Easton's Bible Dictionary
among the Jews was generally made of wheat ( Exodus 29:2
; Judges 6:19 ), though also sometimes of other grains ( Genesis 14:18 ; Judges
7:13 ). Parched grain was sometimes used for food without any other preparation
( Ruth 2:14 ).
Bread was prepared by kneading in wooden bowls or "kneading troughs" ( Genesis
18:6 ; Exodus 12:34 ; Jeremiah 7:18 ). The dough was mixed with leaven and made
into thin cakes, round or oval, and then baked. The bread eaten at the Passover
was always unleavened ( Exodus 12:15-20 ; Deuteronomy 16:3 ). In the towns there
were public ovens, which were much made use of for baking bread; there were also
bakers by trade ( Hosea 7:4 ; Jeremiah 37:21 ). Their ovens were not unlike those
of modern times. But sometimes the bread was baked by being placed on the ground
that had been heated by a fire, and by covering it with the embers ( 1 Kings 19:6
). This was probably the mode in which Sarah prepared bread on the occasion referred
to in Genesis 18:6 .
In Leviticus 2 there is an account of the different kinds of bread and cakes used
by the Jews. (See BAKE.)
The shew-bread (q.v.) consisted of twelve loaves of unleavened bread prepared
and presented hot on the golden table every Sabbath. They were square or oblong,
and represented the twelve tribes of Israel. The old loaves were removed every
Sabbath, and were to be eaten only by the priests in the court of the sanctuary
( Exodus 25:30 ; Leviticus 24:8 ; 1 Samuel 21:1 - 6 ; Matthew 12:4 ).
The word bread is used figuratively in such expressions as "bread of sorrows"
( Psalms 127:2 ), "bread of tears" ( Psalms 80:5 ), i.e., sorrow and tears are
like one's daily bread, they form so great a part in life. The bread of "wickedness"
( Proverbs 4:17 ) and "of deceit" ( Proverbs 20:17 ) denote in like manner that
wickedness and deceit are a part of the daily life.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
The preparation of bread as an article of food dates
from a very early period. ( Genesis 18:6 ) The corn or grain employed was of various
sorts. The best bread was made of wheat, but "barley" and spelt were also used.
( John 6:9 , 6:13 ; Isaiah 28:25 ) The process of making bread was as follows:
the flour was first mixed with water or milk; it was then kneaded with the hands
(in Egypt with the feet also) in a small wooden bowl or "kneading-trough" until
it became dough. ( Exodus 12:34 , 12:39 ; 2 Samuel 13:3 ; Jeremiah 7:18 ) When
the kneading was completed, leaven was generally added [LEAVEN]; but when the
time for preparation was short, it was omitted, and unleavened cakes, hastily
baked, were eaten as is still the prevalent custom among the Bedouins. ( Genesis
18:6 ; 19:3 ; Exodus 12:39 ; Judges 6:19 ; 1 Samuel 28:24 ) The leavened mass
was allowed to stand for some time, ( Matthew 13:33 ; Luke 13:21 ) the dough was
then divided into round cakes, ( Exodus 29:23 ; Judges 7:13 ; 8:5 ; 1 Samuel 10:3
; Proverbs 6:26 ) not unlike flat stones in shape and appearance, ( Matthew 7:9
) comp. Matthew 4:8 about a span in diameter and a fingers breadth in thickness.
In the towns where professional bakers resided, there were no doubt fixed ovens,
in shape and size resembling those in use among ourselves; but more usually each
household poured a portable oven, consisting of a stone or metal jar, about three
feet high which was heated inwardly with wood, ( 1 Kings 17:12 ; Isaiah 44:15
; Jeremiah 7:18 ) or dried grass and flower-stalks. ( Matthew 6:30 )
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
bred (lechem; artos):
The art of bread-making is very ancient. It was even known to the Egyptians at
a very early day (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians), to the Hebrews of the Exodus
(Nowack, Lehrbuch der hebr. Archaologie) and, of course, to the Greeks and Romans
of a later day. Bread played a large part in the vocabulary and in the life of
the ancient Hebrews.
I. DIETARY PREEMINENCE
|(1) In the East bread is primary, other articles of food
merely accessory; while in the West meat and other things chiefly constitute the
meal, and bread is merely secondary. Accordingly "bread" in the Old Testament,
from Genesis 3:19 onward, stands for food in general.
(2) Moreover in ancient times, as now, most probably, when the peasant, carpenter,
blacksmith or mason left home for the day's work, or when the muleteer or messenger
set out on a journey, he wrapped other articles of food, if there were any, in
the thin loaves of bread, and thus kept them ready for his use as needed.
(3) Often the thin, glutinous loaf, puffed out with air, is seen today, opened
on one side and used so as to form a natural pouch, in which meat, cheese, raisins
and olives are enclosed to be eaten with the bread (see Mackie in DCG, article
"Bread"). The loaf of bread is thus made to include everything and, for this reason
also, it may fitly be spoken of as synonymous with food in general. To the disciples
of Jesus, no doubt, "Give us this day our daily bread" would naturally be a petition
for all needed food, and in the case of the miraculous feeding of the multitude
it was enough to provide them with "bread" (Matthew 14:15).
Barley was in early times, as it is today, the main bread-stuff of the Palestine
peasantry (see Judges 7:13 ; where "the cake of barley bread" is said to be "the
sword of Gideon"), and of the poorer classes of the East in general (see John
6:13 , where the multitude were fed on the miraculous increase of the "five barley
loaves," and compare Josephus, BJ, V, x, 2).
But wheat, also, was widely used as a breadstuff then, as it is now, the wheat
of the Syrian plains and uplands being remarkable for its nutritious and keeping
3. Three Kinds of Flour
Three kinds, or qualities, of flour, are distinguished, according to the way of
|(1) a coarser sort, rudely made by the use of pestle and
mortar, the "beaten corn" of Leviticus 2:14 , 16 (the Revised Version (British
and American) "bruised");
(2) the "flour" or "meal" of ordinary use (Exodus 29:2 ; Leviticus 2:2 ; 6:15),
(3) the "fine meal" for honored guests (see Genesis 18:6 , where Abraham commands
Sarah to "make ready .... three measures of fine meal") with which we may compare
the "fine flour" for the king's kitchen (1 Kings 4:22) and the "fine flour" required
for the ritual meal offering, as in Leviticus 2:1 ; 5:11 ; 7:12 ; 14:10 ; 23:13
; 24:5 ; etc.
After thoroughly sifting and cleaning the grain, the first step in the process
was to reduce it to "meal" or "flour" by rubbing, pounding, or grinding. (In Numbers
11:8 it is said of the manna "The people went about, and gathered it, and ground
it in mills, or beat it in mortars.") It has been shown that by a process, which
is not yet extinct in Egypt, it was customary to rub the grain between two the
"corn-rubbers" or "corn grinders," of which many specimens have been found by
Petrie, Bliss, Macalister and others, at Lachish, Gezer and elsewhere (PEFS, 1902,
326; 1903, 118; compare Erman, Egypt, 180, for illustrations of actual use). For
detailed descriptions of the other processes, see MORTAR; MILL.
The "flour" was then ordinarily mixed simply with water, kneaded in a wooden basin
or kneading-trough (Exodus 8:3) and, in case of urgency, at once made into "cakes"
and baked. (See Exodus 12:34, "And the people took their dough before it was leavened.")
The Hebrews called such cakes matstsoth, and they were the only kind allowed for
use on the altar during Passover, and immediately following the Feast of Unleavened
Bread (also called Matstsoth). Commonly however the process was as follows: a
lump of leavened dough of yesterday's baking, preserved for the purpose, was broken
up and mixed with the day's "batch," and the whole was then set aside and left
standing until it was thoroughly leavened (see LEAVEN).
We find in the Old Testament, as in the practice of the East today, three modes
of firing or baking bread:
|(1) Hot Stones
That represented by Elijah's cake baked on the hot stones (1 Kings 19:6 the Revised
Version, margin; compare "the cakes upon the hearth," Genesis 18:6 the King James
Version, and see Robinson, Researches, II, 406). The stones were laid together
and a fire was lighted upon them. When the stones were well heated the cinders
were raked off, and the cakes laid on the stones and covered with ashes. After
a while the ashes were again removed and the cake was turned (see Hosea 7:8) and
once more covered with the glowing ashes. It was thus cooked on both sides evenly
and made ready for eating (compare the Vulgate, Panis subcineraris, and DeLagarde,
Symmicta, II, 188, where egkouthia, is referred to as "the hiding" of the cakes
under the ashes). Out of these primitive usages of the pastoral tribes and peasants
grew other improved forms of baking.
(2) Baking Pans
An ancient method of baking, prevalent still among the Bedouin of Syria and Arabia,
is to employ a heated convex iron plate, or griddle, what we would call a frying
pan, in lieu of the heated sand or stones. The Hebrew "baking-pan" (machabhath,
Leviticus 2:5; 7:9; compare Ezekiel 4:3) must have been of this species of "griddle."
The reference in 1 Chronicles 9:31 is probably to bread baked in this way. There
it is said that one of the sons of the priests "had the office of trust over the
things that were baked in pans."
tannur (compare Arabic), no doubt were used by the Hebrews, when they settled
in Palestine, as they were used by the settled populations of the Orient in general,
more and more as they approached civilized conditions. These "ovens" were of various
|(1) The Bowl-Oven
The simplest used by the ancients were hardly more primitive than the kind quite
commonly used in Palestine today. It may be called the "bowl-oven." It consists
of a large clay-bowl, which is provided with a movable lid. This bowl is placed
inverted upon small stones and then heated with a fuel distinctly oriental, consisting
of dried dung heaped over and around it. The bread is baked on the stones, then
covered by the inverted oven, which is heated by the firing of the fuel of dung
on the outside of the cover.
(2) The Jar-Oven
The jar-oven is another form of oven found in use there today. This is a large
earthen-ware jar that is heated by fuel of grass (Matthew 6:30), stubble (Malachi
4:1), dry twigs or thorns (1 Kings 17:12) and the like, which are placed within
the jar for firing. When the jar is thus heated the cakes are stuck upon the hot
(3) The Pit-Oven
The pit-oven was doubtless a development from this type. It was formed partly
in the ground and partly built up of clay and plastered throughout, narrowing
toward the top. The ancient Egyptians, as the monuments and mural paintings show,
laid the cakes upon the outside of the oven (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians); but
in Palestine, in general, if the customs of today are conclusive, the fire was
kindled in the inside of the pit-oven. Great numbers of such ovens have been unearthed
in recent excavations, and we may well believe them to be exact counterparts of
the oven of the professional bakers in the street named after them in Jerusalem
"the bakers' street" (Jeremiah 37:21). The largest and most developed form of
oven is still the public oven of the town or city of this sort; but the primitive
rural types still survive, and the fuel of thorns, and of the grass, "which today
is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven," are still in evidence.
5. Forms of Baked Bread
|(1) The large pone or thick, light loaf of the West is unknown
in the East. The common oriental cake or loaf is proverbially thin. The thin home-made
bread is really named both in Hebrew and Arabic from its thinness as is reflected
in the translation "wafer" in Exodus 16:31 ; 29:23 ; Leviticus 8:26 ; Numbers
6:19 ; 1 Chronicles 23:29. Such bread was called in Hebrew raqiq (raqiq; compare
modern Arabic warkuk, from warak = "foliage," "paper").
(2) It is still significantly customary at a Syrian meal to take a piece of such
bread and, with the ease and skill of long habit, to fold it over at the end held
in the hand so as to make a sort of spoon of it, which then is eaten along with
whatever is lifted by it out of the common dish (compare Matthew 26:23). But this
"dipping in the common dish" is so accomplished as not to allow the contents of
the dish to be touched by the fingers, or by anything that has been in contact
with the lips of those who sit at meat (compare Mackie, DCG, article "Bread").
(3) Such "loaves" are generally today about 7 inches in diameter and from half
an inch to an inch thick. Such, probably, were the lad's "barley loaves" brought
to Christ at the time of the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:9 , 13). Even thinner
cakes, of both leavened and unleavened bread, are sometimes made now, as of old,
especially at times of religious festivals. Often they are coated on the upper
surface with olive oil and take on a glossy brown color in cooking; and sometimes
they are sprinkled over with aromatic seeds, which adhere and impart a spicy flavor.
They may well recall to us the "oiled bread" of Leviticus 8:26 and "the wafers
anointed with oil" of Exodus 29:2 and Leviticus 2:4.
(4) Sometimes large discs of dough about 1 inch thick and 8 inches in diameter
are prepared and laid in rows on long, thin boards like canoe paddles, and thus
inserted into the oven; then, by a quick, deft jerk of the hand, they are slipped
off upon the hot pavement and baked. These are so made and baked that when done
they are soft and flexible, and for this reason are preferred by many to the thinner
cakes which are cooked stiff and brown.
(5) The precise nature of the cracknels of 1 Kings 14:3 (the American Standard
Revised Version "cakes") is not known. A variety of bakemeats (Genesis 40:17,
literally "food, the work of the baker") are met with in the Old Testament, but
only in a few cases is it possible or important to identify their nature or forms
(see Encyclopedia Bibl, coll. 460 f). A cake used for ritual purposes (Exodus
29:2 and often) seems, from its name, to have been pierced with holes, like the
modern Passover cakes (compare Kennedy, 1-vol HDB, article " Bread").
6. Work for Women
|(a) Every oriental household of importance seems to have
had its own oven, and bread-making for the most part was in the hands of the women.
Even when and where baking, as under advancing civilization, became a recognized
public industry, and men were the professional bakers, a large part of the baker's
work, as is true today, was to fire the bread prepared and in a sense pre-baked
by the women at home.
(b) The women of the East are often now seen taking a hand in sowing, harvesting
and winnowing the grain, as well as in the processes of "grinding" (Ecclesiastes
12:3 ; Matthew 24:41 ; Luke 17:35), "kneading" (Genesis 18:6; 1 Samuel 28:24 ;
2 Samuel 13:8 ; Jeremiah 7:18) and "baking" (1 Samuel 8:13), and doubtless it
was so in ancient times to an equal extent.
IV. SANCTITY AND SYMBOLISM OF BREAD
It would seem that the sanctity of bread remains as unchanged in the Orient as
the sanctity of shrines and graves (compare Mackie, DCG, article "Bread," and
Robinson's Researches). As in Egypt everything depended for life on the Nile,
and as the Nile was considered "sacred," so in Palestine, as everything depended
upon the wheat and barley harvest, "bread" was in a peculiar sense "sacred." The
psychology of the matter seems to be about this: all life was seen to be dependent
upon the grain harvest, this in turn depended upon rain in its season, and so
bread, the product at bottom of these Divine processes, was regarded as peculiarly
"a gift of God," a daily reminder of his continual and often undeserved care (Matthew
5:45 ; consider in this connection the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily
bread," Matthew 6:11 ; compare Luke 11:11). Travelers generally note as a special
characteristic of the Oriental of today that, seeing a scrap of bread on the roadside,
he will pick it up and throw it to a street dog, or place it in a crevice of the
wall, or on a tree-branch where the birds may get it. One thing is settled with
him, it must not be trodden under foot in the common dust, for, in the estimation
of all, it has in it an element of mystery and sacredness as coming from the Giver
of all good.
|(a) In partaking of the hospitality of the primitive peasants
of Palestine today, east and west of the Jordan, one sees what a sign and symbol
of hospitality and friendship the giving and receiving of bread is. Among the
Arabs, indeed, it has become a proverb, which may be put into English thus: "Eat
salt together, be friends forever." Once let the Arab break bread with you and
you are safe. You may find the bread the poorest barley loaf, still marked by
the indentations of the pebbles, with small patches of the gray ash of the hearth,
and here and there an inlaid bit of singed grass or charred thorn, the result
of their primitive process of baking; but it is bread, the best that the poor
man can give you, "a gift of God," indeed, and it is offered by the wildest Arab,
with some sense of its sacredness and with somewhat of the gladness and dignity
of the high duty of hospitality. No wonder, therefore, that it is considered the
height of discourtesy, yea, a violation of the sacred law of hospitality, to decline
it or to set it aside as unfit for use.
(b) Christ must have been influenced by His knowledge of some such feeling and
law as this when, on sending forth His disciples, He charged them to "take no
bread with them" (Mark 6:8). Not to have expected such hospitality, and not to
have used what would thus be freely offered to them by the people, would have
been a rudeness, not to say an offense, on the part of the disciples, which would
have hindered the reception of the good tidings of the Kingdom.
(c) It has well been pointed out that God's gift of natural food to His people
enters in for the praises of the Magnificat (Luke 1:53), and that when Christ
called Himself "the bread of life" (John 6:35) He really appealed to all these
endeared and indissoluble associations connected in the eastern mind with the
meaning and use of bread. Most naturally and appropriately in the inauguration
of the New Covenant Christ adopted as His memorial, not a monument of stone or
brass, but this humble yet sacred article of food, familiar and accessible to
all, to become, with the "wine" of common use, in the Lord's Supper, the perpetual
symbol among His disciples of the communion of saints.
Wilkinson. Ancient Egypt, 1878, II, 34; Erman, Aegypten
und aegyptisches Leben, 1885, 191; Nowack, Lehrbuch der hebr. Archaologie, 1894;
Maimonides, Yadh, Temidhin U-Mucaphin, v, 6-8; Bacher, Monats-schrift, 1901, 299;
Mishna B. M., II, 1, 2; Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, II, 416; Doughty,
Travels in Arabia Deserta, I, 131; Josephus, BJ; and Bible Dicts. on "Bread,"
"Dietary Laws": "Matstsoth," "Challah," etc.
George B. Eager
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, bread, define, symbolism