Beliefs Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

“Ezekiel Bread” . . . Seriously?

Cow dung not included.

The Bible doesn’t contain many recipes; it’s more concerned with telling people what not to eat than prescribing specific things they should. However, it does have one interesting scene in which God instructs the prophet Ezekiel to make a particular kind of bread:

And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred ninety days, you shall eat it. The food that you eat shall be twenty shekels a day by weight; at fixed times you shall eat it. And you shall drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; at fixed times you shall drink. You shall eat it as a barley-cake, baking it in their sight on human dung. (Ezek. 4:9-12)

In the context of the whole Book of Ezekiel, the recipe is not put forward as a delightful whole-grain alternative to processed foods, but as a sign of God’s coming punishment of the people. The message was something like, “If you all don’t repent, then this is the kind of survivalist garbage you will be reduced to eating during the coming siege!”

Cow dung not included.

Cow dung not included.

But that hasn’t stopped some modern people from treating this recipe as a sign of the healthy, nutritious fare God would have for us today. The Food for Life company produces and markets several versions of Ezekiel 4:9 bread, including variations with sesame, flax, and—I kid you not—cinnamon-raisin.

Although the company has mostly adhered to the letter of the law in terms of ingredients, one hopes that its method of preparation has been modernized from Ezekiel’s, who was instructed to bake his bread in human excrement. When Ezekiel protested about the unhygienic source material of his meals, God relented a little, allowing him to use cow dung instead (Ezek. 4:15). So when Food for Life’s website encourages consumers to “try [the bread] served warm to release its exceptionally rich nutty flavor,” I just don’t think so.

 

This post is an excerpt from the forthcoming book The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less . . . Now with 68% more humor! The book will be available in November.

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

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