Jacob’s Lentil Stew


Recently I decided to make some Bible-time foods, having found the book Foods from the Bible at a used curriculum sale for fifty cents. My son begged me to get it, so I let him make these recipes. The first recipe was for Jacob’s lentil stew that he might have made for Esau in exchange for the birthright. After reading the story to the children, we mixed the following ingredients together:

  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ cup rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup diced bell pepper
  • 5 cups water

Add these together in a big pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour. Pour it into a blender, making sure the lid is on tight, or everyone will scream at being scalded by the burning stew, which looks like barf by that time. I told the children to look away so that they wouldn’t lose their appetite. But it was too late.

Oh, I forgot to mention to add these ingredients to the blender at the last minute:

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • pinch of red pepper

You need more than a pinch of red pepper for this tasteless stew to have any flavor whatsoever. It tastes kind of like pea soup. Plus, it’s not red, even though the lentils were red. So the real stew must have contained tomatoes. Or something red. Maybe something with flavor. No way did Esau trade his birthright for this dish.


As a side dish, we made a Bible-time cucumber salad:

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and chill before serving. This salad has a more delicate flavor than your average cucumber salad, which I like better than this. But this salad was okay. The children ate it without complaint.


And lastly, we made some Bible-time mint tea:

  • 5 cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 8 teaspoons of sugar, or honey to taste
  • 4 tea bags

Steep all the ingredients together for about three minutes. Pour into cups, and garnish with a sprig of mint. Two of my children loved this tea, which is a great way to finish a somewhat lousy meal.

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17 Responses to “Jacob’s Lentil Stew”

  1. Amy says:

    Haha! My children LOVE lentils! But they weren’t able to eat gluten for many years, flavor like everything else is in the eye or mouth in this case of the beholder!

  2. Melissa K. says:

    “No way did Esau trade his birthright for this dish.” Hahahaha!

    Some people don’t mind bland food, but I am definitely not a fan. Since I would probably agree with your assessments, I won’t be picking up this book if I see it somewhere. 😉

  3. pamela says:

    That looks really good, what a great idea!

  4. I recently became interested in eating more beans and lentils because they contain “resistant starch.” Supposedly, that fills us up without making us fat.

    I don’t think the Bible was making a point about how delicious that soup was, but rather about how much Esau despised his birthright. Sorry, but the “theologian” side of me can’t help but mention that.

    Still, I appreciate your honesty about the flavor, and will add some extra spices.

    I might substitute more red lentils for the rice, but I don’t know if that will make it red.

    • Susan says:

      The red lentils really aren’t red after they’re cooked. They look more red when they are raw. Maybe back in Bible times, the lentils had a darker red color.

  5. Regarding the red color, this is from thehistorykitchen.com:

    “While the stew that Jacob cooks is clearly described as “red,” no spices that I know of from this time period would tint the stew red. Sumac has a reddish tint, but it should only be used sparingly because it has a pretty strong flavor. I have used red lentils for the recipe, but they cook up a light brown color. I suppose you could add some paprika to achieve a more reddish color, but paprika was not a known spice to the ancient Israelites.”

  6. Therese Malmberg says:

    As a self-described food historian, I too have been curious about what made Esau’s stew “red”. It most definitely could not have been tomatoes or red peppers of any kind as none of these foods were known in that area prior to 1492. (By the way, this also includes your green pepper, which is simply an immature red pepper). Nor would it have been any beans other than fava beans, as limas, kidneys and the like are also from the New World. And red lentils, as others have mentioned, do not keep their color when cooked. Sumac is a possibility since it does turn things a rusty color. Could it be that the word red has been mistranslated?

  7. Amy says:

    I HATED lentils as a kid, and always wondered how Esau would have given up his birthright for that! That being said, I might have to make a pot of lentil soup soon!

  8. What a fun idea!! And great for homeschoolers to include in their bible lesson. Love it.

  9. Julie says:

    Looks like an interesting meal! How did all the flavors go together?

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