From the OT lesson for Monday in the week of Easter 7
9 … take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread for yourself.
Ezekiel is given detailed instructions for a prophetic action, an embodied metaphor involving a brick, lying on his side for hundreds of days, and eating a mult-grain “barley cake” baked over human dung. (When he objects to the latter, Yahweh relents and allows him to use cow dung.) It’s all very strange and meant to portray a judgment against both Israel and Judah. What interests me this morning is this mixture of grains. My suspicion is that it is intended to portray a lack of purity (especially since the resulting “barley cake” is to be baked over dung). Purity, especially racial purity, is a constant concern of the Old Testament Hebrews: one finds it in restrictions against intermarriage with other nations or even between the tribes of Israel, in the banning of cloths made of mixed fibers, in the laws regarding what can and cannot be eaten. The nation’s concern with purity is, of course, attributed to their god, but one doubts the validity of that ascription. This morning it occurs to me that the mixture grains and legumes is considerably more healthy than a cake made only of one type of grain. Many years ago (when I was in college) I read Frances Moore Lappe’s book “Diet for a Small Planet” and learned about the improved protein-profile of mixed grains. Purity has its place, I suppose, but so too does combination and diversity. I, for one, would be delighted to eat bread made of “wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt,” although I shouldn’t like to have it baked over dung!