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Plants of the Bible: Lentil (Lens culinaris aka Lens esculenta)

Lentil is a cool season annual domesticated in the Fertile Cresent and dating back to 7500-6500 BC.  The many branched plants grow 12-20″ tall  may be erect or spreading.  The  slender stems are angular and hairy  and  leaves are pinnately compound with 5-8 pairs of oblong to elliptical leaflets that are yellowish green to bluish green. The leaves end with a tendril or bristle.   In temperate climates the flowers appear from late spring to summer in the leaf axils on long slender stalks and may be white pink, purple, lavender or pale blue.  The oblong pods are slightly inflated, about 5/8″ long, and usually contain 2-3 lens-shaped seeds.  There are many different kinds of lentils and they differ in size, hairiness, and color of leaves, flowers, and seeds.  The seeds are eaten cooked and are a staple in Indian cuisine. Photo Credit Wikipedia

 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.”

 

Ezekiel 4:9  God gives directions to Ezekiel  for making bread in the famine during the 18 month siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians when the people could not find enough of any one food stuff to make bread.

“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side.”

 

2 Samuel 17:28  Allies bring provisions to David and his men in the wilderness when fleeing from Absalom.

“brought beds, and basins, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and meal, and parched grain, and beans, and lentils, and parched pulse,

 

2 Samuel 23.11 Shammah, one of Davids mighty men, defended a field of lentils against the Philistines while others fled.

“After him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. The Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where there was a plot  full of lentils; and the people fled from the Philistines.

 

Ezekiel 4.9

“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side.

 

Lentils like average, moderately moist, well-drained soil in full sun.  They are susceptible to a large number of diseases and pests.  Proagation is by seed.  Lentils are nitrogen fixing plants and can improve the soil.

The genus name, Lens, is the ancient Latin word meaning lentil plant.  The specific epithet, colinaris, comes from the Latin word coquere, meaning to cook and refers to the use of the plant.  The specific epithet, esculenta, comes from the Latin word edere and means to eat, and refers to the main use of the plant.