Ezekiel Bread, Daniel’s Diet, and Other “Biblical” Food Follies

When I first heard about Ezekiel Bread, I was in the middle of translating the book of Ezekiel for a year-long Ph.D. class. So when my roommate asked if I’d heard of Ezekiel Bread, I had…and I hadn’t. I certainly knew about the bread in the book of Ezekiel (chapter 4), but I had no idea that someone was trying to make money selling it. Furthermore, given what I knew about Ezekiel’s bread, I had no idea why anyone would try to do such a thing or how they’d manage to pull it off.

The bread you can buy in today’s grocery store is actually called “Ezekiel 4:9 Bread,” and it’s marketed as a recipe for “bread from the Holy Scriptures.” The tagline also includes the recipe, such as it is, from verse 9: God told Ezekiel to “take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and emmer, and put them into a single vessel and make your bread from them.” This is all well and good, but if you keep reading the story (which the marketers do not ask you to do), you get the rest of the recipe: the bread was to be baked over human dung. Ezekiel negotiated his way out of this, and his loaf was baked over animal dung instead. I’m doubtful that the Ezekiel 4:9 Bread Company bakes their bread according to the recipe – either the original or Ezekiel’s emendation.

If you eat Ezekiel Bread, I’m not suggesting you should stop. It’s probably healthy – but that’s not on account of it being a “biblical recipe.” It’s healthy because people in the ancient Near East baked their breads using, gasp, whole grains. They would have wondered what Wonder bread is.

A similar situation arises with the account of Daniel and his friends refusing the king’s meat in favor of vegetables. I’m not opposed to vegetarianism – we’d all be a lot healthier if we swapped out more meat for vegetables – but I am opposed to claims that vegetarianism is a “biblical diet” just because Daniel did it. (Daniel wasn’t a vegetarian, it seems, aside from his three years of Babylonian training.) To be sure, God cares about what we eat (and don’t eat), and the Bible does have things to say about food and eating, but I’m willing to bet that most of Google’s 3,530,000 hits for “biblical diet” get it wrong, all wrong.

The point is that people all over the Bible do lots of things that God never intended we do too. The Bible, especially the narrative sections, describes choices, attitudes, and activities of godly and ungodly people alike. Such description is not prescription. Just because a godly person in the Bible is described as doing such-and-so does not mean that the author/Author is prescribing that we do the same thing. The behavior of God-fearing figures in the Bible may be perfectly fine to imitate at times, but at other times, such imitation is not necessary. And sometimes it’s even silly.

2 responses to “Ezekiel Bread, Daniel’s Diet, and Other “Biblical” Food Follies”

  1. Ver interesting, Wendy. I know I’ve checked the label in the store (thought it might be an option for my gluten free son) and I’m pretty sure that ‘baked over a poop fire’ would have been a turn off. I wonder if wearing head coverings in church and not having instruments in church and thinking it’s sin if you don’t take communion weekly might also fit into this category?

    1. Hi Shannon,
      Well, the head coverings and communion aren’t in narrative texts, so we have to come at them differently. They (at least the head covering one) is actually in a prescriptive sort of text – so we have other interpretative issues to work through there! As for instruments in church, I’m not thinking of an actual text that goes with that…are you? It’s more of a tradition thing versus a textual thing.

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