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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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BREAD . The pre-eminence of bread in the dietary of the Hebrews is shown by the frequent use in OT, from Genesis 3:19 onwards, of ‘bread’ for food in general. It was made chiefly from wheat and barley, occasionally mixed, more especially in times of scarcity, with other ingredients ( Ezekiel 4:9 ; see Food). Barley was in earlier times the main breadstuff of the peasantry ( Judges 7:13 ) and poorer classes generally ( John 6:13 , cf. Jos [Note: Josephus.] BJ V. x. 2).

The first step in bread-making, after thoroughly sifting and cleaning the grain, was to reduce it to flour by rubbing, pounding, or grinding (cf. Numbers 11:8 ). In the first process, not yet extinct in Egypt for certain grains, the grain was rubbed between two stones, the ‘corn-rubbers’ or ‘corn-grinders,’ of which numerous specimens have been found at Lachish and Gezer ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1902, 326; 1903, 118; cf. Erman, Egypt . 180 for illust. of actual use). For the other two processes see Mortar and Mill respectively. Three qualities of flour are distinguished a coarser sort got by the use of the pestle and mortar, the ‘beaten (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘bruised’ corn’ of Leviticus 2:14 ; Leviticus 2:16 , ordinary flour or ‘meal,’ and the ‘fine meal’ for honoured guests ( Genesis 18:6 ) or ‘fine flour’ for a king’s kitchen ( 1 Kings 4:22 ) and the ritual meal-offerings.

The flour was then mixed with water and kneaded in the wooden basin or kneading-trough ( Exodus 8:3 ; Exodus 12:34 ). In a case of urgency the dough was at once made into cakes and fired. These unleavened cakes were termed mazzoth and were alone permitted for the altar and during Passover and the immediately following Feast of Unleavened Cakes ( Mazzoth ). On ordinary occasions, however, a small lump of yesterday’s baking, which had been reserved for the purpose, was broken down and mixed with to-day’s ‘batch.’ The whole was then set aside for a few hours till thoroughly leavened (see Leaven).

Three modes of firing bread are found in OT, as in the East at the present day. ( a ) The first is represented by Elijah’s ‘cake baken on the hot stones’ ( 1 Kings 19:5 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). A few flat stones are gathered together, and a fire lighted upon them. When the stones are sufficiently heated, the embers are raked aside, the cakes are laid on the stones and covered with the embers. After a little the ashes are again removed, the cake is turned ( Hosea 7:8 ) and once more covered. Presently the cake is ready. ( b ) In Syria and Arabia today a convex iron plate is much used, especially among the Bedouin. It is placed over a small fire-pit with the convex side uppermost, on which the cakes of dough are laid and fired. The Hebrew ‘baking-pan’ ( Leviticus 2:5 ; Leviticus 7:9 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) must have resembled this species of iron ‘girdle.’ ( c ) The settled population, however, chiefly made use of one or other of the various kinds of oven, then as now called tannur . In one form, which may be termed the bowl-oven, since it consists of a large clay bowl inverted, with a movable lid, the heat is applied by heaping cattle dung, etc., on the outside . The cakes are baked on the heated stones covered by the oven. In other parts of the country the jar-oven is used. This is really a large earthenware jar which is heated by fuel, consisting of stubble ( Malachi 4:1 ), grass ( Matthew 6:30 ), dry twigs ( 1 Kings 17:12 ) and the like, placed in the bottom of the jar. When the latter is thoroughly heated, the cakes are applied to the inside walls. From this type was developed the pit-oven, which was formed partly in the ground, partly built up of clay and plastered throughout, narrowing from the bottom upwards. Many of these pit-ovens have been discovered in the recent excavations. It is to the smoke issuing from one of these, while being heated, that the smoke of the ruined cities of the plain is compared in Genesis 19:28 (EV [Note: English Version.] furnace , and often unnecessary rendering for ‘oven’). Such no doubt were the ovens of the professional bakers in the street named after them in Jerusalem ( Jeremiah 37:21 ).

Bread-making was at all times the special charge of the women of the household. Even when, as we have just seen, baking became a recognized industry, a large part of the baker’s work had been, as now in the East, merely to fire the bread baked by the women at home.

A considerable variety of bakemeats ( Genesis 40:17 , lit. ‘food, the work of the baker’) is met with in OT, but only in a few cases is it possible to identify their nature or form. The ordinary cake the loaf of OT and NT was round and fairly thick; such at least was the rolling ‘cake of barley bread’ of Judges 7:13 . These cakes were always broken by the hand, never cut. A cake frequently used for ritual purposes ( Exodus 29:2 and often) seems, from its name, to have been pierced with holes like the modern Passover-cakes. The precise nature of the cracknels of 1 Kings 14:3 (Amer. RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘cakes’) is unknown. The wafer , often named in ritual passages (cf. also Exodus 16:31 ), was evidently a very thin species of cake. For what may be called the pastry of the Hebrews, the curious in these matters are referred to the art. ‘Bakemeats’ in the Encyc. Bibl . col. 460 f.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bread'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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