Special Nutrition in the Bible

Ezekiel bread, the Daniel diet, the Eden diet. How come nobody ever does a John the Baptist diet? I’d totally do that one!

If you squint just right while you’re reading it, the Bible seems to come closer to supporting a vegetarian approach to eating than a carnivorous one. After all, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given every green plant and every herb that grows to eat. I’ve already said a few things about that aspect of Bible nutrition in Carnivore Diet and the Christian Worldview. But there are a few other cases people have brought to me as examples of rejection of meat as good dietary practice.

I think it’s funny how often people take miracles and prophecies to be everyday occurrences, but perfectly natural, albeit difficult things like fasting for long periods of time, to be miracles. We’re so good at reading what we want to read, rather than what is there.

What about that Daniel diet, for instance?

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.

10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.

11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,

12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.

13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.

14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.

15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.

16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

On a surface read-through, this looks an awful lot like the Lord is saying: Look, grains and water are the best food for humans! I hope we’re a little better able to discern what was happening than that. Why did the Daniel and the other three Hebrew children refuse meat? Because they had dietary laws, for one thing, and for another, the king’s meat and drink had surely been sacrificed to idols. Daniel was not worried about his physical condition–which he and the eunuch both knew should take a hit from that kind of fasting–but his spiritual one. And, as in the fiery furnace and the lion’s den, God honored the Israelites’ fear of Him, and their willingness to take damage to their physical and social status to remain faithful to him. He brought His children through the ordeal in better shape than that with which they had begun.

Y’all, this was a miracle, not a dietary prescription.

And then, (this is my favorite part) see the last verse. What was the result of this newfound “nutritional information”? The eunuch could only interpret what he saw scientifically, through observation, having only his natural mind. That fool then took away the meat that the king’s strong and intelligent cohort had been eating, thus undoubtedly weakening their minds and bodies by giving them a sub-optimal diet.

That’s a pretty good joke, if you ask me.

Ezekiel the prophet famously lived for 390 days on a recipe God gave him:

“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. 10 Weigh out twenty shekels[b] of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. 11 Also measure out a sixth of a hin[c] of water and drink it at set times. 12 Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.” 13 The Lord said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”

14 Then I said, “Not so, Sovereign Lord! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No impure meat has ever entered my mouth.”

15 “Very well,” he said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.”

16 He then said to me: “Son of man, I am about to cut off the food supply in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair, 17 for food and water will be scarce. They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of[d] their sin.

I’d bet we have tens, if not hundreds, of versions of “Ezekiel bread” recipes to choose from today. Now, I have no doubt that these breads, especially the sprouted versions, are better for you than the fluffy white loaves I used to feed my family in loving ignorance. I don’t object their existence, or even their naming. It’s just a recipe. People like recipes, especially if they taste good.

But the idea that God prescribed these ingredients because they were complete nutrition without which the prophet wouldn’t have survived is, frankly, silly. It was barely more than a year. You can make it for a mere year on practically any kind of calories, and precious few of them. The human body can withstand a lot of this kind of stress, though not without repercussions. Ezekiel was not doing this for his health. Twenty shekels is about eight ounces, so assuming equal amounts of all the ingredients, Ezekiel was only getting about 220 calories a day like this! These were starvation rations, meted out day by day, hour by hour, to symbolize the famine that God was sending on Israel.

Meat is what everybody knew as abundance.

Not only so, but friends, you’re not really eating that bread God’s way unless you’re cooking it over cow’s dung. If you want to be truly healthy, get thee to the nearest field of cattle and start gathering your fuel, and be grateful that He relented and didn’t insist on the use of human excrement.

I’m not going to touch on Orthodox- and Catholic-type fasts that exclude meat for certain lengths of time, though I’ll surely get to that someday. These two ideas, plus Garden of Eden vegetarianism, are the main dietary ideas people have brought to me from a too-literal reading of the Bible, but I’m sure there are more. If you can think of any others, please let me know by email, or by joining me on MeWe or SG. I’d love to have the whole collection!

P.S. You know what’s funny? Somebody on social media reminded me that I didn’t address Christians who try to eat by Jewish dietary rules. I guess that’s so well-covered in the actual Bible that I don’t need to, but maybe I’ll say a little more about it in the future. Suffice it for now to say that I eat pork,  and I think if the animals are fed correctly, it’s good, healthy meat.