Old Testament Diet

Genesis 1: 29: “Behold I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.”

The Israelites had departed from Egypt and floundered in the desert for 40 years. Unable to find enough meat, for awhile they had to exist on God’s provision, “manna from heaven.” [Exodus 16] The Israelites sent scouts throughout the land to survey potential aggressors before entering Canaan, and found a race of large men, located southwest of Jerusalem. [Deuteronomy 2: 11,20] It is said that these giants made the Israelites feel as small as “grasshoppers.” [Numbers 13:33] The giants were a vanishing breed by the time the Israelites came out of Egypt. They were likely a meat-eating tribe of people. The largely plant-food diet of the Israelites may have resulted in shorter stature but also may have lengthened their life span and given them other advantages over their adversaries.

Though the Israelites complained of the harsh experiences in the desert as they wandered for 40 years before entering the Promised Land, their sparse diet was preparing them for what lay ahead. Similarly, during World War II the British were forced to ration meat, dairy and alcohol, which resulted in improved health and decreased mortality. [The London Times, 7/7/99]

The Israelites eventually entered the land of Canaan, which was a land of wheat, barley, vines, fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey. [Deuteronomy 8:8] Melons, grapes, diluted wine, fish, and flaxseed, were also commonly grown and consumed. They ate nutritious whole grains, not the processed grains eaten today. The recipe for “Ezekiel bread” of the Old Testament consisted of wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt (a form of hard-grained wheat). [Ezekiel 4:9]

Meat not with milk

There was a prohibition against eating meat cooked in milk. This is repeated three times in the Bible. "Thou shall not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.” [Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21]. Milk contains substances (lactoferrin) that inhibit the absorption of iron. Meat provides the richest source of iron and is an essential nutrient, particularly required for growth of children and for fertile women. Milk and iron-rich foods are not compatible during the growing years, nor for fertile women, and should not be consumed at the same time. When dairy products are consumed with hamburger at the same meal, iron absorption is reduced by 50-60 percent. [European Journal Clinical Nutrition 46: 317, 1992] Modern science again confirms this Biblical dietary law.

The Passover meat

The first Passover instructions were clear. The Israelites were to eat meat from a young lamb, and it was to be “roasted with fire” and consumed with bitter herbs, and leftovers were not to be eaten the next morning. [Exodus 12: 5-10] The bitter herbs would likely provide natural disinfection of any tainted meat. In recent times Americans have been aware of outbreaks of food poisoning from undercooked meat.