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as well as the honey of bees. Sometimes the juice of grapes was drunk when fresh pressed, not fermented, Gen. xl. 11.

The value and use of wine and similar liquors, as a medicine or cordial, are spoken of in many texts, Judg. ix. 13; Psa. civ. 15; but the evil consequences of drunkenness and excess are frequently still more strongly noticed, Prov. xxiii. 29–32; Isa. v. 11, 22 ; Rom. xiii. 13; Gal. v. 21; and, what is more impressive, we find instances recorded which show the evil consequences of "following wine and strong drink.” Thus we read of the case of Noah, Gen. ix. 21, so that there cannot be any doubt on the subject.

Morier and Buckingham have described the drinking parties of the Persians, who indulge their intemperance. The former was invited to join a party drinking near the road-side, as early as seven in the morning, and says, found that the Persians esteem the morning the best time for beginning to drink wine, by which means they carry on their excess till night.” An illustration of Isaiah v. 11, etc.

There were some among the Jews who abstained wholly from wine and strong drink, probably from being aware of the danger of indulging therein. This, also, appears to have been the reason why the Rechabites, who were strangers in the land of Judea, did the same, Jer. xxxv. 6—9. The descendants of the Rechabites exist as a separate people at the present day. We may, from hence, gather a useful lesson, not only to avoid this evil, but also to keep a strict watch upon ourselves, and to abstain from all things which would lead us to sin. But let us beware how we resist sin in our own strength ; let us remember the awful fall of the apostle Peter, and look continually to the Saviour for fresh supplies of grace and strength, seeking to walk soberly, diligently, and righteously in this evil world, Tit. ii. 12.


In ancient times it was the custom among the patriarchs and others, frequently to take their meals out of doors. This is often done in the east at the present day, when all who pass by are invited to partake. The governor of an Egyptian village is described by Pococke, as giving a feast, at which there was a continued succession of guests, till the whole was eaten. He mentions Arab rulers as dining in

the street, and calling to all passers to partake, even beggars, as Luke xiv. 13 : see also Luke xiv. 12–14. The angels sat under a tree while they ate the food which Abraham prepared for them, Gen. xviii. 8. There are many

instances of this in the Gospels; and it is usual among eastern nations in the present day. At Philadelphia, Chandler was invited by a family sitting at their repast, under some trees, near a well of water, to alight and partake, as Zech. iii. 10. The regular meals were, dinner a little before noon, and supper in the evening. The latter was the principal meal :

: see Mark vi. 21. Martha and Mary's entertainment to Jesus was a supper, John xii. 2 : see also Luke xiv. 16. Our Lord's intercourse with those who love him is described as a supper, Rev. iii. 20. The feast of the passover was in the evening

The Hebrews did not eat with the neighbouring nations. We are not told in the Bible when they began to separate themselves in this manner; but it was the custom in Joseph's time, although in that instance it appears to have arisen from objections on the part of the Egyptians : see Gen. xliii. 32. The Jews in our Saviour's time did not eat with the Samaritans, John iv. 9; and they objected to our Lord's eating with publicans and sinners. Matt. ix. 11. This custom was so strictly observed, that when God was about to extend his church to the Gentiles, he sent an especial vision to St. Peter, to show that it might be discontinued. Peter was blamed by the other apostles for eating with Cornelius, Acts xi. 3 ; and from several passages in the Epistles, we find that the early Christians abstained from meat offered unto idols. As these sacrifices were offered at all solemn feasts, and on many other occasions connected with idolatrous practices, the Christians separated from eating with the heathens in general, and sometimes were over scrupulous, 1 Cor. x. 25—28.

Although these ceremonial observances were not enjoined on the early Christians among the Gentiles, yet the apostle Paul cautions against evil arising to others from using this liberty. Much care should be taken by strong-minded believers, not to give occasions for mistake to weaker brethren, 1 Cor. viii. 7–13; x. 23, 32, 33. It is still the custom in China, Persia, and many

other countries, for the guests to have little tables or trays placed on the floor, upon which dishes are set for them. In India, many persons never eat out of the same dish as others, believing it would be sinful to do so, and thinking that their dishes are polluted and spoiled if touched by persons of another religion. If so touched, they break them, as the Jews were to break their earthen vessels when touched by an unclean animal. This assists in explaining the apostle's words : “ Touch not; taste not; handle not.” Dr. Clarke found a similar custom among the Turks. He was one night entertained very kindly by a Turk and his family; after leaving the place the next morning, Dr. Clarke returned for a book he had left behind, when he found his kind host and all the family employed in breaking and throwing away the earthenware plates and dishes from which the guests had eaten, and purifying the other utensils and articles of furniture by passing them through fire or water. See Lev. xi. 33. These things may well teach us, that the followers of Christ are to keep themselves apart from the world, and show that they should be ready even to suffer loss that they may do so. Indeed, one object of the numerous injunctions to which the Israelites were commanded to attend, appears to have been, to render it a matter of duty, as well as of inclination, to keep themselves a separate people

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Elkanah, the father of Samuel, distributed portions of provisions to each of his wives separately, 1 Sam. i. 4, 5.


It is still the custom in the countries of the east, when there is more than one wife, for each to be separate as much as the means of the family will afford. When entertaining strangers, as well as in eating and drinking in general, there appears to have been great plenty, but not much care or delicacy in preparing the provision. It was deemed a mark of favour to send the guests a great deal of any dish: thus the mess or portion which Joseph sent to Benjamin was five times greater than was sent to any other of his brethren, Gen. xliii. 34, and probably of different sorts of food. This engraving represents Egyptian servants, carrying a table heaped with food of different kinds.

Lane describes a round tray of tinned copper being placed on a stool, so as to serve for a table ; twelve will crouch round such a tray, three feet wide. Each then bares his arm to the elbow, saying in a low voice, “In the name of God.” The dishes are placed upon the tray, two or three at a time, or singly in succession, the guests taking the food with the thumb and two fingers of the right hand, but using spoons, or perhaps the hollow of the hand for liquids. To pull out a morsel and offer it to another is polite. Their manner of eating with the fingers is more delicate than would be supposed.

It is still an honour to receive a portion from the table of the master of the feast, if he is a great man. A modern traveller, who dined in the presence of an eastern king, describes his majesty as tearing a handful of meat from a quarter of lamb, which stood before him, and sending it to his guest as a mark of honour. This custom also prevails in China. Van Braam, the Dutch ambassador, relates that some bones of mutton, with half the meat gnawed off, were sent to him from the table of the emperor, and he was told it was a great honour! Knives and forks never have been used in the east, as among us.

This renders the washing of hands both before and after meat a necessary ceremony. Hartley describes it as being done by a servant going round and pouring water over the hands of each guest

. Thus 2 Kings iii. 11, Elisha is described as having “poured water on the hands of Elijah,” to signify he had served that great prophet as an attendant. The Jewish washings before meat, Mark vii. 1-4; Luke xi. 37, 38, were accompanied by peculiar ceremonies of how much of the hand and arm should be washed.

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It was not usual for women to appear and eat with men : this was observed by all ranks. Vashti refused to come to the feast of the king Ahasuerus, Esth. i. 12. The ancient Hebrews probably sat down upon the ground at meals, round a low table or a mat, upon which the dishes were placed : see 1 Sam. xvi. 11, marginal reading, and Psa. cxxviii. 3. The Babylonians and Persians used to recline or lie down upon table beds, something like our sofas, while they were eating ; and some among the Jews, after a time, adopted this custom, Amos vi. 4—7. The guests at the royal banquets or feasts, Esth. i. 6; vii. 8, were placed on beds.

Our Lord reclined in this manner, when Mary anointed his feet, John xii. 3, and when the beloved apostle

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