M., Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944, pgs 87-88)

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