By: Lisa Scott
A few weeks ago, at church, my pastor was talking about the soon to come Passover, the memorial of the ten plagues of Egypt, and the release or “setting free” of the Israelites. He mentioned the food involved in the meal that the Israelites ate. When he said the words, “bitter herbs”, it stuck with me. I was thinking, why would the Lord tell them to eat bitter herbs at this particular time?
Reading about the event in the Bible, Exodus chapter 12, and reviewing the events leading up to this night will give you a hint as to why God purposely chose bitter herbs for the Israelites to eat on the last night. I will not go into the symbolism or the current use of the Passover Seder. I want to just look at the use of bitter herbs and the possible health reason God chose to put them on the menu.
The ten plagues of Egypt, as some call this time, must have been a stressful time for many people. Can you imagine everything that happened? Having to work extra hard to make bricks without straw and having to go out of the normal areas of life to find straw for making bricks (Chapter 5). Water turning to blood and not being able to drink it for a few days. The fish dying and the water stinking! (Chapter 7) It wasn’t just the Nile either, it was the rivers and streams, ponds, and all the pools of water, in vessels of wood and vessels of stone. Water turning to blood lasted seven days! Where did people get water?
In my King James Version Bible, it states the “land of Egypt” experienced these plagues. The next plague was frogs, everywhere Chapter 8:3 “…come into thine house, into thy bedchamber, upon thy bed, into the house of servants, upon thy people, into thine ovens, into thy kneading troughs:” Then the Lord made the frogs die, the people gathered them up in piles and the land stunk again.
There were several more plagues and by reading the passage you will get the best idea as to what people were going through during this time of history and why it has a memorial has been set up by the Lord himself.
Can you see the stress, the destruction of the plagues, and the events taking place leading up to this Passover meal? The night of the Passover was the last plague. It was to end Pharaoh’s hold on the Israelites. The first born of every household would die when God passed over the house, unless that house had the blood of a lamb on the doorposts and lintels. On this night the people were to eat as if they are ready to leave in a hurry. Chapter 12:11, “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and you staff in your hand; and ye shall eat in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover.”
God told them to eat their food quickly. The foods they were eating were roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread. Eating in haste can cause slowed digestion. The lamb stayed with the family for four days before it was used for food and blood. It would have been calm and unstressed: it would have been good food and easier to digest.
Bitter herbs added to this meal gave the individual a good digestive aid. When we eat bitters, we digest our foods easier. When we are in a hurry and have to eat and go as the Israelites did, our digestion slows down.
“Stress is associated with changes in gut bacteria which in turn can influence mood.
Thus, the gut’s nerves and bacteria strongly influence the brain and vice versa. Early life stress can change the development of the nervous system as well as how the body reacts to stress. These changes can increase the risk for later gut diseases…” Stress effects on the body (apa.org)(#1 QR)
“As more research suggests that our gut health has a major impact on our overall well-being, there’s greater importance in feeding your microbiome with nourishing foods.
And that’s a good reason to make a place for bitter foods in your diet.” Why you should be eating more bitter foods (nbcnews.com)(#2 QR)
The Lord told the Israelites to eat bitter herbs so that they would not have any digestive issues when they left Egypt. Can you imagine thousands of people of all ages, having digestive upset on a very long trip? How do you feel when your normal routine gets changed? Digestive upsets? I know I have them if I am not prepared ahead of time.
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