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What did the Ancient Israelites Eat?

Easy Salsa

Easy Salsa

Each week I chat with Matt Swaim on the Sonrise Morning Show. This week their pledge drive is going on, so if you can contribute either monetarily or with a prayer, I hope you do so. We talked today about what people of Bible days ate in the area of the world where Jesus was born.


Meals eaten by ancient Israelites from 1000 years BC to the time of the Romans fell into 2 categories: daily and festive meals. Today we’re talking about the daily meals eaten. Was the daily diet of the ancient Israelites very plain or was it varied?


The daily diet of the ordinary ancient Israelite was mainly one of bread, cooked grains and legumes, like lentils and beans. Agricultural workers comprised the largest part of the population. Bread was eaten with every meal. Vegetables were eaten less frequently but were an important part of the daily diet. Most food was eaten fresh and in season. For instance, they drank goat and sheep’s milk mainly in the spring and summer, and also ate butter and cheese.

Figs and grapes were common fruits, and dates, pomegranates along with other fruits and nuts were eaten in season, so only occasionally.

What about meat?

Meat, usually goat and mutton, was eaten rarely and was reserved for special occasions such as celebrations, festival meals or sacrificial feasts. Game, birds, eggs and fish were also eaten, depending on availability.

Were foods dried for later use? 

It was important to dry foods in case of famine. Grapes were made into raisins and wine; olives into oil, figs, lentils and other beans were dried. Grains were stored for use throughout the year.  The typical diet was more vegetarian.

Did the whole family get involved in preparing meals?

Daily meals were prepared by women. Two daily meals were usually eaten by the family, either in the home or in the field. The first meal was eaten in the late-morning, as a break in the workday, and could include roasted grain, olives, figs or some other fruit, bread, dipped in olive oil or vinegar, or eaten with garlic, onions or radishes and water or wine. 

There’s another good example of this in the Book of Ruth (Ruth2:14) when she was helping out in the fields and prepared and ate food with the workers.

What about the second meal?

That was the main meal and was eaten as supper in the evening, like we do today. That meal would have included a soup or stew cooked over the fire, along with the bread, vegetables in season, cheese and fruits, in particular melons in the summer. Milk was also part of the meal.



Can you tell which ingredients in this salsa are ones eaten by ancient Israelites? (Hint – not corn, pepper  or tomatoes!)

Go to taste on ingredients here. More or less of any one thing is OK.

Mix together:

2 cans corn, drained or equivalent fresh corn, cut from cob and microwaved a minute or two.

3 cans beans, drained, rinsed and drained (I like black beans, red beans and chick peas but you can use all black)

2 bell peppers, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped, white and green part

4 nice tomatoes, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 generous teaspoon cumin

1 bunch Cilantro (opt)

Enough Italian dressing to season: start with a generous cup and go from there. I like the zesty Italian dressing.

Salt and pepper to taste

Why this recipe is good for you:

·      Corn – with fiber and folate, Fiber helps keep digestive system healthy and folate helps protect growing fetus against birth defects.

·      Beans – fiber, protein. Protein helps our bodies repair and make new cells.

·      Peppers – vitamins A and C, fiber. Good for our eyes, and immune system.

·      Tomatoes – with its large amount of potassium and anti-oxidants, this veggie is good for our muscles and blood pressure.

·      Cilantro – loaded with calcium for our bones, fiber and iron which helps deliver oxygen to our cells.

·      Onions – good for the heart.



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