Our tour of the Biblical History Center in LaGrange, Georgia began with a 90-minute tour of the Biblical Archaeological Garden, described in yesterday’s blog post. The second half of the three-hour tour began when we came in from the archaeological garden and artifact center and entered the room to partake in the Biblical meal. Up until this time, I’d only ever considered a Biblical meal as either The Lord’s Supper or a plate of grilled salmon sprinkled with dill and a couple of slices of Ezekiel bread.
We moved around the U-shaped table to be seated in front of our plates, very close to those seated to our right and left. Our docent, Greg, a retired teacher who volunteers at the center, began by explaining the high seating and the low seating. The host and most highly seated person was positioned in the second seat at the top of the right side of the U shaped table, and the servants were seated in the bottom middle of the U, having to make their way past everyone as they left their seats to go and get more food to serve as people needed it. One thing they didn’t have was cutlery or napkins – they pretty much used their hands to eat, and hands or sleeves to wipe their mouths. (Georgia Law requires The Biblical History Center to provide diners with a napkin, but we learned to use the leavened bread as our spoon).
The host’s job was to keep the conversation moving and be sure that everyone was happy. The low seating was at the top of the left hand side of the U, which is where Peter sat during the last supper.
Greg showed us The Last Supper by DaVinci and explained how it was a beautiful painting but not exactly aligned with the cultural norms of the day.
He passed with a picture of a more accurate rendering of the way things most likely actually happened.
As we began eating, he blessed our drink (water or grape juice – our choice) as we held our cups upward, and then took a tiny sip. Next came the leavened bread, and he blessed this before we took a bite. The bitter herb was also blessed (above) , after we took a slice of radish and dipped it twice in a bowl of salt water. Bitter herb was eaten to remind us that life, too, has some bitter times. Where today we say one blessing at the start of our meal, in Biblical days there were multiple prayers – said for different foods, including the soup.
While we were enjoying the food, Greg climbed up on a bed, reclined on his left side, and demonstrated how Jewish people ate during these times. They ate lying down and were required to eat at least once a year this way, using their right hand to eat even if they were left-handed, since the left hand was the personal cleaning hand and would not have been used to consume food. If you were a southpaw in those days, you just did the best you could with your non-dominant hand.
The lentil soup was served – Esau’s favorite, apparently. We had black and green olives, spinach dip, grapes, and hummus. There was also an interesting apple sauce (Flodni) that tasted like apple butter with applesauce mixed in, and then had additions of raisins, spices, and nuts. It was tasty and could be spread on the bread. Chicken was also a part of the meal, which could be rolled into the bread. Boiled eggs were served, although the more authentic way that Jewish people would have eaten their eggs was by baking or roasting them. People of Biblical times did not indulge in large meals, but instead ate what they needed in small portions to keep themselves nourished.
Throughout the entire meal, Greg was giving an account of events leading up to the crucifixion, the placement of Peter’s seating at the low end, the seating of Judas at the high end, (despite Jesus’ knowing all the while that Judas would betray him in the end), the probable feelings of those around the table, the fishing and empty nets after Jesus returned, and Jesus returning and cooking breakfast after the nets were made full from casting them off the other side of the boat.
We left the Biblical History Center with full stomachs, full heads, and full hearts from this amazing place that had been originally destined for Houston or Dallas but thankfully came to LaGrange because the Callaways (of Callaway Gardens) are located about twenty miles east in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Now we know that there is so much more to a Biblical meal than communion or our proverbial bag of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 4:9) bread (wait, does a proverbial saying apply when it originates in another book of the Bible besides Proverbs?).
If you’re ever in the neighborhood, don’t miss this experience. Our next quest to replace our empty bottle of elderberry will be to Kentucky so that we can stop by and check out the Ark Experience and Creation Museum.
Please come back for tomorrow’s post – the third and final part of the Biblical History Center blog post series will feature the historical and scriptural plants and herbs of the archaeological garden.
Ezekiel 4:9 NKJV
“Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it.
2 Replies to “Biblical History Center Part 2 of 3: The Biblical Meal”
It’s taken me a while to get back to reading the continuation of this Biblical adventure, Kim. Absolutely fascinating, from the candles to the type of food (my husband preached on Esau yesterday, so again I wonder: could this soup be so wonderful? Obviously he didn’t care AT ALL about his birthright!). I can imagine how the experience deepened knowledge of the events and even took one back there to the Last Supper, for just one fraction of a glimmering… seeing it all…not to mention the understanding of our being on the Lord’s mind as He prepared for what He must do. Beautifully captured – now I am longing to visit.
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Fran, thank you! We had a kayak picnic last night kind of like this smorgasbord of foods – olives, hummus, carrots, cheese – just a plate of tapas, with this idea of eating in mind as we packed. I think you would love the Biblical History Center and your granddaughter the archaeological kids’ dig. There is a place called The Great Wolf Lodge there in LaGrange that a lot of families enjoy – it has water slides! Atlanta is nearby for a ball game and all kinds of museums, and the Georgia Aquarium. Road trip time! 😄 🚙 🧳 ☀️