Numbers 11:5

5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:

Numbers 11:5 Meaning and Commentary

Numbers 11:5

We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely
Fish was food the Egyptians much lived upon; for though Herodotus says the priests might not taste of fish, the common people ate much; yea, he himself says that some lived upon nothing else but fish gutted and dried in the sun; and he observes, that the kings of Egypt had a great revenue from hence F23; the river Nile, as Diodorus Siculus F24 says, abounded with all kind of fish, and with an incredible number, so that there was a plenty of them, and to be bought cheap; and so Aben Ezra and Ben Gersom interpret the word freely, of a small price, as if they had them for nothing almost; but surely they forgot how dear they paid for their fish, by their hard toil, labour, and service. Now this, with what follows, they call to mind, to increase their lust, and aggravate their present condition and circumstances:

the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the
in the Hebrew language, the word for "cucumbers" has the signification of hardness, because they are hard of digestion In the Talmud F25 they are so called, because they are as harmful to the body as swords; though it is said in the same, that Antoninus always had them at his table; and Suetonius F26 and Pliny F1 say, that they were in great esteem with the emperors Augustus and Tiberias; though some think what they call cucumbers were melons. We are told F2, that the Egyptian cucumbers are very different from our European ones, which in the eastern countries serve only to feed hogs with, and not men; but the Egyptian cucumber, called "chate", differs from the common one in size, colour, and softness; and not only its leaves, but its fruit, are different from ours, being sweeter to the taste, and of more easy digestion, and reckoned to be very wholesome to the bodies of men: and so their "melons" are different from ours, which they call "abdellavi", to distinguish them from others called "chajar", which are of little use for food, and not pleasant, and more insipid, and of a softer pulp {c}: as for the "leeks, onions, and garlic", that these were commonly and in great plenty eaten of by the Egyptians appears from the vast sums of money spent upon the men that worked in building one of the pyramids, in radishes, onions, and garlic only, which Herodotus F4, Diodorus Siculus F5, and Pliny F6 make mention of. Indeed, in later times these were worshipped as gods, and not suffered to be eaten, as Pliny F7 and Juvenal F8 inform us; but there is little reason to believe that this kind of idolatry obtained so early as the time of Israel's being in Egypt; though some have thought that these were cheaper because of that, and so the Israelites could more easily come at them; but if that had been the case, it is more reasonable to believe that the Egyptians would not have allowed them to have eat of them at all: however, these are still in great plenty, and much used in Egypt to this day, as Vansleb F9 relates, who says, for desserts they have fruits, as onions, dried dates, rotten olives, melons, or cucumbers, or pompions, or such like fruits as are in season: thus carnal men prefer their sensual lusts and pleasures, and self-righteous men their righteousness, to Christ, the heavenly manna, his grace and righteousness.


F23 Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 37, 92, 149.
F24 Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 32.
F25 T. Bab. Avodah Zarah, fol. 11. 1.
F26 In Vit. August. c. 77.
F1 Nat. Hist. l. 19. c. 5.
F2 Alpinus de Plant. Aegypt. l. 1. p. 114. apud Scheuchzer. Physic. Saer. vol. 3. p. 369.
F3 Alpinus ib.
F4 Ut supra, (Euterpe, sive, l. 2.) c. 125.
F5 Ut supra. (Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 58.)
F6 Nat. Hist. l. 36. c. 12.
F7 lb. l. 19. c. 6.
F8 "Porrum et coepe nefas violare" Satyr. 15.
F9 Relation of a Voyage to Egypt, p. 186.

Numbers 11:5 In-Context

3 And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.
4 And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
The King James Version is in the public domain.