Sabenekh (Lamb Chops and Spinach) with Rice

Meal: King David's Nuptials

  • recipe
  • bible reference
  • history

Sabenekh (Lamb Chops and Spinach) with Rice

  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (plus extra for decoration)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 lamb chops or 6 small fillet mignons
  • ¼ tsp. sumac
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp. sage
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 cup fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 lb. fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup water or beef stock
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • basmati rice

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If you're looking for a nice variation on the presentation of lamb chops, this recipe for Sabenekh with Rice will fit the bill.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a pan and fry the pine nuts until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon, allowing the olive oil to drain back into pan. Add onions to same pan; fry until lightly browned, then fold in meat, half the dried spices, and a pinch of salt and pepper; continue frying until the meat is well cooked. Heat the remaining oil in a separate pan. Add garlic and ground coriander, stirring for 1 minute. Next place half of the meat into the mixture along with the fresh coriander and spinach. Cover and simmer on low heat until the spinach begins to release its juice. Add water (or stock), along with lemon juice, remaining spices, and a pinch more of salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for ½ hour. Serve with basmati rice, sprinkled with the rest of the meat broth. Decorate with pine nuts.

Yield: 6–8 servings

The Text

39b Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife.

His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”

She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master's servants.”

42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five maids, went with David's messengers and became his wife.

I Samuel 25:39b-42, New International Version


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A jug of olive oil was representative of the feast of kings, as the ancient Hebrews believed that olive oil was capable of restoring health and adding longevity.

Biblical Passage Notes

The Bible does not provide us with any words about the preparations for David's marriages, but there seems to be a long history associated with a wedding feast in the House of David. The imagery is seen over and over again in the Song of Songs, where some scholars and a longstanding tradition identify the male protagonist, the lover, as Solomon, David's son and successor. In addition, the parable of the wedding feast in the Christian gospels (Matthew 22:1–14, Luke 14:15–24) is rooted in a Jewish understanding of the marriage of a great king. The stories surrounding David were undoubtedly on the minds of the gospel writers as they related the teachings of Jesus, who himself was said to be a descendant of David.

The Preparation

What would a feast for such a great king look like? In modern-day Israel, one will come across more than a few sites pitching “King David's Feast” (such as Genesis Land just outside of Jerusalem) to the tourist trade; and many of the cookbooks of the last seventy years have a recipe or two that imagine some glorious confection worthy of the Jerusalem court. We've attempted a fair cross section of both offerings, while adding in a few recipes we think would make an 11th-century b.c.e. royal meal complete. If you're going to try the whole menu at one sitting, make sure you have left yourself a lot of preparation time and that you've invited lots of friends and family with hearty appetites!

The History

As related in Chapter 8, King Saul had become extremely jealous of David's success in battle, his popularity among the people, and his special relationship with God, to the point that Saul actually tried to murder David with a spear while the young man was playing music. David, aided by his wife Michal and Saul's son Jonathan, managed to elude Saul's men and to gather a large band of supporters. Even though he was a fugitive, David cornered Saul on two different occasions, but each time David spared the king's life. Saul and three of his sons, including Jonathan, finally met their end during another battle with the Philistines, Saul committing suicide instead of allowing the enemy to kill him. Afterward, David went to Hebron and became king of Judah; he was but thirty years old. A war between the House of Saul and the House of David ensued, and after seven years of fighting David's forces prevailed; he was then anointed king of Israel as well. Historians date the unification of Judah and Israel to the 11th century b.c.e.

David reigned for about thirty-three years as ruler of the united kingdom. During that time he was able to subdue the Philistines and conquer the rest of Canaan. Historians also credit David with having provided strong spiritual leadership to a fractious group of tribal families who were easily tempted to abandon the Covenant in favor of the religious practices of the native peoples. He made Jerusalem the capital of the new nation of Israel because that city was and still is considered to be sacred to God: within its boundaries is Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham was supposed to have gone to sacrifice Isaac and the place where Jacob was believed to have had his vision of a ladder ascending to heaven. To this holy spot David brought the Ark of the Covenant with the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, and there he is believed to have composed many of the works found in the book of Psalms.

Before and during his reign as king, David took at least eight wives, a number of concubines, and had at least twenty children, including a son, Daniel, with Abigail; a son, Absalom, and a daughter, Tamar, with Maachah; and a son, Solomon, with Bathsheba. It was Solomon, known for his wisdom, who succeeded to the throne when David died, and it was he who built the great Temple at Jerusalem.