Grocery Stores and the ANE

Yesterday, I wrote on living now. There is a wonder in our modern age, but that wonder sometimes makes us take what we have for granted. Today, I went to the grocery store after I got off of work. Thank God for them. Have you ever considered though how amazing it is that we have grocery stores?

I’d like you to consider what it would be like to live in the Ancient Near East. (ANE) When the Bible was being written, what was the culture like? I’m going to be focusing on food, family, and forgiveness. (Actually, the last one is sacrifices, but hey, I had two f’s so I wanted a third one.)

First off, food. Food had to be earned. Now you could buy from some marketplaces, but there wasn’t much preservation and it usually involved hunting rather than a factory making something. There was also gardening whereby you would eat the fruits of the Earth and whatever you could grow.

Jesus used many parables about farming which his audience would be familiar with. All of the people of the time knew about living from day to day with this. This is also why Jesus prayed for our daily bread. It was that kind of living for most people. Today, we can store food for weeks. Not so for them.

Family. How did that relate? Consider what an extra son was around the house. That was the muscle of the family. The son would be the heir of the household eventually and would make the decisions, but meanwhile, he’d be an extra hand around the house in order to bring about the enhancement of the family.

Now consider a daughter. A daughter would be married into another family to produce children mainly. To be a female and to be barren was a curse. This would also be “Another mouth to feed” and those mouths were indeed costly! (This is one reason I don’t believe the wars in Canaan would be able to take all survivors. Starvation would settle in.)

How about forgiveness? It’s here that we see why the sacrificial system was so relevant. We think it’s something when we give 10% of our income. Let’s see how it would be to sacrifice an animal that cost money to begin with and it had to be an animal in the best of conditions and often the firstborn.

A sheep:

Wool for the family clothing.

Food for the family.


Sheep were the perfect animal in fact. Everything could be used. To lose a sheep was a great loss.

How about a bull?

You lose the breeding first off.

Then, that’s also a good supply of food.

Notice these are always males. Males can impregnate multiple females so that makes them immensely valuable. One can supply a whole group of females with children.

A sacrifice was just that always. It was a sacrifice. When we read Leviticus and the other books of the OT, we should take this into account. We should realize this was the system the people lived with and they were giving up economic capital for their family that could be used by them easily for God.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, consider how blessed you are. You don’t have to hunt it, you don’t have to work the ground, you can store it long-term, it doesn’t cost that much, and you don’t have to sacrifice it on an altar.

(Btw, I’d also say that capitalist spirit comes from Christianity. It’s because of Christianity that such mass production exists today.)

Support Deeper Waters on Patreon!