Better [is] a dinner of herbs, where love is
What Plautus F9 calls "asperam et terrestrem caenam", "a harsh and earthly supper", made of what grows out of the earth; which is got without much cost or care, and dressed with little trouble; a traveller's dinner, as the word F11 signifies, and a poor one too to travel upon, such as is easily obtained, and presently cooked, and comes cheap. Now, where there are love and good nature in the host that prepares this dinner; or in a family that partakes of such an one, having no better; or among guests invited, who eat friendly together; or in the person that invites them, who receives them cheerfully, and heartily bids them welcome: such a dinner, with such circumstances, is better than a stalled ox, and hatred therewith;
than an ox kept up in the stall for fattening; or than a fatted one, which with the ancients was the principal in a grand entertainment; hence the allusion in ( Matthew 22:4 ) ( Luke 15:23 ) . In the times of Homer, an ox was in high esteem at their festivals; at the feasts made by his heroes, Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Ajax, an ox was a principal part of them, if not the whole; the back of a fat ox, or a sirloin of beef, was a favourite dish F12. Indeed in some ages, both among Greeks and Romans, an ox was abstained from, through a superstitious regard to it, because so useful a creature in ploughing of the land; and it was carried so far as to suppose it to be as sinful to slay an ox as to kill a man F13: and Aratus F14 represents it as not done, neither in the golden nor silver age, but that in the brasen age men first began to kill and eat oxen; but this is to be confuted by the laws of God, ( Genesis 9:3 ) ( Deuteronomy 14:4 ) ; and by the examples of Abraham and others. Now if there is hatred, either in the host, or in the guests among themselves, or in a family, it must stir up strifes and contentions, and render all enjoyments unpleasant and uncomfortable; see ( Proverbs 17:1 ) ( Ecclesiastes 4:6 ) ; but where the love of God is, which is better than life, and the richest enjoyments of it; which sweetens every mercy, and cannot be purchased with money; and secures the best of blessings, the riches of grace and glory, and itself can never be lost; where this is, the meanest diet is preferable to the richest and most costly banquets of wicked men; who are hated and abhorred by the Lord, for their oppression and injustice, their luxury, or their covetousness; for poor men may be loved of God, and the rich be abhorred by him, ( Psalms 10:4 ) ( Luke 15:19-23 ) .