Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


Additional Links

I. It does not appear that the word "meat" is used in any one instance in the Authorized Version of either the O. or N. Testament in the sense which it now almost exclusively bears of animal food. The latter is denoted uniformly by "flesh."

1. The only possible exceptions to this assertion in the. O.T. are:

(a) Genesis 27:4, etc., "savory meat;" Genesis 45:23," corn and bread and meat." Here the Hebrew word, מִטְעִמַּים matammim', which in this form appears in this chapter only, is derived from a root .which has exactly the force of our word "taste," and is employed in reference to the manna. In the passages in,question the word "dainties" would be perhaps more appropriate.

(b) In Genesis the original word is one of almost equal rarity, מָזוֹן, mazon'; and if the Lexicons did not show that this had only the general force of food in all the other Oriental tongues, that would be established in regard to Hebrew by its other occurrences, viz. 2 Chronicles 11:23, where it is rendered "victual;" and Daniel 9:12; Daniel 9:21, where the meat spoken of is that to be furnished by a tree.

2. The only real and inconvenient ambiguity caused by the change' which has taken place in' the. meaning' of the word is in the case of the "meat- offering," the second of the three great divisions into which the sacrifices of the. Law were divided-the burnt-offering, the meat-offering, and the peace-offering (Leviticus 2:1, etc.)and which consisted solely of flour, or corn, and oil, sacrifices of flesh being confined to the other two. The word thus translated is מַנְחָה, minchah', elsewhere rendered "present" and "oblation," and derived from a root which has the force of "sending" or "offering" to a person. It is very desirable that some English term should be proposed which would avoid this ambiguity. "Food offering" is hardly admissible, though it is perhaps preferable to " unbloody or bloodless sacrifice." (See MEAT OFFERING).

3. There are several other words, which, though entirely distinct in the original, are all translated in the A.V. by "meat;" but none of them present any special interest except טֶרֶ, te'reph. This word, from a root signifying " to tear," would be perhaps more accurately rendered "prey" or "booty." Its use in Psalms 111:5, especially when taken in connection with the word rendered "good understanding" in Psalms 111:10, which should rather be, as in the margin, "good. success," throws a new and-unexpected light over the familiar phrases of that beautiful Psalm. It seems to show how inextinguishable was the warlike, predatory spirit in the mind of the writer, good Israelite and devout worshipper of Jehovah as he was. Late as he lived in the history of his nation, he cannot forget the "power" of Jehovah's " works" by which his forefathers acquired the "heritage of the heathen;" and to him, as to his ancestors when conquering the country, it is still a firm article of belief that those who fear Jehovah shall obtain most of the spoil of his enemies-those who obey his commandments shall have the best success in the field.

4. In the N.T. the variety of the Greek: words thus rendered is equally great; but dismissing such terms as ἀνακεῖσθαι or ἀναπίπτειν, which are rendered by "sit at meat"'-φαγεῖν , for which we occasionally find "meat" - τράεζα (Acts 16:34), the same- εἰδωλοθύτα, "meat offered to idols"- κλάσματα, generally "fragments," but twice "broken meat"- dismissing these, we have left τροφή and βρῶμα (with its kindred words, βρῶσις, etc.), both words bearing the widest possible signification, and meaning everything that can be eaten or can nourish the frame. The former is most used in the Gospels and Acts. The latter is found in John and in the Epistles of Paul. It is the word employed in the famous sentences, "for meat destroy not the work of God," if meat make my brother to offend," etc. (See ALISGEMA).

II. Meat, however, in the proper modern sense (בָּשָׂר, basar', flesh, as it is rendered in the Auth.Vers.), i.e.. of clean beasts (Leviticus 11.), namely, lambs (Isaiah 53:7; Amos 6:4), calves (1 Samuel 28:24; Genesis 18:7; Amos 6:4; Luke 15:23; comp. Russell, Aleppo, 1:145), oxen (Isaiah 22:13; Proverbs 15:17; 1 Kings 4:23; Matthew 22:4), kids (1 Samuel 16:20; Judges 6:19), also venison (1 Kings 4:23), and poultry (1 Kings 4:23; see Gesenius, Thes. Hebrews p. 715; Michaelis, Mos-Recht. 4:198), was a favorite dish among the Hebrews, either roasted entire, or cooked with choice vegetables and eaten with bread (2 Samuel 6:19; 1 Kings 17:6); yet only royal personages partook of it daily (1 Kings 4:23; Nehemiah 5:18), the less wealthy merely on festive occasions (Luke 15:23; comp. Niebuhr, Besch. p. 52), especially at the great sacrificial festivals; and we find that the modern Arabs, namely, the Bedouin, as a general rule. but seldom eat flesh (Shaw, Trav. p. 169; comp. Burckhardt, Trav. 2:1003; Wellsted, 1:248; those of the peninsula of Sinai live mostly on sour milk, dried dates, and unleavened bread, Rtippel, p. 203; but among the ancient Egyptians flesh was very commonly eaten, Exodus 16:3; comp. Rosellini, Monum. cir. 1:151). The shoulder was the -most esteemed piece of the animal (1 Samuel 9:24; comp. Harmar, 1:311). Flesh which contained the blood, was forbidden (Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 17:10; Deuteronomy 12:16; Deuteronomy 12:27), because the life was regarded as residing in the blood (Genesis 9:4; comp. Oedmann, 6:89 sq.). (See BLOOD). The pieces of flesh were taken by each guest from the common dish with his fingers. (See EAT); 4. The Jews were very careful to avoid the flesh of heathen victims (Aboda Sara, 2:3). (See CLEAN); (See OFFERING).

III. As above noted, in the English version the word "meat" means food in general; or when confined to one species of food, it always signifies meal, flour, or grain, but never flesh, which is now the usual acceptation of the word. (See FLESH).

A " meat-offering" in the Scriptures is always a vegetable, and never an animal offering; and it might now be rendered a bread-offering, or a meal-offering, instead of a meat-offering. It does not appear that the ancient Hebrews were very nice about the dressing of their food. We find among them roast meat, boiled meat, and ragouts. (See COOK).

Their manner of living would be much like that of the ancient Egyptians, among whom they had long resided. Wilkinson says, "No tray was used on the Egyptian table, nor was it covered by any linen; like that of the Greeks, it was probably wiped with a sponge or napkin after the dishes were removed, and polished by the servants when the company had retired. The dishes consisted of fish; meat, boiled, roasted, and dressed in various ways; game, poultry, and a profusion of vegetables and fruit, particularly figs and grapes during the season; and a soup or pottage of lentils. Of figs and grapes they were particularly fond. Fresh dates during the season, and in a dried state at other periods of the year, were also brought to table." (See FOOD).

Among the Hebrews meats that were offered were boiled in a pot (1 Samuel 2:14-15). They were forbidden to seethe a kid in the milk of its dam (Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26). They might not kill a cow and its calf on the same day; nor a sheep or goat and its young one at the same time. They might not cut off a part of a living animal to eat it, either raw or dressed. If any lawful beast or bird should die of itself or be strangled, and the blood not drain away, they were not allowed to taste of it. He that by inadvertence should eat of any animal that died of itself, or that was killed by any beast, was to be unclean till the evening, and was not purified till he had washed his clothes. They ate of nothing dressed by any other than a Hebrew, nor did they ever dress their victuals with-the kitchen implements of any but one of their own nation.

The prohibition of eating blood, or animals that are strangled, has been always rigidly observed by the Jews. In the council of the apostles held at Jerusalem. it was declared that converts from paganism should not be subject to the legal ceremonies, but that they should refrain from idolatry, - from fornication, from eating blood, and from such animals as were strangled, and their blood thereby retained in their bodies; which decree was observed for many ages by the Church (Acts 15:20-29).

In reference to "meats offered to idols," it may be observed that at the first settling of the Church there were many disputes concerning the use of meats offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 8:10). Some newly-converted Christians, convinced that an idol was nothing, and that the distinction of clean and unclean creatures was abolished by our Saviour, ate indifferently of whatever was served up to them, even among pagans, without inquiring whether the meats had been offered to idols. They took the same liberty in buying meat sold in the market, not regarding whether it were pure or impure, according to the Jews; or whether it had been offered to idols or not. But other Christians, weaker or less instructed, were offended at this liberty, and thought that eating of meat which had been offered to idols was a kind of partaking in that wicked and sacrilegious offering. This diversity of opinion produced some scandal, for which Paul thought that it behooved him to provide a remedy (Romans 14:20-21; Titus 1:15). He determined, therefore, that all things were clean to such as were clean, and that an idol was nothing at all; that a man might safely eat of whatever was sold in the shambles, and need not scrupulously inquire whence it came; and that if an unbeliever should invite a believer to eat with him, the believer might eat of whatever was set before him (1 Corinthians 10:25, etc.). But at the same time he enjoins that the laws of charity and prudence should be observed; that believers should be cautious of scandalizing or offending weak minds; for though all things might be lawful," yet all things were not always expedient. (See SACRIFICE).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Meat'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry
Next Entry