One of the vegetables of Egypt for which the Hebrews murmured in the desert, Nu 11:5. Hasselquist says that the onions of Egypt are remarkably sweet, mild, and nutritious. Juvenal, Pliny, and Lucian satirize the superstitious regard of the Egyptians for this bulb.
The Israelites in the wilderness longed for the "onions and garlick of Egypt" (Nu 11:5). This was the betsel of the Hebrews, the Allium cepe of botanists, of which it is said that there are some thirty or forty species now growing in Palestine. The onion is "the 'undivided' leek, unio, unus, one."
This product is mentioned only in
as one of the good things of Egypt of which the Israel regretted the loss. Onions have been from time immemorial a favorite article of food among the Egyptians, The onions of Egypt are much milder in flavor and less pungent than those of this country.
ONION, ???, Nu 11:5; a well known garden plant with a bulbous root. Onions and garlics were highly esteemed in Egypt; and not without reason, this country being admirably adapted to their culture. The allium cepa, called by the Arabs basal, Hasselquist thinks one of the species of onions for which the Israelites longed. He would infer this from the quantities still used in Egypt, and their goodness. "Whoever has tasted onions in Egypt," says he, "must allow that none can be had better in any part of the universe. Here they are sweet; in other countries they are nauseous and strong. Here they are soft; whereas in the northern and other parts they are hard, and their coats so compact that they are difficult of digestion. Hence they cannot in any place be eaten with less prejudice, and more satisfaction, than in Egypt." The Egyptians are reproached with swearing by the leeks and onions of their gardens. Juvenal ridicules some of these superstitious people who did not dare to eat leeks, garlic, or onions, for fear of injuring their gods:
Quis nescit, Volusi Bythynice, qualia demens AEgyptus portenta coit? Porrum et cepe nefas violare aut frangere morsu; O sanctas gentes quibus haec nascuntur in hortis Numina!