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HTS Theological Studies

On-line version ISSN 2072-8050
Print version ISSN 0259-9422


SHEMESH, Abraham O.. Food, memory and cultural-religious identity in the story of the 'desirers' (Nm 11:4-6). Herv. teol. stud. [online]. 2020, vol.76, n.3, pp.1-9. ISSN 2072-8050.

This article examines the nutritional and cultural meaning underlying the list of foods mentioned in the claims of the Israelites in Numbers 11:4-6. The foods eaten by the Israelites in Egypt express stability and a familiar routine, whilst the foods of Eretz Israel, although depicted as choicer, express uncertainty. The list of foods has a literary role on several spheres: (1) The foods are elements distinguishing the agricultural practices in Eretz Israel and Egypt. (2) Fish and vegetables are an indicator of the low class of the Israelites - eating fish reflects the practice of obtaining protein from small animals available to the poor. In Egypt, vegetables were more readily available and were a more prominent ingredient in the diet of the poor and slaves. (3) The food is an indicator of the Egyptian cultural identity of the Israelites - the Bible identifies the longing for the fish and vegetables characteristic of their Egyptian diet as a sign of the Israelites' cultural and mental affiliation with Egypt. Although they left Egypt physically, they remained affiliated with Egyptian culture and identity. CONTRIBUTION: This article contributes to the understanding of the biblical story of the 'desirers' (Nm 11:4-6) from a multidisplinary perspective. It combines the fields of ancient Egyptian agriculture, nutrition, culture and research on features of immigrants' foods.

Keywords : Numbers 11:4-6; food in Antiquity; ancient Egyptian agriculture; ancient Egyptian food; food in the Bible; foods of slaves; diet and identity; diet and belonging; manna; food and migration.

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