Is biblical gluttony overeating? Part 1

An African friend once told me that in his home province an elderly man learned that his son had killed a chicken and had eaten the gizzard. Now in that culture, it is a custom to offer the gizzard to the most honoured person in the family, and the father considered this act by his son to be disrespectful and so asked the constabulary to arrest his son–for eating a chicken gizzard! This seems to me to come close to the Old Testament understanding of the term “glutton”.

“Glutton” is a term that appears in the Old Testament a few times.  The Hebrew term, זלל (zalal), appears in Proverbs 23:20-21:

Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

This appears in a context of admonitions to children, telling them to obey instruction of their elders, as also Prov. 28.7:

A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

The Proverbs passages may depend on common understanding of the term זלל that we find also in Deut 21:18-21:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.  They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Overeating may be an aspect of what it means to commit זלל, but it is very much a sin associated with rebelling against the commands of God and against the instruction of parents. Gluttony seems less a question of eating so much that it leads to obesity but rather of eating in a manner which does not honour other people, especially one’s parents.

One thought on “Is biblical gluttony overeating? Part 1

  1. Pingback: Is biblical gluttony overeating? Part 2: The story of Nabal | The Righteous Investor

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