The BGST Library Collection has come home! On 3rd Jan, the Closed Stack Collection at Zion (Bishan) church was moved back to 31 Tanjong Pagar Road. This brings all our resources under one roof. The books are now being put back on the respective shelves. We thank God for the new opportunity to provide library patrons with a speedier service.
On 7th Jan, BGST library launched the library email alert service. Current library patrons were greeted with Blessed New Year greetings as well as the link to the list of books catalogued in December 2007.
Starting this year, library staff will link book reviews in BTW to the books in our catalogue. Library patrons using OPAC just need to click on such a link in the bibliographical record to read the review.
The library staff look forward to your feedback on these new services.
21—27 January 2008
Issue No. 4
Many passages of the Old Testament deal with feasts decreed by God. We usually skip over them as they seem so boring. However, if we put ourselves in the sandals of the Israelites of those times, we will see fascinating things about God and about healthy eating. Hard to believe? Read on and see for yourself!
But first we need some background knowledge of what the Israelites ate daily. Ralph Gower tells us in his book, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, that “Bread, olives, cheese, fruit and vegetables formed the staple diet. Meat was eaten on rare occasions.” Wasn’t that a well-balanced, sensible, inexpensive and healthy diet? Doesn’t this explain why Jesus taught his disciples to pray for their daily bread, but not for “daily meat”?
In many agricultural communities in ancient times, and even today, wealth was measured in terms of how many large animals one owned. Cattle and oxen were used for ploughing and transportation such as in ox-carts, and cows provided milk. They ate grass, hay and the stubble left behind after harvests, all at no cost to the farmer or herder. It made no economic sense to kill these animals. Sheep provided wool and goats provided milk. They too counted towards a man’s wealth, so only a few of them were eaten during the decreed Feasts.
How precious these animals were even to a wealthy man can be seen in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The older, filial, brother burst out indignantly when a fattened calf was slaughtered to celebrate the return of the prodigal son. “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends!” he told his father.
Didn’t the Israelites eat chickens? Hmm, did you know that the word “chicken” does not even appear in the Bible? There are only four references to hens and chicks, all in the context of parental love. Chickens mainly eat grain, from grasses. In the semi-arid Middle East, there was little wild grass, and precious food grains for human consumption would have to be shared with chickens. So it seems unlikely that chicken was frequently on the menu.
Meat was eaten occasionally, but mainly during the feasts decreed by God. The question is: How much meat was normally eaten at the feasts? Let’s look at the Passover Feast. One lamb was shared among members of a household. “If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour,” (Exodus 12:4). Without birth control, families could be fairly large. Two households, including servants, could number around twenty people. A lamb shared among so many would not amount to gorging.
The timing of the seven Feasts is also interesting. They are not spread evenly throughout the year but are confined to four periods of the Jewish year, viz.:
1st month (Mar/Apr) - over a continuous period from
14th to 21st day
· Passover Feast
· Feast of Unleavened Bread
· Feast of Firstfruits
3rd month (May/Jun)
· Feast of Weeks or Harvest
7th month (Sep/Oct)
· Feast of Trumpets (1st day)
· Feast of Tabernacles (15th to 21st day)
12th month (Feb/Mar)
· Purim Feast A table set for a modern-day Passover meal
From the above, we see that God, ever wise, spread the feasts apart so that there was no sustained overeating of meat over a long period.
We can see more of God’s wisdom in several of the Feasts. The Feast of Firstfruits celebrated God’s providence through the barley harvest, culminating a long period of intense labour: reaping, threshing, winnowing and carrying sacks of grain for storage. God no doubt knew that humans would need some nourishing meat after all that hard work. Similarly, the Feast of Weeks/Harvest celebrated the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Tabernacles celebrated the harvest of fruits and olives, important components of the Israelite diet. So the pattern was: work hard, then eat some meat. God no doubt knew that life was not just work alone, and that humans needed to relax after intense work, get together and socialize with others at decreed feasts, and just celebrate God’s goodness!
Perhaps we should notice that at the centre of every Feast was God. The Feasts were to remember mighty deeds of God or to thank Him for good harvests. Are such feasts relevant today in our urbanized societies where we do not take part in harvests? Well, wasn’t God behind that bountiful bonus, promotion or windfall we received? Shouldn’t we arrange a celebration and invite our non-Christian friends as well, so that they can see how good God has been to us, partake of God’s blessings upon us and see how we put God at the centre of our celebrations?
Mickey Chiang: On Food and Feasts
Love Above All : the Story of Jim & Elisabeth Elliot with English and Chinese subtitles; an original musical by Mount Carmel BP Church 2007 (DVD) is now available at BGST at $16 only. Bulk purchase (5 – 9 pieces) @$15 per piece; (10 pieces and above) @$14 per piece.
The Gospel According to ST. LUKE presented by Bruce Kuhn is now on DVD selling at $25. Students who have attended his courses may purchase one copy at $10.
Please make your order at tel : 6227-6815 or email : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cuppa Coffee Chat @BGST
10.30 am ~ 11.30 am
4th floor BGST
Students and friends are invited to an informal time of intentional conversation about our spiritual health and formation, over a "cuppa". Our time together will include personal sharing and discussion of issues related to studies, ministries and personal spirituality.
This community time will be hosted by John Chong Ser Choon
*(P.S. Don't forget to bring your cuppa)
31 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088454 Tel: 62276815 Fax: 62276816 Email: email@example.com
To access previous issues of BTW please click archives