Original Research

‘Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink’: The diet consumed by Daniel and his friends as clarified in the commentary of Abraham Ibn Ezra

Abraham O. Shemesh
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 1 | a5083 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i1.5083 | © 2018 Abraham O. Shemesh | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 May 2018 | Published: 23 October 2018


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Abstract

According to the biblical story, Daniel, Hananya, Mishael and Azarya refused to eat the food produced by the Babylonian royal kitchen, asking instead to be provided with vegetables (Dn 1:1–21). The current paper examines Abraham Ibn Ezra’s (c. 1090–1164) interpretation of the boys’ diet based on contemporary culinary and nutritional habits. Ibn Ezra’s basic claim is that Daniel and his friends appeared healthy and well-disposed because they ate rice and chickpea dishes that have a high nutritional value. Ibn Ezra rules out R. Saadya Gaon’s approach that it was a supernatural miracle and suggests an interpretation whereby this is a completely natural health outcome. Based on nutritional and medical knowledge, Ibn Ezra claims that the diet consumed by Daniel and his friends was fairly nourishing, and thus it is no surprise that they appeared healthy. Ibn Ezra was strongly influenced by the crops and dishes of Muslim cuisine, as well as by the nutritional-medical outlooks common in the medieval Arab region.

Keywords

Abraham Ibn Ezra; Diet; Daniel Book; Biblical Commentary; Medieval medicine; Arab cuisine; rice dishes; Islamic culinary; Humoralism; doctrine of the four temperaments

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