Parables of Intimacy: A Biblical Theology of Eating and Drinking (Part 1)

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I’m finishing a paper on a Biblical Theology of Table Fellowship.  So, for the next 5 days, I will post short excerpts from my paper that help us think about what we do, and the significance of eating and drinking with one another.  Here’s part 1: Table Fellowship in Genesis 1-3

table fellowship

In the first chapter of Genesis, Yahweh provides food in extravagant generosity. The first reference to eating accompanies the creative power of the Sovereign God to bring about the provision (Gen 1:11), and evokes the lavish provision in offering “every plant. . . on the face of the earth” for food (v. 29). Quickly, this very same attribute is called into question by the serpent’s deceit, “you shall not of any tree?” (Gen 3:1) and the very first conflict among the human race involves a relational battle over the provision of food.

Food is a gift from Yahweh, and the tempter’s strategy, in part, seems to shift the focus from the provision of the Creator to the benefits of the creation, “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened” (3:5). When Adam and his wife eat the forbidden fruit, they establish allegiance with the serpent rather than God. So, Yahweh grounds his punishment of Adam with the clause “Because you have listened” to the deceived wife, “and have eaten” of the prohibited meal (3:17). Our parents in the garden fall by enacting their association with a rebellious cause through eating.

Two food-related themes emerge throughout the Bible’s narrative arc, implicit in these opening scenes. We observe in seed form that food is a gift from a giver. Ultimately, that giver is the creator, but often, human agents reflect the sustaining nature of God through generous hospitality providing food and drink. Second, and developed from the first theme, eating regularly implies a willful association with another.

Because a gift by definition requires a giver, eating dramatizes relational commitments by receiving and appropriating provisions. Adam and his wife rejected Yahweh’s free bounty of every tree that is good for food in favor of a serpent’s stolen fruit eaten in secret. Table fellowship, or whom one eats with, becomes an important theme in the rest of Scripture.

(Continued in Part 2 )


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