Eating Customs in the Bible

Updated on March 31, 2018
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

What the Bible Says About Eating

As most people know, people must eat to keep living. The Bible says a lot about eating and food. God created food to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. He richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment including food, according to 1 Timothy 4:3; 6:17.

The Bible is loaded with references about food from Genesis to Revelation. Food was involved when the serpent tempted the woman to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden. Food is mentioned 90 times in the Gospels. Eating is mentioned at least 109 times.

Meals in the Bible

The food eaten in the Bible depended on the occasion and the host's wealth.

Meals consisted mostly of vegetables. Meat wasn't eaten every day. It was eaten when serving strangers or honored guests.

Grains were an important part of the meal. Bread was eaten by itself or with something to increase its flavor, such as with broth. Fruits and fish were favorite parts of biblical meals.

Esau thought pottage was worth trading his birthright for.

God's View of Food

Food demonstrates our dependence upon God. Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s leading in their lives when He provided food for them to eat in the desert. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Food demonstrates God’s goodness when He provides it.

"During the evening you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be satisfied with bread." Exodus 16:12

Regular Meals

We usually have three main meals a day. Biblical meals did not include breakfast, lunch, and dinner like we have. Regular meals in the Bible were eaten in the morning and in the evening, according to Exodus 16:12.

There were only two regular meals in the Bible. Breakfast consisted of a light meal in the morning that included bread, fruits, and cheese. The first meal of the day did not call for any cooking and was simply a 'morning morsel' consisting of bread and olives, with an onion or any other fruit or vegetable which might be in season. A heavy breakfast was a matter for reproach (Ecclesiastes 10:16). It was eaten between 9 a.m. and noon.

The mid-day meal, if there was one, would be eaten at noon in the fields or at home and would consist of bread soaked in wine with a handful of parched corn, a 'pottage of bread broken into a bowl', or bread and grilled fish (John 21:9, 13).

Supper, or the evening meal, was the main meal of the day. It included a heavier meal eaten after working when the weather was cooler and people could eat in a more relaxed atmosphere (Ruth 3:2-7; Luke 17:7-8). The evening meal consisted of meat, vegetables, butter, and wine.

Bread, Fruit, Cheese
Bread, Fruit, Cheese | Source

Special Meals

There are many special meals in the Bible. Special means were held at times of rejoicing such as at the end of harvest season or sheep-shearing (2 Samuel 13:23). Other good examples include the followings:

  1. The feast that was given when the prodigal son returned home (Luke 15:22-32).
  2. The wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11).
  3. Birthdays (Genesis 40:20; Mark 6:21-23).
  4. Entertaining guests (Matthew 9:10-13).

There are a lot of feasts and banquets in the Bible more than everyday and family meals. Feasts and banquets were to celebrate joyous events.


Eating Utensils

ln Old Testament, there were no kitchens. Food was cooked outside in the open in front of the tent.

Eating utensils did not exist in the Bible. Bread served the purposes of a spoon and sometimes as a plate. Food was served in a common bowl and eaten with the hands (Proverbs 26:15; Matthew 26:23; Mark 14:20) or with bread dipped in the dish (John 13:26).

Bread was used to sop soup or broth which was sat in the middle of the table for all to reach. Bread was a staple of the Hebrew diet.

Bread | Source

Seating Arrangements

Meals were usually eaten outside but even when eaten inside, spectators could come inside and watch the festivities of the rich.

In earlier times, people sat on mats on the grounds. The table was a circular skin or piece of leather place on the floor. Later, they sat on chairs and stools (1 Samuel 20:5; 25). Still later, people reclined to eat on cushions, couches or divans (Amos 6:4; Esther 1:6; John 21:20). Guests leaned on the table with their left elbow and ate with their right hand.

Guests were seated by age or importance (Genesis 43:33; Luke 14:1-14). The place of honor was in the middle of the table where no more than three people sat. nSpecial honor went to the one who sat on the right-hand side of the host and reclined in his bosom.

When Joseph's brothers went to Egypt to get grain, Joseph recognized them before they recognized him. The brothers found it strange that they were placed at the table according to their age (Genesis 43:33). The brothers were seated facing Joseph, arranged in order of their age, from the oldest to the youngest.

Paintings of the Lord's Supper sometimes include Judas reclining in the bosom of Jesus.

Invitations to Eat

In the Bible, two invitations went out to the guests.

  • The first invitation was simply to invite the guests.
  • The second invitation was to tell the guests the food was ready to be served (Luke 13:15-24).

The Host

The host greeted guests with a holy kiss (Luke 7:45) and provided for their dusty feet to be washed (John 13:4-5).

The host poured perfumed oil on the heads of his guests (Luke 7:46).Tdepended on the occasion and the host's wealth.

What the host served depended on the occasion and the wealth of the host.

The host served his guests by dipping the bread in the fat of the meat and offered it to the guests as Jesus did to Judas.

For his guests, the host provided entertainment consisting of music, singing, and dancing. Guests were also entertained with riddles.

Jesus encouraged hosts to include the poor, maimed and blind among the guests (Luke 14:13).

The Guests

Guests washed their hands at the table in the sight of everyone. Water was passed and everyone saw that hands were washed. The Pharisees criticized Jesus because His disciples ate without washing their hands (Mark 7:3).

Towels were either provided or guests would bring their own to carry away the gifts that were given after the meal.

Clothing was sometimes provided by the host. When the prodigal son returned, his father provided the best robe for him (Luke 15:22).

What It Means When People Eat Together

Eating is more than the consumption of food. People bond over meals. When you eat with someone, it says you are friends and that you share a common bond.

Eating with family and friends multiplies the enjoyment of eating. Even Jesus loved eating with people including sinners and tax collectors.

Business deals are known to be made over a shared meal.

Interesting Things About Eating

  • Eating is a sign of rejoicing and celebrating.
  • Eating is an opportunity to share not only food but conversations also.
  • Fellowship is more special when it is done over a meal.
  • Eating is a sign of contentment. Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles in Babylon. He told them to build houses, and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produced (Jeremiah 29:5). Eating in this case, was a sign of contentment and peace.


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    • profile image

      Dayo Odje 

      2 days ago

      Thank you. Relieved about eating in dream.

    • profile image


      5 weeks ago

      wow, thanks really helpful!

    • profile image

      Little Scotty 

      2 months ago

      Thank you for the insightful read.

      I myself fast twice a week and I've always been interested in the relationship Jesus had with food//meals.

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      Very interesting thanks !

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      I am wondering how they gathered that food in those times.

    • profile image

      Kathy Hocking 

      13 months ago

      I am interested to know if there is any significance to Samuel serving Saul the upper portion of the thigh when he had invited Saul to a feast. This is found in I Samuel 9:23-24

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      14 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Eudora Nachand, thanks for clarifying that. Since I didn't see a direct address to Allie I thought your comment was about the article itself.

      Your comment was detailed and correct. I hope Allie reads it.

    • profile image

      Eudora Nachand 

      14 months ago

      MARGARET, I think my comment was related to your answer to Allie when you mentioned Maudy Thursday.

      Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed your article.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      15 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Eudora Nachand, I appreciate your comments. However, they do not apply to this article. I write a lot of articles about Jesus, His death, burial and resurrection, Holy Week, etc.

      Perhaps you read one of my other articles where the remarks would apply. I approved your comments, but they are truly out of order here because they have nothing to do with the "Eating Customs in the Bible.".

    • Eudora Nachand profile image

      Eudora Nachand 

      15 months ago from United States

      The teaching of Maudy Thursday is a teaching by Catholicism.

      Having Yahushua die on 'Good Friday'' [Also a teaching by Catholicism] makes Him a liar. He said: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. ~ Matthew 12:40

      According to Yahushua in the scripture above, He said He would only give one sign and that sign would be that He would be in the belly of the earth three days and three nights.

      So, with all this scriptural information, let's go ahead and test man's 'good friday' theory.

      3:00 p.m. Friday to Sabbath

      3:00 p.m. Sabbath to the first day - Sunday

      3:00 p.m. First day (Sunday) to the 2nd day- Monday

      Here we can easily see three days using just the three o'clock hour. I haven't even bothered to count out three nights because using this three day method just doesn't work does it?

      If you want to know the truth, here is the one key scripture from the Apostle John that helps lead us to the truth.

      John 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.


    • profile image


      15 months ago

      This information was very much needed. Thank you!

    • IServeJesus profile image


      18 months ago

      God made the ravens bring Elia just breakfast and dinner as well. Meat and bread in the morning and evening.

    • profile image

      Stanley Lipn 

      21 months ago

      Very interesting, the way you arrange your outline on how important the food has been served and was consumed. Great work

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      23 months ago from Richmond, VA

      AF Mind, thanks for elaborating on fellowshipping with eating involved. Jesus did it all the time: with Martha and Mary, with Zaccheus, with disciples, and on many other occasions.

    • AF Mind profile image

      AF Mind 

      23 months ago


      I agree, fellowship itself is not eating. But the Bible does not prohibit food during fellowship. Where does it say a fellowship is when you go back into the light of holiness and not really consuming foods and fluids.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      23 months ago from Richmond, VA

      C, so you say!

    • profile image

      23 months ago

      Eating to have a fellowship is wrong. A fellowship is when you go back into the light of holiness and not really consuming foods and fluids.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      KIERAN, Thanks so much for pointing out that speed error in my article. I have made the correction.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      You quoted John21:45 under regular meals there is no such verse? Thanks

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Yes, it is Allie. Today is known as Maundy Thursday when Jesus had the Last Supper with His disciples in the upper room.

      Check out my articles on What Happened Each Day of Holy Week and the Timeline of Jesus' Crucifixion. I think you will find them interesting!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      This is beautiful. Thank you. Today is the contemplation of the last supper ❤️

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      AF Mind, Thanks for reading and responding!

    • AF Mind profile image

      AF Mind 

      3 years ago

      Very interesting.


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