Tag Archives: Broad bean

Parable of Famine Bread


Bible Reference: Ezekiel chapter 45

Heart of the Story: Ezekiel offered a parable of the famine that would come on Jerusalem

Back Story: Ezekiel was both a prophet and priest. He was taken to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar took Judah’s King, Jehoiachin, and 10,000 captive from Jerusalem to Babylon (597 BC). At that time, Nebuchadnezzar established Zedekiah as puppet king over Judah. After ruling for about five of six years, King Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He ceased paying tribute and turned to Egypt for military assistance to throw off Babylonian rule. Subsequently, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. After about 18 months, the wall around Jerusalem was breached.

When Nebuchadnezzar and his army started for Judah, Jerusalem was flooded with refugees fleeing the countryside. The influx was so great that private homes, inns, and the temple courtyard were crammed with people. The poor set up tents in the streets or lay down wherever they found an empty space at night. People and noise were everywhere; smoke billowed from cooking fires. Although the situation was dire, it got worse after the Babylonians arrived. No additional food supplies entered Jerusalem. Human and animal refuse couldn’t be removed. Filth and stench were everywhere.

In Babylon beside Chebar River, God instructed Ezekiel to act out the siege of Jerusalem. The first action parable used a clay tablet to depict the Babylonians besieging Jerusalem. The second had Ezekiel lying on his left followed by lying on his right side. The third parable encompassed grains and legumes to make bread and to bake the bread.

Parable of Famine Bread: Some scholars advocated that Ezekiel 4:9-16 were two separate parables rather than one. I am describing them as one parable because they encompassed preparing and eating bread.

Here’s is God’s direction to Ezekiel: “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.”

Verse 9 describes substances that Jerusalemites will use to make bread during the siege of Jerusalem. Normally, bread was made from one type of flour, i.e., wheat, barley, millet or spelt. Legume flour was not common made into bread, however, when individuals lived in extreme poverty, beans in particular and occasionally lentils could be made into flour and used to prepare bread. Mixing flour from several sources demonstrated the extreme scarcity of flour that would occur during the siege. Scholars disagree whether the mixing of different flour sources in one vessel was a defilement (Deuteronomy 22:9), but all agree that dietary laws were compromised for the Jerusalemites.

“Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.” The LORD said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”

Then Ezekiel responded to God: “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 unclean meat has ever entered my mouth.”

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

These three verses identified how Ezekiel was to bake the multi-flour bread. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, inhabitants would have to bake their bread over human excrement; therefore, God told Ezekiel to do the same. When Ezekiel objected God allowed him to bake his bread over cow manure. Jerusalemites didn’t have the luxury of using animal dung for baking. Near the end Jerusalem siege, no animals were alive in the city. All had been slaughtered and eaten. Human excrement was the primary source of cooking fuel.

Then, God  said to Ezekiel “Son of man, I will cut off the supply of food in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair,”    Ezekiel 4:9-16, NIV Online

Interpretation of Parable of Famine Bread: God interpreted the action parable for Ezekiel and for us. The interpretation was that God would cut off the food supply for Jerusalem. Once the Babylonians arrived no food or refuse passed in and out of the city walls. Many people inside Jerusalem starved to death or died from disease. Often the dead could not be buried and remained where they died. Mothers killed and ate their children. Ezekiel’s action shouldn’t be interpreted as sympathetic magic where something done to a model or person has a similar act in reality. True, Ezekiel’s famine bread foreshadowed the starvation behavior of the Jerusalemites; but God, not Ezekiel, caused both the prophet’s actions and of people living in Jerusalem during the siege.

In a larger context, the siege of Jerusalem was a prophecy about judgment. The people of Judah sinned so long and to such a degree that God removed his protect around Jerusalem. When Ezekiel acted out the parables of the siege of Jerusalem, God still dwelled in Jerusalem temple. Before the Babylonian siege, Ezekiel recorded that God’s presence left both the temple and Jerusalem (Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11 NIV).

The Broad Bean


The Book of Ezekiel is one of the most detailed and well-known references to grains in the Bible; but, we also learn, or relearn, that Israelites dried and crushed legumes (bean and lentils) into bread flour. For a plant in the parable of the famine bread, I have chosen to describe the bean. The bean was the Vicia faba, also known Vicia vulgaris, the broad bean, and the faba bean.  Beans were one of the oldest cultivated plants, at least 6000 years. Their origin is North Africa or the Middle East.  The bean grows in all types of soil as long as the soil is well-drained. Although not drought-resistant, beans are hearty enough to live through mild frosts. In the Middle East, beans remain one of the most important winter crops. Broad beans can grow in semi-shade as well as strong sunlight, but they do not tolerate maritime exposure.

Looking Outward and Deeper

The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem in 588 BC. About 18 months later the Jerusalem walls were breached. Nebuchadnezzar had no more patience with the rebellious Jews or his puppet king, Zedekiah. He had Zedekiah killed and the Jerusalem temple and major buildings destroyed. The wall around Jerusalem walls razed. Jews not killed by famine and plague were killed by the Babylonian soldiers. Only the poorest Jews were allowed to remain in Judah.

Reflection:  God said “The day is coming, when I will send a famine throughout the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11, NIV).  Do you believe this promise from God will occur in the USA?

I love studying about Bible plants. Do you? If so, please check my website for more information: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright August 23, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth





Dethroned King David

Vicia faba beans, Rignanese (192x128)The story of Absalom’s conspiracy and David’s retreat to Mahaniam where he and his men received welcome supplies is told in 2 Samuel chapters 15-18.

After killing his older brother Amnon, Absalom fled to Geshar.  Only after five years did David welcomed Absalom back into his presence.  After returning from exile, Absalom set out to win the hearts of the men of Israel from David.  Absalom greeted those who approached him warmly reaching out his hand and kissing them.  Absalom’s primary assertion was that David was unresponsive to the claims and complaints of the people.  After years of undermining David, Absalom went to Hebron where he had himself declared King.  Hebron was where David ruled Judah for 7 years.  Absalom had a large following of men from Israel and some from the tribe of Judah where Hebron was located.  In addition, Ahithophel, David’s most important and most trusted adviser, sided with Absalom.

Hearing that Absalom was declared king and not knowing the extent of the rebellion, David fled Jerusalem with his household and close fighting men.  David walked barefoot up the road to the top of the Mount of Olives; he wept and his head was covered in grief.  When David reached the summit, Hushai, one of his trusted advisers, met him.  David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem to foil Absalom’s plans and to serve as David’s spy.  Shortly, after David passed over the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba met him with a string of donkeys, food, and wine.

As David traveled away from Jerusalem and approached Buhurim, Shimei a man from the tribe of Benjamin (the tribe of Saul) cursed David and threw stones at him; however, David would not allow his men to harm Shimei.  David said that Shimei’s cursing may be at God’s direction.  Eventually, David, his tired household, and fighting men arrived at Mahanaim where he set up camp.  About 100 miles north-northwest of Jerusalem, Mahanaim had historical significance.  It was in Mahanaim that Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, lived during his two year reign as king over the tribes of Israel.  While David was at Mahanaim, three wealthy men brought him provisions that included bedding, cooking and eating bowls, sheep, dairy products, grains, and beans. The three benefactors were an Ammonite leader, Shobi, who probably was appointed governor after David conquered Rabbah (2 Samuel 12:29); Makir of Lo Debar who first sheltered Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:4); and the 80 year old  Barzillai, the Gileadite from Rogelim.

Meanwhile King Absalom entered Jerusalem and took over David’s palace.  Increasingly more men from the northern tribes of Israel and from Judah swore allegiance to Absalom. Through God’s intervention, Abaslom decided not to mount a focused attack to kill David immediately.  Rather Absalom led his men against David and his fighters who were on the eastern side of the Jordan River in the forest of Ephraim.  David must have been confident his commanders would win the battle against Absalom because them to deal gently with Absalom.  In the battle David’s long-time commander, Joab, deliberately killed Absalom.  After some negotiations, David returned to Jerusalem as King over Israel and Judah.

The Broad Bean    

The bean was the Vicia faba  known as the broad bean, faba bean, and Vicia vulgaris. Beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants.  Their origin is North Africa or the Middle East.    Although beans are not drought resistant, they are sufficiently hearty to live through mild frosts. The broad bean can grow in semi-shade as well as strong sunlight and tolerates. Beans are a green, up-right, annual, legume. The attractive flower is white with dark purple markings.  Mature beans are between 3–9 inches long. Beans should be harvested as beans inside mature.  If harvesting is delayed until all pods are ripe, pods nearer the bottom of the plant split and beans are lost.  Beans are oblong or oval, smooth, and flattened on the sides. Bean color is mottled reddish-brown. In the ancient Middle East, beans were and are an important alternative source of protein particularly for those living in or near poverty.  Even today in the Middle East beans remain one of the most important winter crops. Broad bean flour is very rich in protein, vitamins and minerals; therefore, it is used alone or mixed with other flours to make bread.

Symbolism: Extend, Extent

Traditionally, beans were associated with pending conflict, laughter, or something small. European folklore claims that planting beans during the night time or on Good Friday is good luck.  In Nicaragua newlyweds are given a bowl of beans for good luck. When beans were included in the provisions brought to David at Manhaniam, luck was probably not considered. More likely David’s benefactors were providing a high source of protein that was both a meat and flour extender.

Extend means to make the offer of or to make available. David’s three benefactors at Manhaniam extend provisions including beans to David when he was in severe need.  The three men who extended themselves to support David knew that they would likely forfeit their lives and lands if Absalom’s rebellion prevailed. The Bible has a great deal to say about individuals who willingly extend help to the needy.  A proverb in Biblical Israel about a noble woman was, “she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hand to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).  Extending assistance to the needy included sharing food (Proverbs 22:9), lending money (Proverbs 28:8) and defending rights (Proverbs 31:9).  Those who were kind and extend assistance to the needy were blessed (Proverbs 14:21; 22:9) and lacked nothing (Proverbs 28:27).

In the New Testament two verses use the word “extend or extent.”  In describing God’s great and glorious provision of salvation for his people, Mary (the mother of Christ) said that God extends his mercy to those that fear him from generation to generation (Luke 1:50).  Saint John wrote that Christ loved his own who were in the world and showed them the fullest extent of his love (John 13:1).  Showing the fullest extent of his love entailed Christ being tortured, crucified, and dying in place of each of us.

Absalom won the hearts of the Israelites because he was young, attractive, smooth talking, and extended himself with handshakes and kisses to the Israelites (2 Samuel 14:25; 15:1-6).  In contrast, David was elderly, more introspective, and less available to the people. Yet, David had solid friends who stood by him during Absalom’s rebellion even when David retreated to the east side of the Jordan River.  From the time David began his retreat and all during the time of his exile, David extended his plans to return as king of Israel and Judah.  Similarly, during his entire life Christ demonstrated the extent of his love for individuals and humanity.

Reflection.  How can you extend your love to other individuals?  How can you share your food and money with others?  How can you defend the rights of the poor and needy?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright December 29, 2011; carolyn a. Roth