Human nutrition is a subject of interest for every human virtually every day. Because food is readily available in our modern society, we are usually not engaged with the demands of food procurement. Rather, we focus on the plethora of food choices. For most residents of advanced nations, personal food selections may present a greater challenge than food availability. It was not always so. As we stroll down long supermarket aisles plentifully stocked with a superfluous variety of boxed cereals, for example, we may become “value conflicted.” The advice of I Timothy 6:8—“And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” has a broader meaning, including the provision that our God supplies all that is really necessary for our comfort.
Marketing food products consumes large fractions of media time in our day. Nutrition is not only a function of life sustainment, but also a function of how fully we enjoy our lives. Agriculture and the food industry is a vital segment of our modern economy.
Scripture conveys powerful messages concerning the role of food. Sometimes food imagery combines spiritual values and mundane life lessons. In one familiar passage Christ uses nutritional imagery—“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). The Apostle Paul links thankfulness for food with knowledge that foods are life-sustaining gifts from the Father and should be received thankfully (I Tim. 4:4).
Under the law of Moses divine instructions concerning consumable foods were related to appropriate nutrition and health of the Chosen People. They were also a test of obedience to the authority of their Creator and unquestioning obedience to Him (Leviticus 11).
God’s gift of human satisfaction appears many times in reference to our enjoyment of food. Psalm 22:26 proclaims, “The afflicted will eat and be satisfied.” In Psalm 107:9, the psalmist exults, “…He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” The “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes (Eccles. 9:7) exhorts readers to “Eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart…” There are several well-known references to feasts and banquets where food was consumed in celebration (Luke 15:23).
We are counseled to request our daily bread from the Heavenly Father (Matt. 6:11). Of course, we must not fail to be thankful for all of our manifold blessings (Rom. 1:21). In the Christian communion celebration, food elements remind us of the life giving sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus (I Cor. 11:24-26).
In our scripture search for references to food, we are overwhelmed with the variety and plentitude of foods especially in Old Testament times. God had provided for human nutrition with a wondrous assortment of tasty and nutritious food products. He does so yet today. Following is a listing of Bible food categories with examples.
GRAINS: wheat, barley, corn (not maize), millet, spelt
FRUITS and nuts: apples, almonds, grapes, raisins, dates, figs, melons, olives, olive oil, pistachio nuts, pomegranates, vinegar, wine
SPICES: mint, dill, cumin, coriander, mustard, honey, cinnamon, anise, dill, garlic, rue
VEGETABLES: beans, lentils, cucumbers, leeks, onions
ANIMAL MEATS and PRODUCTS: Goats, lamb/sheep, oxen, calf, venison (game), partridge, fowl, pigeon, quail, dove, eggs, honey
When the Bible was written some of these food products had already been altered by domestication. Even before domestication and the human move toward agriculture, there were plentiful, nutritious foods available for humans who hunted and gathered to satisfy their nutritional needs. The mandate of Genesis 1:28—“Be fruitful and multiply…Subdue the Earth”—would not have been possible without the Creator’s provision for human nutrition.