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Strange Method of eating among the Arabs.
THE Arabs, in eating their milk, use no spoons. They dip their hands into the milk, which is placed in a wooden bowl before them, and so sup it out of the palms of their hands. Le Bruyn observed five or six Arabs, who were eating milk together after this manner, on the side of the Nile, as he was going up that river to Cairo, and was astonished at it; but it is common in those countries; and d'Arvieux informs us, that they eat their pottage in the same manner.o
It is not reasonable to suppose, that the same usage obtained anciently among the Jews, and that Solomon refers to it when he says, Prov. xix. 24. A slothful man hides his hand in the dish, ( betsallachath), and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again? Our translators, indeed, renders the bosom, and Arias Montanus the arm-pit; but it is confessed, that the word, every where else, signifies a pot, or dish, or something like it, and can only by a metaphor be applied to the bosom, or arm-hole. That which has induced the
"Tom. 1. p. 586. Dr. Russell observes, (MS. note), that the Arabs near Aleppo use spoons made of wood and
Voy. dans la Pal. p. 205.
See Bishop Patrick's Argument before Prov. xix.
learned to depart from the well known meaning of the word, and to put upon it a metaphorical, and I am afraid we may say a whimsical sense, has been, their not being able to conceive what could be meant by hiding the hand in the dish; and the supposing there was some ́resemblance between a dish and the bosom, or the arm-pit: but this circumstance, which travellers have mentioned, makes that perfectly clear, which appeared so obscure. The slothful man, having lifted up his hand full of milk or pottage to his mouth, will not do it a second time; no, though it be actually dipped into the milk or pottage, he will not submit to the great fatigue of lifting it again from thence to his mouth. Strong painting indeed this, but perfectly in the Oriental taste..
To this may be added, that Solomon repeats this maxim, with some variation of expression, ch. xxvi. ver. 15, but retains the word ans, which has been translated bosom. This would induce one to suppose he did not use it in such a very remote and metaphorical sense, as has been imagined, since the proper word, pn chik, quite different from this, is used in other places,
I much doubt the propriety of this illustration, and think it far from solid. The Arabs, in cating, do not thrust their whole hand into the dish, but only their thumb and two first fingers, with which they take up the morsel lukme, and that in a moderate quantity at a time. I také the sense therefore to be, that the slothful man, in place of taking up a moderate mouthful, thrusts his hand into the pillaw, or such like, and takes a handful at a time, in order to avoid the trouble of returning frequently to the dish. Dr. R.'s MS. note in loc. EDIT.
where there was occasion to speak of the hand's being in the bosom. See in Ps. lxxiv. 11, in particular.
But, perhaps, that part of the history of Gideon, that supposes very few would be disposed to use water after this manner, may be thought an objection to the applying this account of the modern Arabs to the ancient Israelites. And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many: bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their hands to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water, Judges vii. 4, 5, 6. Had it been so common with the Israelites to take up liquids in the palms of their hands, as it is with the Arabs, would this have been a proper means to reduce their number in any considerable degree? Would there have been only three hundred out of ten thousand that lapped?'
This may be thought specious, but the objection is by no means solid. The Arabs lap their milk, and pottage, but not their water.
' Dr. Russell says, (MS. note) I think this passage obscure: they who bowed down upon their knees must have lapped like dogs, not the others who took up the water with their hands. Both modes are not uncommon in passing brooks and rivulets. EDIT.
"It is water only that I have seen them take up in this way, (says Dr. Russell, ibid) not milk or pottage which
On the contrary, d'Arvieux tells us, that after they have eaten, they rise from table, and go and drink large draughts out of a pitcher, or, for want of that, out of a leather bottle, which they hand to one another round and round." Few of the Israelites, if they did in common sup their milk and pottage out of their hands, as the Arabs do, would have been disposed to lap water in the same manner, if they drank too as the Arabs now drink.,
Two considerations more will complete the illustration of this part of the history of Gideon. The one is, that the Eastern people are not wont to drink standing. Busbequius, the Imperial Ambassador at Constantinople, in his celebrated letters concerning the Eastern people, affirms this in a very particular manner;" the other, that the lapping with their hands is a very expeditious way of taking in liquids. D'Arvieux, in that accurate account they eat with spoons, or else sop up with bread." The drinking out of leather bottles, is when they have water preserved.-Edit. Voy. dans la Pal. p. 205. Ep. 3. p. 169, 170. Aquam-cessim subsidentes biberent. Turcis enim bibere aut vesci aut urinam facere stantibus, nisi quid cogat, religio est, sed hæc faciunt ita demissis coxis, ut apud nos reddituræ lotium mulieres.
xThey are not restrained in their choice," says Dr. Russell (MS. note.) When they take water with the palms of their hands, they naturally place themselves on their hams to be nearer the water; but when they drink from a pitcher, or gourd, fresh filled, they do not sit down on purpose to drink, but drink standing, and very often put the sleeve of their shirt over the mouth of the vessel, by way of strainer, lest small leeches might have been taken up with the water. It is for the same reason they often prefer taking the water with the palm of the band, to the lapping it from the surface. EDIT.
of the Arabs of Mount Carmel, expressly takes notice of this, observing that this may be the reason why spoons are so universally neglected among the Arabs, as a man would eat upon very unequal terms with a spoon, among those that use the palms of their hands instead of
Until I met with this passage of Busbequius, I could not tell what to make of that particular circumstance of the history of the Jewish Judge, that all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. It appeared to me rather the putting themselves into an attitude to lap water, than any thing else; as I supposed the words signified that they kneeled down by the side of some water in order to drink. But the matter is now clear three hundred men, immediately upon their coming to the water, drank of it in the quickest manner they could, in order to be ready without delay to follow Gideon; the rest took up water in pitchers, or leatherbottles, or some kind of vessel, and bending down so as to sit jointly upon their heels and knees, or with their knees placed upright before them, either of which might be called bowing their knees fo drink, though the last is the posture Busbequius refers to, they handed thesc drinking-vessels with ceremony and slowness from one to another, as they were wont to do in common, which occasioned their dismission. So two-and-twenty thousand of those
Voy. dans la Pal. p. 205.