What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?
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More About This Title What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?


What food did the ancient Israelites eat, and how much of it did they consume? That's a seemingly simple question, but it's actually a complex topic. In this fascinating book Nathan MacDonald carefully sifts through all the relevant evidence -- biblical, archaeological, anthropological, environmental -- to uncover what the people of biblical times really ate and how healthy (or unhealthy) it was.

Engagingly written for general readers, What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat? is nonetheless the fruit of extensive scholarly research; the book's substantial bibliography and endnotes point interested readers to a host of original sources. Including an archaeological timeline and three detailed maps, the book concludes by analyzing a number of contemporary books that advocate a return to “biblical” eating. Anyone who reads MacDonald's responsible study will never read a “biblical diet” book in the same way again.


Nathan MacDonald is University Lecturer in Hebrew Bible atthe University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John'sCollege.,


Carol Meyers
— Duke University
"What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat? is a fascinating and eye-opening glimpse into the eating patterns and problems of the ancient Israelites. Judiciously using a variety of sources, MacDonald examines the culinary past, with results that challenge many scholarly and popular notions of the diet in biblical days. Complex scientific analyses are presented in a highly readable form, making this book an engaging and rewarding page-turner."

Scot McKnight
— North Park University
"I heartily recommend it for three big reasons: a very readable book, careful in method and approach, and judicious in conclusion. There is nothing simplistic and grandiose about this book. There's a 'just the facts' approach that is more than willing to admit when we can't be sure. This could be a wonderful addition to any Old Testament course because it is interesting, well-written, and a model for how to do judicious work."

Jeremy Hutton
— Princeton Theological Seminary
"This book offers a veritable cornucopia of information to its readers. It is well researched, broadly synthetic, and distills a vast array of data competently and concisely for the non-specialist while maintaining the rigor and thoroughness characteristic of a professional. It is a pleasure to read, and a joy to recommend. "

Raz Kletter
— University of Helsinki
"In summary, MacDonald's book is a joy to read. The information is up to date and very well explained, the arguments are nicely articulated, and the judgments are always sober. It is a useful book, handy for students, scholars, and anyone interested in life in ancient periods, including the lives of the Israelites. "

Jim West
— Quartz School of Theology
"Of particular noteworthiness is MacDonald's interest in balance and accuracy throughout this section. He takes nothing for granted and demonstrates great skill in avoiding both extremes of overstating and understating the evidence. That in itself is difficult enough to accomplish, but to do it while still remaining interesting is well nigh miraculous. It's not my intention to sound overly enthusiastic about this book lest you, the present reader, think me to be exaggerating or hyperbolic. But it isn't hyperbole to say that this is one of the most enjoyable and interesting books I've read in a good while. It is, furthermore, an important volume as it, hopefully, disabuses those inclined to accept the nonsense peddled by the 'biblical diet' books of that inclination. "

Kathlyn O'Conner
— Columbia Theological Seminary
"The book would be an excellent catalyst for discussion of contemporary ethical concerns about food, such as its radically uneven availability, food safety and cost, and ecological problems of production and distribution. "