fly’s body and legs as well as the pads of sticky hairs on each foot carry bacteria, as many as five million in the case of a single housefly.
“Dead flies are what cause the oil of the ointment maker to stink, to bubble forth,” wrote the congregator. The putrefaction of dead flies would cause the oil to give off an offensive odor as well as to ferment, ruining it, just as a little foolishness would damage the reputation of one known for his wisdom and glory.—Eccl. 10:1.
Isaiah speaks of Jehovah’s whistling for the flies at the extremity of the Nile canals of Egypt and the bees of the land of Assyria, so that these might settle down upon the precipitous torrent valleys, the clefts of the crags, the thorn thickets and all the watering places of Judah. This is evidently to be understood in a figurative sense, the flies denoting Egypt’s armies and the bees the armies of the Assyrians.—Isa. 7:18, 19.
The name of the god venerated by the Philistines at Ekron, “Baal-zebub,” literally means “owner (lord) of flies.” This has given rise to the thought that his worshipers may have regarded him as being able to control these insects. Since the giving of oracles was associated with Baal-zebub, others have suggested that the name may denote that this god gave oracles by means of the flight or buzzing of a fly.—2 Ki. 1:2, 6; see BAAL-ZEBUB; GADFLY.
After creating Adam and Eve, God said: “Here I have given to you all vegetation bearing seed which is on the surface of the whole earth and every tree on which there is the fruit of a tree bearing seed. To you let it serve as food.” He further stated as to all the animal creation: “I have given all green vegetation for food.” To Adam he also said: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction,” adding a prohibition on one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.—Gen. 1:29, 30; 2:16, 17.
From that time until the Flood, the Bible gives no indication that man included the flesh of animals in his diet. True, a distinction was made between clean and unclean animals. But this evidently was with regard to animals used for sacrificial purposes.—Gen. 7:2.
When Noah was commanded to take the animals into the ark, Jehovah told him: “As for you, take for yourself every sort of food that is eaten; and you must gather it to yourself, and it must serve as food for you and for them,” again seemingly having reference to food from the vegetable kingdom for the humans and the animals taken into the ark. (Gen. 6:21) After the Flood, Jehovah allowed man to add flesh to his diet, saying: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.”—Gen. 9:3, 4.
Cereals constituted the basic food of the people of Bible lands, as is evident from the fact that in both Hebrew and Greek the expression “to take a meal” literally means “to eat bread.” Barley and wheat were the chief cereals; other cereals mentioned are millet, and spelt, a form of wheat. (Judg. 7:13; Isa. 28:25; Ezek. 4:9; John 6:9, 13) Besides being used for bread, ordinary flour was made into a sort of porridge. Grain was often eaten roasted, either by taking a bunch of the grain ears together and holding them over a fire or by roasting them in a pan. (Ruth 2:14; 2 Sam. 17:28) It was made into bread, usually with the grain ground coarsely. However, in some of the bread and cakes a finer flour was used. (Gen. 18:6; Ex. 29:2) One method of baking was to spread the dough on hot rocks or on a flat surface of rocks on which a fire had been built. Ferment or leaven was often used, while some bread was baked unfermented. (Lev. 7:13; 1 Ki. 19:6) Ovens were also employed, in which the lumps of dough were flattened on a stone within. Cakes were sometimes prepared in a pan, on a griddle or in a deep-fat kettle. The fat used was oil, most probably olive oil.—Lev. 2:4, 5, 7; 1 Chron. 9:31; see BAKE, BAKER.
Beans and lentils were included in the diet, being made into a stew, such as the lentil stew that Jacob made and for which Esau sold his birthright. (Gen. 25:34) The stew was probably flavored with onions, perhaps garlic. Sometimes meat or oil was used with the stew. Flour might be made from beans or could be a mixture of grain cereals, beans and lentils. (Ezek. 4:9) Cucumbers of a variety that is more tasty than the Western variety constituted a refreshing food. When water was scarce or bad, these could be eaten to provide a substitute for water. Cucumbers were eaten raw, with or without salt, and were sometimes stuffed and cooked. The Israelites looked back with longing for the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic that they ate in Egypt. (Num. 11:4, 5) These foods were also produced in Palestine. Job mentions “marsh mallow,” the juice of which he describes as tasteless. (Job 6:6) He also speaks of those in destitute circumstances as eating the salt herb and the roots of broom trees. (Job 30:4) The Mishnah mentions endive and chicory as the bitter greens used at the Passover.—Ex. 12:8.
FRUITS AND NUTS
The olive was an outstanding article of food in Palestine. The tree may take ten years or longer to begin producing good harvests, but its great longevity makes it very fruitful. The berries of the olive tree may have been eaten as today, after being soaked in brine. Olives also provided oil for cooking, such as in stews and oiled cakes. The Bible mentions “well-oiled dishes.”—Isa. 25:6.
Figs were another important item of diet. (Deut. 8:8) The early fig was often eaten while it was young. (Isa. 28:4) The late fig was dried in the sun and pressed in a mold, forming cakes of figs. (1 Sam. 25:18; 1 Chron. 12:40) Used as a poultice, they had healing properties. (Isa. 38:21) Besides the common fig tree, a tree known as the sycamore (fig-mulberry) also produced edible figs. (1 Chron. 27:28; Amos 7:14) Other fruits were the date, the pomegranate and the apple.—Song of Sol. 5:11; Joel 1:12; Hag. 2:19; see APPLE.
Grapes are one of the most abundant foods in Palestine. When the Israelites spied out the land of Canaan they brought back a great cluster of grapes, carried on a bar between two men. (Num. 13:23) Grapes were eaten in their natural state and also dried (Num. 6:3) and pressed into cakes. (1 Sam. 25:18; 1 Chron. 12:40) As today, undoubtedly the young leaves were eaten as a green vegetable; the older leaves were fed to sheep and goats.
The pods of the carob tree were usually fed to animals, although they may have been used for human consumption in time of need. The hungry prodigal son in Jesus’ illustration expressed the desire to feed on them. And they are used today in making candy.—Luke 15:16; see CAROB POD.
SPICES AND HONEY
Spices prominently used for seasoning were mint dill, cummin, rue and mustard leaves. (Matt. 23:23; 13:31; Luke 11:42) Salt was the chief article of seasoning, also having preservative properties. Thus, a “covenant of salt” was a sure covenant, not to be violated. (Num. 18:19; 2 Chron. 13:5) Additionally, the Mishnah mentions pepper. The caper berry was used as an appetizer.—Eccl. 12:5.
Honey was considered a choice food that brightened